« October 2017 | Main | December 2017 »

November 29, 2017

Wayback Wed: MPE gets its last millicode fix

Drywall-patchTen years ago this month HP's labs delivered its final fix for MPE/iX millicode. The patch demonstrated the last critical repair of the OS by the HP development labs. It had been 16 years since HP had to do a fix for the 3000's millicode. The 2007 millicode patch was crucial whenever a customer's applications accessed mapped files and utilized Large Files, those which are 4GB or greater in size

HP introduced the Large Files feature in 2000, just after the community had cleared Y2K challenges. The corruption could occur if any one of five out of the last six bytes of a Large File failed to transfer correctly. Corruption introduced by MPE/iX is so uncommon that the patch became essential—and a way to gauge how much the community might lose when HP's labs would close up.

The labs were ready in a way the customers rarely saw. HP announced the bug with repairs and white papers already available.

OpenMPE sought an opportunity to take a role in the repairs. OpenMPE advocates showed concern that binary repairs like this one would present a challenge to application developers who need to integrate them into MPE/iX in the future. OpenMPE wanted to do this work. The advocacy group never got its opportunity to participate in the development work for 3000 sites.

HP's repair rolled out four years to the day after the company ended sales of the 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, remained available throughout 2009 and 2010. At the time of the repair, HP had not yet licensed its source code for MPE/iX. Delivery of that source code wouldn't take place until 2011. HP's binary patches for the corruption were not done in source code.

Large Files was a feature gone sour, by HP's own reckoning. The vendor was trying to remove the code from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the system converted to Jumbo files, which are much better engineered.

One aspect of the repair that stood out was the readiness of its release. At the time of the announcement HP labeled the repair General Release, moving at a rapid clip beyond beta test status. Dozens of other fixes and enhancements for the OS remained in beta status when MPE got its farewell at HP. Those patches would've been cut off from the customers under the standard release policy. HP made the beta patches available at the end of its MPE operations.

07:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2017

How dead is tape in 2017? HP thinks it's not

RIP tape backupHP 3000s have been held together with tape. Mylar tape, the sort in 8-inch reels and modern cartridges, has been the last resort for recovery. The world of MPE/iX computing survived on its backups whenever things went awry. It's easy to assume tape's dead these days. People think the same thing about the HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise agrees with the latter death notice, not the former. Tape thrives today because of Big Data.

Why would an MPE/iX customer care about newer tape? Resources like on-premise backup are shared today, here in the era where HP is read to sell a seventh-generation of Linear Tape Open. LTO isn't costly, which makes it a good fit for the always-economical 3000 world. In fact, the media is cheaper than the more common DLT tapes.

"I would still recommend LTO," says Craig Lalley of EchoTech. "I know a couple of my customers are using it. The performance will not be as high as other computers', but that's more or a CPU/backplane issue."

The MAXTAPBUF parameter is essential in using LTO, he adds. As to speed,

The N-Class 750—with a couple CPUs and a high speed fibre disc sub system that definitely helps—but it will never peak the LTO-1 throughput. It's still the fastest tape storage for the HP 3000. So the real advantage is amount of storage. And remember, it is always possible to store in parallel: two, three and four tape drives at once, in parallel as opposed to serial.

It seems that the new job for tape in 2017 is not everyday backups. These ought to be done to disk, a function supported by MPE/iX since 1998. Today's tape is there to backup the disk backups. Backups of backups are very much a part of the MPE Way.

The forthcoming HPE StoreEver MSL3040 Tape Library is designed for small to mid-sized organizations. It offers flexibility and storage capacity of up to 4.08PB with LTO-7. Hewlett-Packard is just one of many companies to keep pushing LTO forward. The standard isn't moving all that fast, though. Five years ago LTO-5 was the cutting edge for complete data protection and secure, long-term retention of business assets.

Using LTO devices for backups of backups on-premise is straightforward for anyone who's created a virtual HP 3000 using Stromasys Charon. So long as the host Linux server can communicate with the LTO device, it can backup a 3000 that's been virtualized. An emulator removes the risk of staying on the MPE/iX environment. A virtualized server won't be tied to interfaces from 15-year-old 3000 iron, or IO designs first crafted in the 1990s.

Five years ago some experts said that cloud storage was the final nail in backup tape's coffin. Our intrepid author Brian Edminster took a closer look at what a service like Amazon Glacier could do for the HP 3000 user. But it's almost as important to listen to what he's got to say about support of the latest LTO tape devices.

One of the primary advantages of creating the 3000's PA-RISC architecture was supposed to be peripheral support. HP would write and maintaining fewer device drivers once its enterprise servers shared an architecture. PA-RISC led HP away from the HP-IB interface, something Hewlett-Packard created for instruments, not computers. But in practice, the operating systems still needed specialized engineering to pass data quickly between server and peripheral.

These LTO tape drives are the kind of peripherals which HP supported more slowly, if at all, during the final decade of MPE lab work. The first LTO with an HP badge, Ultrium, ran half as fast (160 mb/sec) as the same unit hooked to HP-UX -- because its mandatory MPE interface was engineered for half the bandwidth of the more updated Unix-based servers. HP never made up the difference in speed, and that shortfall arrived right out of the gate with LTO-1. LTO-5 was the state of the art in 2010, two years after HP closed the MPE labs.

06:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks for Exceeding All Estimates

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise sailed into the Thanksgiving holiday beating estimates. The company eked out a "beat" of analyst estimates for quarterly profits, exceeding the forecasts by 1 percent. Overall the fiscal year 2017 results for sales were flat ($37.4 billion) and year-to-year earnings fell. Even that tepid report beat estimates. Nobody's expecting HP Enterprise to rise up soon. Keeping its place is a win.

It's about the same spot the HP 3000 and MPE/iX have shared for some time. After the exodus of migrators tailed off, the community has been losing few of its remaining members. A slice of them met Nov. 16 on a call. Someone asked if there was anything like a user group left for 3000 owners. I was tempted to say "this is it" to the CAMUS members on the line. Someone offered an opinion that the 465 members of the 3000 newsgroup were a user group.

I'm thankful there's still a 3000 community to report to here in 2017. We've exceeded estimates too. Nobody could have estimated that the HP 3000 and MPE/iX would last long enough to try to resolve the 2028 date handling changes. Hewlett-Packard once expected 80 percent of its customers would be migrated by 2006. That was an estimate which was not exceeded, or even met.

I'm grateful for keeping my storytelling and editing lively during this year, halfway through my 61st. I've got my health and vigor to count on, riding more than 2,000 miles this year on my bike around the Hill Country. I'm grateful for family—lovely bride, grandchildren to chase and photograph—and for the fortunes that flow in my life, the work of book editor, coach and seasoned journalist.

HP's steering back to its roots by replacing a sales CEO with a technology expert in Antonio Neri. “The next CEO of the company needs to be a deeper technologist, and that’s exactly what Antonio is," Meg Whitman said on a conference call discussing HPE's succession plan. I can also be grateful for that appreciation of a technologist's vision. Like the death notices for MPE/iX, the fall of technology on the decision ladder was overstated. In 2006 I talked with an HP executive who believed "the time of the technologist" had passed. Strategy was going to trump technology.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise isn't eager to count up its business selling its servers. The report from last week needed this caveat to claim earnings were up for 2017

Net revenue was up 6 percent year over year, excluding Tier-1 server sales and when adjusted for divestitures and currency.

The most recent quarter's results included HP's cut-out of large server sales, too. "When you can't count the numbers that are important, you make the numbers you can count important," said think tanks about Vietnam war results. There are been casualties while HP let non-engineers call the shots. If Hewlett-Packard Enterprise can be led by an engineer for the first time since Lew Platt's 1990s term, then technology has exceeded corporate estimates of its relevance. Our readers learned about their tech bits long ago. We're grateful to have them remain attentive to our pages.

11:31 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2017

Whitman leaves HP better than she found it

WhitmanHP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is stepping down from the company's leadership seat, effective January 31, 2018. After her run of more than six years it can be argued Whitman is leaving an HP in better shape than she found the corporation. One measure of her success lies in HPE's revenue growth in spite of headwinds, as the analysts call challenges like cloud competition. That fact can be offset with the number of layoffs during her tenure. Most estimates put that figure at more than 30,000, an employment disruption that ranges even wider when accounting for divestitures and the split-up of HP.

Numbers don't say enough about Whitman's impact on the future of the vendor which invented HP 3000s and MPE. After a string of three CEOs who ended their terms disgraced or fired, she brought a steady gait to a company in desperate need of a reunion with its roots. The Hewlett-Packard of the 1980s delivered the greatest success to MPE customers. In hand-picking Antonio Neri as her successor, Whitman has returned HP to its 20th Century roots. The Enterprise arm of HP will be led by an engineer who's worked only for HP. The last time that was true, Lew Platt was CEO of an HP that was still in one piece, instead of the two of 2017.

Hewlett-Packard finally made that transition into two companies on Whitman's watch, after a decade when the printer-server split was debated around the industry. She also pruned away the leafy branches that made the HP tree wider but no taller: Autonomy and other ill-matched acquisitions were cut loose. She said in an interview on CNBC today that the time for "supermarket IT" suppliers is gone, and the future belongs to the fast. Whitman's years reversed some damage at HP, which at least beat analyst estimates for its Q4 earnings. 

"What If" was once an ad slogan for Hewlett-Packard. The question could be posed around Whitman's role at the company. What if this executive woman took HP's reins in 1999? She was already a CEO in that year at eBay. From the way Whitman has brought HP's headlong blundering to heel, she might have kept the company focused on the mission of the current day's HP Enterprise.

The rise of mobile computing and off-premise IT was always going to hound HP, a corporation built to sell specialized hardware and proprietary software. Passing the baton to an engineer leader—Neri started in the HP EMEA call center—shows Whitman knows more about HP's culture than anyone who's had the CEO job since 1999. She remains on HP's board and said she'll be available for sales calls in the future, too.

09:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2017

Was news of CALENDAR's end Fake News?

Fake-NewsHP 3000 customers, support experts, and vendors have heard a fresh take on the upcoming demise of CALENDAR functions. Date keeping was going to suffer for anybody who needed that intrinsic to steer 3000 date-keeping. Nobody wanted to debate that fact. As I reported in 2015, with considerable help from Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh, CALENDAR doesn't have enough bits to track dates beyond December 31, 2027. It would be easy to conclude the 3000's date capability will go bust at the end of that December.

That's fake news, said Steve Cooper of Allegro to everyone on last week's CAMUS user group call. "A whole lot of fake news," he said, when one user referenced our 2015 article as proof dates were going to be a problem on 3000s in about 10 years. "You need to get the true scoop instead of spreading rumors."

Cooper was one of several 3000 experts who said that dates could be kept accurately in MPE/iX for much longer than 10 years from the end of next month. HP's replacement for CALENDAR—an intrinsic written in the early 1970s—adds bits to let 3000s track data. HPCALENDAR isn't employed inside lots of MPE/iX software, but that will change for anyone who wants their MPE/iX end of life to be determined by utility and value, rather than capability.

In 2015, our story asked Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too. It isn't, so long as you use HPCALENDAR to replace CALENDAR. MPE/iX app managers will need source code access to make this kind of substitution, using the new intrinsic method of remediation.

There was also talk of a pivot point strategy to handle things without replacing CALENDAR. Pivot points were in vogue for some Y2K repairs. In such designs, software processes a date by comparing the date to the moment it processes the date. The old ColdFusion software from Microsoft did this to add century information for Y2K, for example. A Stack Overflow discussion illustrates how pivot points work in Python.

HPCALENDAR will give MPE/iX date-handling capability that exceeds that of Unix. I reported that in 2015, thanks to help from Vladimir.

HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using HPCALENDAR on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.

HP ordered 16 extra bits for date handling through HPCALENDAR in the 1990s, just too late to influence the heart of MPE.

While working in the realm of those original 16-bit MPE intrinsics, "You cannot make less than 9 bits for the date of the year," Vladimir said. "That would be less than 365 days. So that leaves us 7 bits to express the year."

The '90s HPCALENDAR, reaching into the new elbow room of 32 bits, can use as many as 23 bits for the year. That intrinsic will cover 8 million years, even more. HPCALENDAR is available in Native Mode MPE, and it remains the best choice for any new work done on a 3000's applications.

But MPE's existing intrinsics provide the barrier here: the oldest are in Segmented Library (SL)—and the newer HPCALENDAR is in Native Library (NL). And the only companies with any chance of adjusting the 3000's dates into 2028 and beyond are those which have insight into MPE/iX source. Then there's knowing what to do with it. They must get into the MPE source and recompile it to use HPCALENDAR.

That insight into MPE/iX source is needed for a system-wide repair of CALENDAR date intrinsic functionality. It's a broad spectrum fix, though, when a localized alteration will do the job. Even HP's own SHOWCLOCK gets the date correct when you boot a system by setting its date for 2028.

"There are still some pieces of code that are doing date handling by calling CALENDAR," Cooper said. "But the operating system does not fall over dead at that point. The banner will say "1900" and if you do a SHOWTIME it will say 1900. But if you do a SHOWCLOCK it will correctly show '2028'."

Reading a file, modifying a file: these will occur with the correct timestamps. They all use the larger, more modern date format. Programs which use CALENDAR will provide a date in the 1900s when run on 2028. The date-keeping in the MPE/iX banner is going to be incorrect. Any software that reaches out for a date intrinsic will be just fine if it uses HPCALENDAR.

The user group has its board member Ed Stein to thank for the talk about the date changes coming up in a decade or so. Stein says that he'd rather seek out date repairs now for his 3000s, while there are still support and development experts taking on projects. There's a lot less retirement going on for people working in their late 70s. But Stein, like a lot of 3000 pros, understands it's better to take care of things before they become unsolvable problems—when there's nobody working who knows where CALENDAR might be running inside a program on MPE/iX.

08:20 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2017

Experts say 2028 date hurdle is a small fix

December2027-calendarCAMUS user group members listening on a one-hour call Thursday heard the sound of a calendar page being ripped off. Experts in system management and development said the 2028 date deadline—when MPE's CALENDAR intrinsic stops being accurate—is only a moment of change that users and programmers can work around.

Unlike Y2K, it turns out that Y2028 is going to let everyone sleep well while they do their fixes. One 3000 expert said there's a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt being spread about 2028.

CALENDAR sits at the heart of many programs and systems, and no one on the call debated the intrinsic's useful lifespan. At midnight of the eve of 2028, the 16 bits of CALENDAR won't be enough. The intrinsic was built for the 1970s, not the third decade of the 21st Century.

But like the moment when Luke Skywalker left Dagobah to fight Darth Vader, there's been another Jedi of the OS. Hewlett-Packard built HPCALENDAR in the early 1990s once it decided to sell the 3000 against Unix. Replacing CALENDAR with HPCALENDAR will supply the 2028 fix.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in after the call to show how he'll make that change in MANMAN whenever a customer needs running room of more than 10 years from the end of this December.

"Here is my spec for the Y2028 problem in MANMAN," Floyd said. The repair requires access to application source, something that many of the remaining MANMAN sites have.

Modify the MANMAN source code, replacing all calls to the CALENDAR Intrinsic (which returns a 16-bit integer) with calls to the HPCALENDAR Intrinsic, using a 32-bit integer variable. Change the next line or two of code to extract the Year and Day from the proper bits returned. Then, depending on MANMAN Release Number and availability of all source code,

a) Recompile/Re-Link every program in MANMAN, or

b) Recompile/Re-Link selected programs and Re-Link Dispatchers.  

MANMAN's Integer Date format (based on an offset from 1900) is capable of supporting dates beyond 2050, but is artificially stopped at 28,552 = 12/31/49. 

This Y2028 fix will extend the life of MANMAN well into the future.

After the conference call, Floyd said he thought the work to carry MPE/iX into 2028 would take less than half a day. Depending on the support provider, a lot less.


10:39 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 13, 2017

HP's shrinkage includes iconic HQ address

Hewlett-Packard pointed at a shrinking ecosystem as a reason to cut down its futures for the 3000. Time in the post-HP world for MPE/iX moves into its Year Number 17 starting tomorrow . That's right; the Transition Era completes its 16th year tomorrow at about 1PM. Transitions aren't over, either. In the meantime, MPE's clock now starts catching up with Hewlett-Packard's headquarters. The iconic address of 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto will not be HP's much longer. On the subject of icons, that's a oscilloscope wave to the left of the original HP logo on the building above.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 12.09.17 PMHP is moving its corporate throne to a company and a building in Santa Clara soon. The existing HQ has been in service since 1957, but consolidations in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise—which also has a shrinking ecosystem—mandated the move. The offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the shrines to the HP Way, management by walking around, and the shirt-pocket calculator designs, will be packed up sometime next year. The HQ look of Silicon Valley's first corporation is distinctive.

Hewlett-packard-original-officesEverything has its lifespan, from ideas to the office desks where overseas currency and coins lay on blotters, resting in the side-by-side rooms Hewlett and Packard used. The coins and bills represented the worldwide reach of the company, left on the desk as a reminder of how far-flung HP's customers were. HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said HPE consolidations are part of making HP Enterprise more efficient.

Dave Packard coins"I’m excited to move our headquarters to an innovative new building that provides a next-generation digital experience for our employees, customers and partners," Whitman said. "Our new building will better reflect who HPE is today and where we are heading in the future."

Companies which use HP's hardware to run MPE/iX might also see efficiency as one benefit of moving out of their use of HP's servers. A virtual platform, based on Intel and Linux, is hosting MPE/iX. Charon goes into its sixth year of MPE/iX service later this month.

A customer could look at that Hanover Street address, which will be without HP for the first time since Eisenhower was President, and see a reduction. HP Enterprise will be sharing office space with Aruba, a wireless networking firm HPE acquired in 2015. Aruba also has big hopes for cloud computing. Cloud is the future for HPE growth, according to the company. HPE is cutting out 5,000 jobs by year's end. The workforce might be considered a part of the HPE ecosystem, too.

Office buildings certainly have to be considered part of an ecosystem for a corporation. Important elements? Perhaps, if only because the statement they make about a company's permanence and continuity. The HPE Aruba building HQ will surpass Hanover Street in longevity by 2077.

In 60 years when MPE/iX apps will run somewhere, if only in a museum, they will be on a virtualized platform. As it turns out, the ecosystem for software—the embodiment of an idea—is more durable than any corporation's. MPE/iX will catch up with the HP HQ lifespan in 2033. When a customer takes custom engineering into 2028, it's just a five-year lifespan to surpass Hanover Street. Ideas have a permanence buildings can wish for. Those ideas get such permanence while they remain useful.

12:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 10, 2017

CAMUS Conference calls meeting on 2028

It's official. The CAMUS user group is holding a phone-in meeting of about two hours on November 16. The subject on the agenda is being called the HP 3000's Y2028 Issue, a tip of the hat to the Y2K challenge the 3000 survived 17 years ago.

2017-18-clockThe call starts at 10:30 CST, led by CAMUS president Terri Glendon Lanza. The agenda as of today lists Allegro, Beechglen and Stromasys as assisting in discussion of a roadblock to unlimited use of MPE/iX. Lanza will provide the call-in number to anybody who contacts her. You can sign up for the free call by emailing Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.

The meeting, an annual affair, lists these issues surrounding MPE's long-term future—otherwise known here as The 10-Year Clock, starting to tick this December 31.

Our main topic will be what we are calling the “Year 2028 Problem”. Without a fix, all HP3000 and Charon MPE systems will experience invalid dates beginning January 1, 2028. After this main topic, there will open discussion for all platforms.

If you are running the MPE (MPE/iX) operating system on an HP3000 or Charon platform, the Year 2028 Problem topic ought to be of great interest to you. Most, if not all, of our CAMUS members who are running MANMAN and other applications on an HP3000 or Charon MPE OS system will likely have moved on to another system by 2028. But if not, we believe that the time for a fix is sooner than later, given the dwindling availability of expertise.

Membership of CAMUS goes beyond MPE/iX customers who use ERP systems. DEC sites are also on the rolls. "If you are running on a different system," Lanza said, "you might still find this topic fascinating."

Lanza said the NewsWire's article from May of two years ago "got many of us thinking 10-12 years out" into the future. We'll be on the line on the 16th to offer whatever help we can. As usual, that help will consist of locating people with genuine expertise. If you're supporting MPE in any way, there's room for you to share experience and ideas.

In 2015 I wrote about a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and uses HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running into 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which MPE/iX will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?

The CALENDAR intrinsic that may block HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that year's New Year's Day, less than 13 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.

VladimirNov2010A voyager might see CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is one part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.

"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.

But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.

The HP 3000's date intrinsics will outlast those in Unix, so long as a program uses HPCALENDAR. HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using it on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.

Lifting the limits in application date handling -- that's one level of engineering skill. Extending the operating system limits beyond the 16-bit CALENDAR is a task with a greater challenge. It doesn't mean that it cannot be done. What matters is how healthy the 3000's best experts will be in 10 years or so. Vladimir says he'll be younger than 90 by then. Almost everyone in today's community will be even younger. And isn't 70 the new 60? It will matter when the 3000 needs the last set of bits to move from 16 to 32.

There's a old joke about software shortcomings being called features, rather than a bugs. Veterans learn to call them limitations and look for ways to overcome these aging designs. Everything is aging, even something as omnipresent at Windows XP. It's a fact that XP is dying, and the 3000 is dying. Well yes, says Vladimir. He tells his hundreds of customers who he visits, "We are all dying. But slowly."

04:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2017

Flood drives off HP, even as 3000s churn on

Server_rack_under_FloodLate last week Hewlett Packard Enterprise—the arm that builds HP's replacements for 3000s—announced it will be moving manufacturing out of Texas. According to a story from WQOW in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the facilities from HP's Houston area are pulling out and headed to higher ground in the Midwest. HP said its operations were flooded out beyond repair by Hurricane Harvey. A report from the Houston Business Journal says HPE is sending more than 200 manufacturing jobs north due to the Texas rains. “Because of the destructive effects of flooding two years in a row, the company has decided to move more than 3,000 employees to a new site in the greater Houston area,” HPE said in a press release.

HP 3000s have fared better in high waters. A couple of the servers up in the Midwest keep swimming in front of a wave of migration.

Back in 2013 we reported a story about a once-flooded HP 3000 site at MacLean Power, a manufacturer of mechanical and insulation products. The 3000's history there started with Reliance Electric at that enterprise, becoming Reliant Power and then MacLean-Fogg. Mark Mojonnier told his story, four autumns ago, about the operations at Mundelein, Illinois.

The new company, Reliable Power Products, bought its first HP 3000 Series 48 in 1987. We had a flood in the building later that year and had to buy another one. The disk drives were high enough out of the water to survive, so when the new one arrived, we warm-booted it (with the old disk packs) and it picked up right where it left off.

The 3000s continue to out-swim the waters of change there for awhile longer. Monjonnier updated us on how the servers will work swimmingly until 2021, and why that's so.

More than 200 users are working with the company's N-Class server every day. There's another N-Class running as a disaster recovery system at MacLean. Changes in management, which produced changes in migration strategies, put the 3000s at MacLean above the waterline for an extra four years, by Monjonnier's estimates.

"The long term estimate for the HP 3000 unplug date is now 2021 if all goes according to schedule," Monjonnier said. "In the meantime, the HP 3000s are still chugging along."

About the same time that our half of the company (Power) selected the EPICOR [application] for the future, the other side of the company (Vehicle) decided on JDEdwards. A few years into the implementation, there was a change in management. The new management determined that the entire company would go with JDEdwards. So, after about three years down the EPICOR road, we started all over, going down the JDEdwards road instead. Personally, I think this was a good decision.

So we are still running our pair of HP 3000s. We have implemented JDE at one of the seven "Power" locations. This has reduced the HP 3000 user load down about 15 users, but company growth has increased that load to about 250 users most of the time. We are getting ready for our second (and largest) factory to switch to JDE in June, 2018. There are a lot of people working on this one.

As for HP Enterprise, it's going to move manufacturing out of its current Houston campus because of devastating flooding from the hurricane, and another flood the year before, HPE said in a release. More than 3,000 HPE non-manufacturing employees will move to a new campus the company will build in the Houston area.

The manufacturing facilities on its current Houston campus were “irreparably damaged by Hurricane Harvey,” so it will permanently move manufacturing operations to Chippewa Falls and its supply chain partner Flex in Austin, officials said in a release.

01:19 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 03, 2017

Dealing with PCL in modern printer networks

HP 3000s generate Printer Command Language, the format syntax HP created for its line of laser printers. The 3000s were glad to get PCL abilities in their applications and utilities, but PCL is not for everybody. Multifunction devices not schooled in HP technology, such as those from Xerox, need a go-between to extend the 3000's printing.

The easiest and most complete solution to this challenge is Minisoft's NetPrint, written by 3000 output device guru Richard Corn. When we last reported on Corn's creation it was helping the Victor S. Barnes Company pass 3000 output to Ricoh multifunction printers.

But for the company which can't find $995 in a budget for that 3000-ready product, there's a commercial Windows alternative you might try to integrate into your system designs. Charles Finley of Transformix explains that the path to print outside of PCL has multiple steps.

Finley says of the fundamentals:

1. You need to get the print output from the HP 3000 to some device that is external to the HP 3000
2. You may need to intercept the PCL generated on the HP 3000 and format it for the intended device.

On the one hand, you can license the product of either Richard Corn or Minisoft to manage all this -- or if you want to use what MPE provides, you need to intercept the stream by using something that pretends to be an HP LaserJet.

In the second scenario, assuming you can connect the printers to Windows computers, you can use LPD and an interceptor of some kind. A commercial product we have used is RPM from Brooks Internet Software to accomplish the communication part of the process, plus some other PCL translator product to convert the PCL to whatever you need on the printer.

We had two projects in which, instead of the RPM product, we provided our own little interceptor (described at www.xformix.com/xprint) that does the same kind of thing as RPM. We have the Windows machine pretend that it is an HP PCL printer and configure the HP 3000 to print to it. We used other commercial software (two different products) to intercept the output intended for what it thinks is a LaserJet and format the print output so that it prints correctly.

I believe in each case the customers wanted to translate the PCL to PDF and do other stuff with it on the Windows computer before actually printing it. In one case, they wanted to store the PDF on the Windows computer and store reference data in a SQL Server database so that customers could selectively view and print the file at will.

01:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 01, 2017

CAMUS wants a deeper look at 2028

TankerThe Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society (CAMUS) is one of the few user associations that remain as 3000 resources. It's a modest group made up of a few dozen MANMAN sites that rely on MPE/iX. Much of the devotion is wrapped around efficiency and stability. ERP is a big migration that can take years to get right. These 3000 sites are absorbed with keeping their ships in the deep water, away from the shoals of premature change.

Change is coming, though, as if it's a lighthouse on the horizon for the 3000 skipper. The change is called 2028, or more accurately, Dec. 31, 2027. In about 10 years or so, MPE/iX will stop keeping dates as expected. Nobody could forsee a day, 45 years ago, that a 3000 would still be in production service. The HP 3000 will turn 55 in late 2027. There's a good chance emulation hardware will be functioning well on that last day of 2027. Stromasys has made the lifespan of HP's MPE hardware a non-critical element.

Some customers are looking at how to edge past that lighthouse of a date. CAMUS holds a phone-in user group meeting once a year, and this month's meeting wants to examine ways to steer around the 2028 reef. It's possible, and CAMUS might be the group to help steer this course. All it takes are production systems that could be cloned and tested with a fix.

The group has invited its members and 3000 experts to discuss the workarounds. The meeting has been penciled in as a Thursday, November 16 event. "We are looking to bring in experts to speak to the issue of what is being described as the Year 2028 Problem,” said Ed Stein, "which is where HP 3000 systems run out of valid dates beginning 1/1/2028, per the MPE operating system."

CAMUS meetings are free to attend, meaning it matches up well with the operating budgets for many 3000 shops. The server's in a mission critical position at companies which aren't devoting much spending to it. That's always been one of the 3000's charms: it delivers more than it receives. Managers can get more details on the meeting and sign up by emailing Terry Glendon Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.

Tactical planning for the HP 3000's future is a current practice at shops like MagicAire. The company that manufactures mobile cooling units has a Series 939 that continues to run MANMAN and carefully-crafted applications. Ed Stein there has a need to think about something more pressing than getting his apps and utilities licensed for emulator use. He's thinking strategic.

Stein chooses to think about the end of the 3000's calendar days. He's interested in getting someone to fix the date issue that will arise at midnight on Dec. 31, 2027. The foresight is the first customer readiness we've seen that examines what can be done before that day arrives.

Developers and vendors have been talking about 2028, but not yet in explicit design language. Stein is the first customer who's doing the talking.

I am more concerned right now with the Year 2027 MPE issue. Not that we plan to be on MPE in that year—but if a fix is to be had, that fix needs to be done sooner than later, given the age and availability of the required expertise to develop a fix. There may be no one around in 2026 who knows how to fix it, in the event that in the worst case we are still on an HP 3000.

My company would look at paying for a fix now as insurance.

It's 10 years and five months away, but the end of 2027 is the deadline for regular date handing to stop working. It makes the challenge a Year 2027 issue if you consider Y2K to have been a Year 1999 issue. The most intense work always happens ahead of a deadline. If you're savvy, it's many years before a deadline.

There are likely partners on the horizon for the 3000 community's efforts to leap into 2028 (a Leap Year, by the way, but that calendar event won't be of any help.) Looking out into a world of 10 years from now, virtualization and emulation will still be operating at companies. Stromasys has the most to gain from keeping MPE/iX moving forward into 2028.

08:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)