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May 30, 2018

HP is doing better without some customers

HP Q2 Revenues 2018
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise released an earnings report last week. The release covered the first full quarter since Antonio Neri took over as CEO, assuming command from retiring Meg Whitman. The numbers looked good to investors. The customers HPE's achieved are helping to lift the ship, even while some of you left the HP fold long ago.

It's easy to ignore HP now, if you're homesteading on 3000 iron either virtual or physical. The vendor wasn't able to deliver patches to support companies like Allegro at the start of this year, so the last remaining deliverable for MPE/iX has dropped off the product offerings. The patches were free, unlike enterprise patches for HP's Unix, NonStop, and VMS systems. Failing to deliver HP 3000 products long ago ceased to impact HP's quarterly revenues and earnings.

We care, however, about how Hewlett-Packard Enterprise fares — for the sake of the readers who still use HP's other enterprise gear. The IT managers who run multi-platform shops care about things like HP Next, or at least HPE hopes so. HP Next is "our company-wide initiative to re-architect HPE to deliver on our strategy and drive a new wave of shareholder value," Neri said when the numbers appeared in the evening of May 22. "It is all about simplification, execution and innovation."

Many things have changed about enterprise computing since HP last sold a 3000 in 2003. One big change is the dissapearance of hardware and operating system bedrock. In the 3000's heyday, things were defined by OS and iron. It's all too virtual to see those markers now. HP seems to be doing better without some of you because you didn't want to buy what's sold as enterprise computing. 

Better? Revenue of $7.5 billion in Q2, up 10 percent from the same quarter of 2017. Earnings were better, 34 cents a share in a market "beat," above the outlook range of 29-33 cents a share. The company calls its computing business Hybrid IT now, and the business was up 6 percent over the same quarter of 2017.

Not so many years ago, when HP wasn't doing this well, you could drill into its presentations for the quarters and find server sales. Not anymore. Now the news is about Cape Networks and buying Cape "to expand AI-powered networking capabilities with a sensor-based network assurance solution that improves network performance, reduces disruptions and significantly simplifies IT management for our customers." That out of a CEO's statement about new business, so it's supposed to be opaque.

Hearing things like "composable infrastructure offerings" might make a 300 homesteader roll their eyes, not to mention the experts who still support a 3000. My spell checker thinks composable isn't even a word, let alone a product attribute.

But like we said earlier, there's a reason to care about HPE's fate. The company's success props up the idea that a vendor that builds physical products and software continues to matter in 2018. Years ago, the concept of a datacenter that was fully virtual was like the paperless office. It seemed like science fiction, but companies still hungered for it.

HP's still in the futures business, trying to catch up with cloud offerings from Cloud Technology Partners. Neri said that HP did well with an acquisition of RedPixie. "RedPixie is a UK-based cloud consulting company, with deep Microsoft Azure expertise, which perfectly complements CTP’s strong AWS relationship." That's a relationship designed to move applications off classic servers like HP-UX or VMS and into Amazon Web Services cloud computing. Those particular moves are a lot like the effect a 3000 company gets from placing an MPE/iX virtual machine into a cloud provider.

Amazon's potential to host HP-UX apps provides some future for that platform that never did receive a port to Intel architectures. There are levels of abstraction there to probe for a homesteader who's still got an MPE/iX application to carry away from HP's machines. That might be far away from your position today. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is counting on your interest in the years to come, though. You might be able to help them do better once you leave the OS bedrock behind. 

07:13 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2018

Fine-Tune: Locking databases into lookups

Editor's Note: Monday is a holiday to commemorate Memorial Day, so we're celebrating here with time away from the keyboard. We'll be back with a new report May 30.

Lock files databaseWe’re migrating from our 3000 legacy applications to an ERP system hosted on another environment. Management has decreed the HP 3000 apps must still be available for lookups, but nobody should be able to enter new data or modify existing data. Should I do the simplest thing and change all of the databases so that the write class list is empty?

Doug Werth replies:

One way to do this is to write a program in the language of your choice that does a DBOPEN followed by a DBLOCK of each database (this will require MR capability). Then the program goes into an infinite loop calling the PAUSE intrinsic. Any program that tries to update the database will fail to achieve a lock, rendering the databases read-only. Programs that call conditional locks will come back immediately with a failed lock. Unconditional locks will hang.

This has been a very successful solution I have used on systems where a duplicate copy of the databases is kept for reporting and/or shadowing using IMAGE log files.

Steve Dirickson agrees with the poster of the question:

Since very few developers write their apps to check the subsystem write flag that you can set with DBUTIL, changing the classes is your best bet. Make sure you do so by changing the current M/W classes to R/R so the existing passwords will still work for DBOPEN, and only actual put/update/delete operations will fail.

The Big Picture: If protection is required for the database, that protection should reside in the database if at all possible. As mentioned, this is easy with IMAGE.

I am putting a new disk drive into my 3000 configuration, one that doesn't have an HP label on it. It's 500GB and a great value. What patches should I be sure to have installed on MPE/iX 7.5?

Large Disk: FSCHECK SYNCACCOUNTING fix for HFS files

Large Disk: limit maximum SCSI disk size to a half-terabyte

Large Disk: SSM changes for disk space allocation and accounting

Large Disk: Discfree changes to correct sector counts

Large Disk: REPORT "FORMAT=LONG" enhancement. MPEMXU3 includes patch MPEMXT2 which is another Large Disk/Files patch. MPEMXT2 provides changes to the ALTACCT, NEWACCT, ALTGROUP, NEWGROUP commands.

Large Disk: CATALOG.PUB.SYS changes for CIERR messages

Large Disk: CICAT and CICATERR.PUB.SYS changes

The critical one is MPEMXT3, which protects from other problems.

06:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2018

Wayback: Web prospect put songs in hearts

Web GuitarEarlier this week, a call went out for musicians who know the HP 3000. The June reunion of 3000 experts and veterans includes a couple of notable ex-HP members, GM Harry Sterling and former songwriter/engineer Orly Larson. Dave Wiseman, who's leading the band on the June 23 afternoon, has asked around to see if anyone will bring an instrument to accompany Orly's 3000 songs.

That request brought a guitar to mind in a happy time for the 3000. George Stachnik strummed one on Navy Pier in the steamy air of August to lead the 3000 faithful at the 1997 Interex show in Chicago. That was a summer of some hope and relief, too.

In 1997 the fate of the 3000 was brightening. Much of the middle 1990s was a slow time for the rate of MPE/iX enhancements. Once the World Wide Web, as we first called it, broke through in 1995, every computing platform needed to have a story about how the WWW was employed. IBM's AS/400 and Digital's VMS didn't have stories any better than MPE's. That didn't matter as much to customers using those systems. Theirs were not under the gun like the 3000 was, trying to outpace HP-UX and Windows NT in the HP salesforce.

Stachnik strummed and we perspired on Navy Pier, the Chicago venue where the 3000's 25th Anniversary party was being held. He'd passed out the songsheets and I looked around the crowd. Those who weren't singing along were grinning. Your average datacenter manager is less likely to sing in public, but the songs were in the air as Stachnik delivered them with gusto. 

The smiles were as wide as Lake Michigan at HP World, faces beaming with the hope that only HP could bring to the party. I hadn't seen such good feeling since 1991, the year after the Boston Interex uprising. Sure, it was fun celebrating the 25th birthday of the HP 3000 out on the end of Navy Pier on the first night of the show. But the real celebration started the next day, when the HP 3000 division showed its customers proof that the HP 3000 has a real future.

Y2K was already warming the mid-'97 air. First it had driven up wages and contracts for 3000 experts, and then HP announced it would have a Web server for sale on MPE/iX. Programmers with nothing but good COBOL skills could command $55 an hour and Southwest Airlines was frustrated: it couldn't find administrators for its 3000s, whose footprint was growing there.

The future wasn't so bright there was a commitment to make MPE/iX ready for the new Merced chip architecture that was HP's next step for enterprise systems. The 3000 was getting some Internet attention at last, though. Some of that engineering is still ready for today's networking prime time, too.

HP showed off the Internet capabilities of MPE/iX at the Internet World show in March of 1997. The demonstration helped to prove that e-commerce solutions like Ecometry (nee Smith-Gardner MACS) were a good fit on the 3000. 

Engineering like inetd and FTP came on board in the late 1990s as the 3000 caught up. While the DNS services and the Apache Web server aren't of much use today, other software is still at work. More importantly, the consistency of a toolset between Linux and MPE/iX gives the older 3000 credibility. HP summed up the available services in a white paper (link courtesy 3k Ranger). The paper included the table below.

3000 Internet service capability

08:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2018

Second generation of migration begins

Synergy for DummiesHP advertised the transition off of 3000s as a migration in 2002. The changes and replacements took place throughout the rest of that decade, culminating around the time HP was closing off its support operations for MPE/iX in 2011. That was generation number one for migration at 3000 shops. The second shift is underway.

Promedica is the largest employer in Toledo, Ohio, a non-profit corporation which used 3000s to manage provider operations running the Amisys software. Tom Gerken is still an analyst at the organization, after many years of managing the production HP 3000s. Now the healthcare firm is shifting off of its Unix version of Amisys, after taking its 3000 computing and migrating it to HP's Unix.

"We did continue using Amisys," he says. "We moved to HP-UX in the second half of 2006. The data transfer to the Oracle database went smoothly. It was really sad seeing the HP 3000s go away."

At Promedica the changes are leading into another generation of migration. "We most likely aren't staying with Amisys much longer," he said. "We have begun the search for a replacement system. I think Amisys is still in the running officially, but I hear it's a long shot to make it into the finals."

Out at the City of Sparks, Nevada, another longtime 3000 manager is shifting into a fresh generation of computing resource. What was once MPE/iX, and then became a virtualized Windows datacenter, is becoming even more virtual.

The 3000 migration was complete at Sparks almost six years ago, and then a virtualized Windows platform got its work assignment. Now the city is heading for a deployment of HPE Synergy. It's still using a Hewlett-Packard product, as it's always been at Sparks under the command of Steve Davidek.

In about a month he's delivering a talk at the HP Discover conference on the migration to HPE Synergy. The HP Enterprise product is a composable infrastructure, one so different that HP arranged for a Dummies guide to be written about Synergy.

Synergy uses software to discover and assemble the pools of compute and storage. A hardware frame houses appliances that run the management software, including Synergy Composer and Synergy Image Streamer. Detailed configurations for particular applications are saved as templates and deployed through Composer. 

Virtually every technology is a base to migrated away from. The changes have slowed over the last five years for 3000 owners, though. Steve Cooper of Allegro says he thinks there's been no more than a five percent decline in systems since last year.

09:32 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2018

Fine-Tune: Setting up a 3000 as file server

I would like to set up an HP 3000 as a file server. In one of my accounts I want to have a share for my 100 users pointing to a separate directory in this account. The homes section in smb.conf normally points to the home group of the user, which is the same for all of them and is not helpful. Is there another way of solving the problem, or must I configure more than the 100 shares?

Mark Wonsil replies:

I saw a clever little trick in Unix that should work on MPE:

path = /ACCT/SHARES/%U

This creates a share name that is the same as the username and then it points the files to a directory under the SHARES group.

How do I set my prompt setting in the startup script?

John Burke replies:

Here’s what I do for my prompt:

This yields, for example,

A disk drive has failed on a user volume. How can I determine the accounts and groups on that user volume?

John Clogg replies:

Try REPORT @.@;ONVS=<volset>

Jeff Woods adds:

In addition to the suggestion to use “:REPORT @.@;ONVS=volset” (which may fail because it’s actually trying to look at the group entries on the volume set) you can do a “:LISTGROUP @.@” and scan the listing for groups where HOMEVS is your uservolumesetname. The advantage of LISTGROUP is that it uses only the directory entries on the system volume set. You may want to redirect the output of LISTGROUP to a file and then search that rather than trying to scan the listing directly.

04:43 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2018

Wayback Wed: Charon's coming out, at a pub

Tied House 2013Springtime in the Bay Area is a good time to gather in support of MPE/iX. Five years ago this week Stromasys hosted a social mixer at the Tied House pub, a Mountain View venue just 10 minutes away from next month's 3000 reunion at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. There's something about good beer in cold glasses that seems to go along with the veterans who still have 3000 know-how.

In that week of 2013, a meeting room also bubbled at the Computer History Museum, a place where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA. The market needed an emulator to carry on from the end-game of HP's MPE/iX hardware, a need that began as early as 2003. HP stopped building new servers that year. The clock started running on HP's hardware aging. By ten years later the wraps were completely off Charon HPA.

By the time the emulator sparked those pours at Tied House, an HP licensing mechanism was in place for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator. Then, as today, you needed to know how to ask HP for the required license.

Charon's HPA product manager uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to Intel hardware,"an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most Software License Transfers happen between two companies. HP might've wondered, who sell themselves their own hardware?

HP's SLT mechanism began to license emulated 3000s in 2012. The development of an emulator, slowed by HP's balky cooperation, cut off an emulator-only MPE/iX license at the end of 2010. The License needed an emulator for sale before a customer could buy a new MPE/iX license.

In that May of five years ago, the process to earn an HP 3000-to-Charon license was not well known yet—which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.

Perhaps HP's lawyers insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in that stillborn license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but a customer could never pay that money without a working emulator for a 3000 for sale on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses, because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. With no RTU, and no emulator license, 2009 was the moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron (and attached licenses) were on hand.

The never-sold Emulator License for MPE/iX was not the first time the vendor allowed an emulator maker to license new servers. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and spearheaded that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was ongoing support revenue to keep older systems running. In some places, they were still the best solution.

HP's ending for the 3000 was nothing as generous as the ending for VAX system licenses. HP intended to cut off all 3000 business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still would call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies.

At that Stromasys training event in the History Museum, the general manager Bill Driest said the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a 3000 customer would call emulation.

"We're here to help preserve the software investments that you've all made," he said. "We've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. For 14 years we've had this tagline that keeps coming back: preserving the investments we've all made across these hardware generations."

Even today, you contact HP's Software License Transfer department. You tell them you want to do an intra-company transfer. And instead of the $500 that HP said a new MPE/iX emulator license would cost, it's $400 -- the same fee HP collects on any MPE/iX system transfer. You just need to have a 3000 license to begin with.

04:13 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2018

Pub salvation in UK not needed at The Duke

Yesterday CBS News aired a Sunday Morning story about the fate of pubs in the UK. Pubs grew up in the country from the 17th Century. In recent years, though, their numbers are in decline. You can't smoke in a pub anymore in the UK, and the real estate has gotten pricey for watering holes. The downward trend means about one pub in seven has closed over the last decade. While that still leaves 50,000 UK pubs operating, it's become a little tougher to find a pint and fish and chips in Britain.

The Duke signThat trend might inspire a visit to the site of this year's 3000 reunion, the Duke of Edinburgh pub in Cupertino. The restaurant and drinkery opened for business in 1983, when MPE had moved from version IV to V, RISC computing was still three years away from HP's product lineup, and Apple hadn't sold its first Macintosh. The link between those two companies passes through the Duke. When the pub was once busy with HP 3000 experts, some were destined to make their way from HP to Apple. Mae Grigsby, who's arranged the reunion's tour of the Apple Park Visitor Center, shared a connection between the vendors' past and future.

Grigsby, part of the Apple Executive Briefing Program, said that some bits of HP's past are still on the site that's right next to the Duke.

Apple Park has a great history starting with your group. Some of the material of the HP buildings is actually still at the Park. Those were times. I started at Apple in June, 1986. One of my colleagues here at the briefing program started, right out of college, to work at HP in 1983 — at which time HP was THE company in Silicon Valley. 18 years later she joined Apple. Memories abound.

Other memories from HP are likely to be in the air at the Duke, which is in no danger of closing. Two of the RSVPs which reunion organizers have in hand are from high-profile 3000 alumni. Harry Sterling, former general manager of the 3000 division, has said he plans to attend. Orly Larson, the technical and community celebrity whose 3000 years include a sheaf of 3000-themed songs he wrote, has also joined the guest book. By my reckoning off of local maps, The Duke is the closest watering hole to Apple's spaceship HQ, just as it was the closest stop for those 1983-era alumni like Orly and Harry who worked at the 3000's HQ.

If you're inclined to join the group on that Saturday, you can register your RSVP (to help them plan) in a simple JotForm signup, at no charge or obligation.

As the Duke is a pub, perhaps a song will fill the air that afternoon of June 23, said organizer Dave Wiseman.

"I’ve asked if he’ll write a song," Wiseman said when he had Orly's reply in hand. Larson's baritone was a part of many 3000 meetings in those days when HP nurtured and sold MPE V and then XL and then iX.

As the event stands today, the cost of attending is limited to your own tab at the bar -- and even that will be covered for a while. CAMUS, the Computer Aided Manufacturing Users Society, is sponsoring a round or three at the Duke. Attendees can tour the Computer History Museum, opening at 10 that Saturday, with admission at their own expense.

The tour of Apple's vantage point, arranged by Wiseman, is free and starts at 4:30. The Duke is so close to the Visitor Center that a 20-minute walk from the Duke's side of the former HP campus to the other side will get you there. Apple says the Visitor Center is as close as anybody gets to the spaceship campus, unless you're working with Apple.

The reunion alumni of the 3000, though, has got an earnest invitation for their own tour. Grigsby said, "Our visitor center team, upon hearing of your desire to see the place on whose ground you and your colleagues labored to build the HP 3000 minicomputer, would be delighted to host a guided visit for such a special group of people."

The tour takes about 30 minutes, and another 30 minutes for people to browse on their own, visit the observation deck, or view a large model of the spaceship campus more closely, or buy Apple paraphernalia that you can only buy at this store and nowhere else. HP once sold such paraphernalia, as recently as the HP Technology Forum of 2006.

Anticipating that many people will be interested in getting a closer look at this incredible campus, Apple has built the Apple Park Visitor Center. Via an iPad with AR (augmented reality) you can view how the offices and conference rooms are organized. The APVC also features a retail store, a cafe, and an observation desk on the second floor from where you can get a glimpse of the Apple Park ring.

The Apple Park building is only accessible to Apple badged employees. It is a truly collaborative space where employees come and go and meet anywhere unhindered, though some areas are more secured (special access) than others. Because of high security and confidentiality issues in such a working environment visiting guests are not permitted unless they have been invited for special business purposes.

07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 11, 2018

How to Create Cause and Effect on MPE

Causality-iconHP 3000s took a big step forward with the introduction of a fresh intrinsic in 1995. Intrinsics are a wonderful thing to power HP 3000 development and enhancement. There was a time when file information was hard to procure on a 3000, and JOBINFO came into full flower with MPE/iX 5.0, back in 1994. "The high point in MPE software was the JOBINFO intrinsic," said Olav Kappert, an MPE pro who could measure well: his 3000 experience began in 1979. JOBINFO sits just about at the end of the 456-page MPE/iX Intrinsics Manual published in '94.

Fast-forward 24 years later and people still ask about how they can add features to an application. The Obtaining File Information section of an MPE KSAM manual holds an answer to what seems like an advanced problem. That KSAM manual sits in one of several Web corners for MPE manuals, a link on Team NA Consulting's page. Here's an example of a question where INFO intrinsics can play cause and effect.

I'm still using our HP 3000, and I have access to the HP COBOL compiler. We haven't migrated and aren't intending to. How can I use the characteristics of an input file as HPFOPEN parameters to create an output file? I want that output file to be an exact replica of the input file. I want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program. 

I've tried using FFILEINFO and FLABELINFO to capture the characteristics of the input file, once I've opened it. After I get the opens/reads/writes working, I want to be able to alter the capacity of the output file.

Francois Desrochers said, "How about calling FFILEINFO on the input file to retrieve all the attributes you may need? Then apply them to the output file HPFOPEN call."

Donna Hofmeister added 

Have a look at the Using KSAM XL and KSAM 64 manual (Ed. note: link courtesy of Team NA Consulting). Chapters 3 and 4 seem to cover the areas you have questions about. Listfile,5 seems to be a rightly nifty thing.

But rather than beat yourself silly trying to get devise a pure COBOL solution, you might be well advised to augment what you're doing with some CI scripts that you call from your program.

In a lively tech discussion on the 3000-L list, Olav Kappert added, 

Since you want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program, the only way is to use one of the MPE intrinsics to determine all the characteristics of the file in question. Then do a command build after parsing that information.

Michael Anderson added details on how the 3000's CI scripting can build upon the fundamentals of file information and COBOL.

I like Donna's plan.This is a strategy that will also help whenever you want similar functionality on a NON-MPE platform. Also, although COBOL is very capable, an external script might be a better tool. You don't always need a hammer.

This is hypothetical, to try to make a point. From your MPE CI prompt, type HELP FINFO. You should be able to set some variables (SETVAR FILEA "XXX"), and using FINFO add some more variables. Then from COBOL using HPCIGETVAR, string together a BUILD command (with a bigger LIMIT maybe), and call "HPCICOMMAND". You could string the build command from a command, into a single variable, then COBOL only needs to HPCIGETVAR once.

You can also write a script to do everything you want, and call HPCICOMMAND to run the script, pass it parms. It's pretty cool, and it makes your COBOL application more portable. (Same program, different script).

For example: On MPE I once wrote (using COBOL) a small utility to CALL DBINFO, extract all the meta-data from any IMAGE database, and then create, and write to the NEW KSAM COPYLIB, ending up with all the COBOL copylib modules needed for all datasets for any database, including call statements and working storage. My point to all this: I used CI scripting to create and write to the copylib.

I actually used ECHO to write the copylib ksam file from a CI script. Now, seeing how I work more on HP-UX and Linux, plus OpenCOBOL and Eloquence, I should be able to compile this same program on Linux with minimal modifications, only changing the external script.

I use this method to access SQL databases, and much more, using OpenCOBOL and the Tcl/Tk developer exchange (a repository for Tcl, a flexible language with a small core and many uses that can be adapted in ways). This way I can run the same program, same script almost anywhere, no matter, Windows, Mac, or Unix.

Eric Sand, another veteran of the 3000, commented that this kind of challenge really shows off the range of possibility for solving development problems. "You can create almost any cause and effect in MPE that you can imagine," he said. "Reading about your concern gave me a little rush, as I mentally organized what I wanted to do to address your issue."

08:24 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2018

SSD devices continue to serve 3000s

SSD DriveThe LinkedIn Group for the HP 3000 Community carried news of solid state storage this week. Tracy Johnson reported that his XP12000 disk array has been replaced by a two-unit SSD array.

Four years ago, Johnson said he was moving in that XP12000 to replace an HP VA7100 disk array. There was a time when the VAs (Virtual Arrays) were the new technology adapting to the world of MPE/iX.

SSDs were once only a dream and a wish for 3000 users. In the late 1980s a RAM-based disc was on offer from Imperial Computing, a whopping 50 MB whose compatibility was never tested in the field by a 3000 customer. By the start of the 3000's Transition Era (the mid-2000s) developers and administrators were experimenting with solid state devices being offered for other platforms.

In 2015, Beechglen launched a service that employs SSD devices for storage. Johnson said this is the solution he's now employed to replace that XP12000. "It's slicker than snot on a doorknob," he said when the used XP model started to serve his 3000 back in 2014. He hasn't come up with slickness comparison for today's SSD solution yet.

The XP12000 is faster than the VA array, but Chad Lester at ThomasTech said the more modern XPs might be a better investment. Upgrading storage is one of the best ways to improve performance and lock down 3000 reliability. "The XP12000 is light years from the VA AutoRaid family," he says. "I would have recommended an XP24000 or 20000, though, due to some very pricy XP12000 parts that are globally out of stock."

The Beechglen offering is available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.

Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.

Mike Hornsby of Beechglen says there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.

People without vision see putting SSDs in 3000s like giving a McLaren racing engine in an SUV. A more useful solution is out there, and working: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."

Allegro's Stan Sieler was testing SSDs of 2009 with the 3000, wired directly to the 3000's bus. "I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete- but still world's-best business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said nine years ago. Some dreams just take awhile to become true.

07:34 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2018

June's 3000 Reunion destination: Building D

DukeSnugThis week I made my reservations for a date that's become rare in our community. On June 23, the 3000's experts, vendors, and consultants are gathering for another 3000 Reunion. That's the name that Apple is using for the group, since the gathering will include a visit to the frontier of Apple's world HQ. The event also includes a morning's visit to the Computer History Museum, the site of the 2011 Reunion where more than 150 members gathered.
Apple Park Rooftop

The highest point of the day won't be the elevated observation deck at the Apple Park Visitor Center, overlooking the company's spaceship campus that replaced HP's legendary 3000 hub. The pinnacle seems to be the afternoon hours enjoyed in a cozy snug at the The Duke of Edinburgh pub. Lunch, beverages, and war stories will be on the bill of fare starting at 1. People who know and remember the 3000 will gather in a pub popular enough with the MPE crowd that it's still known as Building D by some community members.

The Duke is on Wolfe Road, just to the west of where the 3000 grew up. Space has been reserved for a group that's making its way beyond 20 attendees. If you join us, I will be delighted to see you and hear your stories there, as well as any update on your interests and work of today.

The close-up nature of the venue doesn't mean it's without an agenda. As of today there's informal talks about migration, Stromasys emulation, the HP Enterprise of today and homesteading in our current era. The group is eager to include a member who's running MPE/iX today, either in virtual mode using the Charon HPA software or native on HP's venerable and as-yet durable HP hardware.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 6.43.07 PMThe Duke was the site of a 2016 meeting of 3000 alums. In-person meetings for the 3000 community happen in bars and pubs by now. This event has been sparked by Dave Wiseman, who organized what he calls a SIG-BAR meeting in London in 2014. The vendor and semi-retired software maven has a history that includes a software project called Millware for 3000s as well as tales about a Series III he installed in 1978. Wiseman calls these events SIG-BAR because hotel bars during the Interex conference era always included informal wisdom, swapped after hours over a glass or bottle of something refreshing.

There's something about English pubs that can attract the 3000 crowd. Some of us who are flying in for the event are staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Cupertino. (At the moment, Saturday evening rooms are under $150, which is a value at Bay Area rates.) The Inn is close enough to the Duke that no matter how much happiness is served, it's a one-block walk back from pub. There will be an evening session at the Duke after the Apple tour, too.

The Duke sits within walking distance of a now-lost mecca of the 3000 world, the HP Cupertino campus. Building 48 has been replaced by the concrete, glass and steel of the new Apple world headquarters building. Apple's organized a tour of the Visitor Center for this year's 3000 attendees. The Centre's rooftop is as close as you'll get to the HQ spaceship without a contract with Apple, or a job at the world's Number 1 market cap company.

In 1976, HP fed Apple with engineering talent, a fellow named Steve Wozniak. Legend has it that Woz was working on HP's business computer designs at the time when he left to become VP of Apple R&D. In a way, that Apple HQ has always had innovation on its acres, even before there was a company first called Apple Computer.

The land of what's now called just Apple covers the path where a walk through an HP parking lot and across a cozy margin of poplars brought you to the Duke. "It's right across the street from where MPE lived," Stan Sieler of Allegro said at the 2016 meeting. On June 23, MPE's heart will be among the taps and the chips at The Duke.

In London in 2014, Robelle's Bob Green said this about the in-person meeting at that London pub:

We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine—especially the new emulator—- and discovered what each of us was doing. An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.

06:41 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2018

How Details and Masters Get the Job Done

Masters and DetailsA Hidden Value question was posed about how manual and automatic masters work in TurboIMAGE. Roy Brown gave a fine tutorial on how these features do their jobs for MPE and the 3000 -- as well as how a detail dataset might have zero key fields.

Manual masters can contain data which you define, like Detail sets can, along with a single Key field. Automatic masters contain only the Key field. In both cases, there can be only one record for a given key value in a Master dataset.

A Detail dataset contains data fields plus zero, one, or many key fields. There can be as many records as you like for a given key value, and these form a chain accessible from the Master record key value. This chain may be sorted, or it may just be in chronological order of adding the records.

Brown explained that "where there are keys, referential integrity demands that there are no Detail record entries with a key field that is not found in either a Manual or Automatic master, both Key name and Key value. So a Detail data set with Key fields that are not present in a Master record would be a sign of a seriously corrupted database."

However, I doubt this is the case, and when you do a QUERY FORM command, you will see which fields in Detail datasets are Keys, which fields are used to establish Sort orders, and which fields are data pure and simple.

From the Key name, you can determine which Master set links the keys.

As I said above, it is possible to have a Detail dataset with no keys, but these usually contain only a very few records, since direct access to them without keys is cumbersome, and you would otherwise have to trawl right through one to find any given entry.

So a Detail dataset with thousands of unconnected entries would be very unlikely.

The FORM output will allow you to check how the Detail dataset that you think might have unconnected entries is actually linked in.

Brown's explanation flowed from the following question and answer in that Hidden Value article.

I want to generate a listing of data sets, data item names, and their relationships from my TurboIMAGE database (master, One detail data set has thousands of entries which do not appear to be connected to any master. I cannot remember the difference between manual and automatic masters.

Francois Desrochers replied to use Query's FORM command.

PASSWORD = >> password
MODE = >> 5

Manual masters: programs have to explicitly add entries before you can add related entries in detail sets. Programs have to explicitly delete entries when there are no related detail entries left. In other words, you have to do master dataset maintenance.

Automatic masters: entries are automatically created when a related detail set entry is created. Entries in the master are automatically removed when the last related detail entry is deleted. IMAGE takes care of the maintenance.

Consultant Ron Horner added, "The difference between a manual master and auto master is the following:

1. You have to add records to the manual master that contain the key data for any detail datasets that are linked to the master.

2. When working with automatic masters, you don't have to write data to them at all. IMAGE takes care of populating the master.

Krikor Gullekian also noted that "With QUERY you can check the databases as long as you know the password." [Ed. note: This password advice is true, except when you're the database owner. No password is required then, only a semicolon.]

08:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2018

May meant an IMAGE defense against Codd

During a May of 33 years ago, the award-winning database at the 3000's heart got a hearty defense. HP had customers in 1985 who wanted relational indexes for their 3000 data — and a speedy Omnidex utility for IMAGE was not going to sell those customers. It didn't have the HP brand on it. 

Alfredo RegoThose middle 1980s were days of debate about database structures. Adager's Alfredo Rego spoke at a 1985 Southern California Regional User Group conference about the advantages in performance that IMAGE enjoyed over SQL architectures. Rego took what were known as the Codd Rules (from computer scientist Ted Codd) and said that IMAGE could outwork them all. The SCRUG meetings were close to the apex of technical wisdom and debate for MPE in that era. The 3000 was still run by MPE V in that year, when the PA-RISC systems were still more than two years away.

In 1985, though, Oracle and its relational design was riding a wave of success in companies that had retooled from vendor-designed databases like IMAGE. At the time of the defense of IMAGE, the database was beginning to feel some age. The performance limits were more likely induced by the age of HP's CISC computer architecture. The Series 70 systems were still underpowered for large customers, the same companies who had become Oracle's relational database targets.

Ted CoddHP overhauled IMAGE enough to rename the product TurboIMAGE later in the year, a shift in design that put some utilities under the gun to use the full feature set of the database. Even into 1986, the debate continued over the merits of IMAGE versus relational databases as defined by Codd. "What are "relational databases" anyway?" asked VEsoft's Eugene Volokh. "Are they more powerful than IMAGE? Less powerful? Faster? Slower? Slogans abound, but facts are hard to come by."

Owing to its first place ranking in a 1976 database comparison in Datamation, IMAGE was a natural point of comparison to relational. "It's very, akin to a relational database from Codd," Rego said of IMAGE in an oral history interview at the Computer History Museum more than three decades later. "It has certain infrastructure to access the entries, or records, or rows if you will."

What Rego promoted in the face of Oracle's 1985 claims remained true for many years to come. Relational databases had more advanced search programming possibilities. But nothing was beating IMAGE for transaction performance during that year. Years later at the History Museum, the message remained clear.

IMAGE has two types of tables -- datasets if you will. One is called a detail table and the other one is called a master table ... Basically you have two ways to access those tables. One is through a doubly linked list, using detail datasets; and one is through hashing, using master datasets. It’s basically value addressing. It calculates, hashes and it says what should be here in position number whatever. And it allows for synonym collisions and distributes them very nicely. That’s called the master dataset structure, and from that master you can link to a chain of detail entries that can be anywhere and can be accessed very quickly. So IMAGE is very, very good for transaction processing.

Burt Grad, who interviewed Rego, understood what an opportunity HP was missing with IMAGE for decades. "If someone had implemented IMAGE on other platforms," he said, "it could have been a competitive product in the computing world."

As it was, the database ruled the 3000 world and its advantages turned away all competitors. Oracle took years to be convinced an MPE port of its database had any prospects, given the dominance of IMAGE on the OS. Later HP took up the mantle of SQL, the language that flowed from the query abilities in relational databases. 

HP released a relational database system of its own during the era, a product called Allbase/SQL. Within a few years HP turned IMAGE into IMAGE/SQL because they put an SQL shell in front of it. Allbase had no better luck than Oracle at catching on among MPE users.

07:00 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)