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July 16, 2018

3000 mailing list now quiet for a month

1725A Oscilloscope
The last recorded message on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup was posted on June 12. The five weeks of radio silence is the longest this information asset has weathered. The quiet isn't due to technical difficulties. A test message passed through the receiver and was broadcast to members earlier today.

The L, as it's been called informally by the community for more than two decades, has become a lean vehicle for technical expertise. It was once so full of chaff the community insisted on Off Topic handles, but an [OT] message has been virtually eliminated. The archives of tech wisdom — a big reason I believed the NewsWire had a chance at first — are still online, for now.

Some of the latest questions have been sharply on point for the HP 3000. Charles Johnson of Surety Systems asked last month how to program "a handheld PSC 6000 Plus bar code scanner installed as a wedge between a HP 700/92 terminal and a keyboard, all hosted on a Series 969SX."

In less than 10 minutes, Stan Sieler pointed Johnson at a programming manual for the device. Within the hour, another 3000 guru, Michael Anderson of J3K Solutions replied back. That's Johnson to Sieler to Anderson, if you're scoring at home, all within 45 minutes of posting the question. 

There's no problem with the concept of posting a question to a mailing list and waiting for a reply when the list is as well vetted as 3000-L. In the case of the scanner issue, of course, all three posters are already working as third party experts in MPE/iX systems: Surety to Allegro to J3K. There have been tech exchanges this spring where information flowed from one IT manager to another. That kind of list discourse is becoming more rare.

Sieler, who's done some pinch hitting for listserver administration in the years since list founder Jeff Kell died, has been in contact with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The UTC campus hosts the server that holds this longest and deepest chunk of HP 3000 history, and Sieler has the contents archived.

Without Kell at the helm of the listservs at UTC, 3000-L is on autopilot. There's no one there to take non-automated requests. The community is at least aware that its greatest historical resource has an undetermined future. "It may only be a matter of time," said Tracy Johnson a few weeks ago, "before some before someone in IT management at UTC does an upgrade, migrates, or pulls the plug, and we're left in the dark."  

10:31 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2018

Fine-Tune: Resetting your LDEV 21 Console

I have a 959 system at my site and there are times when I can't get the remote console port on LDEV 21 to work. How do I troubleshoot this problem and reset the console port? 

1. Is the port configured and available?

a) Check to be sure the system recognizes the port

:showdev 21

LDEV     AVAIL
     21     AVAIL

b) Is the SYSGEN configuration okay? 

:sysgen  sysgen>io
io> ld 21

LDEV:21  DEVNAME:  OUTDEV:21  MODE:  JAID
**ID: A1703-60003-CONSOLE-TERMINAL 
RSIZE:        40   DEVTYPE: TERM
**PATH: 56/56.1   MPETYPE: 16   MPESUBTYPE:  0
CLASS: TERM

c) Is the User Port configured in NMMGR?

:nmmgr
then ...

OPEN CONF, DTS, USER PORT

Logical Device [21  ]  (1 - 1800)
Line Speed [2400  ]  (300, 1200, 9600, or 19200 bps)
Modem Type [1] (0-NONE, 1-US, 2-European, 3 - V22.bis)
Parity [NONE] (None, Even, Odd, 0's, or 1's)

2. Is the access port enabled, configured correctly and unlocked? On the local console type in CTRL-B to get the CM> prompt. The REMOTE settings are displayed at the bottom of the console screen.

a) Check/Change the configuration

cm> CA
Bit rate:               2400 bits/sec
Protocol:               Bell
System identification:

b) Enable Remote

cm> ER

c) Unlock Remote and raise the DTR signal on the modem

cm> U

d) Go back to command mode (:).

cm> CO

3. If you still cannot dial into the remote console, there are two utilities in sysdiag you can try.  Modmutil will do a self test on the modem, and consolan will reset the port.

a) To test the modem:

:sysdiag
dui> modmutil
mu> diag
diag> autotest
diag> exit
mu> exit

b) To reset the modem

:sysdiag
dui> CONSOLAN pdev=nn/nn section=2(23)

Continue? YES
Reset local/remote?  REMOTE

05:08 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2018

Holding on to 3000 data: this might work

Tape
As much as companies want to step away from legacy data systems, some are forced to make historical vaults of financials, customer profiles, inventory and much more. The HP 3000's current populace is full of this kind of work — knowing the answers to "what happened back then?" or maybe "how much credit did we extend to that company?"

Those questions sometimes mean that a computer that hasn't seen a new model since 2001, and an operating system that got its last update a decade ago, remains in charge of crucial data. Companies trying to hold onto the data face a few problems. They fall into two categories, hardware and software. (I know, that's almost everything, unless you consider networks to be another aspect.)

On the hardware side, getting elderly magnetic media to respond reliably will be a bigger problem with every passing day that a tape needs to slide across a drive head. It's not so much the tape itself, said Stan Sieler. It's the drives. Fewer and fewer people know how to repair the ones out there, too.

Tape was used as a backup for so long it's not natural to imagine disc playing a better role. But it does today. Your HP 3000 might need a System Load Tape one day for recovery purposes. When the SLT you've carefully preserved cannot be read by any tape drive, that mean be a hard stop for your historic HP 3000. Sieler suggested that an image of a 3000's startup volume, captured and stored on another disk, could do the same thing as an SLT reload. The 3000 would have to be fully quiesced to get the best image. But if it was not, the disc image could still work; it would just require an immediate reboot of the 3000. 

Those are circumstances that a historic records 3000 could withstand. A transaction processing system is harder to quiesce. The world still has 3000s processing transactions today, and for a long time to come.

Query Google about how to capture a disk image of a 3000's startup volume. Better yet, reach out to the 3000 support company for your datacenter. If you don't have one, here's an opportunity to correct that oversight. Reach out and get the assurance you need that your 3000's ability to report history will remain strong and clear. Do it before you're forced to find out the old tape drives won't read what you need to keep that server on duty.

06:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2018

Local advice guided bets for 3000 users

Interex Playing CardAt this summer's 3000 Reunion, close to two dozen friends and colleagues broke bread, watched video, asked questions and listened to advice. There was a local flavor to the visitor's register. There was also experience shared about what bets to avoid if you're homesteading.

Steve Cooper and Stan Sieler of Allegro were on hand, sharing advice and 1987 Interex playing cards (that was Stan, still a magician after many years, passing out a pack as he ducked into the meeting). Vicky Shoemaker of Taurus Software came in from Palo Alto, and Orly Larson drove five minutes from his Sunnyvale home. Tom McNeal was also local to the event, and Linda Roatch (managing newspaper servers at the San Jose Mercury News) was part of the contingent on the Orly Larson pre-conference night.

Everyone else at the meeting and the tour of the Apple Park HQ next door was an out of towner. Some were way out of town, from England or Toronto. Traveling used to be a part of the 3000 community experience, in the era before FaceTime, Skype, and texting. We once needed to be near one another to learn something or to share a joke.

Local storage, though, was discouraged in advice during that afternoon. In this case nothing could be more local than internal devices. Under the topic of Eliminating Single Points of Failure, users were advised to get rid of the single points of failure of internal peripherals for their HP 3000s. Be redundant. DDS tape drives and disk drives are better off outside of the 3000's cabinets. To be honest, tape media of any kind "is the bane of my existence," said Ralph Bagen of the MPE Support Group.

If you're using storage that was built in the last century, the advice went, you need to move to devices at least built in 2001 or later. You'll still need a tape to create an SLT, but just about anything on magnetic media is a problem waiting to happen. All hail cloud backup, or better yet, backups to Intel-based servers. Those might be servers hosting a virtual HP 3000 by employing Stromasys Charon. 

09:16 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 06, 2018

Using MPE/iX to send SFTP files

I have a script that uses FTP to send files to a site which we open by IP address. We've been asked to change to SFTP (port 22) and use the DNS name instead of an IP address, and I don't believe the 3000 supports that. Does it? If so, how?

Allegro's Donna Hofmeister replies:

I'm not sure you want to do SFTP on port 22. That's the SSH port. SFTP is meant to use port 115. Have a look at one of our white papers on how to do SFTP on MPE.

If you are going to use DNS, you must have your 3000 configured for that. It's easily done. 

However, if you've never done anything on your 3000 to make it act like a real computer (oh -- that's right, it is a real computer and fully capable of using DNS), this can turn into a can o'worms.

To configure for 'DNS lite' it's probably simplest to do the following

1. copy hostsamp.net to hosts.net

2. edit hosts.net to make sure it has

127.0.0.1 loopback
1.2.3.4   name    <--- where 1.2.3.4 and name are corrected to the system you want to connect to

3. copy the NSSWSAMP.net to nsswitch.net

4. edit nsswitch.net to have this line:

hosts : files[SUCCESS=return NOTFOUND=continue]

With this done, the 3000 sorta kinda acts like it's using DNS (because it's looking the the hosts file for how to translate 'name' into '1.2.3.4')

Tony Summers provides a caveat:

One warning. The upgrade from FTP to sFTP (or SSH FTP etc) can involve more change to your scripts that you expect. What we do for FTP (originally on the HP 3000, and now on our HP-UX server) is build a text file with the commands (the sample below, edited)

cat FTPT0070
open ftpserver.site.co.uk
user USERNAME PASSWORD
ascii
get /export/002_iccm_extract_1161.csv ICR21161

quit

The file is then presented to the FTP client. On the HP 3000 it was something like....

RUN FTP.ARPA.SYS < FTPT0070 > FTPS0070  

Then both the output file, FTPS0070, and any JCWs set by the FTP program were inspected to test the success of the FTP session.

cat FTPS0070

Connected to xxxxxx.co.uk

220 Welcome to FTP service - xxxx.
331 Please specify the password.
230 Login successful.
200 Switching to ASCII mode.
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV. 550 Failed to open file.
221 Goodbye.

In particular, the 3-digit status codes were analyzed, looking for error codes like "550." If you do something similar in your FTP scripts, then all I can say is welcome to a very different world.

Karsten Brøndum adds:

Here's a completely different approach. 

Depending on your skills in Java, there is a nice LPGL package called ftp4j that I have used a couple of times. (By the way, ftp4j will do both SFTP and FTP). I've found it way easier than to fiddle with files with text files containing commands, especially when it comes to error handling.

04:15 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 02, 2018

Measuring the Miles to Homesteading's End

Up-road-map-distance-south-african-distances
In Cupertino at this summer's 3000 Reunion, the attendees who flocked to the flocked-wallpaper pub room on a Saturday read a roadmap to continued use of MPE/iX. The advice was wrapped around hardware because Ralph Bagen delivered the goods. He runs the MPE Support Group and talked about backups and redundancy and more.

The issues in that talk covered about 12 slides and twice as many minutes. Toward the end, the talk turned to comments about the hardware alternative to HP Virtual Arrays, PA-RISC hardware and the like. Charon came up. Hands went up in the room from the vendors and experts who had the Stromasys product among their customer bases. Vicky Shoemaker at Taurus Software, Steve Cooper at Allegro, plus Bagen and a few more. Not bad for a meeting of less than two dozen 3000 fans.

HP-labeled hardware is always going to have its terminus, because they're not building 3000s anymore. The peripherals will see their finale, too. It could well turn out that the Charon solution will be the only route that runs into the end of the 2020s, and maybe beyond. They keep making faster Intel hardware.

We learned that the remaining MPE/iX customers show up in places where change has been slow to invisible. At least it's invisible to the customers of ecommerce and mail order providers running the Ecometry software. The 3000's OS is durable, more so than its hardware. Those who remain have sometimes surprising budgets to maintain a proven system.

Issues are on the horizon for server performance. That's to say that an MPE/iX platform which needs to keep up with growth is going to need better horsepower to drive a virtualized 3000. HP keeps introducing ProLiant systems each faster and a better value than the last. Throw enough hardware at performance and, as always, the time to process the data goes down. 

Charon works, and it's a good product, Bagen said. So long as a customer can push enough hardware at a virtualized solution (see above) the range of suitability is broad. That makes the number of miles of homesteading different for the sites not locked into HP's hardware. The PA-RISC servers will never get faster, especially if a site is already at the top of the N-Class line.

The mileage will get better, even for companies with a lot of data to move down the road, in many virtualized worlds.

We're taking July 4 off here to celebrate our nation's independence. In a smaller way we're celebrating our own, and for those who use MPE/iX, their independence deserves a shout, too.

02:21 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)