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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | 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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:00 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 30, 2018

3000 fans explore a mystery of history

HP suitcase

A mysterious photo on a 3000 group website has started to spark guesses this week. Brett Forsyth has tacked a photo onto the LinkedIn Group that serves the HP 3000 Community. He's invited guesses on how a suitcase, or some sort of case, can be traced to Hewlett-Packard history.

Brett ForsythMost of the guesses so far concern the size of the case. Forsyth has been replying to the efforts, as if he's a game show host moving the contest along by eliminating wrong answers. If you're interested in playing, the group page provides a comment string. You can also supply guesses in our comments here, but for now we're just as much in the dark about the mystery as anyone but Forsyth. Just a few days ago he released another clue.

This game is one way a website can engage visitors. There's always been a lot of passive readership on the Web -- nearly all of it, in truth, compared to how many people visit a site. We run a comments string to the right of our webpages, but our visitor count is a large multiple of those connections, even here in 2018. Contests are old-school, but so are HP 3000 customers and experts. It's always surprising how a $25 Amazon card still motivates us as a giveaway.

Last week one of the organizers of the upcoming HP 3000 party in the Bay Area suggested a fine finale for the mystery. Dave Wiseman would like to see it solved in person at a June 23 meeting in Cupertino. The gathering is a reunion for some and a retirement party for others. Wiseman's invited Forsyth to bring the case along to the meeting on that Saturday afternoon. The meeting location is being worked out, but it won't be as much of a mystery as the case itself.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:36 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 18, 2018

Wayback Wed: one website to serve them all

HP suitcaseIn late April of 1999, first steps were being taken for the largest website ever devoted to the 3000 community. The site was not from the 3000 NewsWire, although we'd been publishing 40-plus stories a month for almost four years in paper, on the Web, and through Online Extra emails. The newest entry in 1999 was 3k World, a site launched by Client Systems, North America's largest HP 3000 distributor.

At the time the HP 3000 was in full renaissance. HP had remade the server as the HP e3000 to stress the computer's Internet readiness. The system was at its sales peak for the 1990s, capturing e-commerce business by drawing well-known clients like M&M Mars. Client Systems was reaching for a way to connect the thousands of 3000 owners as well as the market's vendors. A big website with community message boards and a repository of tech manuals and bulletins seemed to be a great draw.

3k World needed steady content, though, the kind that messages and tech papers from HP couldn't provide. Client Systems reached out to us. Sure we had content, contributed and written by experts and veterans of the MPE/iX world. We had news as well, plus some commentary and opinion. Client Systems licensed everything we produced for use on 3k World, while we retained the rights to use it on our own website.

For several years 3k World built its readership and its content, even though the membership was not posting a lot of discussion. Then HP pulled the plug on its 3000 business and Client Systems watched revenues decline. The NewsWire's content — articles, reviews, and tech papers — stopped appearing on 3k World when that site's budget sank.

3k World might have had a chance of connecting customers across many miles, but the content was all-English language, and so the French and Spanish users were taking a small leap to use the content. Within a few years the site became static and this blog was born in the summer of 2005.

Community is always the driver on these kinds of missions: attracting it, growing it, and making its discussions useful and worthy of a visit. LOLs and "you betcha" in comments do not engage readers. Prowl the comments sections of many tech websites and you'll find that experience. It takes a village to build a community, and that village needs to share what it knows and ask for what it needs.

The concept of a community is pretty well handled on LinkedIn, at least as far as the tools available. The Groups service (which is free to join and use) includes a comments and discussion board, a jobs board, a way to publish articles and more. The HP 3000 has a group for people with experience and contact with the server, the 669 members of the HP 3000 Community.

Easy to search browsing of content and archives are what's missing from the LinkedIn Group. I started it 10 years ago as it became obvious the MPE/iX lab was closing at Hewlett-Packard. It's a curated membership; requests to join pass through me and I approve anyone who's got bona-fide 3000 experience or a connection to the community. The recruiters may be in the shadows, but I try to keep the group focused on help. A jobs board is available. Jobs are a better LinkedIn product when you pay the $29 monthly for a Premium membership.

One feature that's not obvious about that Premium status: these members get full access to the training classes offered at Lynda.com. That's worth the extra all by itself; Lynda.com used to charge $25 monthly.

Just this week, a HP 3000 Community group member—who once resold and supported HP 3000s—posted a contest to identify how an object in a photo might be a part of HP's history. There's still time to comment and become re-engaged with the community. Join the group if you haven't yet, or log in and head to your Groups page on LinkedIn to play.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:54 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 11, 2018

Wayback Wed: HP group combines, survives

Connect LogoIn the aftermath of the Interex user group bankruptcy, an HP enterprise user group survived. That group remains intact to this day. Its survival is due to an ability to combine forces with other groups, an effort that kicked off 10 years ago this week.

That week was the time when Encompass, the user group that outlasted Interex, gave members a vote on merging with three other HP-related groups. At the time of the April vote, Encompass and these partners weren't even sure what the allied group would call itself. Endeavor was being floated as a possible new name.

The vote of the Encompass members approved the merger with the International Tandem User Group; the European HP Interex group, which was operated separately from the rest of Interex; and a Pacific Rim segment of the Encompass group. The European Interex reported that it had 35,000 members at the time of the merger.

Encompass became Connect, a name announced at HP's Discover conference later that same year. Connect still operates a user group with a large meeting (held at HP's annual event, for the in-person gatherings) as well as smaller Regional User Groups.

The group bills itself as Connect Worldwide, the Independent Hewlett Packard Enterprise Technology, a membership organization. Membership in any user group has evolved during the decade-plus since Interex expired. By now it's free to join the group that serves OpenVMS customers, companies that still employ HP's Unix computers and hardware (Integrity), and sites using the HP NonStop servers (the former Tandem systems).

Those Tandem-NonStop users make up nearly all of the in-person meetings other than the HP Discover event. Discover is devoted to everything HP Enterprise sells and supports. One of the few links remaining to the 3000 at Connect is Steve Davidek, whose management and then migration off 3000s at the City of Sparks made him a good transition leader at Connect.

There are Technical Boot Camps for both NonStop and VMS customers that Connect helps to organize. A boot camp for HP-UX never became a reality. That's one of the choices a group of allied users must face: even some support for a resource like a boot camp (some members were eager) needs to be balanced against the majority membership's desires.

Some missions have survived from the Interex model that drove that group for more than 30 years. Advocacy still has a place in the Connect membership benefits, a project that's called Community Voice by now. The old days of an HP user group with a taste for confrontation ended once Interex refused to join HP's effort to consolidate user groups and things like advocacy. The Interex board voted to stay independent—without giving its members a formal vote like the open balloting which Encompass did.

The benefits of Connect still lean heavy on networking, along with some technical resources steeped heavy in NonStop expertise. Advocacy flows through HP's Discover show, and there are 19 Special Interest Groups. SIGs like these were the hotbed of 3000 customer desires communicated to HP from Interex members.

From the Connect website, the list of membership benefits includes these resources.

  • 19 Connect Communities and SIGs (special interest groups)
     
  • Never miss a beat with Connect Now, a monthly eNewsletter
     
  • Problem solve and stay on top of your game with Connect's ITUG Library (a NonStop Download Library)
     
  • Have a say in HPE with the collective voice of Connect's advocacy programs
     
  • NonStop users receive a subscription and access to the archives of The Connection, a bi-monthly technical journal
     
  • All members receive a digital subscription to Connect Converge, our exclusive quarterly technical journal for HPE business technology users
     
  • Save hundreds of dollars per year with discounted registrations to premier events like HPE Discover, and Connect's signature tech-targeted Boot Camps
     
  • Save while you expand your knowledge base with 15% off HPE Education programs
     
  • Members and their dependents can apply for $2,500 Future Leaders in Technology scholarships

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:33 AM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2018

From Small Boxes Came Great Longevity

HP 3000s have survived more than 40 years by now. The live-server count probably numbers in the thousands, a populace that includes many members of the Series 9x8 line. This month, 24 years ago, HP started to deliver that low-end set of servers that's still running today.

A Series 918 or 928 is commonplace among the sites still running 3000s in production or archival mode. In the spring of 1994 HP uncapped a low-end unlike any before it. An 8-user server, running at the lowest tier of MPE/iX license, was under $12,000 in a two-slot system before sales tax. The 928 could support up to 64 users for under $40,000.

918-997 HP 3000 performance 1999The low-end of the 3000 line has outlasted many 9x9s

Servers at the 968 and 978 slots of the debut product lineup supported up to 100 users and still sold for under $85,000. The prices were high compared to the Unix and Windows NT alternatives that Hewlett-Packard was pushing hard in 1994. This was the era when Windows NT hadn't yet become the Windows Server software, however. Unix was on the way to proving its mettle in stability compared to 3000s.

The introduction of the 9x8 Series came in a shadow year for my 3000 reporting. I'd left the HP Chronicle and hadn't yet started the NewsWire, which would debut in 1995. During 1994 I was a freelance writer and editor for HP, looking over my shoulder at this low-end rollout that might preserve the 3000 in the small business markets. The 918 was a key to the 3000's renaissance and a good reason to start a newsletter and website. It's also helped keep the server alive in production to this day.

Later on HP would roll out a Series 988 to fill out the 9x8 line, a server five times more powerful than the initial 918 model. But just four years after the initial push into a low-end line, HP stopped actively selling all 9x8s except the bottom two models.

HP eventually got its servers down to $7,000 per unit, but only for software and hardware developers. In 1997 the Series 918DX system shipped to existing developers of commercial MPE/iX software, as well as some converts to the MPE/iX fold. Developers had to join HP’s Solution Provider Program to get the lowest-cost list-priced box that would ever be called a 3000. One consultant called the 918DX a personal mainframe.

Even the lowest-end 9x8s were on the outside looking in while small businesses bought servers late in the decade. "The trouble is that the smallest 3000 is so expensive it prices itself out of that market," said a customer at the Interex Programmers Forum in 1999. "Is HP looking at getting the prices down so they can get the 3000 into small businesses?"

HP's Dave Wilde explained that the 3000 division's engineers still had to move to a set of next-generation boxes with PCI technology for IO. "That means a major rewrite to our IO subsystem," he said. Wilde was running the division's R&D labs at the time.

Over time there will be a lot of benefit [to the installed base] in that area. But the real benefit will be that it gets us in line with where the mainstream of HP is. That will allow us to scale much higher on the high end and reach much lower on the low end in terms of cost-competitive boxes.

Wilde also believed the new generation of PCI-based 3000s would be "an evolution toward what we’ll be able to do on the IA-64 boxes." Within a couple of years the 3000's future in IA-64 would be curtailed, and finally the servers themselves. The 918s and 928s were steady, if small, workhorses. Customers could get along with them, even though the systems were on the bottom-end of HP's horsepower charts.

Product marketing manager Vicky Symonds added that HP could "look at the pricing of our low end and see what we can do. Obviously we have some constraints there in terms of how low we could go."

Today the 918 and 928s have become servers that can be swapped in as a hardware replacement for under $1,000 per system. The customer base eventually got its wish for a cost-competitive, low-end system—about 15 years after HP was being told it was needed.

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:16 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 21, 2018

Tracking the Prints of 3000 Print Software

Tymlabs logoA reader of ours with a long memory has a 3000 connected to a printer. The printer is capable of printing a 8.5 x 12 sheet, so it's enterprise-grade. The 3000 is running software built by OPT, '90s-era middleware for formatting print jobs from MPE/iX.

To nobody's surprise, the PSP Plus product had problems operating in 2018. "I actually tried to use it in recent times to print to a strange brand of printers, Microplex," our reader said. "The software still ran, but formatting did not work right."

Bruce-Toback

"I was able to print to it with some success, but I could never get the software to do what I wanted it to do, which was to fill up a 12 x 8.5" page and make logical and physical page breaks coincide." The software was a stellar choice for its day, having been developed by the funny, wry and brilliant Bruce Toback (above). Bruce passed away during the month we started this blog, though, more than 12 years ago. His tribute was the subject of our very first blog entry.

Great software that once could manage many printers, but can't do everything, might be revived with a little support. It's a good bet that OPT support contract hasn't been renewed, but asking for help can't hurt if your expectations are reasonably low. The challenge is finding the wizard who still knows the OPT bits.

"We bought and it went from OPT to Tymlabs to Unison to Tivoli to...” These kinds of bit-hunts are the management task that is sometimes crucial to homesteading in 2018. Printing can be a keystone of an IT operation, so if the software that drives the paper won't talk to a printer, even a strange one, that failure can trigger a migration. It's like the stray thread at the bottom of the sweater that unravels the whole garment.

Maybe this product that started at OPT never made its way to Tivoli. My notes say ROC Software took on all of the Unison products. Right here in Austin—where we're breathing with relief after that bomber's been taken down—ROC still supports and sells software for companies using lots of servers. Even HP 3000s.

Tracking these footprints of this print middleware led through some history. Searches turned up a NewsWire article about Toback—many, in fact, where in Hidden Value he was teaching 3000 users on the 3000-L about one kind of software or another. Back in 1997 the discussion was about something rather new called Linux. Linux could be useful, he said, to hook up a PC to the relatively-new World Wide Web.

Searching for OPT—which was the name of Toback's company—turned up plenty of hits about another OPT/3000, the one HP sold to track 3000 performance under MPE. Before we knew it, there was an HP Configuration Guide for the Series III and Series 30 on our monitor. Circa 1979, the HP3000 Family had promise.
 
HP 3000 Series III"The expandable hardware configurations and upward software compatibility of all the models," said the guide, "allow you to choose the system that best fits your current needs, while protecting your investment for the future." HP and everyone else didn't imagine that almost 40 years later that 3000 family would still have living members.
 
HP's OPT was a dead end, since HP stopped supporting that product by 1997. As for the Series III, with its beefy 120MB disk drive (the size of a single daily newspaper edition's PDF file), it was a museum piece before Y2K arrived. One support company featured a Series III at an HP World trade show, setting it up in a booth for people to photograph themselves with. No selfies in that year—you needed somebody else to capture your moment with history.
 
ROC was in the NewsWire archives, though. A 1999 article showed us that the OPT software had become Formation after the product was sold to Tymlabs, another Austin company. ROC bought Formation along with the rest of the stable of products which Tymlabs had sold to Unison—and Unison sold that lineup including Maestro to Tivoli. There's some begat's of vendors we might have left out there. Nevertheless, things like PSP Plus were well-built and useful for more than two decades.
 
That's the lure of homesteading—its low-cost ownership—as well as the curse of staying on too long. Product expertise disappears. We've reached out to ROC to see if the offices on Northland Boulevard still contain some tribal knowledge of the artist formerly known as PSP Plus.
 
Our reader, devoted to the 3000 in more than just spirit, is hopeful about its future even while he relies on software and hardware from the past. "I was so encouraged a couple of days ago that I actually searched the Internet for HP3000 MPE system manager jobs," said Tim O'Neill.

"If I did not have to move too far, I would sure like to go back to MPE. To me, it is still an exciting world—and with Stromasys Charon hardware and massively parallel disk arrays and high-speed networking, it is an exciting NEW world!"

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 14, 2018

Wayback Wed: When MPE/iX wasn't for sale

Ten years ago this week, HP made it clearer to 3000 owners that they didn't really own their systems. Not the life-breath of them, anyway. At the final meeting of the Greater Houston Regional Users Group, e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou explained that the hundreds of millions of dollars paid for MPE/iX over 30 years did not equate to ownership of HP 3000 systems. HP was only licensing the software that is crucial to running the servers—not selling it.

The hardware was a physical asset owned by the buyers. The software, though—which breathed life into the PA-RISC servers—was always owned by HP. Without MPE/iX, those $300,000 top-end servers were as useless as a tire without air.

Most software is purchased as a license to use, unless it's an open sourced product like Linux. The reinforcement of this Right to Use came as the vendor was trying to control the future of the product it was cutting from its lineup. HP 3000s would soon be moving into the final phase of HP's support, a vintage service that didn't even include security updates.

Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP would cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exited its 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."

WhoOwns

The announcement made it clear than any source code license was going to be a license to use, not own. Support companies and software vendors would be paying $10,000 for that license in a few years' time. Ownership of HP 3000s is built around MPE/iX, by HP's reckoning, even in an Enterprise era. License transfers for MPE/iX are one of the only items or services HP offers.

HP's announcement during that March came on the heels of a new third party program to transform HP 3000 lockwords to passwords — the character strings that were needed to operate HP’s ss_update configuration program.

The new SSPWD takes an HP lockword — designed to limit use of ss_update to HP’s support personnel — and delivers the corresponding password to enable a support provider start and use ss_update.

Continuing to reserve the license for MPE/iX means that emulated 3000s still have a link to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, too. The vendor never implemented its plans to offer separate emulator-based MPE/iX licenses, either.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:54 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2018

An Opening for MPE's Closing Numbers

OpenMPEHeaderTen years ago this month OpenMPE was holding one of its last contested board elections. Spring meant new questions and sometimes new people asking them. The advocacy group launched in the wake of HP's 3000 pullout notice never had a staff beyond its directors. Once in awhile a 3000 expert like Martin Gorfinkel would be contracted for a project, but most of the time the six to nine volunteers from the 3000 community debated with HP on every request, desire and crazy dream from a customer base stunned into transition.

Directors operated on two-year terms, and those elected in 2008 were the last to serve theirs in the era when HP operated an MPE/iX lab. While the lights were still on at HP, there was some hope homesteaders might receive more help. OpenMPE was in charge of asking, but could report nothing without HP's okay.

OpenMPE never pulled from a deep base of volunteers. Most elections featured the likes of nine people running for seven seats, so a long list of losing candidates was never part of the results. The ballots came through from members of the group via emails. Here at the NewsWire I counted them and had them verified by a board committee. In the biggest of elections we saw 111 votes cast.

OpenMPE Links
OpenMPE's 2009 patch proposal

The 2008 election revolved around source code licensing for MPE/iX. The vendor would report the last of its end-game strategies by November, and the end of HP's 3000 lab activity was to follow soon after. Support with fixes to security problems and patches would be over at the end of 2008, and that made the election important as well. There was no promise yet of when the source code might be released, to who, or under what conditions. It looked like HP was going to shut down the MPE/iX lab with beta test patches still not moved to general release.

Getting candidate positions on the record was my role. I dreamed up the kinds of questions I wanted HP to answer for me. HP only promised that by 2010 customers would know whether source would be available and to who. A question to candidates was, "Is it acceptable for the vendor to wait until the start of 2010, as  it plans to do now?"

The question was more confrontational than the volunteers could ask. HP controlled the terms of the discussion as well as the content. Hewlett-Packard held conference calls with volunteers for the first five years of the group's existence, but the calls stopped in 2008. 

Fewer than 30 people ever served on an OpenMPE board. The list was impressive, but keeping good talent like consultant and columnist John Burke or Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci was tough. Directors like that always wanted more out of HP than the vendor would provide: more transparency, more resources. Of the final three to volunteer, Keith Wadsworth was the only one ever to ask the board to consider if OpenMPE should continue to exist. His election in 2010 gave him the platform to demand an answer. During the next year the directors dwindled to three. 

The group was finally granted a license for MPE source, but it had little else as an asset. There was a $10,000 fee due to HP in 2010 for that license which the group couldn't pay. It also didn't have developers who'd polish it toward any productive use among 3000 customers. That source code was like metal stock without a drill press to shape it, or even an operator.

Staffing resource was always an issue. The group did its best work when it pointed out the holes HP had left behind in its migration strategy for customers. A license transfer process would've never surfaced without OpenMPE's efforts. As of this year, license transfers are the only remaining HP 3000 service a customer can get from HP Enterprise.

Springtime in the 3000's Transition Era replaced the summers of Interex advocacy. During the spring hard questions would be asked in public of people whose mission was getting answers and making promises. HP always gave a nod of thanks to OpenMPE but never portrayed the group as the keystone to the homesteading experience. After awhile the group began to hope HP would find a gracious way to contribute source code to the community.

A limited number of licensees was all the community would ever get. As he ran for his board seat in 2008, Tracy Johnson said that it was fruitless to tell HP a 2010 deadline for source news was unacceptable. Even while customers continued to drift away, HP held all the cards, he said.

It is apparent HP cares not one wit whether OpenMPE declares any decision "acceptable" or not, and making such declarations isn't going to gain any friends at HP.  We're more like a public TV station that needs a telethon every once in a while to keep us going.  But there's only one donor with the currency (MPE) to make it worthwhile, and that is HP. The one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other.  Everything else hinges on this.

Third parties were supposed to negotiate their own separate contracts for support tool licensing. Testing the beta patches thoroughly using OpenMPE volunteers was proposed and Johnson signed off on it. The volunteer group couldn't line up testing resources, which didn't matter because HP didn't release the beta patches for tests beyond HP's support customers. Nobody even knew for sure if patches were something customers desired.

"Addressing the question of testing," Wadsworth said 10 years ago this spring, "although the OpenMPE board members and  members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to  conduct such testing."

Higher-order proposals—like un-crippling the final generation of 3000 boxes—went unpursued, too. It seemed like HP was shutting down this product line. Why give customers the rights to full use of their servers at shutdown? "This type of change  would not only add new breath to the e3000, it would add new life to a platform that is being shut down," Wadsworth said in answering a candidate question. "So because of the unlikelihood of this happening I do not think it is a direction that OpenMPE should concentrate resources on at this time."

Source was released and licensed in the spring of 2010, and the group did the advocacy for the transfer of licenses, and to include an emulator clause in that license transfer. By the end of the effort, funding came from loans and contributions from the board members." The group's chairman Jack Connor, the next to last leader, said "the contributions showed their commitment to the OpenMPE concept."

That concept changed constantly over the almost nine years of the group's existence. It began with the desire to get HP to open up source code and technology about a server it was discontinuing. Then the mission was the creation of a 3000 emulator. MPE/iX licensing issues, as well as necessary but overlooked HP procedures for migration, because the longest-term mission.

HP's Dave Wilde, the penultimate HP 3000 business manager, said that OpenMPE was an important part of HP’s planning for a post-2008 ecosystem for the platform. Springtime elections offered hope that the ecosystem would flourish. 

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:19 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2018

Wayback Wednesday: An Armload of Value

Snow with A-ClassOn a February afternoon in a Silicon Valley of 2001, the HP 3000 realized its highest order of invention. The PA-RISC processors had been powering the server for more than 13 years, and HP was working on the next generation of systems. Y2K was already one year into the rear view mirror and the lineup needed a refresh. HP responded by giving the customers a server they could carry under their arms.

The first A-Class model of what HP called the e3000 came into the meeting room of the Interex Solutions Symposium under Dave Snow's arm. The audience was developers, software company owners, and the most ardent of 3000 customers. The box was the realization of a low-cost dream about the 3000s. The installed base had been hoping for hardware that could keep the 3000 even with the Intel-based hardware powering the Windows business alternatives.

Snow was a little out of breath as he came to the front of the meeting room in the Sunnyvale hotel. He set the 3.5-inch-high server down and caught the eyes of people in the crowd, lusting for the computer. "No," he said, "this one is already spoken for in the labs." Like in the older days of Hewlett-Packard, the company created a tool its own engineers wanted to use. He said the computer was the result of a challenge from a customer the year before: "bring a 3000 into the Chicago HP World show you could carry under your arm. It's a portable computer, although it does weigh a bit."

A-ClassCPUsThe A-Class systems cost thousands less per year to support than the Series 9x8 and 9x7s they replaced. HP told resellers A-Class support would be $415-$621 a month for systems running up to 65 percent faster than the older models. But HP also horsepower-throttled the servers in a move to preserve value for the most costly servers already in the market. The HP-UX version of the A-Class was more than twice as fast.

Snow borrowed one of the few that were testing-ready from HP's MPE/iX labs on that day. In a movie of 5 minutes, Snow leads a tour of the advantages the new design offered over the 9x9 and 99x 3000s. HP pulled the covers and cabinet doors off to show internal hardware design.

HP introduced the speedier N-Class systems just a few months later, and so the market had its ultimate generation of Hewlett-Packard hardware for MPE/iX. The 2001 introduction of the A-Class—a computer that sells today for under $1,500 in some price lists—was part of the reason for the whiplash when HP called off its 3000 futures just 9 months after that February day. When the Chicago HP World closed in that summer, it was the last expo where HP's slides showed a future of more innovations.

These 14-year-old systems have been eclipsed by the Intel hardware, but running a virtualization system. The Stromasys Charon HPA is running MPE/iX production applications on servers even smaller than that A-Class. HP had the idea of making its computers smaller. It was up to the virtualization concept to make them both smaller and faster.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:16 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2018

MPE/iX keeps propelling relevant history

Professor KanzbergAt a recent meeting of HP 3000 managers running ERP shops, the present conditions and futures surfaced during a discussion. The MANMAN users, running an application on 3000s that hasn't seen an update in more than a decade—like their servers and OS—marveled at the constancy in their community.

Things change slower than expected. A monolithic application like ERP is the slowest of all to change. MPE/iX and its apps are proof: the history of technology is the most relevant history. History makes migration a requirement.

Ed Stein is a board member of the CAMUS user group. At the meeting he said the past three years have not removed many members. The 2028 CALENDAR replacement process caught his eye.

"I chuckled when I read a NewsWire article in 2015 and thought, 'Hey, how many of us are going to be around in 2028?' Well, most of us who were community members in 2015 are still members now," Stein said. "There's a future for those still running on MPE. If you don't like the hardware, then there's Doug Smith [from Stromasys] telling you how to get over that issue. MANMAN could be around in archival use 10 years from now—if not in actual production use."

Stein read that article about the CALENDAR intrinsic's shortcomings and decided he'd plan ahead, just to check off one more crucial challenge to the 3000's useful lifespan. 

"We want there to be a CALENDAR fix sooner than later," Stein said. "Because later, the talent might be retired or gone to fix this thing. We're looking at this as more of an insurance policy. If by chance we're still on this platform 10 years from now, we're going to be okay."

The platform's history is responsible for HP's continued standing in the business computer market, after all. Professor Melvin Kranzberg (above) wrote a set of laws to show how we relate to technology. MPE's relevance is more proven with every subsequent development.

Rule 5 among technology historian Kranzberg's rules: All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant. The laws read as a cheat sheet for explaining our era that includes Facebook, Google, the iPhone—and yes, cloud-based ERP replacements for MANMAN.

From an article in the Wall Street Journal published just after the MANMAN meeting:

The Cold War led to the buildup of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them anywhere on Earth. That led to the development of a war-proof communication system: the internet. Many related innovations subsequently seeped into every aspect of our lives.

But does that mean we owe the modern world to the existential contest between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R.? Or was that conflict itself driven by previous technological developments that allowed Hitler to threaten both nations?

Without prior historic events, how could ERP become a system built upon Salesforce and served up from cloud-based computing resources? No MANMAN or HP 3000 success drags back the entry date for the ERP replacements in the cloud.

The 3000 owners preparing for their migrations continue to prove the worth of their investments from the 1990s in MANMAN. 

"You're not alone here in the MANMAN arena," said Doug Werth of Beechglen at the meeting. "MANMAN is still a fairly small subset of companies that are still running HP 3000s. I'm really shocked to say here in this year that there are that many people running HP 3000s. But you're not alone here."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:56 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 13, 2017

Forbes news not fake, but it's surely slanted

Fortran-coding-formIt was an odd encounter to see the HP 3000 show up on the Forbes website recently. An article about technology and school systems mentioned the server in a sideswipe of a wisecrack. Justin Vincent, a CTO at a school software vendor, wondered aloud how 1970s computing would've handled a 20-student computer lab.

Since the HP 3000 has been a K-12 solution for more than 30 years, Vincent's article took aim at the computer. It was just a glancing blow.

When people first started talking about education technology in the '70s, technology itself was the main blocker. We simply didn’t have the capacity to scale networks. Our devices were huge, input methods were clunky, the cost of each device was prohibitive and there was simply no understanding of how to design easy-to-use K-12 software with individualized and blended features.

Can you imagine if a school district did decide to set up a 20-student computer lab in the '70s? With Hewlett Packard's first “small business” computer (the HP 3000), it would have cost the equivalent of $10 million, and the computers alone would fill up a standard-size classroom!

I was a student in a K-12 classroom in the 1970s. Instead of putting us high school seniors though advanced algebra, we could take a Computer Science course. I was eager to do this and learned that the only lab work we'd do in our parochial high school was filling out an IBM coding form (above) with FORTRAN commands. The actual IBM 029 keystrokes had to happen at the University of Toledo labs. We brought the green-bar output back to the classroom to debug our efforts.

It felt unfair to see those quotes around "small business" computer, though. The 3000 was a genuine small business solution compared to the mainframes. I also wonder how a 20-user 2000 of the late 1970s could have occupied a full classroom. Even in that day, terminals could fit on an average lab desk. The dimensions of tape drive, disk, and CPU still would leave room for students and instructors. Even the small Catholic school classrooms could accommodate a Series III with room to spare.

The writing arrived in the blogosphere by way of Forbes' Community Voice. In the 1970s this was called advertorial, the kind of copy I had to write as a young journalist to meet an advertiser's needs. By 2017 this writing is now being farmed out straight to the advertiser's staff. At least we had to label our advertorials as un-news. What might come as news is the HP 3000 is still running school administration in a few places.

Quintessential School Systems was sold into the portfolio of Harris School Solutions early this year. QSS broke a lot of ground for K-12 software systems, and at the time of its transfer in February there were still some customers waiting for their migration to the Linux version of OASIS.

The QSS saga included a long-term migration campaign of HP 3000 users. When HP cut its 3000 plans short in 2001, finding a replacement platform with no such single-vendor trap door was paramount to QSS. Well before the environment was established as a commercial choice, QSS went down a path toward Linux. The company calls this Version L, with the migrations coming away from Version H. This past year, the majority of QSS sites crossed over from the 3000 to Linux use.

Harris and QSS are in the administrative space for school software, while Vincent's firm Modern Teacher is pushing its spear of digital convergence to modernize the classroom pedagogy. That the HP 3000 would appear on the radar of a cloud-based software vendor — even as a "back in the day" reference — speaks to the legacy of MPE/iX. OASIS's days might be numbered on 3000 hardware. Other applications are going forward on the OS, though, carried by the virtualization strategy that puts "small business" computing on servers that fit onto a closet shelf.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 30, 2017

HP's Way Files Go Up in Flames

Hewlett-packard-original-officesThe Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported yesterday that the vast collection of Bill Hewlett's and David Packard's collected archives, correspondence, writings and speeches — materials that surely included HP's 3000 history at the CEO level — were destroyed in a fire this month. An HP executive who was responsible for the papers during the era the 3000 ruled HP's business computing said "A huge piece of American business history is gone."

The fire broke out in the week of October 9 at the headquarters of Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa. Keysight got the papers when it spun off from Agilent, the instrumentation business HP spun off in 1999. HP's CEO Lew Platt, the last CEO of the company who worked from the ground up, retired that year.

The blaze was among those that raged over Northern California for much of this month. What's being called the Tubbs Fire destroyed hundreds of homes in the city's Fountaingrove neighborhood. The Hewlett-Packard papers chronicled what the newspaper called "Silicon Valley's first technology company."

More than 100 boxes of the two men’s writings, correspondence, speeches and other items were contained in one of two modular buildings that burned to the ground at the Fountaingrove headquarters of Keysight Technologies.

The Hewlett and Packard collections had been appraised in 2005 at nearly $2 million and were part of a wider company archive valued at $3.3 million. However, those acquainted with the archives and the pioneering company’s impact on the technology world said the losses can’t be represented by a dollar figure.

Brad Whitworth, who had been an HP international affairs manager with oversight of the archives three decades ago, said Hewlett-Packard had been at the forefront of an industry “that has radically changed our world.”

HP's archivist who assembled the historic collection said it was stored irresponsibly at Keysight. While inside HP, the papers were in a vault with full fire retardant protections, according to Karen Lewis. The fires, which Keysight's CEO said were the "most destructive firestorm in state history," left most of the Keysight campus untouched. HP 3000s themselves have survived fires to operate again, often relying on backups to return to service.

Dave Packard coinsNo such backup would have been possible for the lost archives. The company was so devoted to its legacy that it preserved Dave and Bill's offices just as they used them while co-leaders of the company. The offices in the HP building in Palo Alto — unthreatened by California files — include overseas coins and currency left by HP executives traveling for Hewlett-Packard. The money sits on the desks.

Offsite backup was not a part of the Keysight disaster plan for the archives. Our contributor Brian Edminster wrote that such offsite backups are crucial.

Once store-to-disk backups are regularly being processed, it’s highly desirable to move them offsite — for the same reasons that it’s desirable to rotate tape media to offsite storage. You want to protect against site-wide catastrophic failures. It could be something as simple as fire, flood, or a disgruntled employee, or as unusual as earthquake or act of war.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:38 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 27, 2017

Wayback Wed: HP green-lights emulators

Green-LightFifteen years ago this month, Hewlett-Packard gave the recently-orphaned HP 3000 customer base hope. The vendor was speaking at the first HP World conference since HP's plan to curtail 3000 futures. Customers were reluctant in 2002 to step away from MPE/iX, at least at the pace their vendor was urging. In a roundtable at the conference in LA, HP said PA-RISC emulators capable of running MPE/iX software could be licensed for HP's OS.

It would take most of the next 10 years to make an emulator a reality, a period when HP declined to share tech details that would've sped development from third parties like Stromasys (which was called Software Resources International at the time.) Charon came onto the market during the years when HP had run out the clock on issuing new 3000 licenses.

HP's Dave Wilde said at that conference that 19 of the top 20 application suppliers for the 3000 were already on the move to HP’s other platforms. 3000 owners were moving at a pace far slower than the app suppliers, though. Customer interests in 2002 were higher about ways to ensure a supply of newer hardware once HP quit making it 12 months from the conference.

HP was far off in figuring how to placate its customers devoted to MPE/iX.  The vendor would extend a 50 percent credit for N-Class systems to be used toward any HP-UX system. The discount was to drop to 40 percent during 2005 and 30 percent during 2006. 

The discounts were going to be too short-lived. Customers were so engaged with their 3000s that HP had to extend its end of support date beyond 2006, and then beyond 2008. Post-2008 was the period when the 3000 emulator's development started to take off.

HP’s announcements at the September, 2002 show represented its first tangible offer to customers with continued 3000 ownership as their most cost-effective strategy. HP did not release pricing for the MPE licenses to accompany such an emulator. At the time, there was the possibility that such emulator software could make Intel x86 as well as Itanium processors look like PA-RISC 3000 hardware. The pricing of the MPE/iX licenses was going to be an issue, the customers believed.

The licenses would create new HP 3000s, available on any emulator that would be developed. The pricing for an emulator with a new MPE/iX license looked to some observers like a tough compare to used hardware of the day.

“The issues surrounding price and the distribution for the MPE license are pretty much the remaining variables in whether or not it’s possible to do this as a commercial venture,” said Gavin Scott at the meeting. Scott figured that an emulator solution would cost $15,000 when factoring in HP’s MPE license fee. He thought it might be a tough compare against a used Series 900 system purchased on eBay.

The cost analysis that was true in 2002 would become more so with each year that HP's hardware aged. Fifteen years later, HP 3000 A-Class hardware is being sold for under $2,000 a system. The components inside these boxes are now 15 years older, though, and not even HP-engineered systems were guaranteed to run that long.

“You’re getting very close to the point where I think an emulator will happen," Scott said in 2002. "It will, however, be an open source, freeware thing that gets built in our garages in our spare time over the next five or six years. Whether that will be something you’d want to run your businesses on is less likely than if there’s an active, commercial effort to do it.” The active commercial enterprise came through with the release of Charon.

Some 3000 advocates on that day 15 years ago felt certain — making new 3000 licenses would be crucial to keeping the system a viable, mission-critical platform with commercial prospects..

“HP has agreed in principle to put a mechanism into place to allow the creation of new MPE licenses after they exit the business,” said Mark Klein, winner of the Interex-HP HP 3000 contributor award. “Without that, MPE is dead. With that, there is the possibility that MPE can live on for those that want it.”

In 2002, though, HP wanted to spark sales of the 3000 and protect that business through 2003. It said it would not let a version of MPE be used with any hardware emulator before the end of sales date in 2003. No one figured an emulator would be ready by that year, and some estimated six years and more. But SRI considered creating such an emulator to be a swifter project. Once HP opened up its tech resources to aid in Processor Dependent Code emulator aspects, Charon proceeded smartly.

HP cut down its fresh MPE/iX 3000 license process in 2010, the year it closed its MPE/iX labs. However, the lack of new 3000 licenses didn't prevent an emulator from making a footprint on the homesteader base. The size of the footprint could have been greater with more immediate tech cooperation from HP.

In 2002, the vendor was shutting down its 3000 operations, just not at the pace it expected to do so. The vendor fell short of helping with the next step for a slow-migrating customer: an emulator to outlast HP's iron. The MPE license for emulators was a start to homesteading hopes. It was a start that a third party had to finish, extending faith to the market. The timing would always be questioned, though. HP tech help came through about a year before its MPE/iX lab closed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:14 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2017

Songs of a Simpler Week of September

HP Song Book coverThere's tragedy a-plenty to ponder today, what with the news of Irma's landfalls and a somber anniversary of an attack right at hand. Over this weekend, though, an old friend of the HP 3000 passed along a memory marker. That's a piece of documentation that proves our 3000 world was a different place, but a place still related to what we know today. The marker for this month comes from Dave Wiseman, WisemanGatorwhose 3000 pedigree includes dragging an inflated alligator around a conference show floor as well as a 3000 performance dashboard with a Windows GUI, sold with a freeware version years before open source became an industry strategy.

Wiseman shared a sheaf of pages from the HP Song Book. Corporations of the 20th Century had official corporate songs, but these tunes first rose up on Sept. 11, 1989, sung at the Interex conference in San Francisco. They were written by Orly Larson, a 3000 division database expert who played guitar and strummed up good vibes from customers in the era before corporate Internet.

50th Anniversary SongIn addition to being a September a dozen years before the 9/11 tragedy, the 1989 conference opened on the 50th Anniversary of Hewlett-Packard. Unix was not yet HP's chief enterprise computing platform. The vendor wanted a seat at the desktop user interface table with its New Wave GUI, coupled with the HP Deskmanager office mail and software suite hosted on 3000s.

There was still more software to sell than HP could explain easily.

Database SongHP was trying out the concept of offering two databases for the 3000, TurboImage and Allbase. The song lyrics (at left) told the 1989 attendees that HP had already sold over 35,000 HP 3000s with IMAGE. Another product, HP SQL, was being touted for $15,000 "US list, that is," a line that somehow was scanned onto the melody of the ragtime hit Baby Face. Allbase's price was $30,000 in that year, "unconfigured, that is." This might have been the last time that HP software pricing made its way into song.

1989's September was less than one year away from the most coordinated revolt of the 3000 customer base. In 1990, passionate and incensed customers revived the SIG-IMAGE special interest group and railed at HP's top executives in a conference Management Roundtable. In this kind of ruckus in a Western, the piano player in the saloon would be told to play a song to quiet down the crowd.

HP-plus-Interex songAlas, the HP songbook of a year earlier wasn't on hand. Railing against HP's mistakes at the roundtable became a regular feature of Interex meetings, but the songs retained a place, too. By September of 1997, the conference in Chicago included songs so familiar that a few attendees at HP's party on Navy Pier didn't need a songbook to sing along. Allbase at $30,000 hadn't survived. Neither had the name of the show once called Interex. The user group licensed the rights to use "HP World" from Hewlett-Packard—a sign of simpler times when the vendor and its users were on the same page.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 30, 2017

Wayback Wed: The Big Wet soaks HP's show

Sam-Houston-flood-HarveyDuring this week of 2005, a natural disaster the size of Hurricane Harvey sank the launch site of HP's conference debut. Hurricane Katrina socked New Orleans two weeks before the first HP Technology Forum & Expo was to make its appearance on the HP 3000 show calendar. Katrina's loss of life was staggering compared to Harvey's toll. In some way, though, the disruption for that conference devoted to HP business computing felt fated. HP's computer group bore down a storm of change on the Interex user group's shoreline that year, cooking up the Technology Forum all during 2005. The HP-led show was roping in exhibitor dollars which had kept the Interex user group afloat each year.

Houston-flood-totalsAs of this writing, HP Enterprise has not reported damages to the HP facilities in the Highway 249 corridor where the Compaq and HP facilities are located. The reported rainfall totals are staggering, however, and the hurricane is being declared the worst rainfall disaster in US history. HPE-Houston-Facilities

The company had its history with hurricanes and the Gulf Coast before this week, though. HP got close to Houston because of its Compaq acquisition in 2002. In 2005, Interex canceled its HP World show when the user group folded with millions in unpaid hotel deposits still on the books. At the time, HP said anyone who'd paid to attend the Interex show could shift their registration to the first-ever HP Tech Forum. The event was to be held in New Orleans in the thick of hurricane season. Katrina wrecked the city so badly that HP had to move its new show to Orlando.

The 2005 hurricane rescheduled an HP show that was not aimed to replace Interex's annual tentpole event. The scheduling might as well have been targeted at the user group, though. Interex got notice in 2004 it could collaborate with the DEC-driven Encompass user group on a 2005 conference, But the HP user group launched by HP 3000 customers was 30 years old by 2004. Interex had to go its own way to retain enough revenue from the event. User group leaders averred that the deciding factor was HP's insistence on steering the content and tone of the new event. In particular, the tone was cited by an HP liaison David Parsons. The Interex members had a history of going toe-to-toe with HP's executives in the legendary Management Roundtables.

As they often do, the storms triggered disaster recovery reporting. Before Katrina swept its broom of destruction in 2005, we ran a pair of articles about disaster recovery strategies. Our columnist Scott Hirsh has also weighed in with best practices on DR in hisWorst Practices column written in the wake of 9/11. Gulf Coast weather didn't sink Interex, but the tradition of an August-September schedule for North American HP trade shows was scattered for good by the storm. HP CEOs had a tradition of being in hurricane paths.

Katrina made landfall just two weeks before the new HP CEO Mark Hurd was to speak at the show. HP scheduled a 3000 migration roundtable for the event. Katrina struck New Orleans, a city also on target to take another Category 5 bullet — only three such monsters have ever hit the US — back in 1992. Hurricane Andrew bore down on the site of the final HP 3000 conference to be held there.

I was covering the show as editor of the HP Chronicle. HP had a new CEO that summer, too: Lew Platt. In that 1992 show, conference attendees watched masking tape go up on windows all day long all over the city, most of which sits below sea level. Platt made an escape in front of the storm, but not before one customer after another had to stop for a word while he was on the way to his limo. By 5 PM we were all confined to the Hilton Hotel for safety. We danced in comfort in the ballroom, drinking the city's signature hurricane cocktails and riding out the storm outside. Everyone was told to fill bathtubs before they came to the party, in case the water supply got cut off. We all hoped that housekeeping had been zealous on those tubs.

In the advent of that 2005 storm season we put up a podcast about the intersection of new HP CEOs and hurricanes. Encompass user group's executive director Mary Ellen Smith said at the time the user group was hopeful the storm's damage wouldn't impact the conference. Users could apply for a refund until Aug. 31. A few years later, Hurricane Ike struck Houston. But it did not linger like Harvey has this week.

HP touted its new conference as “the first conference to deliver qualified, consistent education and training opportunities across HP’s broad base of customers, partners and employees.” The claim led one Interex volunteer who’d led the group’s HP 3000 content, Jerry Fochtman, to dispute HP’s promise. What about the 30 years of Interex conferences, he asked?

“I guess everything up to this point over the last 30 years that has strived to do that, with both HP’s assistance as well as partnership, wouldn’t qualify,” he said in an Internet posting. “All this political-speak is just that...a bunch of bull-dung."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:09 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 23, 2017

Wayback Wed: Lights Out for 3000 Classics

Series 70 with Disk FarmDuring this month 20 years ago, HP sent its death notice out about the original systems it built to run MPE. All computers running CISC technology, systems the community learned to call Classic 3000s, got their end of support notice in August of 1997. Hewlett-Packard officially labeled them and the software built for MPE V as "vintage software and systems."

As continues to be the case for HP's end of life plans, the finale for the 3000's original chip design arrived more than a few years beyond the EOL of September 1998. Series 70s were still in use when the original notice went out, at least a decade beyond their final shipping date. HP created the Series 70 when the RISC Spectrum project looked certain not to rescue the highest-end HP 3000 users in time. Series 68 users were running out of horsepower, and HP's final CISC server filled the gap for awhile.

HP was consolidating its support resources with the announcement. Even though 20,000 HP 3000s shipped between system introduction and the arrival of the RISC-based systems, the newer, lower-priced MPE/iX servers became popular replacements for Classic 3000s. By 1997 the software vendors had made a complete embrace of the new OS. But 3000 customers, ever a thrifty bunch, retained what continued to serve them well enough. Customers noted that the approaching Y2K deadline was not going to hamper the vintage software or its hardware.

Although the announcement sparked a 3000 hardware sales bump and hastened the journey of the two-digit systems like the Series 42 to the scrap heap, the old compilers remained under support. A community advocate then asked HP to free up Basic/V to the community, along with the original Systems Programming Language (SPL). The request pre-dated the idea of open source by more than a few years. HP's response was no different than the one it held to when it stopped supporting MPE/iX. Once an HP product, always an HP product.

Wirt Atmar of AICS noted that "If HP has abandoned Basic, it would be an extraordinary gift to the MPE user community to make it and SPL legal freeware. Basic still remains the easiest language to build complex, easy string-manipulating software that must interact with IMAGE databases."

Another community leader, Chris Bartram, made direct reference to freeware in seconding the move to give Basic/V to the customers. Bartram's 3k Associates already hosted a website of shareware for the HP 3000. He said donating the MPE V versions of Basic and SPL fit with HP's new policy of relying on shareware for its HP 3000 customers.

"It certainly doesn't hurt anything at this point to make it freeware," he said, "and fits in well with the wealth of other freeware programs that are becoming available on the platform -- almost all without "official" support or significant investments from HP." Old hardware, on the other hand, suffered from the same issues as HP's aging iron of our current day. Parts became a showstopper at some sites.

Ken Kirby of Vanderbilt University said, "A good reason not to stay with the Series 70 is the difficulty of getting parts. The last time our 70 was down, it lay lifeless for three days waiting for HP to locate a part and have it sent here. Fortunately, there are no critical applications on our 70, as we have migrated most to a 987. The Series 70 was a fine piece of equipment in its day. So was the Titanic. For those of us still aboard, it looks like the iceberg is just around the bend."

Kirby added that the maintenance aspects—parts and HP support fees—were much cheaper for the newer systems. Cutting the costs for power, cooling, and service from generation to generation was in step with other enterprise vendors' strategies. Ten years after the Classic death notice, the head of HP's 3000 division operations was calling the 3000 a two-generation system: pre-2001 and its shutdown news, then post-2001. The genealogy of HP's hardware actually has three generations: Classic, PA-RISC, then the PCI-based A and N. The final generation was sold for less than a year before HP lost its desire for the 3000.

The Classic 3000's MPE/V, sent toward the sidelines with the 1997 announcement, was the last of HP 3000 operating systems whose source code was for sale. Tymlabs, a software vendor in Austin with products for backup and terminal emulation, said it bought a copy for $500 with full use. By the end of 2010, HP was selling a limited use, read-only license of MPE/iX code for $10,000—to a set of companies who had to apply to purchase it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:32 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 21, 2017

The Next Totality: Will it be our last?

21stCenturyNorthAmericanEclipsesA wide swath of North America sparkled with zeal for the sun today. The total eclipse cut across the US from left to right coasts, scattering visions many viewers never knew before in person. We had a partial here in Austin and built a binocular viewer. On TV a stadium full of astronomy enthusiasts saw the clouds dash all but 11 seconds of totality hopes in Carbondale, Ill. Not far to the west, the Stonehenge knockoff Carhenge had clear skies and a stunning swing of darkness for about two minutes.

The talk today began to turn to whether this would be the last total eclipse in our North American lifetimes. The answer is easy enough for things younger than 70: this won't be the last, because less than seven years from now a top-to-bottom totality will swing through North America. Austin is in the path of 100 percent this time. We have to decide if we'll be renting out the NewsWire offices for viewing parties in 2024.

Next EclipseThe question that's harder to answer with certainty is whether this is the last totality for the HP 3000. For many years by now we've heard sites talking about plans to work in the 2020's. Ametek Chandler Engineering has a plan to take them into 2023. Earlier this month, the 3000 manager at MagicAire shared the news that he's deciding if clearing the 2028 CALENDAR roadblock is worthwhile for his operation.

The number of companies who'll rely on the 3000 may be zero in less than six years, but I wouldn't bet on it. Series 70 machines were running in the Dallas area more than 15 years after they were taken off HP's 3000 lineup. The odds of zero MPE/iX apps running in less than six years are probably nil. Virtualized PA-RISC systems from Stromasys will be cradling what we call 3000 apps in 2024.

Not-BrightOur community of experts and customers might take up their circa-2017 eyewear once again when I'm turning 67. If back in 1979 — when the last total eclipse sailed through a bit of the US — someone figured nobody would need to be wearing glasses to watch a total eclipse in 2017, they'd be wrong about that. Old tech has a way of hanging on once it's proved itself. The last total eclipse I'm likely to see is in 2045. I'll only be 88, and MPE will be just a tender 63 years old. Anything first created in 1954 and still in use is 63 years old today. That would be nuclear submarines and M&Ms. Think the latter (alluring, durable) while considering MPE's lifespan. There's also that song about the future, brightness, and shades. As we saw today, stranger things have already happened.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:29 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 26, 2017

Wayback Wed: User groups, past and future

Connect logo partialTwelve years ago this week, the Interex user group became fully retired. Most of the community called the shutdown of the 31-year-old HP users group a bankruptcy, since millions of dollars of invoices went unpaid, while hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits and membership fees vanished. In its own way, though, Interex was stepping aside for user groups better built for IT of the 21st Century. The groups that have taken over during those years are better focused, streamlined, and understand their constituents better.

One of those groups is seeking directors this week. Connect, the latest generation of a group that was called Encompass on the day Interex retired, is searching for nominees to serve in three seats on its board. Members of a user group board have important duties, even while they're working for no pay. They oversee fiscal decisions, like the group on the Interex board was charged with doing at its demise. Directors propose advocacy, like the dozens of volunteers who served on the OpenMPE group in its eight years of existence. A board at its best looks forward toward how its organization should evolve. The ecosystem for IT is always changing.

That International Group for Hewlett-Packard Computer Users became Interex in 1984 and had mixed missions right from its beginnings. Built in an era without Internet or fax machines, Interex had to serve the needs of HP 3000, HP 9000, and even HP 1000 community members. The latter often didn't know they owned a 1000, since it was embedded deep in other devices. When I began covering HP in 1984, the HP 1000 group still was holding its own annual conference, even as it operated under the Interex banner.

Things got more complicated when PCs moved into datacenters and offices for good. By the time Interex locked its doors on Borregas Avenue in Sunnyvale, Calif., the HP 9000 members had overtaken the mission of the 3000, riding that pre-Internet wave of Unix passions. HP had announced its exit scheme for MPE/iX. Windows became the dominant environment for IT computing, a community too diverse for a vendor-centric group to impact.

The last executive director who left his job with the group still intact, Chuck Piercey asked repeatedly in the years before the bankruptcy what a user group built around one vendor might do in a homogenous landscape. Interex was built when the silos of vendors could stand distinct, and managers could run an all-HP shop and remain competitive within their industries.

Encompass was built upon the same model, but the group evolved to maintain a foothold and became Connect. Since 2016 the membership has been free. Interex membership added a free level in the years before the group folded, a facet that made the group's rolls swell but added little to the value proposition for membership.

At the end, HP said in 2004 it had enough of the strident Interex activists who fought for customers. It was a matter of tone, HP said, not so much content that sent HP out to establish its own conference. In just a few years the Technology Forum, which had a heavy HP corporate attendance, became HP Discover. A new breed of conference was born, something not steered by a user group.

In 2005, Encompass reached out to the stranded Interex members as Interex founder Doug Mecham said the group hadn't died off — it simply retired.

Rather than any negative or derogatory term used to describe the situation, perhaps we should just refer to the “change” as “retirement” of Interex, just as we would an old friend. This situation does open up possibilities – opportunities for new lives in different directions, each person taking the spirit and success knowledge elsewhere in the world.  Interex will not long be forgotten, for it represented an organization of professionals that made a mark in the computer world, second to none.

The bedrock of Connect, Encompass, saw its president Kristi Browder say the departure of Interex was no barometer of the user group concept.

As a former partner and colleague of Encompass in serving HP technology users, Interex has shared similar goals, passions and dedication to the HP user base. I want you as an Encompass community member to know this is no indication of the downturn in the value of Encompass or user groups in general.

The HP world was left with technical papers in 2005 that were undelivered, because the conference they were written for was cancelled. Later in the year HP mounted the first HP Technology Forum and Expo with significant help from Encompass and the Tandem users group, planning content. HP handled the expo duties as Interex had while running shows.

Browder could be excused for seeing the sunny side of the street where user groups lived. Few groups ever had such a bellwether conference like the Interex show. At the finish of the Interex run, the user group was riding on reserves all year that were banked off the commerce from its show floor booths. When the user group died, it left its shadow of red ink, because mid-summer was no time to feel cheery about the Interex balance sheet.

The 3000 community never duplicated networking which made such conference travel worthwhile. I still miss the face-to-face contact guaranteed each year by going to HP World and Interex before that conference. I was lucky to have 20 years of shows to attend. 3000 veterans, cut adrift from their annual meeting, put together a lunch of around 30 members who had nonrefundable tickets to San Francisco, and later there were reunions in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:17 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 28, 2017

Wayback Wed: HP makes 3000 fiber-fast

Server-rack-fibre-channelTwenty years ago this month Hewlett-Packard began to make its 3000s fast enough to use fiber connections. HP Fibre Channel was an implementation of the T11 standard, a serial interface to overcome limitations of SCSI and HIPPI interfaces. Although the 3000 wouldn't gain a full Fibre Channel capability until the following year, HP laid the essential groundwork with the first High Speed Connect (HSC) cards for HP 3000s.

It was peripheral technology nearly in parallel with Unix, a strategy the 3000 community was clamoring for during the system's late 1990s renaissance.

New IO cards rolled into the 3000 market in 1997, giving the server a road to bandwidth equality with its cousin the HP 9000. HP told customers Fiber Channel was the future of 3000 peripheral connectivity. HP's first family of Fiber Channel devices were first deployed in a Model 30/FC High Availability Disk Array for 9000s.

SpeedChart-Series-997-IntroThe advance for the server gave the 3000 an open door to a technology that's still in heavy use. By some estimates more than 18 million Fibre Channel ports are working across the world. The technology has rocketed from the initial 1Gbit speed to 128Gbit bandwidth. The highest-speed HP 3000s until the ultimate server generation were Series 997s, designed to replace the Emerald-class systems. HP charged more than $400,000 for 997s at the top of the range. It was the only 12-way HP 3000 the vendor ever introduced.

Today the Fibre Channel advantage is available in Linux server settings. One example is the Dell EMC storage solution. Linux is the host environment for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator.

The technology was also noted for its power to eliminate bent pins. HP said in a Journal article that "serial connectors used for Fibre Channel are a fraction of the size of SCSI parallel connectors and have fewer pins, thereby reducing the likelihood of physical damage. Also, depending on the topology, many more devices can be interconnected on Fibre Channel than on existing channels."

Today, Fibre Channel is a choice for high-performance arrays to expand and hit full performance at both the storage and compute layers. Fibre Channel innovations enhance this connection by adding quality of service (QoS) for flash optimization. Both flash cache and logical-unit-number (LUN) prioritization allows administrators to tailor the data enter environment to fully optimize investment in flash technology.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2017

Wayback Wed: Blog takes aim at 3000 news

SearchlightTwelve years ago this week we opened the 3000 NewsWire's blog, starting with coverage of a departed 3000 icon, a migration tool built by a 3000 vendor to assist database developers, as well as a split up of HP's two largest operations. The pages of this blog were devoted to these major areas: updates from the 3000 homesteading community, insights on how to move off the 3000, and the latest News Outta HP, as we continue to call it today. After 2,978 articles, we move into the 13th year of online 3000 news.

Bruce Toback died in the week we launched. He was a lively and witty developer who'd created the Formation utility software for managing 3000 forms printing. A heart attack felled him before age 50, one of those jolts that reminded me that we can't be certain how much time we're given to create. Bruce expanded the knowledge of the community with wit and flair.

Quest Software rolled out its first version of Toad, software that migrating 3000 sites could employ to simplify SQL queries. The initial version was all about accessing Oracle database, but the current release is aimed at open source SQL databases. Open source SQL was in its earliest days in 2005, part of what the world was calling LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and Python-PHP-Perl. Quest was also selling Bridgeware in a partnership with Taurus Software in 2005. That product continues to bridge data between 3000s and migration targets like Oracle.

HP was dividing its non-enterprise business to conquer the PC world in our first blog week. The company separated its Printer and PC-Imaging units, a return to the product-focused organization of HP's roots. Infamous CEO Carly Fiorina was gone and replacement Mark Hurd was still in his honeymoon days. Todd Bradley, who HP had hired away from mobile system maker Palm, got the PC unit reins and ran wild. Before he was cut loose in 2013, the PC business swelled to $13 billion a year and HP was Number 1. HP missed the mobile computing wave, a surprise considering Bradley came from Palm. You can't win them all.

That HP success in PCs, all driven by Windows, reflected the OS platform leader and wire-to-wire winner of migration choices for 3000 owners.

During that June we polled 3000 managers about their migration destinations for 2005. Windows had an early lead that it exploded in the years to come, but in the third year of what we called the Transition Era, HP-UX still accounted for almost one-third of migration targets. The raw totals were

Windows: 31 customers
HP-UX: 23 customers
Other Unixes, including Linux, Sun Solaris and IBM AIX: 15 customers

The IBM iSeries got mentioned twice, and one HP 3000 company has moved to Apple's Unix, which most of us know as OS X.

With 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments, HP-UX managed to poke above the 30 percent mark. Unix overall accounts for more than half of the targets.

The main information source at the time we launched the blog was the NewsWire's printed edition. During the summer of 2005 that would shift, so by the end of 2005 the print appeared quarterly and the blog articles flowed on workdays. In the print issue of that first blog month, the migration news read like this.

Larger 3000 sites make up the majority of early migration adopters, many of whom choose HP-UX to replace MPE/iX. Now the smaller sites are turning to a migration challenge they hope to meet on a familiar platform: Microsoft’s Windows.

While HP-UX has notched its victories among MPE/iX sites, the typical small-to-midsize 3000 customer is choosing a more popular platform.

“We have never learned Unix or Linux, only MPE and Windows, and it is a lot easier to hire and train Windows people,” said Dennis Boruck of CMC Software, makers of the Blackstone judicial application. Blackstone’s success in the Clark County, Nevada courts led HP to highlight the Blackstone MPE/iX application in a success story.

Some customers express a reluctance to put mission-critical computing onto Windows platforms. But Windows’ familiarity has won it many converts. “We are moving to a Windows 2003 Server environment because it is the easiest to manage compared to Unix or Linux,” said programmer supervisor E. Martin Gilliam of the Wise County, Va. data processing department.

Carter-Pertaine, makers of K-12 software, said Speedware’s migration path to HP-UX is guiding the first phase of its customer migration strategy. But Quintessential School Systems, which is the C-P parent, is working on a Linux option.

By now Linux is an establishment choice for on-premise datacenters and the bedrock of Amazon Web Services where most computing clouds gather. The platforms of 2017 have evolved to consider databases and infrastructures as their keystones, rather than operating systems. Bridgeware, jointly developed by Quest and Taurus Software, still moves data between 3000s and the rest of the database world. Today's Bridgeware datasheet language acknowledges there's still 3000 IMAGE data at work in the world.

BridgeWare Change Detection permits delta change captures in IMAGE, KSAM and other MPE data structures.

For years, IT managers have been faced with the difficult task of making data from IMAGE and other MPE-based files available. With the retirement of the HP 3000, this has become an even greater need. Taurus’ BridgeWare ETL software solution greatly simplifies the task of moving data between databases and files on MPE, Windows, UNIX and Linux systems, allowing you to easily migrate, or replicate your data to extend the life or phase out your HP 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:47 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 12, 2017

Emulation proposes to fix 3000 antiquation

Antique serversA few weeks back, an ardent reader of the Newswire asked about our HP 3000 Memoirs Project. I shared a link to the History section of the Newswire, a subject we never featured in our printed editions. I figured I was chatting with a fan of the server until I asked, "What are you doing with your HP 3000 these days?"

"Dying, that's what. I cannot believe that my place of business still uses this antiquated platform as their system of record."

There's no reason to take this personally if you disagree. Webster's tells us that antiquated means "outmoded or discredited by reason of age; old and no longer useful, popular, or accepted." Some of this is true of the computing we still call HP 3000. (Some just call the server "the HP," which I take as a sign of less-ardent interest.)

However, the antiquated object in management cross-hairs begins with the 3000 hardware. HP's gear is a growing liability, unless you're smart enough to have independent support for the Hewlett-Packard systems. If not, there's a way to eliminate antiquated from the capital equipment list of problems.

Stromasys has made its mark on the IT industry with an emulation mantra. It brings MPE/iX onto new hardware. Not long ago the company wrote a whitepaper on the five reasons businesses wait to emulate legacy systems.
  1. Nothing is broken
  2. It's not a priority
  3. Sounds expensive
  4. It's a temporary fix
  5. What's emulation?

The whitepaper does a fine job of illuminating each of these reasons' shortcomings. The No. 1 reason for waiting to emulate fits neatly with my reader's opinion of their HP 3000.

"I do believe the 3000 has a place in history," she said. "But I do mean history. Not a current system that cannot even be cross-walked to anything current."

For the record, the hardware that drives MPE/iX can be cross-walked to current servers, networks, software infrastructure, and storage. That's what the Stromasys emulator does: brings the hardware up to date. Of late, there's an outreach to put MPE/iX servers into the cloud. The Stromasys Charon HPA technology is in place to make that a reality.

MPE/iX itself could be considered antiquated. The OS was last updated by its maker in 2008. Only the laws of logic, though, and not those of physics will wear down this 3000-computing component. Drives, processor boards, fans, batteries — they'll all fail someday because physics remain predictable. Parts wear down, burn out, become unpredictable.

Logic, though, remains as constant as its makers intended. The thing that wears out first is always the hardware. Software advances eventually cripple original hardware. iPhone owners learned last week that the iOS 11 release will not run on iPhones from 5C and earlier. MPE/iX has left lots of hardware behind: the systems that failed to start one day, or run as slowly as an iPhone 5C. You can hunker down on old software with an iPhone, but it works poorly in just a little time. Not a decade and counting, like MPE/iX.

And speaking of 5s, if Reason No. 5 is standing in the way, then you can resolve that emulation ignorance with a search of this blog for emulation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:30 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 31, 2017

Laser ruling a draft for 3000 owners' rights

LaserJet 33440ALaserJets are wired into the history of the HP 3000. Hewlett-Packard never would have developed the printer that changed HP without a 3000 line in place. The business printer was designed to give minicomputer users a way to print without tractor-feed paper, fan-fold greenbar or dot-matrix daisywheels. That was more than 30 years ago. A Supreme Court decision on laser printing this week has a chance at affecting the future of HP's 3000 iron.

The ruling handed down this week was focused on a lawsuit between an HP rival, Lexmark, and a company that builds and sells Lexmark replacement toner cartridges. Lexmark tried to assert that its patent protection for laser toner cartridges extends to the buyers of the cartridges. Nobody could refill that Lexmark-built cartridge but Lexmark, the print giant said.

The upstart Impression Products has been buying used cartridges from the customers and refilling them. If this sounds like healthy commerce to you, then you agree with the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts this week. Even though a company can protect a patent as it sells the product, the patent doesn't hold if the product is resold, or modified and resold. An article at WashingtonPost.com — where 3000 legend Eugene Volokh leads a popular law blog — has all the details.

HP is not in the story except for a line at the bottom, which notes how seminal the LaserJet remains in the story of printing. An earlier edition, the correction notes, used the word laserjet instead of laser printer. The 3000's future ownership might ride on how courts determine the Supreme's decision. You can resell a car that you've modified and break no law. HP has long maintained the HP iron called a 3000 is no vehicle, though, even while it carries the magic rider called MPE.

FBI BadgeIn 1999 the 3000 market saw a swarm of resellers who hawked MPE iron at below-average prices. These computers were HP 3000s when they booted up, but their pedigree was often stolen with a support software product. People went to jail, HP created a sorta-enforcement team that operated alongside real officers. At the worst of it, Client Systems' Phoenix 3000 official resellers claimed the FBI might come and take away a 3000 with sketchy papers.

As a result of the disputes over ownership, HP said that its 3000 iron doesn't exist, and cannot be owned, without a license for MPE/iX. The ownership chain flowed from the license, the vendor said. It was like a car in the sense that you didn't have a vehicle fit for the road if you didn't have plates. HP owned the plates (the software) and only licensed those bits. MPE/iX has never been sold, they said. Only licensed.

The new court ruling states that a manufacturer's rights to a product that's been sold stop once the maker (or a reseller for the vendor) sell the product. That old Volkswagen Beetle you bought and tricked out for dune buggy status? VW has no hold on how you attach mufflers, or even if the teenagers down the block pay you for the modified Bug.

Tying a physical product to a digital controlling component (HP's 3000 hardware to MPE/iX) was a strategy the community wanted to battle. Wirt Atmar, founder of AICS Research and indefatigable MPE advocate, looked into untying HP's MPE-3000 bundle. His pursuit got as far as a Chicago legal office, where well-paid lawyers said that winning such a suit would involve battling more well-paid lawyers. Atmar had to park the community's pursuit vehicle.

The Post article said the next step in the evolution of US law will be to determine if digital products can be sold with an ownership that protects the maker's rights forever. Since the matter in the Supreme Court covered digital parts for a computer peripheral, the writer must mean digital products which don't have a physical form. Software comes to mind.

Every vendor except one in the 3000 ecosystem shouldn't worry. No one but the system maker who builds an OS has ever tied software to physical hardware to make the former the guardian of the latter. Software companies which offer virtualizations of systems utilitize the best available licenses to make emulators legal. Now the rules about ownership status and rights are changing, thanks to a Court that's not always been on the side of the little guy.

The little guys who own HP's 3000 iron have been told they need an HP license of MPE/iX to boot their systems. It's also true for virtualized systems. If those products sold to customers — HP's iron, the virtualization software — are untied from HP Enterprise concerns, pricing might change. Even more importantly for the future, modifications might flow into the key components of a 3000's software, if a court rules that modding up your software doesn't break patent protections.

Source code is inside the community that would make that modding possible, but it's been tied to a license that prohibits using the source for anything but support of customers. That's why any changes to CALENDAR needed at the end of 2027 must be applied customer-by-customer. Releasing an MPE/iX 8.0 isn't permitted under today's law. If those HP licenses were ruled illegal, it could change the future of owning a 3000—perhaps because for the first time, a customer could truly own the box, instead of paying a fee to license the software essential to making a 3000 compute.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:11 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2017

Making 3000 Memoirs, One Post at a Time

Memoir ProjectFive years ago I was entering into memoirs territory. I had a decent start on my own memoir, Stealing Home: The Road to the Perfect Game. It was time for the 3000 community to have its memoirs, too. A few of the community's leaders shared stories, each a memory, of how the 3000 changed their life.

It was a simple and heartfelt formula I believed might be a book. What happened to the HP 3000 Memoir Project was that it became a dynamic story. Instead of being compiled into pages, the 3000's memoirs are in the History section of the blog. There are nearly 400 stories in there.

Three times a month, a history article gives us insights. I call these Wayback Wednesdays, or Fallback Fridays. Each memory is designed to supply meaning and insight. We can't change what happened to us. We might alter how we perceive it, though, as well as change the direction it propels us toward.

Everyone goes into every life situation with specific expectations. History shapes those expectations. We all try to make sense of what's happening to us; prior events give us context. We imagine how what we're doing in this moment will impact us in the future. Memoirs give us a guide to see how things might work out. Maybe most importantly, we draw on memories to evaluate what's happening and see what to do next.

So when Rob'n T Lewis of South Seattle College asked today, "Is the HP 3000 Memoir Project finished?" I said no. Perhaps it will never be, if there are stories remaining to tell. We told the first of them on this blog in 2007. We're always going to be evaluating everything for meaning, always drawing conclusions—not concluding the storytelling.

The Computer History Museum has an Oral History website section. It includes accounts from Alfredo Rego and Marty Browne of ASK. We're continuing that tradition for the 3000 founders, because everybody wants the last word.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:26 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 19, 2017

Friday Fallback: The White House's 3000

White houseThere's a torrent of news coming out of the White House this week, but there's also a bit of history noted for 3000 users and fans. Out on the FedTech website, editor Phil Goldstein created some history and reported on some more with a story about the HP 3000 being the first computer ever to support the White House. It was 1978 when the 3000 began to aid White House efforts like tracking the desires of Congress.

A nonprofit organization that's been telling stories about the White House since 1961, the White House Historical Association says that Jimmy Carter's first minicomputer was "assembling databases, tracking correspondence, developing a press release system, and compiling issues and concerns of Congress." Goldstein developed a high-points article about those heady days of undercutting IBM mainframes and the swift rise of the 3000. In 1979, for example, the 3000 accounted for 15 percent of all data systems revenues at HP. It was $150 million in orders, up from $50 million in 1976.

The article has its problems with history. The timelines suffer from either a 1984-style rewrite, or rushed research. By the accounting of FedTech (a website run by vendor CDW) the 3000's operating system only lasted until 1997, the computers first surfaced in 1972, and HP began to develop it in 1968. Wrong, inaccurate, and misunderstood, those dates are. These things happen when a story's subject is Old Tech. Who'd care if the facts aren't accurate. The 3000's dead, right?

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 3.08.37 PMThere's plenty to appreciate in the article. Appropriate links to resources like 579-page The HP Phenomenon, and the HP Computer Museum. There's a link to a book, Managing Multivendor Networks, that covers the 3000 and was written in 1997. Wait, that's supposed to be the same year as MPE was wrapping up, right? Geez, these details. The truth is that MPE is still working today, 20 years beyond the inaccurate sell-by date.

HP was only successful in selling some of the first working models in 1974 after buying back all the failed 1972 units. And the development begun in 1968 was to create the Omega Project. The System/3000 was a fall-back effort when Omega, a 32-bit revolutionary design, was killed by HP in 1971. The vendor's short-circuit of a game-changer started a history that ran right up to the 2001 pull-out notice from 3000 futures. That one killed the rewrite of MPE/iX for the Itanium IA-64 chips.

The HP Phenomenon has priceless accuracy and strong details about the 3000's roots, starting on page 159 with MPE—Rx for Business. Dave Packard's quote that "we're wasn't proud of the 3000" echoed the system's endgame at HP. It's a thankless task to stay current when the vendor relentlessly withholds funds for innovation. What is not noted in the history article is that the 3000 made HP a computer company with the biggest success it ever had by 1976. You read the HP Phenomenon to find that fact.

As is often the case, the coda written to FedTech's 3000 story is rushed to a total demise. The wrap-up misses the work that the system does today, asking instead, "Why Did The HP 3000 Die Off?" Reports of its total demise are Fake News, something on the mind of the current White House occupant.

The report Goldstein offers tends to focus on the 1980s. The drastic transition from a Democratic President to Republican, from Carter to Reagan, is echoed in the White House's latest migration. A Series 33 was replaced by PCs during the Reagan era. (Oops, the 3000 artwork in the article showed a Series 70, a system not shipped until 1986.) The White House left such servers behind a few years before PA-RISC technology, a groundbreaker, revived them in the 3000 and HP 9000 lines.

Goldstein figured in his article that technology gaps killed the HP 3000. "The HP 3000, like many minicomputers of its era, was eventually supplanted by newer, faster and more capable machines, and by the widespread adoption of PCs in the late 1980s and early ’90s." Those elements did erase some opportunities. Hewlett-Packard played the biggest role in putting the 3000 to the sidelines, however, when the vendor's saleforce preferred Unix over MPE and then finally figured out how to sell PCs after stumbles like the HP Integra and the 3000's shadow terminal, the HP 150. HP really didn't know how to sell a 3000 for the first five years of the computer's life, either.

“President Ronald Reagan’s staff expanded the uses of computer office technology,” according to the Historical Association. Goldstein says the White House "soon adopted word processors with the advent of PCs in the 1980s." The Series 33 probably had HP Word, perhaps HP Deskmanager. A White House computer system is now a relic, no matter what system you choose.

Reagan had the Carter administration’s Xerox Alto removed from the Oval Office after he was elected, according to the Computer History Museum. No president since Carter has had a dedicated computer in the Oval Office, according to Slate. Looking to digital innovation, former President Barack Obama adopted "a fleet of computer-equipped staffers sitting directly outside his office doors," according to Slate. "President Bush sometimes used the computers of these personal aides to check news reports or sports scores. (He also had a personal computer at his Crawford ranch, which he used for limited personal surfing.)

The current White House is now operating under a new executive order which "could be tied back to budgeting for IT modernization, since agencies will need to decrease their security risk by investing in new technologies," said another FedTech report. IT directors like White House CIO Margie Graves have been told to update things to make them safer. The capital costs of that change, plus the operating expense of revising programs and training, would struggle to get past the DC cost-cutting of today. That's an example of history repeating itself.

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 5.18.51 PMThere's one powerful link to the 3000's history in the FedTech article. Computerworld reviewed minicomputers from IBM (AS/400) and Data General against the 3000 in 1992. This was the year when HP shifted its allegiance to Unix for business customers. At the time the 3000 beat both IBM and DG servers. The shortcomings of the 3000 ran well beyond the tech HP didn't pay to improve. The vendor's sales intentions kept the 3000 from holding its term in offices.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:27 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 10, 2017

Wayback Wed: 3000s Needed More Time

In this era of cloud computing, the roots of the original HP 3000s rise up. Clouds are the ultimate shared computers, systems so fluid they use hardware that can be provisioned with a set of entries on a webpage. Forty-five years ago this month the first computer that created our community wasn't making its way to its first loading dock. HP called this system a server for multi-programming, designed with the full intention of enabling people to use it from remote locations. The product couldn't bridge the miles between California and Connecticut, unable to ship from the HP factory location to a customer facility on time. It was the beginning of a black eye the vendor wore for nearly two years.

First-HP-3000-Sale-DelayHalting starts have been in many a successful product's history. In May of 1972 the HP 3000 was already running late, beset with hardware problems. The archives in the NewsWire offices include a letter to the first customer to order an HP 3000. The initial shipments of HP 3000s only fulfilled Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's doubts about being in the commercial computing business. Their H-P was stuck with a product which started as a disaster. It was up to another Bill to break the news in the letter (click for details).

HP put its best face on this first delay, telling Yale-New Haven Hospital that "When a first order comes from a hospital such as Yale-New Haven and from [Dr. David Seligson] a person with an international reputation in the field of laboratory automation, we are doubly flattered." But this HP 3000 system was going to ship late to New Haven.

"Although our development is remarkably close to the targets we set over a year ago, we find that we must slip our shipments to insure that our customers receive a computer system with the built-in reliability that HP is known for," read Bill Terry's letter to Seligson. "Your system will be the first shipped outside the immediate Cupertino area and is scheduled for December, 1972."

The letter arrived in May, seven months before HP would finally allow the first 3000s outside of California. It was a simpler time with crude technology. HP offered the hospital a bonus for enduring the delay. "We would like to donate an additional 8K words of core memory (part 3006A, $8,000.00) to your HP 3000 system. Additionally, our intention is definitely to continue with plans for the training of your people, both in Cupertino and New Haven, as soon as possible." The 3000 entered the world as an ASAP project.

Things didn't get much better once the computer finally arrived at customer sites. MPE crashed, the "golden saddle on a jackass," as one account put it. Eventually the 3000 was withdrawn from the market and HP proceeded to buy back all of them. In late 1974, the server poked its head above the surface of market waters.

Even with that very first order of the HP 3000, the vendor was delivering its product by way of "intention" rather than guarantees. HP's founders had made a fortune with a practice of under-promising and then over-delivering by 1972. Conservative to its core, the company nonetheless would ship a system so crippled it had to be returned for a do-over, two years later.

And those 8K words of memory, at a cost of $8,000, are so small today that 125,000 of them are available for almost free. Not core memory, specific to only one computer, but a 1GB memory stick can be used in 100 million computers, and millions more cameras, printers and phones. A small contribution indeed, HP offered, in the face of a delay. It was significant for the time, though.

Bill Terry was doing his best with what HP had for the nascent 3000 community. He would survive the debacle of the first HP 3000 models to see himself and other HP computer founders honored with a documentary film, screened when HP's restored Palo Alto garage reopened.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:10 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 28, 2017

Friday Fine-tune: directories and tombstones

ByetombstoneA 3000 manager wanted to know about adjusting privileges on their server. When the community's veterans started to respond, extra information rose up. Some of was about the management of files in MPE/iX, the kind of legacy recorded on what's known as a tombstone.

Tombstones are data used to solve 3000 problems and establish file access. HP says in its manual for programming in MPE/iX that "It's frequently necessary to obtain status information on a file to determine the cause of an error." A File Information Display is frequently called a tombstone, providing:

  • Actual physical and operational file characteristics.
  • Current file information, pertaining to end of file, record pointer, and logical and physical transfer count. Information on the last error for the file and the last HPFOPEN or FOPEN error.
  • When a file is opened, the final characteristics may be different from those originally requested because of defaults, overrides, :FILE commands, and the file label.

You can use the PRINTFILEINFO intrinsic to print a tombstone. It requires that you specify the file number returned when the file is opened by HPFOPEN or FOPEN. The tombstone can display either a full or short format.  If the file is open, it provides a full display. Otherwise, it provides a short display. Calling this intrinsic does not automatically abort the program.

You can call the PRINTFILEINFO intrinsic from programs written in COBOL II/XL and HP FORTRAN 77/iX. When calling from COBOL II/XL, use the FD filename. You can call the name PRINTFILEINFO directly from HP FORTRAN 77/iX programs. You can obtain the required file number by using the FNUM intrinsic.

Tombstones came up after one list member resurrected an answer about privileges from a 11-year-old post. Ray Shahan, still managing archival systems for Republic Title of Texas, heard his name in discussion about TD and RD privileges and how to control them. He quipped about not being heard from in ages.

"I have been asked by our security group to remove TD and RD privileges from our HP 3000," Reggie Monroe wrote this week. "These are for Reading and Traversing Directories. Does anyone know what the impact of this would be, if any?"

Tracy Johnson replied that "Unless your users have access to Posix files, you can categorically state you don't have any to remove."

There is an old comp.sys.hp.mpe posting where Ray Shahan wants to add TD and RD privileges. Just do the opposite, though that may be a bad thing if applied to MPE groups and accounts treated as directories.

The original TD and RD posting

The advice from the 2005 discussion included using Posix to enable "execute" permissions on all directories needed to get to the directory you want. So the opposite would be to disable those permissions. The ALTSEC command does this.The process will also include adding ACDs to the directory.

Once considered a new feature of MPE/iX, Access Control Definitions are pseudo bits of information on the HP 3000.

ACDs are ordered lists of pairs.The pairs are made up of access permissions and user specifications that control access to objects. Objects are passive entities that contain or receive information, such as files, directories, and devices. Each entry in the ACD specifies object access permissions granted to a specific user or group of users. In addition to being granted access to an object protected by an ACD, users can also be granted access to read the ACD itself.

ACDs can be applied to any MPE/iX files using the ALTSEC command. This command was enhanced to support directories. If a file has an ACD, this method of specifying access to the file takes precedence over other security features, such as lockwords and the file access matrix. ACDs cannot be placed on root, account, group, or directories.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:37 AM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26, 2017

Wayback Wed: Doing the Beta patch Samba

Samba dancerIn April of HP's 2006, the company was exhorting its customers to use the 3000 improvements built by the vendor. Near the top of that list was the latest Samba, the printer and file sharing open source software that made it easy for 3000s to connect to Windows servers and resources. The latest version was 3.0.22, delivered to the world in the same year as the Samba community began to use it. The snag for a 3000 user: the official patch was only available to customers that year with an HP support contract.

The issue remained a troubling one that HP settled by the end of its 3000 business. Beta patches with improvements like SCSI Pass Thru and Samba eventually got unfettered distribution, even through they never passed the tests needed for General Release status. Today, the best way to get any HP 3000 patch is to use the guidance of an independent support company. We never tire of reminding readers that Pivital Solutions is an all-3000 provider, an official reseller of 3000s until HP closed that business, and one of seven holders of an MPE/iX source code license. It's a unique combination.

HP improved the 3000 and repaired bugs with a patch process that included alpha and beta testing before going into general release to customers. General Release status was important, because until HP's code was GR'd no one could get it but HP support customers. That was a wide gap in coverage. By 2006 the majority of the 3000 world was getting support from the independent companies which serve the community today. Alpha testing happened inside HP, and beta happened in the customer shops where a test machine was available. As the 3000's futures dwindled inside HP, though, the beta testers became harder to recruit. Customers usually took on patches in a PowerPatch collection. One was being prepared for the ultimate MPE/iX 7.5 release during April, 2006.

The announcement of a PowerPatch deadline was a routine message from HP's 3000 lab. The messages asked customers to pick up what they'd ordered though the Systems Improvement Ballot. "There are more than 30 beta-test patches still not qualified to be included in the PowerPatch. Tests of PowerPatches must be completed by customers on HP support. The 7.5 patches can only be tested on a subset of the 3000 installed base: any server released before the 9x8 systems won't be able to test anything created for 7.5."

HP lab liaison Jeff Vance told the user community, "If you voted for one of the many SIB items which are stuck in beta-test, waiting to become GR patches, and have not requested any of these patches, please do so ASAP. It really doesn’t do the user community much good to have a bunch of MPE enhancements stuck in beta-test, maybe never to see the light of day."

Customers' devotion to stability kept the beta test improvements in the dark. Changes to a 3000 became harder to justify on a stable, version-frozen server. Samba 3.0.22 was ported by HP for all three supported OS versions of that year, from 6.5 through 7.5. It was the final Samba version developed through HP's labs, a significant one since Samba gained the ability to join Active Directory as a member, though not as a domain controller. Samba was one of the first advances for 3000s resulting from Posix standards for MPE -- developments that earned the OS its /iX name.

As HP closed down the MPE/iX labs, concerns rose about beta-test enhancements like a current Samba disappearing for customer use. A beta patch that never made it to General Release might be unavailable once HP's support contracts ended. The vendor came through with a plan to make the beta patches available to the world: ask HP support for what you'd like by name. Samba 3.0.22 was dubbed SMBMXY6F, for example.

The patched MPE/iX code itself remains inside HP Enterprise, but HP 3000 customers enjoy a unique place in HP's support world. A current HP support contract isn't required to get the code. It's a dance, to be sure, that a customer must do with HP support—but at least now that HP's been divided into Enterprise and Printer companies, the 3000 questions don't get confused with HP printers using the same number.

Samba is still being enhanced and secured today, 20 years after it was first launched by Australian developers who linked servers to Windows machines. Samba is included with most Linux distros and enjoys one of the widest deployments among open source solutions. Getting the 3000 onto a secure, up to date Samba in 2006 was a sign that HP's lab was still at work in a year the 3000 was supposed to be hitting its end of life.

Samba 3.0.22 fell off of open source community support in 2009 when the whole 3.x.x family of Samba was retired. A significant security bug showed up by 3.6.3 that allowed anonymous users to gain root access to a system from an anonymous connection, through the exploitation of an error in Samba's remote procedure call. The HP 3000 often was immune to such exploits since it didn't have an OS structure like that of Unix.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:09 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 24, 2017

On the Surprises Of Six Decades

.Kaypro Man

I never expected to be doing this on the day that I turned 60. That's today. I joined the world of the HP 3000 when I was 27. I worked out my earliest articles about MPE (there was no iX) on a Kaypro II like the one depicted at right. Yes, that phone there was state of the art, too. I came hungry to write about PCs and Macs and figured the minicomputer beat would be a starting spot. This has become the destination, the world we love together.

In my late 20s I gave little thought to what my job would be by the time I got old enough to buy Senior tickets at the movies. I'm a journalist, so I think about the future more than some fellows, though. I had no vision about reporting about a minicomputer when I turned 60. Like you, I never believed I'd be doing this for so long. More than half my life, I've typed the letters MPE together. My life has been blessed, both with the rich array of people whose stories I get to tell, as well as the sponsors who support this life's work. I am thankful for both.

But here we all are, faithful to work that is rich and comforting, steeped in the knowledge that the 3000 is nearly 45 years old. Just at midlife, perhaps, at least in the measurement of a man. I'm entering my third act, I like to say. Friends are close at hand in my life and I continue to  create with words and ideas. My dreams are realized and something I'll never retire from. Perhaps that's true for you as well. The 3000 was supposed to be rubbish by now. Instead, people still want to buy HP's software for it

I'm here for the surprises like that. Survival is success earned across years and through uncertainty and crisis. Your support of that survival is a point of pride. We all earned our latest act. Enjoy the role you are playing, making way for the future.

On Saturday my bride and publisher Abby cooked up a party for me, a total surprise. It was the first surprise party of my life. Sometimes the universe gives us surprises. When we're lucky, the surprises are enduring and continue to reward our faith and hope. The love, ah, that flows on its own, propelled by our lives together.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:27 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 01, 2017

History processor heralds new Wayback/iX

A reconfiguration of HPCALENDAR intrinsic capabilities is opening the door for date revisions, one of the last remaining roadblocks to an everlasting MPE/iX lifespan. The design and development of the project has been underway in a Sourceforge repository since 2013, with a handful of volunteers working to deliver the new intrinsic WAYBACK.

BillandDaveworkingVolunteers cited the work of the Stromasys Charon HPA system for providing the ongoing inspiration to keep the work alive. One developer, who requested anonymity for fear of having his report labeled fake news, said that the everlasting platform for MPE/iX software triggered the stealth project. "This is no fool's errand," he said. "We'll bring these apps into a future HP never dreamed about. That's the value of the HP Way, retaining value and profitability."

When successfully tested, WAYBACK will bypass the 2028 roadblock to date processing. The Sourceforge team, which calls itself the League of Joy, believes that an additional processor will have to be added for HP 3000 hardware manufactured by Hewlett-Packard. Emulated and virtualized HP 3000s are expected to need no such separate CPU, although a high number of cores will make date manipulation seamless.

The end of accurate date processing — a state that the League calls Fake Dates — was never a concern when MPE was first developed. "This is not a bug, really," said Vladimir Volokh, who is not a part of the League development team. "It's a limitation. This 'end of 2027' date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." Adding a Wayback/iX to the package of Fundamental Operating System components is the next step in the work to add pages to the 3000's calendar.

HPCALENDAR, rolled out by Hewlett-Packard engineers in the late 1990s for the 6.0 release of MPE/iX, has been a newer tool to solve the old Fake Date problem. Since HPCALENDAR is fresher than CALENDAR, it's only callable in the 3000's Native Mode. WAYBACK intercepts the calls to CALENDAR and pipes them though HPCALENDAR, or so it's hoped once this history processor makes its way through beta testing.

In the meantime, one of the developers in the League of Joy suggested that IT pros who want their MPE/iX apps to run beyond 2028 should bone up on using intrinsics. Suggesting the Using Intrinsics whitepaper on the 3K Associates website, D. D. Browne predicted a swift end to the Fake Date roadblock.

"We've all been keeping the 3000's applications alive for longer than NPR has been broadcasting real news," Browne said. "It's going to carry us all beyond retirement," he said of any system running with WAYBACK. "Back in the days the 3000 was built, TV and radio stations once signed off the air. This operating environment is never going off the air."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:30 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 2017

3000 friends: Meet in the Valley, or seaside?

Dream InnAn HP 3000 user group meeting has become so rare by 2017 as to be legend. After Interex closed up shop suddenly in 2005, Alan Yeo organized a late-binding gathering in 2005, then another in 2007 and another in 2009, all in Silicon Valley. By 2011, Yeo was working along with me and Marxmeier Software's Michael Marxmeier to put on the HP3000 Reunion at the Computer History Museum. The Reunion provided the debut spot for the only HP 3000 emulator, the Charon HPA from Stromasys.

Then the meetings began to evolve to reconnect us without needing a formal program. The most enjoyable part of the formal meets, after all, was the SIG-BAR gatherings in the hotel lounges. Gossip and speculation were always a key part of SIG-BAR. Lately the meetings have moved exclusively to this Special Interest Group. Last year there was a lunch meeting at the Duke of Edinburgh pub, set up by Birket Foster.

There's something about these leaders that can rouse people to return. The Bay Area in summertime has drawn a rich collective of 3000 veterans and experts. In 2008 the Computer History Museum hosted a seminar on 3000 software history. Another fellow with user group meeting experience is leading this year's charge to the Valley.

Dave Wiseman notified us about a 2017 gathering he's setting up for the Bay Area.

So we used to all be good friends in the community and its about time we met up again for a beer or three. We had a couple of very pleasant meetings in the UK and I am in California early June so I thought that I might organize one in the valley around June 5/6/7th. I am happy to organize a meeting while I'm in San Francisco. Could you tell me if you would be interested in coming? We’d love to see all of our old friends again

Dates: Any preference for Monday June 5th, or Tuesday June 6th?
Location: San Francisco/ SFO airport hotel/ Cupertino, or Santa Cruz (I’d see if we could book the Dream Inn for a Santa Cruz location)
Time: Lunch, afternoon or evening

Please email me, davebwiseman@googlemail.com, so we can see if there are enough people interested to make it worth everyone's while.

I'd put a vote up for the Dream Inn (above, seaside) since it was a stop on my cross-California 20th wedding anniversary trip with Abby. They're even got a Dream Floor at the top.

Stan Sieler has already said he's available for the meeting, even before it's got a firm date and time and location. Stan has to make room for a magic class he teaches on Monday nights. With enough interest, users could make a meeting appear this summer.

Unlike the full-on group meetings of old, today's gatherings feature no Powerpoint slides and plenty of memories—plus updates on what everyone is doing these days that's different.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:18 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 01, 2017

Wayback Wed: Customers' Proposition 3000

Computerworld April 22


During the month of March 21 years ago, the 3000 community tried to raise a ruckus. The object of Proposition 3000 was to prod HP into making the 3000 a full citizen of the future of business computing. After only a couple of years of introduction, the new processor HP was developing with Intel looked like it would pass by the world of MPE/iX. HP and Intel dubbed the IA-64 technology the future of computing. HP had backed away from plans to make the 3000's OS run on the new chip it was calling "Tahoe."

"The company appears to be making a fundamental but flawed assumption that MPE migrations will be channeled directly into HP-UX or NT-on-HP hardware." This was enough of a crisis that application vendors were standing up at an Interex Programmer's Forum to report HP asked them to rewrite their apps for HP-UX. We launched the NewsWire with a fanfare of it promoting the HP 3000 Renaissance. Not so fast, HP's top management was saying. We set down the challenge to HP and its customers in our FlashPaper (which you can read here to recall the outrage of the moment.) In this era, NT was the name of what would become Windows Server.

Customers want these systems, and vendors believe in their superiority. But those kinds of business blessings apparently clash with HP's profit motives; that's the only reason we can fathom for threatening to force an entire installed base to migrate to HP-UX or NT. You can decide for yourself how that kind of a productivity hit will impact your company's profits.

FlashPaper headline Mar 1996This was the canary in the mine shaft, the HP debate about whether to include MPE/iX in the future of business computing systems. In 1996 the IT world was allowing HP and Intel to call Tahoe the future, because the joint project was only a couple of years old. Tahoe had not yet become Merced, and then Itanium, all the while slipping release dates and getting lapped Intel's own by x86 generation enhancements. In 1996 the future looked to be slipping away. The most alarming development was HP asking vendors to rewrite for Unix. Soon enough, a few of them did, most notably the software company that put the 3000 into the world of the Web: Ecometry.

At the meeting we learned the problem wasn't really profit at HP. At the time of the Proposition, HP was earning $600 million a year in profit on sales of $1.2 billion. The 3000 division needed more engineering hands to move MPE/iX forward, resources the company would not provide.

The protest was staged at a Bay Area Interex meeting, a setting similar to the ruckus 3000 users raised in Boston at an Interex show six years earlier. But IPROF was not the annual show attended by thousands. The Proposition 3000 name and the movement were so-named because it was the new era of California's state propositions. HP's Tony Engberg replied that he would work to get the 3000 advocates an audience with top HP officials. The hearing felt desperately needed after Ecometry's Alan Gardner laid out the future HP presented him.

“I’ve got two visions of the HP 3000,” Gardner said. “One’s a nightmare, and the other is a fantasy. The nightmare is that the 3000 is going away, while the fantasy is that HP will begin to promote the HP 3000 as the operating system choice of the world."

The March movement arose in the face of HP's slow pace of advancing the 3000. At the time the servers were on an older release of the PA-RISC designs HP first rolled out in the late 1980s. The HP 9000 was farther ahead. 3000 General Manager Harry Sterling, still new to his job, explained that rolling forward MPE/iX was taking longer than expected.

“We do not have a firm commitment yet that we can talk about in terms of an implementation on the new [Tahoe] architecture,” Sterling said. “Last year I was hoping we would, but our roll-forward has become even more complex than it was at that time. We have the current focus of getting to the PA-8000. The next thing after that is what we might do to take advantage of 64-bit architecture on that chip. Beyond that would be the use of the new Intel architecture.”

The next year HP assured 3000 customers that the architecture, being called IA-64, was on the 3000's distant horizon. Computer Systems chief Dick Watts, computer chief Rick Belluzzo and CEO Lew Platt moved out of HP's computer orbit within a few years. The items within the Proposition became a list of desires HP would not fulfill.

  • 64-bit chip commitment for the HP 3000. We heard last night they would look into it,” Kell said. “Last year we heard that they would do it.”
  • Available platforms for MPE. “One new precedent that was somewhat disturbing was when the D-class servers were introduced, they said MPE wouldn’t available for it. This is the first time a PA-RISC platform has not been available across both systems.”
  • Lead time on critical products for MPE/iX. “We’re still waiting on 32-bit ODBC drivers, and we’ve waited a long time for telnet server. DCE is still in an intermediate stage, but largely it’s still lagging behind.”
  • MPE and HP-UX cooperation. “It’s what we’re really missing. They co-exist; that was the buzzword a couple of years ago. Dogs and cats can co-exist given enough management supervision, but they won’t necessarily co-operate.”
  • Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both servers with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX “as trivial as any other Unix platform.”
  •  Stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, “and not its weaknesses. We don’t have to be told anymore what the 3000 can’t do, because a lot of the things we were told it can’t do it now can.

HP plans of 1997 had to be reset by a Hewlett-Packard that was acquiring Digital during 2001. Product overlap meant the larger of the two systems — VMS instead of MPE/iX — would get its road cleared to Itanium. Things had changed enough in HP's management to make the displeasure of vendors and programmers a lesser concern than product consolidation needs. Computerworld's Jai Vijayan called the Proposition "rumbling in the ranks of the old faithful." The majority of the customers didn't want to look at a proposition of no 3000s in HP's future.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:15 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2017

Simulator knows what day it is, or was

Feb22The SIMH project has created a software release that mimics the HP 3000 Classic CISC hardware. The software makes it possible to emulate HP 3000 servers that go back to the 1970s—the same systems HP mothballed in the middle 1980s even before the PA-RISC products of the past two decades.

So while SIMH won't give anyone an emulated HP 3000 that can run MPE/iX, the package somehow seems to know its way around the calendar. Even after MPE V has long since gone obsolete, the SIMH combo using MPE V from trailing-edge.com adjusts the year to match the current layout. As it turns out, the year 1989 has the same days of the week falling on the same calendar dates as 2017. It offers some hope of getting MPE/iX rewired so its CALENDAR intrinsic works beyond the end of 2027.

An emulator that virtualizes the ultimate generation HP 3000s is the domain of Stromays Charon HPA. SIMH is more of a hobbyist's dreamland, or as one serious veteran called it, "my version of toy trains."

Glen Cole fired up SIMH and reported that "the only user input below was 'hp3000 mpe-auto' ... Neat how it auto-magically knew that 1989 had the same calendar layout as 2017." He did a SHOWTIME to verify the date.

$ hp3000 mpe-auto

HP 3000 simulator V4.0-0 Beta        git commit id: f9cfae0c
Logging to file "mpe-auto.log"
Listening on port 1054
LP: creating new file

Cold load complete, P: 177664 (PSHR Q)
Press <CR> to start MPE.

HP32002E.01.00
WHICH OPTION <WARMSTART/COOLSTART>? COOLSTART
ANY CHANGES? NO

DATE (M/D/Y)?02/20/89
TIME (H:M)?22:35
MON, FEB 20, 1989, 10:35 PM? (Y/N)Y
LOG FILE NUMBER 5 ON
*WELCOME*
:HELLO OPERATOR.SYS;HIPRI

Another longtime 3000 pro, Gavin Scott, summed up how to get these 30-year-old instances of HP 3000s up and running.

I just successfully created a database and an associated Basic/V program with SIMH/HP3000. If you want to play with your own
Series III get the SIMH 4.0 beta and the MPE V/R software kit.

Extract the MPE V/R zip file into a directory along with the HP3000.exe out of the beta, then drag mpe-auto.sim onto HP3000.

COBOL, COBOLII, BASIC, RPG, SPL, FORTRAN are included along with FOS. You can have Reflection connect via telnet on port 1054 to get an actual HP terminal session going that can run FORMSPEC etc.

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:48 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2017

Wayback Wed: An Emulator's Partners Enter

Javelin-004Four years ago this month, the software that will continue to propel MPE/iX into the next decade earned its first partner. The support for the Stromasys Charon emulator first showed up from Minisoft, the vendor who announced an iPad-ready version of Javelin when Apple's tablet empire was new. Charon got a version of Javelin while the Stromasys product was just making its way into production status.

The promise of an emulator slowed down migrations in 2012. Freeware was showing up during that year that was tuned to Charon's HPA model. Keven Miller created a free utility to transfer Store to Disk files to the virtualized 3000 in the HPA. Minisoft broke the commercial software company ice with a product license created especially for the emulator. For $49, managers could now buy a Javelin to work inside the freeware version's 1-2 user license.

It was a small and initial development to show a marketplace was emerging for the sustaining aspect of the 3000. Freeware Charon (the A-202) was replaced by professional installation and proof of concept within a year. That change elevated the success rate for deployments. Software licensing became the only serious issue to resolve for a Charon site. For nearly all vendors, even though they didn't rework software itself, the licensing became an easy transfer. Software from one 4GL vendor remains an exception, but that company has vexed 3000 sites throughout three different ownerships.

For decades now, Minisoft has been selling a terminal emulator as well as ODBC middleware to link 3000 databases. Years ago, the MS92 terminal emulator became Javelin, rewritten to use Java. Javelin got its Charon groove on in 2013.

"We have a special Javelin 2-user HP700/92 Terminal Emulator that is customized to work with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator," said the company's Danny Greenup. A press release announced the first license to be crafted for an emulator since's HP announced its MPE/iX licensing strategy for the likes of Charon in 2004.

Minisoft has enhanced its Javelin HP700/92 Terminal Emulator to work in concert with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator by adding support for raw connections to the TELNET type and support for SSH tunneling. With the communications set to TELNET(raw)+SSH, the console ports are accessible from outside the Fedora (Linux) system to a user with SSH logon privileges.

The cost of this special 2-user version of Javelin is $49. In addition to HP 700/92 terminal emulation, Javelin support access to legacy host computers requiring IBM 3270, IBM 5250, and DIGITAL VT320/420 terminal emulation. All Minisoft Terminal Emulators include scripting, SSH/SSL connectivity and network file transfer.

As of this year, we've seen 15 years of migration and decommissioning 3000s, all of them projects that sparked engines of IT spending and vendor revenues. Some sparks have been as small as $49. It's been an amazing example of dexterity, faith, and hope as your community has pivoted its business and operational practices. 2013 was not the first year companies sold software and services to spark a model of 3000 sustenance. But four years ago, one vendor saw that emulation was going to provide growth in the 3000's ecosystem, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:30 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: The 3000's e-Moment

SnowWithBezelIn the waning days before the Year 2000, the HP 3000 was running behind popular labels. The position was nothing new to the server and its fans. Hardly anyone outside of the MPE community knew about the computer and its legacy across the final 25 years of the 20th Century. For many years it didn't matter that the computer ran in the shadows of IBM big iron, Unix dot-com servers, and Windows PCs. The 3000 performed without problems and delivered impressive returns on investments in the HP iron.

But as far as the world outside the community could tell, the HP 3000 had little to do with the Internet. Once Y2K's survival mission was in the industry's rear-view mirror, HP decided to do something about the shadows around MPE/iX. In the prior decade MPE became MPE/iX to show the world the 3000 knew a bit about Unix. In February of 2000 HP rebranded the computer as the HPe3000, dropping that lowercase vowel in the middle of a name that hadn't changed in 27 years.

E3000Label-0002A vowel is an easy thing to add to a product. The Internet, not so. Engineers across the community, eventually those inside HP, worked between 1996 and 1999 to bolt on elements like a Web server, DNS software, Unix mainstays like bind, and more. The server was already working on the Web in spots like the e-commerce shops of Hickory Farms and Brookstone retailers. Despite the larger profile of well-known customers like M&M Mars, using the 3000 on the Internet was a secret weapon.

A new name was proposed to change that. HP Product Planning Manager for 3000s Doug Snow brought the idea to division GM Harry Sterling in 1999. By early the next year the entire server lineup had been re-branded. The new server bezels, both those for the standard cabinets as well as racked 3000s, wore a new badge. The name change story extended to our offices as well. The publisher of the NewsWire became known by a new name. Dottie Lentz became Abby Lentz to the world after I spread the news about a name as nascent as the 3000's Internet abilities.

Our publisher's name in every issue since 1995 had been Dottie Lentz. She'd earned her stripes in publishing since 1982 using that first name and never gave a thought to any other. She'd been Dottie since 1948. During those years while the 3000 was earning its Internet abilities, though, she gathered a new name. In her circles at yoga retreats she called herself Abby. She played the lead in a high school play using the name. My yoga name, she called it. I took that name change, and in an editorial alongside the news of e3000, compared hers to HP's re-naming.

Change can be a good magnet for attention, especially changing something as fundamental as a name. While watching the HP 3000 division change the name of its product, I thought of my wife and partner in the NewsWire. To the many people in the 3000 market — er, I mean the e3000 market — she’s known as Dottie Lentz. But some people know her by a different first name, one that represents new ideals and ideas.

The women in my wife’s yoga and healing community know her as Abby, a name she’s long admired. Sometime last year she decided she’d like people who know her in these personal realms to call her by this new name. She didn’t go to the courthouse and have a judge attest to her new name. She simply began to wrap it around her like so much new attire, a glad-rag that represents the changes she intends to make in her life, her heart, and her soul.

For her oldest friends, the change has been a struggle at times. This week one of them introduced her by her new first name. A few minutes later in the meeting he called her Dottie. And while my wife had brought business cards to the meeting with her old name, she had to explain why she was being called by the new one as well.

The lesson seems to be that a name change can draw attention, not only to who you are, but to who you want to become. When Dottie—er, Abby—explains her new name, she talks about goals of fitness, harmony, and creativity. Changing your name can be a sign of commitment to a new future. I expect that the 3000 division will be doing that same kind of explaining this year, especially to its oldest friends.

The complications that rose up for Abby were nothing like the 3000's Internet growing pains. Advertisers called her in those days, and after reading her re-naming story they wanted to call her by her nouveau name. Just like Snow and those who loved the 3000 wanted to call the server the e3000, she answered the phone by one name and left the calls using Abby.

That's where the stories begin to diverge. HPe3000 was the last effort to put the 3000 in a new orbit. Abby was just the beginning of my Dottie's ascent.

The HPe3000 arrived with a lineup of servers that was already running with 12-year-old base technology. The new speed champ was a Series 997 10-CPU system selling for $311,000 without discs and tape backup. One year later the ultimate-generation 3000s, using a new PCI system bus, finally gave the servers a un-numbered name. A 3000 was an A-Class or an N-Class by 2001, but on the day the e3000 made its debut, every model had at least four digits in its name.

AbbyLentz_YogaPose_300dpiAbby Lentz used her name to become a yoga pioneer, if you can forgive the viewpoint of her biggest fan. Search Google for Abby Lentz and she hogs the first three pages of Google results, right down to a credit in TV Guide. She named her concept HeavyWeight Yoga, because it was most of a decade before body-positive and curvy this-or-that became yoga brands.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 6.16.46 PMDottie Lentzes are out there as well, but those Dotties don't have three DVDs produced, TV and radio and newspaper and magazine credits. Abby's a person who led overweight and obese people to yoga long before the practice was as cool as it is today.

In contrast, HP's 3000 marketing manager Christine Martino said the re-naming of the 3000 was meant to make the server less boring. Not exactly pioneer stuff, that strategy.

Martino said HP’s objective in renaming the system is “to really help people take notice of the 3000 again.” New print advertising including the new brand is being scheduled for what HP calls its “solution-based” publications, those focusing on vertical markets such as healthcare and e-commerce. The installed base will get a mailing of a special coupon book containing discounts from software partners related to the e3000’s launch. And HP came to its press briefing with new data on penetration in credit union and 911 dispatch industries which show the e3000 as a leader.

“We’re not making it a key player in the Internet space; our customers and partners are doing it already,” Martino said. “It’s all of the boring stuff behind the dot-com stuff that’s necessary to have a viable solution."

It's tempting to say that one re-name was part of a launch that's still in orbit; Abby's yoga videos are streamed via Vimeo today as well as shipped from Amazon by the thousands each year. The HPe3000 iron is shipped from one customer to another today, or via brokers, in numbers nobody can track in total. The server isn't often connected to the Internet, although from time to time we see customers who use the DNS naming and IP address improvements to better network the computer. A few customers call it e3000.

The changes HP made in its 3000 software for its e-branding have been vital in keeping the server useful for homesteaders. While the HP iron has a few advantages in those ultimate models, Intel-based virtual servers running Stromasys Charon have the edge in futures. Nobody will ever stamp out another PA-RISC chip. Boxes like ProLiant servers and ever faster iron will continue to use Charon to lift MPE/iX performance beyond HP's 2003 levels.

Could the 3000 have survived this long without its e-features? The installed base had more success with that e than HP did. Less than two years after the e-rollout, Martino was pivoting on HP's message to explain that Hewlett-Packard judged the HPe3000 had a fatally flawed ecosystem. The new vowel didn't impress enough new customers to suit HP's accountants. For the springtime that led off the 3000's fourth decade, though, it appeared that naming something old with a trending letter could help the 3000 stretch and breathe—those yoga keystones—toward a future as laudable as its past.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:56 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2017

3000 experience floats up to the Fed

FedRichmondReid Baxter started his work in the HP 3000 world in 1981. This year he's helping to support the IT at the US Federal Reserve in Richmond, VA. There is no direct line between these two postings. Baxter has made the most of his career that started with MPE and terminals to lead to his current post where he helps maintain computers that serve the US banking bedrock, The Fed.

Baxter, one of the earliest 3000 Newswire subscribers, checked in this week to congratulate us on another anniversary as we crossed into the 22d calendar year of publishing. It's been quite a while, as Baxter says, since an HP 3000 was in his life: seven years ago he transitioned off everyday 3000 duty when his employer JP Morgan-Chase closed down its MPE/iX servers.

Baxter went into support of the 3000's successor at Chase, HP-UX, and then onward into Linux. When your skillset goes as far back as HP's Data Terminal Division, a new environment presents more opportunity than challenge. The 3000 once had a place in banking IT, which is why Chase once deployed the ABLE software suite from CASE for asset management.

After Chase did a downsize in 2015, Baxter went on a lengthy quest to land a new spot in finance computing. He's working today for HP Enterprise Services, by way of the Insight Global staffing enterprise. His mission is support of that Fed IT center, work that he can do remotely. One reason for that telecommute is that banking has often needed remote computing. Banking software on the 3000 once drove the adoption of Internet services on the business server, after all.

When the 3000 division at HP had to pick up the pieces of a failed Internet partner Open Market, Inc. 20 years ago, Chase and CASE were reasons to keep the MPE/iX Internet project on target. 3000 sites needed a commercially-supported Web server during that era when open source freeware powered many Web servers.

Customers using HP 3000s in commerce need a secure Web server, according to senior software specialist Rick Gilligan of Computer and Software Enterprises (CASE). The California firm is installing new HP 3000s as part of its business, which includes banks that are among the five biggest in the US. CASE's reference customers include companies like NationsBank and Chase Manhattan.

CASE will soon be offering its HP 3000 clients Internet access within CASE applications, so bank customers will be able to see loan data. Gilligan, who chaired its most recent meeting of the SIGWEB Special Interest group and  said a secure Web server native to the HP 3000 makes a lot more sense than using another Web host.

"My clients don't want another box that they have to maintain and get approval for in their company," Gilligan said. "Banks aren't looking for any more boxes or any more bodies when all they want is a Web server. A Web server is a very small part of all the things the 3000 is doing for them, and a Web server on that 3000 certainly makes more sense than putting it on another box."

That server software in 1997 was going to be the Open Market product chosen by HP, but the Web company closed down web server business once Apache and Microsoft's servers rose up. HP bundled the OMI product into the fundamental operating system, only to give it a sudden end of life date months later. Vendors like CASE, and their clients like Chase, looked at a period when Apache running on the 3000 had no support from HP. Some used it anyway and waited for HP to catch up and offer Apache/iX.

Now Baxter is making the best use of his career that started at DTD in 1981, onward to the DeskManager group at the UK's Personal Office Computer Division — another place where connectivity drove the advance of the 3000 using HP's business email suite.  

By the time HP was announcing the end of its 3000 business, Baxter moved on "to Bloomington Illinois, contracting through Radiant Systems working for 13 months for HP's Business Continuity Support Hardware 'Hands On' team at State Farm corporate—incidentally, the largest HP 3000 shop in the world."

Changes in the fortunes of the HP 3000 have been easy to spot. It's always a pleasure to discover the continued careers of people like Baxter who help mold your server into a linked business tool. Such experience in IT continues to be a trading option for supporting the newest enterprise solutions. You can think of those many years of working savvy as the common coin in a career, whether in finance or elsewhere.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:59 AM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2016

The True Meaning of A 3000 Christmas

Charlie and LinusCharlie Brown shouts to the stars in the 1966 TV classic, "Isn't there anybody here who knows the true meaning of Christmas?" Linus leads him to the story that started the season which we're now ending. I like to think of that character's voice delivering an answer to the question, "Doesn't anybody remember the true meaning of MPE/iX?" Linus might say, "Its value, Charlie Brown, and its promises kept."

Like the commercial holiday that Charlie despised, there was always the phrase "you could just tell them to migrate" while discussing what HP's 3000 iron cannot do.

Feelings can affect choices and confirm faith. There was a design to extend the 3000's memory from 8GB to 32. But HP explained it couldn't justify doing that kind of work any longer. Adding "So migrate" might have sent people looking for systems with better memory, like a Christmas tree all shiny and new.

There are people who have known MPE/iX just as long as HP's lab experts, and some more deeply. A team of third party experts wrote the book Beyond RISC. HP bought thousands of copies. These two sides, first inside HP and now out in the expert community have wooed and rued that MPE gal, all while she has gained weight (years) and lost her tone (customers, demanding updates) and shown more grey (elderly versions of Ethernet, SCSI, all the tendrils of open source).

Yes, they've both had a relationship with her, but the outside experts still love her. HP's experts took her out, bought her dinner, even gave some gifts to show they knew her. The true meaning of MPE/iX and protecting a promise now resides in the wise Linus of our world, the independent software and support providers.

"I don't know what you see in MPE," HP experts wrote while drifting beyond technical theory. "Why not just leave her at home to watch old movies? She's happy enough there. And there's younger people you could take out. They even know music written after 1992!"

"They do, those new ones," I hear an indie expert saying. "But MPE knows more song lyrics than those new women will ever learn. Remember when lyrics mattered to make a song a classic? Poetry, that stuff. Plus, I still see her beauty. It was striking when she was younger. Fellas swooned over her—even the big guys who pass her by now."

"You could do better."

"Maybe so. But what about my commitment to her. What's that worth?"

"Lock yourself in with her, if you want," HP said. "I just wish people would stop hitting her website. I gotta maintain that place, you know. It doesn't feel like anybody appreciates that work that I do — or what I've done for years, really." And with enough time, even that web information became invisible. Third parties reposted it. To think that the documentation was once licensed by HP— it is as surprising as seeing that Christmas tree come to life in Charlie Brown's world.

"You could do more," your indie experts said to the vendor. "She deserves it."

"If my parents would let me, I could," HP said. "But they tell me that I should be with a younger partner, one who can give them more grandchildren, not a load of medical bills and health issues. Shin splints, geez. Next it'll be something else. It always is with the older ones."

Feelings are not facts, but they just lead to thoughts, and those led to actions. MPE/iX isn't a tool that's worn out, not any more than the words of Christmas carols are empty of faith. Words matter. Enjoy your loved ones during the holiday break — whoever they are, and whatever they have been or can become again.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:18 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 21, 2016

Wayback Wed: A Dark Day for Emulation

LasthopeThe future looked dim for hosting MPE/iX on virtual hardware in December of 2009. Your market had little news about the forthcoming Charon HPA 3000 emulator. That software was only in alpha testing. This was the month that Strobe Data announced it was curtailing development of its 3000 emulator. Your community headed into 2010 with the hope of a Stromasys success and HP's promise to announce the new independent holders of MPE/iX source licenses.

Licensing source for an OS that only runs on aging HP hardware has value, indeed. Support customers benefit from outside licenses. It's well worth asking if your support vendor has such a license. But as a model to extend the lifespan of MPE/iX in production, source won't do the work that an emulator does: create new boxes.

Strobe hoped to do that using new hardware. The company started as a venture to emulate Digital computers as well as the HP 1000 real time machines. Many roadblocks stood in the way of a successful 3000 emulator launch in 2009. Strobe's founder Willard West intended to sweep away some obstacles by obtaining new PA-RISC processors. The chips were to be integrated on cards that would go into high-end Windows servers.

But development takes money. The resources for non-Digital development at Strobe did not materialize. It would take two more years for the ultimate winner in 3000 emulation, Stromasys, to bring out a product that needed no special HP hardware—just a special OS to run, MPE/iX.

An economic lull at the end of 2009--HP was reporting declines in all of its businesses except services --set the 3000/PA-RISC emulation work onto Strobe's back burner. The rate of hardware aging made a profound difference to Strobe, a small concern compared to Stromasys.

"We are just trying to survive the lull in government orders right now," the company's Alan Tibbetts said during the dark of that December. "The trouble is that the sales of our [Digital] PDP-11 line are down. The PDP-11s became unreliable more quickly and we have sold a bunch of them in the past, but the easy ones have already been captured." The month was a moment like the epic one in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda watches Luke fly off Degobah, his training unfinished. "That boy was our last hope," he said. "Now matters are worse."

"No," Obi Wan replies. "There is another."

Stromasys announced in the summer of 2009 it was putting its PA-RISC emulation solution into alpha testing in the fall. We reported the Stromasys product "won't rely on hardware components, going to an all-software solution that provides cross-platform virtualization. The emulator will permit MPE/iX to boot up and run on Intel's Xeon-x86 processor family as well as AMD's PC chips." A stalled IT economy looked like it just claimed the leader in emulator work.

Tibbetts said that Strobe has leaned itself up in order to weather the lull and it continues to meet with customers to secure new emulator sales in the 1000 and PDP markets. He added that he's traveling to New York State this week to install an emulation product at BAE Systems, which is testing US military jet engines using 1985-era minicomputers.

The sidetracking of emulator work at Strobe can be viewed in more than one perspective. HP 3000 community members have long wondered if competing emulator solutions could survive in the MPE/iX marketplace. The market has a strong inventory of used hardware, much of which could be considered an upgrade for owners of older 3000s. Companies have already left the market who might have been emulator customers—had HP made technology licensing available sooner to the vendors' R&D teams.

Stromasys bridged that gap, finding new 3000 clients from companies who were not on obvious maps. Two years later the first steps of a public Charon showing appeared on the trail. Watching an emulation company run short of funding didn't spook Stromasys—it also had Digital emulation customers. It had a different concept, through, as well as a broader set of resources to make the design a reality.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:35 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2016

HP: Still a font of talent after all these years

It's Wayback Wednesday, but the 3000's history recall has fresh entries from the current day. A lot of HP 3000 sites turned away from Hewlett-Packard's offerings over the last 15 years. But more than a few have not, even after three CEO ousters and a split up of the company into consumer and enterprise parts. There's still something in the split-off parts to admire. A new book chronicles lasting HP lessons to the industry players who are lapping HP today.

HewlettandPackardAmong the former: thousands of HP employees who've spent decades serving the HP customer. From engineering desk to conference presentation room, too many people to count or name have lifted the level of service. We heard from one today, Guy Paul, who once managed HP 3000s for the vendor and now is working on network storage for HP Enterprise. When asked what's remained stellar about the company where he's worked for 32 years, Paul pointed at people.

"The only thing that has remained that is good is the dedicated hard-working people I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from all these years," he said. He was compelled to add that many are leaving after the HP split up "and a merger all happening within one year." It's always been true that HP's loss of superior people is the industry's gain. So much of the 3000 independent enterprise earned its stripes by way of direct work with HP, too.

Some of that bounty has been released this week. A new management book might be cause for little celebration, but take a closer look at the new Becoming Hewlett-Packard. It was co-authored by a former top HP executive, Webb McKinney. He was interviewed eight years ago at the Minicomputer Software Symposium at the Computer History Museum. More than 20 of us were contributing 3000 stories at the Symposium, but the oral history McKinney gave at the Museum was even better. Best practices for the industry haven't changed that much since then. The HP book even makes a case for why the practices that have changed ought to change back. We're talking the HP Way here—although the book makes it clear that donuts are not a pillar of the Way.

In a great book review and summary at the MIT Technology Review, the HP Way is among four lessons Hewlett-Packard's departed leaders still offer for top movers of our current day.

Make sure “culture” is about values, not practices. HP’s founders created what became known as the HP Way in several ways. Examples include insisting that the company enter markets only where it could make a meaningful contribution of valuable technology; asking employees to take pay cuts in tough times to avoid layoffs; and fostering understanding and collaboration between all corners of the company. “Management by walking around,” they called it.

But as the years passed, many employees came to equate the HP Way with particular traditions, such as the daily doughnut breaks meant to encourage conversation, or the right of top performers to earn full product-and-loss authority over their own product groups. That last one became a huge problem for [former CEO] John Young, because building computer platforms requires development of hardware, software, and other technologies that are all interdependent.

The future leaders of today’s tech giants should be prepared for similar grumbling if they have gotten too many employees accustomed to such perks as on-site massages, laundry service, and climbing walls. Dropbox said in a filing this year that it spent $25,000 in perks on every employee.

McKinney took note of the software-hardware interdependence of the mid-1980s Hewlett-Packard. His story about the era when the 3000 was growing fastest includes references to the HP 150, PC software created to enhance the value of such hardware, and a multi-division company that was ready to roll out something way ahead of its time called NewWave for PCs.

He praised HP in that oral history interview and can help us see how people like Guy Paul were attracted to—and stayed with—the HP that was built upon the Way.

When HP got in the minicomputer business...there was the HP 1000 and the HP 9000 and the HP 3000 and the HP 250 and then it kind of got all sorted out and they said, “Oh, we need [to have] one architecture and we need to be able to market [a product line].” One of the interesting parts about HP is it's just a very creative place and somehow it gets rationalized in time and [inter-divisional] doesn't become a general problem.

The part of HP that was split off, PCs, took its first steps in HP as a product to sell to 3000 customers. McKinney explained that 3000 begat PCs at HP.

In the beginning of this period there was still a hope that we could build a proprietary architecture [PC] product. Now obviously, how you sell it was one of the issues. Well I think in the beginning the [market for our PC] was major accounts who were buying the HP 3000. This is a little bit like the saying: “when the only tool that you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.”

The 3000 was that hammer in an era where some top talent worked at Hewlett-Packard. It's refreshing to see that the subtitle of the new book is "Why Strategic Leadership Matters." The answer: you want to be around for decades making a difference and growing by 20 percent a year from 1958-1998. The HP of the Way did that and built the 3000, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:02 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2016

Noteworthy dates drive views of the future

Nov. 14 pageThis week on the 3000 newsgroup, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet picked up the remembrance torch to note the anniversary of 2001's 3000 business shut-off at HP. About your resilient computer he added, "In some ways it seems to have survived in some places in better shape than the HP that announced they were killing it!"

We agree and noted as much in the Nov. 14 NewsWire article. I promised to make not such a big deal about the history of the event; instead I tied it to recent advice about a hybrid of local and cloud-based ERP alternatives

Jan 1 pageThat event brought some benefit along with all of its carnage. Canceling the HP business operations for the 3000 (never an end-of-life; vendors don't get to define that) also sparked the completion of the first PA-RISC hardware emulator from Stromasys. The software continues to assure us all that the aging HP hardware won't be our only option over the next 11 years or so. Remember, on Jan. 1 2028, at 0000 hours, the dates stop working. Not MPE altogether, however.

A fix for that date issue might become a project for some remaining support company which has an MPE/iX source license. As you might infer from a date in this month's political events, stranger things have already happened.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:19 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2016

The best wishes for your long life: a Plan B

Congratulations to us all. This is the 15th anniversary of the "we're killing off the 3000" announcement from HP. The end-game hasn't played out like HP expected. In 2001 the company's management didn't see three CEO resignations coming over those 15 years, or the company being forced to split itself to stay relevant to enterprise IT. Those two events are related. Yes, the 3000 got its pink-slip notice at the HP of 2001. So did the overstuffed, unwieldy Hewlett-Packard. The company that lurched toward every business while stepping back from others. It took 14 years almost to the day, but HP is half the size it was: HP Enterprise is the severed sibling from 2001's family.

Inside the 3000's division during that year, no one was talking about emulating the 3000 PA-RISC hardware that the company would stop building in 2003. That's now a reality, a new development since the 10-year anniversary of this sobering date. Hewlett-Packard was going to lead four customers out of every five away from MPE/iX, delivering them to the Unix alternative of HP-UX. Windows was going to get new customers out of the upheaval, too. No one figured three of every four departing companies would choose a non-HP environment.

DDoS Outage MapHere on this date in 2016, the idea of an environment as a crucial strategy is feeling outdated. IT directors always cared about applications. Now they're told they don't have to worry about environments. The cloud computing providers will do that for them. Except when they cannot provide the cloud. Behold (above) the map of Internet outage from last month on an ugly day.

The Support Group's Terry Floyd offered a Plan B strategy to the manufacturing customers of CAMUS last week. More than 30 companies using HP 3000s and MANMAN are in the CAMUS user group. Floyd's company is delivering a fresh alternative to help MANMAN sites move on from the 3000. But he also supports homesteading sites. With a foot in both worlds, he recommends staying safe by having a Plan B, even while you employ cloud computing for your future.

"I'm still a little bit paranoid about the cloud being out there," Floyd said on the 90-minute RUG conference call. (Keep in mind, he's bringing a traditional manufacturing site's IT onto the Kenandy ERP cloud solution, so he's being extra-careful.) One of the Support Group services runs manufacturing datacenters for some clients.

If any of you are thinking about cloud apps, you should think about a hybrid app. You'd have some stuff in-house on your own boxes, and some stuff out there on the cloud. For instance, we're doing EDI [for a client]. It's pretty much local. We'll be able to receive and send stuff even if the Internet went away for a day. It would kill us not to be able to do EDI. Even hours of Internet downtime would kill us in some situations.

Think about what you might consider really critical to your company—and think about putting some of that stuff in-house. Having shipping on a local server, for example a SQL Server, we'd be able to ship whether the Internet's up or down.

"Sometimes the Internet goes away for different people for different reasons," he said, and it's so very true. DDoS attacks are becoming a too-regular event for the world's Internet. When Twitter, Netfix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest can be taken offline at once, as they were on that map of Oct. 22, everyone needs to manage the risk. A Plan B once meant staying on the HP 3000 in spite of HP's community exit. Today it means keeping some computing local, no matter what your enivronment.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:06 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2016

Wayback Wed: HP's Oracle-MPE discounts for 3000s hoped to spark new applications

Spark-plug_s600x600Go back 20 years this week in the history of the 3000 and you'll find cheaper Oracle as a lure for application growth on MPE. Hewlett-Packard sank human resources and money into making Oracle a more attractive and affordable option for 3000 owners. By October, 1996 the pursuit of new applications was at its most ardent peak. HP would bring down the cost per seat of Oracle 7 by 25 percent just to get a company to install it on a new HP 3000. What the deal was seeking was places where Oracle might sell into a community that grew strong on IMAGE/SQL.

The deal, plus Oracle's applications, was trying to overcome three barriers to implementing Oracle. First, sites had data in IMAGE databases with no straightforward way in 1996 to move that information to Oracle's format. Second, site managers experienced higher management demands while using Oracle on other platforms. Finally, the price barrier for purchasing a second HP 3000 database (since IMAGE was bundled, even in 1996 after HP's efforts to split it off) kept sites from adding Oracle to their database mix.

HP's offer reduced one portion of the last hurdle. It offered Oracle's 7.2.3 version to 3000 sites at prices starting at under $1,200 per seat with an eight-seat minimum. Purchasing Oracle for an HP 3000 for under $10,000 hadn't been possible before. The price per seat increased based on HP's CPU tiers—the $9,600 price was available only for the lowest HP 3000 tier.

Oracle was always at arm's length from the 3000 user base, though. During the 1990s when HP was promoting HP-UX as a complete enterprise solution, the many Unix-based apps relied on Oracle foremost. In the middle 1980s, when Oracle was just rising up, a VP of market development asked me, "Why would I want to offer a database to a market where they already have a free, bundled database?" The question was a good one that never got a good enough answer for existing customers. HP and its Oracle allies had a good answer, but it was one that didn't matter much to the installed 3000 base.

We summed up HP's motivation on behalf of all customers with two words.

Applications available. Those two words have been harder to associate with the HP 3000 over the past few years, as companies continue to press their systems into service for new business needs. Implementing Oracle on the HP 3000 gives sites a path to the collection of Oracle-written applications for the HP 3000. It's another way to let companies continue to host programs natively under MPE.

Oracle has lined up its applications of Internet Commerce (an EDI gateway) financials for government sites and other enterprises, human resources, project control, manufacturing, and data warehouses in its stable. The 10.6.1 version of these hit the 3000 market this month. The latest improvement in the Oracle application saga is the use of "smart clients," which balance the logic an application needs between clients and the HP 3000. SmartClient is supposed to keep network traffic down while your clients remain completely responsive.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:50 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2016

Duke diners deliver some wayback news

Wayback sherman peabodyIt's always a great event—since it's so rare now — to see 3000 folk gather in person. Last week an invite over 3000-L and other channels requested the pleasure of the company of anyone in the Bay Area who remembers — or works with — MPE and HP 3000s. The number of lunchtime diners at The Duke of Edinburgh pub was at the intimate level, which is not a surprise. What was interesting was how informed some attendees were.

"Some were finding out about the [Stromasys] emulator," Stan Sieler reported. He was among the few who were still working on MPE tasks. I was surprised that the news of the emulator was just arriving in October 2016, five years after the product's debut in the Bay Area.

In the fall of 2011, about 80 HP 3000 folk gathered at the last HP3000 Reunion. (I won't say final, because reunions tend to hold on until organizers and the ardent alumni lose the ability to travel, drive, and have meals together. We're not young, us 3000 folk, but we're spry.) The story of the Charon HPA product has orbited the MPE solar system for many months. Not everybody looks up at the sky to see the stars, of course.

Those getting wayback news about Charon included one who needed a free hobbyist license. That kind of license went off the market at the end of 2014, when Stromasys transitioned to an all-proof of concept licensing and sales plan. The PoC strategy has yielded a string of green-lit transitions to the non-3000 hardware. Hobbyist/freeware licenses got abused; free software was caught running in commercial settings. Other people might have failed at their no-cost DIY approach. You don't always get news of failures when you never knew about the attempts.

News travels slowly, especially for managers who are not in everyday contact with MPE and 3000s anymore. Sometimes 3000 news has traveled slowly for reasons other than simple oversight, or becoming busy with non-3000 computing.

It's been embarrassing to see, year after year, that the events we publish as news just don't stick with all people who rely on 3000s. You can't get everybody in the loop, not on anything. (Okay, all people have heard of Donald and Hillary, if they've heard of the United States.) HP discovered these gaps in the news loop when it started to spread the word that the 3000 was finished. The company that created MPE called the end of its 3000 business an end of life announcement. Almost a decade after that first finale, the computer isn't finished. The HP we knew, that's finished.

The news of an end of life sometimes flows slowly, or too fast like in that End of Life fable above. This afternoon I heard someone register surprise that Arnold Palmer was dead. It's not just a popular soft drink; Arnold was among the greatest golfers ever. Late last night, Abby was pretty sure the actor Rip Torn wasn't alive anymore. Not yet true, and Not Dead Yet could be a regular magazine, sort of a more gruesome What Are They Doing Now?

When HP's news about the end of its 3000 business rolled out -- trumpeted by at least five publications, covered in ABC News, circulated in serious correspondence to the customers paying for HP support -- it took years to become universally-known. That 2001 announcement was still news to customers more than five years later. For other managers who knew, they kept it to themselves, since the computer was still working. What's surprising is that good 3000 news, like Charon HPA, hasn't arrived yet in a few quarters.

In a way, though, that's good news for Stromasys. "They're coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith earlier this year about finding 3000 users who were on nobody's radar. When you're selling a solution that keeps good software in place, it has a better chance of surfacing than reports of the death of a close ally like HP's 3000s.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:28 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2016

Emulation customers got all they wanted

Signed Sealed DeliveredFive years ago this week Stromasys was doing a full technical detail demonstration of its PA-RISC emulation software. Since then, such virtualization has become an everyday choice for interim homesteading (just a few years of use needed) or long-term plans, too.

The software got its debut in front of a sophisticated crowd: HP 3000 veterans at that year's HP 3000 Reunion. In 2011 skeptics were schooled and devotees bowled over.

The rap on emulator choices from out of the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like Intel's Xeon chips will over the year to come with Skylake. Here's a surprise nobody saw coming: the ultimate Itanium chip, Kittson, began development in 2011, and it's still not running in HP's servers. To think, MPE/iX could've had that fate if HP had chosen to port the OS to that chipset.

HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts at the Reunion believed in Charon's emulation future. In 2011 there were more in attendance at the Reunion than could fit in a single-family home. What's still in the years to come is making a home for MANMAN on one Ubuntu-Charon partition of a big Skylake Intel server, and MANMAN's replacement Kenandy on another.

Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group manufacturing and 3000 support firm, posted glowing comments five years ago about the future of Charon in a CAMUS.org report. What he's foretold has come to pass.

It was amazing to learn that within a year, MANMAN (and everything else that runs on MPE/iX 7.5) will be running on Intel/AMD 64-bit machines. MPE Virtualization: what a home run! Dr. Robert Boers, who came all the way from Switzerland to give his speech at the Reunion, showed MPE/iX running on a small Linux PC costing about $600, and MPE/iX is expected to run many times faster than on an HP 3000 A-Class machine. They also had it running on Craig Lalley’s laptop in the same room; he’s been consulting on this project, but now it’s open to any developer with a good reason to download it.

It was non-obvious to me that MPE would need to boot up in 2 or 3 minutes, mainly because all the memory, IO, and disc checking had been done by the underlying OS (Ubuntu Linux in this case), but also because of the PDC rewrite they must have done. No more watching all the dots and 1s, 2s, and 3s etc. going by on the console for 10 or 20 minutes (or longer on large-memory HP 3000 machines).

Later, in a more technical briefing at the Reunion's hotel, Floyd noted that all the right answers flowed from Boers.

It was like Christmas and Boers was Santa Claus (there is a slight resemblance). MPE booted on both the laptop and the little Stromasys server Dr. Boers carried under his arm off his flight from Europe. Fun was had; DEBUG was run; Glance worked in Block Mode! Stan Sieler asked if MPE crashed in all known ways.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:46 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 30, 2016

Earliest birds to eye Charon stick with 3000s

One week ago the 3000 Simulator Project rolled out a new version of software to simulate an MPE V Classic 3000. That news led to a look at the modern emulation product Charon HPA and what has helped make it a success. Diligent engineering and testing of the Stromasys product across the community started just about five years ago. One of the earliest vendors to green-light their software for emulation was a company who's still selling new customers on MPE software: Minisoft.

BirdseyeHistoryFounder Doug Greenup called last month to report on some new sales into your market, the one which established his company. He mentioned Minisoft's connection to See's Candies' HP 3000s. See's is using Minisoft's middleware, and the connection between emulation and Minisoft popped up when I found Greenup's earliest report on testing against Charon. Minisoft was the first third party company to announce their products were Charon-ready, including ODBC, JDBC, and OLE DB products. These were the days when PA-RISC emulation was as new as Clarence Birdseye's frozen food was in the 1940s. Greenup's report was so early in the Charon HPA lifespan that the Stromasys software was being helped into the market by independent consultants like Craig Lalley.

Craig [Lalley] gave us access to the Stromasys emulator to test some of our legacy MPE products. The HP 3000 terminal emulators under Windows and Macintosh worked fine connecting up via Telnet. We ran some VPLUS screens with no problems. Connections were reliable and fast. We also tested our middleware drivers, connecting and running queries.

The bottom line is our products worked like they were interacting with an HP 3000. So if any of our customers deploy Stromasys, we are confident our MPE products will work.

Charon HPA needed software vendors who were familiar to the 3000 community to step up and certify. It's satisfying to see that one of the earliest adopters of your market's emulator is still selling software to MPE/iX sites. We'd call those sites 3000 customers, but its possible the HP hardware has been replaced by Charon HPA. Which is precisely why it was good business to step up and demonstrate that the emulator worked just like an HP 3000. Works better, now that HPA is not five years older like those boxes with "HP" on the front.

There's your report. MPE/iX still running at high-profile candy manufacturer. New 3000 software still being sold in a few places. Stromasys now moving toward five years of support from the MPE third party vendors, support that started with Minisoft.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:21 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 28, 2016

Meeting at Building D: the rarest 3000 link-up

DukeSnugNotices were posted this week on the 3000-L mailing list about a rare meeting next Monday, Oct. 3. At opening time 11:30, people who know and remember the 3000 will gather at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. It's a site popular enough with the MPE crowd that it's still called Building D by some seasoned community members. The Duke is on Wolfe Road, just to the west of where the 3000 grew up. As the 3000 group intends to arrive at opening time, it might be able to commandeer the snug (above).

In-person meetings for the 3000 community happen in bars and pubs by now. The last one we heard about this public was SIG-BAR's meeting in London in 2014. Dave Wiseman, a vendor and software maven whose history includes a software project called Millware for 3000s, set up SIG-BAR. The 2014 meeting was announced so far in advance that people were able to plan their summer vacations around a gathering at Dirty Dick's. There's something about English pubs that attracts the 3000 crowd.

AppleCampusThe Duke of Edinburgh is within walking distance of a mecca of the 3000 world, now departed: The HP Cupertino campus. Building 48 has been replaced by the rising concrete and steel of the new Apple world headquarters building. There's no word yet if the 3000 friends who meet Monday at Building D will bring their drones to take their tour of the Apple-ized HP campus.

A walk through the HP parking lot and across a cozy margin of poplars used to bring you to the Duke. "It's right across the street from where MPE lived," said Stan Sieler of Allegro while announcing the meeting. As of Monday, MPE's heart will be among the taps and chips of The Duke. Two years ago, Robelle's Bob Green said this about the last 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.

As for that emulator, Charon HPA is in full swing by now, a certainty of life going forward with MPE/iX systems. For one additional lunchtime, a pub will be emulating the home of the system, even as it continues to move into a virtual existence.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:10 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2016

Power outage, or no problems? It's been quiet on the 3000-L. "Yeah, too quiet."

SergeantIn the classic war movies, or a good western with Indian battles, there's the moment when someone notices the silence on the field. "It's quiet out there, Sarge," says the more innocent hero. "Yeah, too quiet," the non-com replies. That kind of quiet might be the sound we're hearing from the 3000-L mailing list today.

It's been five weeks without a new message on the mailing list and newsgroup devoted to MPE and its servers. Advice and solutions has flowed for two decades and more off a mailing list that still has 498 members subscribed. The number of subscribers has remained steady over the last three years. Like the number of migrations in the market, the exit from the list has slowed to a trickle. So has new traffic, of late.

The silence may not be ominous. In 2016 the 3000-L is used almost exclusively to resolve MPE/iX problems. The hardware posts are limited to the rare announcement of used server prices, messages that the members still howl at if they don't include <PLUG> in the subject. The server hasn't been sold by HP in more than a decade, but its owners still don't like to be bugged by sales messages. They solve problems in a grassroots manner. As a notable ballplayer once said, you can look it up. There might be no problems to solve.

1996-L-TrafficHowever, no messages at all over 35 days sets a new record for the 3000-L quiet. This 3000 resource was much more lively a decade ago. And 20 years back? Well, HP was still selling enough 3000s in the fall of 1996 to be sending its new marketing manager Kathy Fitzgerald to speak at an Indiana RUG meeting about the new servers. There was also advice on storage compression, because compression-enabled DDS drives were becoming more common.

3000-L migration messageGood advice: If you can find a DDS tape drive from 1996, you should take it out of service. Your MPE server, no. And evergreen advice from the L is still available online. Jeff Kell, the deceased 3000 guru who started the server on a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga server, built it to last.

In 1996 people wrote on the L that they understood most drive and backup software vendors recommend against using both hardware and software compression. "You should try each separately and use the technique that achieves the best result consistently," we reported. Mark Klein of ORBiT Software gave an interesting explanation of what was going on and the compression possibilities.
"Actually, there are cases where multiple levels of compression are useful. But first let me describe the various types of compression available.

"Hardware compression is typically LZW or some variant thereof. This type of compression uses a dictionary of repeating strings that can be dynamically determined on the fly and, as such, doesn't require the dictionary to be stored with the data as with other types of compression. There are other types of hardware compression available, but LZW is the most common found on compressing tape drives. LZW can also be done in software.

"Since the compressibility of the data really depends on the data itself, there are instances where negative compression will be achieved as well as instances where very large files can compress down to almost nothing. In fact, I've seen an instance where a large, multi-Gb database that was mostly empty got compressed into less than 32K using LZW.

"LZW is not effective in trying to compress something already compressed with LZW. This can result in negative compression (the resulting data actually gets larger). For that reason, I wouldn't recommend using LZW software compression on top of LZW hardware compression.

"Another type of compression is called run length compression. This is in essence a combination of a length tag and a string. The length indicates how many times to repeat the following string. For example, a line of 80 blanks would be represented by (80," ").

"Now, using a combination of RLC and LZW one can achieve better levels of compression than with one or the other method. So, if you want to use software compression with a hardware compressing tape drive, I would recommend using RLC compression in software."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:21 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)