February 03, 2016

MPE site sizes up Linux distro for Charon

Linux KVMWhen we interviewed one HP 3000 manager who's homesteading, James Byrne had a question about the kind of Linux that's used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. Byrne's heart rests in the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps, a thing Charon can help make possible. There's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary solution, though, no matter how stable it is.

There's another issue worth looking at in his organization, Hart & Lynne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward there have to meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter there. Nobody wants to be caught in the vendor-controlled blind alley again.

Bynre's got a problem about about something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system and is therefore Open Source software.

Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."

KVM users have strong feelings about hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License that many open source solutions utilize.

Byrne says that "Charon-HPA runs on ESXi vmkernel, which VMWare claims is not derived from Linux." Then he explains why that's a problem for his adoption of Charon.

VMware is presently being sued by Linux developers for violations of the GPLv2 with respect to the Linux kernel. It is alleged that VMware is in fact using GPL code but are not providing the source for their derived vmkernel, as is required by the terms of the GPLv2.

VMWare is thus attempting to benefit from Open Source projects through misappropriation of public goods for private profit, and attempting to assert proprietary rights over the work of others. In short, they are not a company we wish to deal with, either directly or by proxy.

(Below, VMware's overview of the architecture of VMware's ESXi architecture.)

VMware ESXi architectureRegardless of what happens between VMware and those Linux developers, VMware doesn't have to be deployed as part of Charon HPA, according to a Stromasys product manager. VMware is a commonly used component, but it's not mandatory.

This alliance of Linux and MPE was considered beyond a dream back in the days when the HP lab for MPE was closing. A fully open sourced OS acting as a cradle for a legacy OS first created in the proprietary era? Cats and dogs living together. It says something nice about the flexibility of Linux, a trait that's a byproduct of its open source development community.

But the alliance also says something about MPE/iX and its continuing value. Stromasys believes as much, investing in R&D not even HP could get into its budget to give MPE/iX a way to boot up on Intel hardware. Extend the value of your apps with fresh hardware, the vendor says. To this day, even HP-UX won't jumpstart on Intel systems—unless they're Itanium servers. X86-Xeon won't work with HP's Unix.

That enduring value of MPE and the 3000's PA-RISC architecture is something Byrne sees clearly after decades of managing 3000s. "The real problem with the HP 3000 is that it just works," he said, "and so every other issue gets precedence above migration."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:45 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

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February 01, 2016

Loyalist, laggard, loser: who are you now?

Loser GloveWhen 2016 arrived on our calendar, we looked for signs of the 3000's present and its future. A survey of frequent 3000-L contributors was answered by about half of those we polled. Among that group we found half of these IT pros — selected to be sure they owned 3000s, not just consulted on them — have plans for MPE/iX in their companies in 2016 and beyond.

If you're still using HP 3000s here, getting on to 15 years after HP announced the system's "end of life," then who are you? Among your own kind, you're possible a loyalist, devoted to tech that's still better than the alternatives to your company. After all, almost 5 percent of every Mac user runs their systems on Snow Leopard, an OS released six years ago and decommissioned by Apple in 2013. The experts in the community say it runs faster than anything else on the newest Macs, though.

The glove on this page came from a Mac conference of 2006, when Snow Leopard was three years away. Maxtor was sure we'd be losing files unless we backed up to their disks. They gave us a set of three instead of a pair of gloves. The way things turned out, Maxtor lost its company status that year, purchased by Seagate. The Maxtor brand went dark in 2009, the year Snow Leopard made its debut. The OS got a small update this month, to keep the door open to a newer OS X.

Your 3000 loyalty may label you a laggard. That's one way to describe somebody who's among the last to migrate somewhere when anybody who's savvy has already departed. Tough word, that one. It can inspire some dread and maybe shame about holding out. Or holding on. If the vantage point and the capabilities of MPE/iX in 2016 suit you, though, laggard is just a way to separate you from someone else's visions.

The implication and suggestion is that laggard would mean loser. Nobody will actually use that word while characterizing advocates for old tech. It doesn't fit when your applications are solid and cannot be replaced by a migration project priced at more than your full IT budget for a year. There's also the matter of keeping IT headcount lean. The most expensive part of running a datacenter are the people. That's why cloud solutions are getting airtime in boardroom planning. MPE needs fewer heads.

"We're still using our HP 3000s," said Frank Gribbin, running the servers for the law firm of Potter, Anderson. "It's too useful a tool to do without."

To be accurate, some of the datacenter managers who shared their 2016 status said they're on their 3000s because they're sticking to something they'd rather replace. HP poisoned the well for proprietary systems, one said, and extending MPE/iX use at Harte & Lyne Limited would be "simply shoveling money out the door that is better spent on moving off the platform entirely."

That said, in a moment of optimism this user of the Powerhouse platform on the 3000 said "Keeping the HP 3000 and Cognos software going on Charon has its attractions. Frankly, I never expected an MPE/iX emulator to see the light of day, and for that reason alone I am interested in seeing it work."

Byrne might think of himself as a laggard, and look like a loyalist -- but his loyalty is to the product, rather than its makers. He shares his tech strategy and his insights at length, though, and it's pretty clear he's only lagging because there's nothing better that fits the company's needs and resource capacity. Sometimes that's budget, and sometimes it's people. Watching somebody wire MPE/iX into a significant Linux shop shows he's not lagging, but looking forward. And back at his MPE, regretting the loss of HP loyalty. It makes everyone who's endured from 2001 onward a loser, or at least a victim of a loss.

There will be losses out there in the MPE world in 2016, right here and in some 3000 sites, too. Enduring them is the opposite of being a loser. And if you're lagging at a leap into a migration, there are probably reasons that satisfy your flight plans.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:12 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 27, 2016

Keeping up lets you receive what you give

Support heartWe've been checking in on how companies are keeping their MPE/iX servers up to date. One element is consistent in successful updating: continuing maintenance contracts for the software that's in production or development use. It's the heart of a healthy body of IT resources.

In one recent story we followed up on Reflection, the Attachmate HP 3000 terminal emulator product. Things have changed in PC desktop environments, since Microsoft has been hawking its Windows 10 update automatically. To get the latest Reflection version from Attachmate, keeping up on support is required. It's a paid enterprise to work on making changes to software like Reflection to support new environments such as Windows 10. Not many software solutions update themselves, said Birket Foster.

"Even free, open source software has programmers that are paid," he said when we checked up on Reflection updates. MB Foster has sold many copies of the product over the last 25 years. "Even for open source, there's some support and other positions also being compensated if these volunteers are working for a university or a large company like HP."

Foster says yes, there is an upgrade fee to bring Reflection up to date. "For customers that have been using the software for 10 years, they might want to remember that there is a cost to keeping the software in sync with the Microsoft changes," he said. "Continuous development is required and the programmers need to be paid."

One alternative to Reflection terminal emulation is Minisoft 92, from the company of the same name. CEO Doug Greenup said his product's got Windows 10 support, but even more interesting is the fact that it's got as many as 25 sites using the Charon emulator. Moving from HP's 3000 iron to Charon is a complimentary relicense at Minisoft, without a fee — so long as there's a current support contract.

Greenup says, "In the past couple of years some of our customers have moved to the Stromasys platform. Off the top of my head it's in the 20-25 range."

As long as they are current on support we allow our customers a no-cost license transfer on their software. They just need to provide us with the new CPU information for licensing purposes. These transfers are handled electronically and so are very quick and easy to implement.

Long ago when paper was the primary medium for sharing stories, one editor used an apt metaphor to describe ongoing support. In the publishing business of that day, that support was a subscription, an annual payment to ensure the resources remain available. "Subscriptions are the meat on the bone of any magazine," said Sy Safransky of The Sun. Support is the meat on the bone for software customers, especially for products that are meant to keep MPE/iX on duty with so little attention required.

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

January 25, 2016

VMware solution assists Win10's 3000 debut

Windows 10 is making its way into HP 3000 shops. Earlier today a manager had loaded up Win10 and then discovered that Reflection, the terminal emulator built for HP 3000 access, wasn't working anymore.

Win10 upgrade"My Attachmate Reflections v14.1.3.247 does not work — it has an error when trying to start," said George Forsythe. He wanted to know about any available updates for the former WRQ product. It's not a former product, but Reflection for HP, as it's known today, is a Micro Focus product. Last year Micro Focus bought Attachmate, the company that purchased WRQ.

The short answer is version 14.1.543 (SP4), according to Craig Lalley. It's a matter of an update, but a mission-critical connection might demand a faster solution. One well-known program that aids Windows migration of 3000-attached desktops was mentioned by Neil Armstrong, developer of the Robelle data utility Suprtool. VMware can have your back if you're taken a PC onto Win10 and something critical like the 3000 connection stops running, he said.

This is why I've "virtualized" some key environments that are used for development. If something like this comes up, you're not stuck with a critical problem at a key moment.

Supported software is sometimes built with customized routines to use desktop OS modules. That means it can stop working when a desktop environment changes. There's profound changes in Windows 10. Forsythe reports the AICS freeware terminal emulator QCTerm, built for the 3000, still works on Win10, even while his not-quite-fresh Reflection didn't.

Armstrong said the reliance on using VMware to preserve stable desktops comes with a cost. You can't ignore updates to the virtualization engine.

Once something like [a desktop OS release] is stable and set up, you just turn off all updates and back it up. Of course, the weak point then becomes if VMware doesn't work with whatever OS update is currently going on. But there seems to be enough resources and typically there is a solution on hand, as long as you keep that software up to date.

Micro Focus is maintaining Reflection, but one 3000-L member reports the upgrades are no longer free. Older versions of Reflection work with Win10, according to Steve Cooper of Allegro, "with only a few nuisances that can be worked around."

Cooper was using version 10.0.5 of Reflection. When we last checked, that's software more than a decade old. Apparently the extra value of later releases is offset by their compatibility challenges. There's a lesson in there about older software, like QCTerm and elderly Reflection — and MPE/iX — being a more stable solution, even in the face of change.

And if Windows 10 is software that's too new to behave well on a PC connected to a 3000, there's a way to stay on a prior release and stop the "upgrade to Windows" reminders. Paul Edwards, consultant, board member and OpenMPE volunteer, offered this advice.

For those of us who really want to stay on Win 7 for a while and not be reminded to upgrade to Win 10, there is a tool available from www.ultimateoutsider.com/downloads. It is GWX Control Panel. The control panel has a status page to tell you whether the “Get Windows 10” app is running, whether it is enabled, whether the Win 10 files have been downloaded to your PC, and if so, how much room the files are taking up on your computer. If the files are there, the control panel can remove them for you. This is much better than modifying the registry.

I have installed and run the GWX Control Panel. I had it delete the Win 10 logo, folders, and files (6 GB). I had no problems with my PC afterwards. And no Win 10 reminder.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:13 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 22, 2016

A 3000, awaiting replacement, still at work

If the above headline sounds like your homesteading situation, then you're an interim homesteader. Or a wannabe migrator, which can amount to the same thing if the pain of retaining a 3000 and MPE is low. In the hospital they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. Nobody says 0, unless they're deep into morphine. There's usually some.

Pain ScaleAt Cerro Wire, the pain level must be not more than a 2, but the 3000 is being targeted for replacement. As part of our survey of the 3000 managers who speak up on the 3000-L, we got a report back from Herb Statham. He's led the 3000 computing at the manufacturer based in Alabama, with operations elsewhere in the US, too. Statham notes that the MPE server at Cerro continues to work. It's something like staying on your job even after you've been laid off, because they can't find a replacement yet.

Uncommon for an employee. Commonplace among interim homesteading systems. Statham, who was hiring for 3000 operations as recently as 2014 -- and had a contract 3000 expert at work until October — reports that Intel-based systems are preferred now at Cerro.

We are still running an A500 box at Cerro Wire. The game’s afoot to replace our current business applications with ones that are Intel- and Microsoft-based. I do not know when the final decision will be made, but the HP 3000 just keeps chirping along. I am trying to get “semi-retired” to only work two or three days a week, until the “new and better” system is in place.

Intel had prospects earlier at Cerro, in a different capacity. Statham was public about a 3000 emulator's chances there, even before the Stromasys Charon software had a big footprint. Cerro was going to be a classic 3000 manufacturer pushing their MPE apps into a long-running role. Leaving the HP hardware behind looked to be important, but other apps on other platforms were already working there.

Some IT managers call this situation "floating." So long as the MPE applications don't fall short, their cost of ownership and low need for attention keeps them running. A turn-off date at the start of 2016 becomes a midyear close-out, and then that depends on how soon replacement apps on Windows get integrated. Any nagging pains about relying on an environment now in its fifth decade of useful life are offset by the Tylenol of low costs and stability.

It works for companies that don't see massive growth coming soon. At Cerro, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company, business has been good. Back in 2014, just before the help-wanted call went out, the pressure to migrate was low.

In profile stories from 2014, we heard this report.

Statham has no pressure from Cerro management to replace the applications that are successful at running the company. With ample spare parts, independent support and storage consulting, and his own source in hand, he needs only the green light from Dell to move forward. Specifics on pricing and performance are still in play from Stromasys, at least from his vantage point. A 1.5 version of CHARON HPA/3000 was announced late last year, promising increased performance. But meeting the speed needs of an A-Class would be no challenge for the CHARON lineup.

This veteran of 3000 deployment and management has little desire to send his company toward an application replacement that might end up with Cerro "spending millions of dollars." There are many years left for MPE/iX, and his company is an all-HP shop, with the exception of a couple of Dell monitors on Statham's desk. He can see a long future for the app the company has fine-tuned to its business.

The CALENDAR intrinsic roadblock is the only thing he can forecast by now. He's not sure how HP might react to an independent fix for that issue, a date challenge that's still 13 years away. (Of course, now it's 11-plus years until the December 31, 2017 deadline)

"If we could ever get this 2027 thing out of the way, you could run your applications indefinitely, so long as you’ve got someone to support them," he says. "My only concern is HP themselves, in the event that someone said they had a patch to the operating system. You wouldn't have to worry about the year, because there was some type of workaround."

There's a number of ideas in there, from relying on MPE doing its job 11 more years (not out of the range of possibility) to seeing an independent lab develop a 2027 workaround (also not impossible, so long as community experts don't do more than semi-retire) to HP getting in the way of this kind of lifespan extension. There's zero pain to the MPE's creator in letting the OS keep working. It doesn't require much pay by now. That's the sort of thing that makes some migrations wannabes, or at least keeps them floating in the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2016

Taking a Charge at Transition's Costs

Changing your IT infrastructure might become more critical in 2016. Hardware is older, especially the hardware HP built and sold to run MPE/iX servers. One solution is to migrate to a new OS environment. Another refresh for IT might come from emulating the PA-RISC servers with Intel-based servers. But in either case, some software will have to come along, a move to help contain transition costs.

BatonLicense transfer practices come into focus during these projects. While moving from MPE/iX to another OS, most shops would like to keep what's been working, if the software's got prospects to grow along with IT's needs. In some cases that's possible, because the vendor has put in its work to adopt a new platform. A couple of middleware providers have done this. MB Foster and Minisoft both reached out to HP-UX users coming out of their MPE/IX environments. Minisoft's Doug Greenup reported this week that Summit Information Systems Spectrum users — whose vendor is now Fiserv, post-migration — headed to HP-UX when leaving the 3000 credit union application. Their target was Eloquence, the database designed to embrace IMAGE applications into an SQL world.

"We have quite a few Eloquence customers," he said, "more then 100. Many of the Fiserv Credit Union customers moved from MPE to HP-UX and use our ODBC driver for Eloquence." Minisoft's also got an ODBC for IMAGE product. That's an example of a cross-platform development strategy, something to keep costs under control. When your existing vendor does a version of your product for a migration target, that's fortunate. It's even more fortunate when you're not expected to re-license the product.

Last week the Minisoft ODBC for IMAGE product became the target of a competitive upgrade campaign. MB Foster says it will let a Minisoft ODBC customer switch to UDALink for MPE/iX for the price of a support contract. We took note of that campaign, a classic move from the days when new MPE/iX software was being sold in a market active enough to support multiple vendors for a single product like middleware. Going into competition, and retaining customers in the face of it, smacks of moxie in a market that's quiet and stable by now. It helps if your product has feature differences, so a 64-Bit ODBC driver, and the ability to use Suprtool's Self Describing (SD) Files, are getting touted in that offer.

Both vendors say they support Windows 10 with their middleware. No matter how much grief the new Microsoft environment is causing, it's still a certain part of IT futures. Windows 10 support is essential to keeping a 3000 current with the latest PC clients tapping IMAGE/SQL data.

Vendors in the 3000 market had to go where new system sales were happening, though. For MB Foster, its HP-UX version of UDALink is preserving investments at a site where the biggest single group of 3000s was migrated. At the same time, this site is using Minisoft's middleware on HP-UX, too. The situation at the college group looks like a lesson in preventing extra costs in a transition. Migration has plenty of prerequisite costs.

There are no more MPE/iX computers in service at the Washington Community College Consortium, a group of 34 organizations once run by 3000s. The college collective turned off its 3000s in 2012, giving over the services to Unix systems built by HP. Minisoft's middleware works there for the Unix servers. So does the MB Foster software. The educational organization didn't have to re-develop its hundreds of reports it built over years of 3000 services.

"They use UDALink Reporter for UNIX (formally DataExpress) for reporting on their HP-UX systems," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "We converted DataExpress from the MPE version to the Unix version, so that the college could continue to use the hundreds of host-based reports they created over the years. They also are using it well for bulk extracts, offloading data."

The cost of the software for a fresh platform was not a show-stopper there, which seems to be the case for 3000 vendors who serve with middleware and key utilities. Database management, data extract software, middleware: much of it can be moved to something like the Stromasys Charon emulator, or even a new OS, for little to no charge. "Preservation and continued use of reports created on the 3000 was key to the conversion of UDALink Reporter on MPE to UDALink Reporter on UX," Whitehead said.

Minisoft's product made a move to contain costs, too. "Some of our MPE customers have migrated over the years to the HP-UX platform, running with Eloquence," Greenup said. "So long as a customer is on a current product support contract we allow them to "swap" or transfer licenses at no additional cost."

Even where there are what amounts to administrative charges — the equivalent of HP's license $432 transfer fee to move an MPE/iX instance from one kind of iron to another — many vendors make these minimal. Everybody's budget is important, but I find it interesting to see IT managers squeezing costs so hard that a $125 per month support fee, or $1,000 one-time to administer a license change, gets scrutiny. Yes, that's about $125, or less than my U-Verse TV bill.

This is corporate IT we're talking about here. The minimums shouldn't be that low. There's money needed to be spent on Windows turnover, yes. But a corporate server needs a budget bigger than a TV bill.

Redevelopment costs a great deal more than that, of course. One month's work might not be enough to bring hundreds of reports into an HP-UX environment; it might take much longer. In a case like that, the $1,000 looks like a better option than three months of an IT pro's time, at around $25,000.

Both Minisoft and MB Foster help to enable Charon HPA emulation projects, too. Those kinds of transfers don't require a new license, something that the new-ish owners of Powerhouse can't embrace yet. Containing costs with support-based license transfers is a forward-looking move. Forward is a direction you'd expect vendors to focus upon. IT changes often. It shouldn't be more expensive than absolutely necessary.

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

January 20, 2016

Pricing, Value, and Emulating Classics

Value-PriceEditor's Note: Yesterday we ran a story about the impact of proprietary software lock-in, as reported from a manager's office where HP 3000s still do their work. Amid that story was a quote about predaceous pricing (love that word), the act of outre increases to the cost of emulator MPE server solutions because of upgrade charges. It's blocked several adoptions of Charon HPA, even among managers who love the ideal of non-HP hardware that keeps MPE apps alive. Tim O'Neill wrote the following editorial, prompted by our article. Although companies do need to generate capital to keep supplying software, the matter of how much to charge for a shift to an emulator remains a flash point.

Editorial by Tim O'Neill

James Byrne brings up important point about proprietary software running proprietary hardware: it enabled predatory pricing, both by HP and by third parties.  

At this stage, it appears that Charon could be bought affordably, but the problem is the third parties' still seeing the opportunity to gouge existing customers.  

This is why businesses become former customers and change to shareware and open source operating systems and databases, e.g. Linux and open database systems like Postgres. There are still costs as a part of such a change. They might need to hire more in-house staff to do what HP and third parties used to do for that one huge cover-all price. It might not be wise to entrust critical applications to shareware, but are customers avoiding doing so?

So the huge predatory prices were not without value. This is not to say I defend them.

That said, it is still shameful that at this point, third parties are unwilling to honor their customers' long history of loyalty, by requiring emulator relicensing. These third parties should realize that they might realize longer-term benefit by keeping their customers, not driving them away.

It would be interesting to compute the price and valuation of HP stock since the point just before they announced the death of its MPE business, through the split in 2014. One might be able to say that the company's value has fallen without MPE. It may fall further when OpenVMS is eliminated and when HP-UX is not marketed, not enhanced, not written for any CPU other than HP's own Itanium, and not licensed at prices that are fair to customers.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:15 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2016

It's becoming an MPE Server, this HP 3000

ForeverHewlett-Packard stopped building 3000s in 2003, cutting off a product line in the belief that users would leave the server. But after thousands of them did just that, thinking there would be no more MPE/iX servers to be purchased, an emulator emerged. After more than four years, it might be changing the concept of what is an HP 3000. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies wonders what's the future for the system that delivers MPE/iX apps.

"It seems to me that it's almost more accurate to call these beloved hosts 'MPE/iX' systems," he said, "rather than 3000s, since — eventually, at least — no one will be running 'original' HP hardware."

We have asked around the community about how this concept plays out. James Byrne, 3000 manager at logistics provider Hart & Lyne, offers one view on what makes up his idea of a device to use MPE/iX. 

I consider our systems to be MPE/iX rather than HP 3000. The hardware does not really matter to us any more, since most of the rest of our critical infrastructure is already running on commodity Intel 64 bit boxes. We simply keep two or three of everything running on different 3000 hosts most of the time, and have them continually cross checking each other. That approach has covered us well in the one or two serious incidents we have experienced these past 15 years since HP gave up on the 3000.

If the Charon emulator was priced in the same range as a used HP 3000, and ran on Linux, and used KVM virtualization, then we would in all probability move to it as an interim step, if only to escape the aging hardware MPE/iX is running on.

There's more at stake at his shop: software migration patterns, a way to ensure what's running on HP-built hardware operates on a fresh MPE/iX server. Pricing for a key 4GL-reporting tool — you'll know which one — got in the way at Hart & Lyne. MPE's the keystone there, but Byrne says his company won't tie itself to a single-vendor system in the future.

I believe those conditions are unlikely to all be met, so we do not consider the emulator as a possibility. We still would have to deal with the issue of Powerhouse licensing fees. The last inquiry we made with respect to Powerhouse provided a price that was startling to say the least. We would even entertain moving to Powerhouse on Linux as an interim step, if the price were not so exorbitant and the product supported PostgreSQL. However, when last we looked Powerhouse only supports proprietary databases, so again it is not even a consideration.

Those examples are representative of why we are never going back to proprietary software: predaceous pricing and technological limitations dictated primarily by marketing. Whatever we write for ourselves in future, we are not going to be held to ransom if we wish to move it from one system to another.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:23 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2016

The GSP makes the A and N worthwhile

GSP boardIt's a powerful part of an HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. The Guardian Service Processor (GSP) is the maintenance control console commanding the ultimate class of the server to reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the 3000. Consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech has noted the GSP has one fewer feature than its Unix counterpart, though.

"On HP-UX it is possible to reset the GSP from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."

From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services on A-Class and N-Class servers. If your 3000 gets loving care from a consultant or service provider outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep up service levels.

The GSP can also reveal the 3000's speedometer, as profiled near the bottom of a webpage from Allegro Consultants.

The gap between 3000 and HP's HP-UX Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That lack of Unix can sometimes be a good thing when a security breach opens up in the Unix world.)

But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a telnet command doesn't work. You can telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset. But you can also get someone to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. It's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a magic paper clip bent just so.

Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.

The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.

It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.

It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, this reset can be done during business hours.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:43 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2016

Competitive upgrading lives on for 3000s

UpgradeIn the 1990s, HP contracted to send its ODBC middleware development to MB Foster. The result was ODBCLink/SE, bundled into MPE/iX from the 5.5 release onward. The software gave the 3000 its first community-wide connection to reporting tools popular on PCs. HP decided that the MB Foster lead in development time was worth licensing, instead of rebuilding inside the 3000 labs. Outside labs had built parts of the 3000's fundamental software before then. But ODBCLink/SE was the first time independent software retained its profile, while it was operating inside of the 3000's FOS. Every 3000 running 5.5 and later now had middleware.

Other ODBC solutions were available in that timeframe. Minisoft still sells and supports its product. That's one reason why MB Foster's running a competitive upgrade offer for users of the Minisoft middleware. The upgrade was announced yesterday. 3000 owners who make the switch from Minisoft for IMAGE ODBC to Foster's software will get a full version of UDALink for the cost of only the annual support payments.

This kind of competitive offer was one of Minisoft's sales tools while it competed with WRQ for terminal emulation seats. There was a period where NS/VT features were not a part of every Reflection package, but were a staple in the Minisoft MS/92.

Foster's ODBC software has been extended to use 64-bit ODBC drivers, embrace Suprtool's Self Describing Files, and more. UDALink was a part of the migration that the Washington State community college consortium pulled off in 2011 when it moved 34 systems to Unix. The vendor has continued to develop to make a state of the art middleware solution.

Almost as notable: seeing MB Foster compete for business like vendors did routinely in the 1990s. The upgrade offer tells us that there are 3000 sites out there still looking to extend their development cycles. UDALink is also built for platforms other than the 3000, but any outreach to capture MPE/iX customers is news here in 2016. Chris Whitehead is fielding the calls and emails for the upgrade offer, which runs through June of this year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 14, 2016

HP's 3000 now at $149 until Sunday

Google is happy to trawl the Web for HP 3000 news, a search that I've had in place for the past 10 years. I receive a lot of notices about horsepower of auto engines (the HP) and a few about printers. But today a link showed up that features a computer called the HP 3000, currently selling for $149 plus shipping.

HP 3000 Quad CoreThere are a few unique and important qualifiers. To start, this is an HP3000 model with an Intel server, literally a PC powered by an Xeon X3330 CPU at 2.8 MHz. That's a quad-core processor, though, and the box is already loaded with 4GB of memory. (It's a start, but nowhere near enough RAM to power software such as, for instance, the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator.)

In short, this is an HP3000 built by Hewlett-Packard that can run MPE/iX, but does not use PA-RISC. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has not restricted the use of "3000" to the PA-RISC servers well-loved by the MPE community. Over on the HP Inc. side, there's a large-scale printer also called an HP 3000.

This HP3000 running a Xeon chip has another, less significant qualifier. It's being sold by a New Zealand owner on TradeMe.co.nz, "Where Kiwis Buy and Sell." And the shipping options don't go beyond Auckland, or the North and South Islands.

However, this TradeMe model might be something that could be shipped to the 3000 stalwarts Ken and Jeanette Nutsford. The former chairs of SIGRAPID and SIGCOBOL still live in NZ, when they're not gadding about the globe on their epic cruise calendars. Their total mileage easily runs into the hundreds of thousands. Trans-Pacific flights are embedded in their history. So perhaps the 6,693 miles to the US is not completely out of reach, in a hop. The Nutsfords travel regularly to the US, and this PC looks like it would be cargo-bay ready.

Yes, you could file this article under clickbait. It's an online auction after all, and $149 is only today's price. However, if you consider your systems to be MPE/iX servers by now, rather than the Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC 3000 hardware that hosts that OS, this is technically a server that can run your apps. 

It will require an installation of the HPA emulator, which at last report started at $9,000 for A-Class power. The combination can be compared to A-Class boxes that sell for under $2,000, but those include few options to increase speed. The A-Class had a 2-CPU model running at 220 MHz. There's genuine, hard limits on RAM.

You don't have to go to New Zealand to get this kind of HP3000, although this one looks ready to boot up and run. This ProLiant blade-caliber box does illustrate how much hardware remains in the world that can run MPE/iX software. If a manager's concern is the reliability of the HP hardware that's at least 12 years old -- the last server was built in 2003 -- this leaps over that hurdle to homesteading.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:37 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2016

Using Store-To-Disk for Backup Preservation

By Brian Edminster

Second of two parts

Yesterday I outlined some of the powers of the Posix program pax, as well as tar, to move MPE/iX backup files offsite. Here’s a warning. There are some file types that cannot be backed up by tar/pax while also storing their attributes:  ;CIR (circular) and ;MSG (message) files (and possibly others. I haven’t tested all possible file types yet.  Also, there is an issue with tar that is a fairly well known and has been discussed on the 3000 newsgroup. Occasionally it does not un-tar correctly.  It is unclear if and when this was fixed, but I’d love to hear from anybody that might be in the know, or which specific situations to avoid.

Regardless of these limitations, I’ve found a simple way around this. Use store-to-disk to make your backup, then tar to wrap it, so as to preserve the store-to-disk files’ characteristics, before shipping the files off-system. Later, when you retrieve your tar backups and un-tar them, you’ll get your original store-to-disk files back without having to specify the proper ‘;REC= , CODE= , and DISC=’ options on an FTP ‘GET’. I’ve been doing this for several months now on several systems, and I have not had any failures.

If you have a version of STORE that has compression, use it to reduce the size of backup.  If not, use the ‘z’ option in the tar/pax archive you create from your store-to-disk backup.  Do not use both.  They don’t play well together, and you may end up with a larger tar file.

But what about the tar archive size limit of 2GB?  There’s an easy way around this as well, as this limit is common on early Unix and Linux systems. Just pipe the output through ‘split’ to create chunks of whatever size you want. Below, there's simple examples for both directions.

Piping TarFigure 1, just below, is an example of the ‘cksum’ file produced.

Checksum 1 Grey

Below, Figure 2 is an example of a ‘cksum’ created of the files as they’re stored on the NAS. 

Checksum 2 GreyAs both the hashes and #bytes shown in each file are the same as on the MPE/iX server — we know the backups are transferred correctly.  The same technique can be used ‘in reverse’ to verify that when FTP’d back to the FTP server, they’re still intact.

When un-taring this backup, ‘cat’ the pieces together and pipe it through tar.   At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  Yes, there is a known issue with the MPE/iX Posix shell’s built-in cat command. But I’ve so far been unable to successfully use the external cat command to successfully cat either.  Here’s how this should work for a 2-chunk tar backup:

sh>/bin/cat ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa ./CS1STD1.ustar.ab | tar -xfv - *

Unfortunately, for me at least, it always throws an error indicating bad format for the tar files.There is a work-around, however.  Note that while ‘cat’ing the tar ‘chunks’ didn’t work using the internal or external cat command, untar with multi-file option does work.  Even though it gives a minor error messages, files were returned to proper store-to-disk format, and the recovered store-to-disk backup is intact and has been used to recover the desired files. To do this, use tar like this: 

sh>tar -xfv ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa *  

Also note that when using tar in this way, it will ask for the name of the 2nd-nth component tar files, as it finishes reading each prior piece.  You must give the filename and press return to continue for each.  I believe that it should be possible to script this so that it’s fed the filenames, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.  

Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies, a 3000 consultancy serving MPE/iX sites in contract and ongoing engagements.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2016

Backing Up Your 3000 Backup Files

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies 

Once store-to-disk backups on the 3000 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.

Regardless of the most pressing reason, it really is important to keep at least some of your backups offsite, so as to facilitate rebuilding / recovering from scratch, either at your own facility, or at a backup/recovery site.

The problem comes in that the MPE/iX file system is far more structured than Unix, Windows, or any other non-MPE/iX file system-based storage mechanisms. While transferring a file off MPE/iX is easy via FTP, sftp/scp, or rsync, retrieving it is problematic, at least if you wish the retrieved files and the original store-to-disk files to be identical (i.e., with the same file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type, and so forth).

What would be optimal is automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.

For FTP transfers between late-model MPE/iX systems this retrieval is automatic, because the FTP client and server recognize themselves as MPE/iX systems.  For retrieving files from other systems, HP has made that somewhat easier by making its FTP client able to specify ‘;REC= , CODE= , and ;DISC=’ on a ‘GET’:

Figure 1If you do not specify the ‘buildparms’ for a file being retrieved, it will default to the file-type implied by the FTP transfer mode: ASCII (the default), binary, or byte-stream (often called ‘tenex’ on Unix systems).  The respective defaults used are shown below:

Figure 2 GreyWhat follows is an example of automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system.  And this is yet again where Posix comes to the rescue, via the venerable ‘tar’ (Tape ARchiver), or ‘pax’ archiving utilities.

‘pax’ is a newer backup tool, designed to be able to read/write with tar format archives, newer ‘ustar’ format (that includes Extended Attributes of files). At the same time it has a more ‘normal/consistent’ command syntax (as Unix/Posix stuff goes, anyway), plus a number of other improvements. Think of it as tar’s younger (and supposedly more handsome) brother.

A little known feature of most ‘late-model’ tar and all pax commands is the ability for it to recognize and utilize Extended Attributes.  These will vary with the target implementation platform, but for the tar and pax commands included with releases after v5.5 of MPE/iX this capability is not only present — but contrary to the man command’s output and HP’s Posix Command Line manual, it’s the default! You use the -A switch to turn it off, returning tar to a bytestream-only tool.

While not externally documented, via a little experimentation I’ve determined that the following series of Extended Attributes value-pairs are in the MPE/iX Posix implementation of a tar or pax ‘file header’ for each non-Posix file archived:

MPE.RECORDSIZE= value in bytes
MPE.BLOCKFACTOR= integer value
MPE.RECORDFORMAT= integer value (0=unstructured?)
MPE.CCTL= integer value (0=nocctl)
MPE.ASCII= integer value (0=binary, 1=ascii)
MPE.FILECODE= integer value, absent for ‘0’
MPE.FILELIMIT= value in bytes
MPE.NUMEXTENTS= integer value, may be absent
MPE.NUMUSERLABELS= integer value (0=no user labels), and
MPE.USERLABELS=[binary content of user labels]

Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies, a 3000 consultancy serving MPE/iX sites in contract and ongoing engagements.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:38 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2016

Calculating Classic Value of 3000s

Hp3000_Family1The market price for HP 3000s on the used market can hover between $1,500 and $3,000, using quotes from Cypress Technology. Jesse Dougherty just posted an offer for an A-Class single-CPU system at the low end of that range. Licensing such a 3000's MPE is usually a second step. If it's a replacement 3000, there's a chance no upgrade fee would be involved.

But for the company that's seeking a fresh 3000, determining the market value with license gets to be trickier. HP 3000 gear is available from Pivital Solutions and other resellers, systems that ship with license documentation.

What's a license worth in 2016? We found a classic price point for MPE/iX in the archives of 3000 news from the winter of 2007. It was a year when HP support was still available in full-on versions, so HP was selling something it called the Right to Use License. This was the means to upgrade a 3000, and the extra power could cost as much as $89,000, less the current value of your MPE system. Business manager Jennie Hou explained.

There seemed to be confusion in the marketplace on how customers could ensure they had valid e3000 systems. We’re putting a product back on the price list to enable this for the 3000.  We’re really doing this to accommodate customers who need to upgrade their systems.

Client Systems was called out as the resource for the software upgrade, but that outlet may not be online in the market anymore. Midrange five-figure HP pricing for a server whose manufacture had halted more than three years earlier marked the final time the vendor put MPE/iX on its corporate price list. It's something to measure against when calculating licensed HP hardware value against the cost of virtualized HP 3000 gear.

About a year ago, Stromasys updated us with a base-level price for its Charon HPA line. $9,000 would get you the software needed to boot up MPE/iX in an A-Class power range. The HP iron on the used market may sound less costly, but it depends on the price of the license.

HP put out stout language to encourage buying license upgrades. "Using MPE/iX on original, upgraded, or modified hardware systems without the appropriate right-to-use license and/or software license upgrade from HP is prohibited.” The language wasn't in the original MPE/iX license that most customers hold now. HP explained that it was implied.

In the late stages of the previous decade, licensed 3000s carried some extra value because they qualified for HP support. But paying five figures for any of HP's 3000s today might be a stretch, because that solution won't ever get faster.

That's probably not the case for virtualized 3000s. It would require a replacement of the Intel PC hardware, but a Charon install could get faster by boosting CPU speed and cores. Threading matters less, because lots of 3000 software doesn't use multithreading.

When a manager looks back at that $89,000 from nine years ago, and then sees a server selling for less than five percent of that, the mid-point with a future built-in would be a virtualized 3000. More costly than the license-to-come HP iron. Less expensive than relicensing MPE/iX -- if there were anyone around to do that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:45 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2016

TBT: Client Systems wanted, or missing?

In a routine check of what's available to help 3000 managers, over the holiday break I poked into a few Web locations to see where HP's Jazz papers and software were still hosted. Links from 3k Associates to those papers came up empty when they directed to the Client Systems website in late December. From all reasonable research, it appears the company itself may have gone into the everlasting shadows.

Many 3000 customers never did business directly with Client Systems, but the company had a hand in plenty of official 3000 installations. The vendor rose in community profiles in the late 1990s when HP appointed the firm its lone North American HP 3000 distributor — meaning they stocked and configured systems destined for companies around the continent. Thousands of servers passed through the Denver offices, each assigned the unique HPSUSAN numbers as well as the official HP CPUNAME identifiers that made a 3000 a licensed box.

FBI BadgeThat official license became a marketing wedge for awhile. We'd call it an edge, but the company's claim that re-sold 3000s from anywhere else could be seized by the FBI was designed to drive used systems away from buyers. There was never anything official about the FBI claims passed along by the company then. But in the era of the late '90s, and up to the point where HP pulled its futures plug, buying a 3000 included a moment like the ones from WW II movies: "Let me see your papers," an HP support official might say.

This was the strike-back that Hewlett-Packard used to respond with after widespread license fraud ran through the marketplace. By 1999 lawsuits claimed that a handful of companies had forged system IDs on PA-RISC hardware. A low-end L-Class box could be tricked up as a high-end 3000, for example. To push back, after the HP lawsuits were settled or had rulings dispensed, Client Systems started Phoenix/3000, something like an automaker's official resale lot.

Client Systems did lots of things for the marketplace much more laudable, operating a good technical services team that was upper-caliber in its depth of hardware knowledge. At its peak, the company provided 3kworld.com, an all-3000 portal in the days when portals were supposed to be important on the Web. The company was a partner with the NewsWire for several years, as we licensed our stories for use on the free 3k World website. 3kworld.com folded up, but the current clientsystems.com site still has Jazz tech information available, at least as of today.

Over the last two weeks we've received email bounces, even while the website is online. The whois information points to one physical address of a personal injury attorney's practice in Seattle. Our phone calls have gone unreturned, and we're not the only ones. Pivital Solutions, one of the last standing official HP resellers in that time when such things existed, still serves 3000 customers with hardware and support. Pivital's president Steve Suraci also has searched to find a light on.

"I tried back in the September timeframe to get in touch with anyone there that would answer the phone," Suraci said. "I left messages and re-tried for weeks and finally gave up on them." He wondered who might be picking up the pieces of whatever the company was doing at the end."

It can be tricky to confirm a death notice for a company. Unless the principals deliver the news, a demise can be creeping. Suraci said he was reaching out to buy something that only Client Systems ought to be able to sell: a license upgrade, even in 2015.

I had a customer that was looking for some hardware that I was have trouble sourcing.  I was also looking into the possibility of purchasing an upgrade license for a customer for TurboStore to the version that included the ONLINE option. When you don't get a call back on something that should be easy money... it probably means a bigger problem!

The website's reappeared recently, so perhaps this is a Mark Twain moment (reports of my death have been exaggerated) for Client Systems. It's the phone calls that look like they confirm the fading lights. One other pertinent address in the whois file lands at a single-family house in Colorado. To be honest, so does the address for the NewsWire, but we've always been a home-based business and never needed warehouse and office space. Stories and papers don't take up that much space.

Things were so much different back in the time of FBI threats. One meeting at that Denver HQ included some arch banter between us about relative size of companies. The NewsWire was, it appeared to one staffer, "just a lifestyle business." Guilty: The NewsWire has been a part of our lifestyle a long time. Hard to think of it any other way when the office is on the other end of your single-family home. We all laughed, some more than others. This week it's looking like lifespan, instead of lifestyle, is what could be measured. Nobody's dancing on a grave yet. We're not a community that embraces loss.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:55 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2016

Emulation's bones bared, speeds boosted

Bare MetalThe year 2015 marked significant changes for the virtualization stable at Stromasys. The company now sells five products in all, providing emulation of processors from HP, Sun, and three off the Digital lineup: PDP-11, VAX and Alpha. Those last two Digital models represent the most mature virtualization software from the company. Homesteaders might consider what's being done with those models as a target for futures of the HPA product.

Stromays is making no predictions about whether the Barebones feature in its VAX version of Charon will emerge in Charon HPA. But the newest release for the oldest product line will strip down what's required.

CHARON-VAX Barebone brings the same security and peace of mind as traditional Charon solutions --  but with a Linux microkernel embedded in the Charon software. Barebone uses only the essential components of the Linux OS, increasing your datacenter's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.

It seems that reducing the need to manage Linux would be a good selling point for Charon in any of its platform versions. "CHARON-VAX allows customers to easily create and deploy new virtual VAXs," product manager Alexandre Cruz reports. "It uses a stripped down Linux version (with GUI) that saves the hassle of host OS installation, configuration and licensing."

This streamlining is not a part of the Charon HPA model yet, but the newest 3000-ready release will make the Intel-based emulation of the PA-RISC faster.

In 2015, Cruz told us that CHARON-HPA version 1.6.1 features:
  • A 15 percent CPU performance increase
  • A new Network Configuration Utility
  • Updated Sentinel drivers
  • Support for Primary / Secondary (Backup) licenses
  • Increased limit in the number of controllers from 6 to 8 in CHARON-HPA/4040

2015 also marked the debut of a Charon version for companies using SPARC-based servers. SPARC emulation was a target of the Charon product line since the earliest days of public announcements about the HPA software.

CHARON-SSP allows Sun Solaris applications that ran on SPARC systems to remain working with no change. As a member of the Oracle Partner Network, Stromasys makes it easier for Sun customers to move to CHARON-SSP on an Oracle x86 server. CHARON-SSP offers different versions, designed for 32-bit and 64-bit machines, from 1-24 CPUs. CHARON-SSP is available for Linux and VMware.

Stromasys calls its product line "classic system virtualization." Classic sounds better than legacy, and certainly better than proprietary. There's something about lines that get cleaner, as their bones get bared, that leads to the label of classic.

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

January 05, 2016

Migrating 3000 Data from Spoolfiles to Excel

I need assistance with putting an output spool file from MPE/iX 7.5 into Excel or other readable format. The file is generated by Query, then processed by Editor, then sent to the printer. Instead of printing it, I want to put it into a readable format.

MigratingI do not have QEdit or any smart tools on MPE, so my approach thus far has been to move the file to a PC before doing anything.  However, that carries with it the initialization sequence for the printer to which the job is spooled. The job is set up to print on a PCL 5 laser, which means it has hundreds of lines of control before the data starts.

Tom Moore replies

I would put commas in between my columns (in the query, or using Editor). I FCOPY from the file to a new file with NOCCTL to get rid of carriage control byte. You could also remove the PCL 5 lines by subset in the FCOPY command. Depending on the data, I would use EDIT3000 to change all " ," to "," and all ", ","," to compress the file, removing the spaces before and after the commas inserted above, then save the file for download to the PC.

I would also consider using ODBC to directly extract from the IMAGE database, rather than Query and all the subsequent steps. The HP free ODBC driver would do the job very well.

Birket Foster of MB Foster notes

Not only did we make that free ODBCLink/SE as HP's lab resource from 1998 to 2006, but we have continued to develop the ability to work with data in all kinds of file formats. We do supply 32- and 64-bit versions for ODBC to the HP 3000.

UDALink-MPE was designed for the HP 3000. We provide data in several different formats including XLS for Excel, XML, CSV etc. We can have a discussion about what you are trying to do with data; perhaps UDACentral is the right product for your challenge and we can organize a demonstration for you.

Charles Finley adds

There seem to be at least three steps to what you are trying to do.

  • Remove the headers, footers and perhaps page numbers from the report.
  • Remove the ff or CNTL characters from the text file.
  • Import a space-delimited file to Excel.

There are any number of different scripting tools that can do this including various Unix tools. Here's a reference to an Excel solution that might get you started. In fact, if it were my problem to solve, I would likely do it all with Excel scripting.

John Hohn replies

  1. Output to a delimited file (tabs, pipes, etc).
  2. Download to your laptop or PC or wherever Excel is running
  3. Start macro recording in Excel
  4. Import/format the delimited file, save as .xls
  5. Turn recording off, save macro

Set the Excel file to auto-execute the macro every time the Excel file it's opened, i.e., re-input/format the delimited file. Then you can, for example, schedule delivery of a new version of this delimited file whenever you'd like, to your server. When people open it they would automatically get the formatted version of the new data.

Connie Sellitto of Hillary Software suggests

Hillary Software has a product, byREQUEST, which does just this.

It has the ability to suppress headings on pages after the first, and define the type of data in the columns (text, numeric, dates in various formats). It can remove blank pages and leading and trailing blank lines. It can even call an Excel macro to make the headings a different font, background color, etc — anything you'd want to do with a macro. In addition to Excel, byREQUEST can create a PDF file, Word, csv or Text.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 31, 2015

Throwing Back, and Looking Forward

We'll be taking tomorrow off to celebrate the new year. But first, some HP news.

Mighty Mouse adHewlett-Packard employees are still having meetings around the 3000. They are employees retired from HP, mostly, and the meetings are not at the HPE campus. Before you get too excited about a wish for a new business prospect for the 3000's new year, I should say these are reunions of a sort. A holiday party happened for CSY happened just before Christmas.

The revelers from that party included some people still working for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Corp. But it was a way to look back, and in one of our Throwback Thursday moments it give us a chance to savor people who made the 3000 what it once was. The wishes are for what might still be.

The meeting was wrapped around a brunch held on the Monday before Christmas and held in Cupertino. Arriving at 9AM in Cupertino to enjoy the company of people with MPE savvy must have felt like a throwback. The notice showed up on Facebook, sent among 43 people with a lot of names you'd recognize from community leadership and tech savvy. "Just seeing all your names makes me happy," one CSY veteran said.

HP legacy adLike the HP3000 Reunion of 2011, people couldn't attend who wanted to do so. One said he was going to reschedule a meeting of his with today's HP so he could rejoin his comrades. Plenty of throwbacks in CSY work for other companies by now. Somebody else in the 3000 community wishes that current HP employees could work in the service of MPE. It won't be among HPE's New Year's Resolutions, but the sentiment illustrates where the 3000 could travel next year.

"Hopefully 2016 will bring renewed rational decision-making by the new folks running the new HP," says 3000 customer Tim O'Neill, "and they will once again concentrate on making excellent hardware matched with software that gives customers reason to buy HP. Maybe they'll bring renewed emphasis on MPE/iX homesteading on Stromasys, instead of a purposeful blind rush towards alternatives."

It's possible that HP, now morphing into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, might have changed enough to be a company the 3000 community would want to associate with it. While looking over the replies to the holiday CSY party, I saw names of good people. Top HP executives were not among these retirees, although Winston Prather chipped in good wishes.

Good things can happen in 2016, but even Tim O'Neill knows that HP hardware running MPE will not see any reunion with the customers who held it dear. Not unless it's a high-powered ProLiant running the Charon emulator.

"HP could announce HP-UX 12.00 running on HP hardware, even if the HP hardware has Intel CPU in it," he suggests. Right now, HP-UX is destined to an 11.4 release for the rest of its lifespan. The vendor isn't moving to Intel hardware with HP-UX, just NonStop. VMS is heading for independent ownership.

O'Neill adds that "Some people I know are buying HP components like blades or storage, but not whole systems. For example, they buy HP blades then run VMWare on them. Curious customers could ask "Why buy HP if you are not running HP software?"

The reason for buying HP hardware speak to the changes in IT management. To celebrate the future with HP, you probably won't be concerned with its invented-here operating environments. Linux, Windows, all the successors to MPE from the commodity world are driving replacements. If the sting has left your cheek from a slap delivered more than a decade ago, then a 2016 with HPE products in it will not be a pipe dream. If Winston's name didn't make you shudder, you've moved onward.

The calendar always moves onward, after all, but the 3000 community tends to remain — even as it does its own morphing into new work. The Christmas meeting "shows why the old HP was so special," one 3000 vet said in a Facebook reply. "Long after CSY and the HP3000 are gone, co-workers are still getting together. What a testament to Dave and Bill's HP."

Happy New Year to you all. We will look forward to new developments, technical or otherwise, in 2016.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2015

3000's '15 was littered with crumbs of news

It's the penultimate day of 2015, a date when summary and roundups prevail in the world of news. The year marked some milestones for the NewsWire, some losses of the community's oldest treasures, and one major breakup of an old flame. Here's a breadcrumb trail of stories of extra note, retold in the final stanza of the 3000's 43d full year serving businesses.

ChecksChecks on MPE's subsystems don't happen, do they? — We learned that HP's subsystem software doesn't really get checked by MPE to see if it's on a valid HP 3000 license. "None of HP's MPE/iX software subsystems that I've ever administered had any sort of HPSUSAN checks built into them," reported Brian Edminster, our community's open source software resource. Licensing MPE is a formality.

Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s — A new SAN-based service uses storage in the cloud to help back up HP 3000s. The  HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data.

NewsWire Goes Green — After 20 years of putting ink on paper and the paper into the mails, we retired the print issues of the NewsWire and went all-digital. We also marked the 10th anniversary of service from this blog and waved a proud flag of history to celebrate our founding Fall of two decades ago. We miss the print, but you won't miss the news. Bless the Web.

SuitPatches Are Custom Products in 2015 — HP licensed the MPE source code five years ago, and just a handful of elite support companies are using it to create customized patches and workarounds. If your support provider doesn't have a source license, it may be time to spruce up your provider chain. 

Still Emulating, After All of These Years — Several sites where the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator is working reported the solution is as stable and steady as ever, while others continued to emerge in the community. Even a 3000 using antique DTCs could be bought over to the light side of Intel-based virtualization.

N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000 — The bottom-end price on the top of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware line approached the same number as the server. A $3,000 N-Class 3000, and later a $2,000 model, both appeared on the used marketplace. A fully-transferred license for a server could lift the prices, of course, for a persnickety auditor.

Big companies still use the HP 3000 — A reader asked for proof that large companies were still relying on the 3000, and we discovered more than you'd expect 12 years after HP stopped making the server. Publicly held companies, too.

Work launches on TurboIMAGE Wiki page — Terry O'Brien of DISC started up a new project to document TurboIMAGE on Wikipedia, an effort that drew summertime attention.

3000 world loses points of technical light — The passing of Jack Connor and Jeff Kell left our hearts heavy, but our eyes full of the light of the technical gifts those pioneers and veterans gave us.

MANMAN vendor wants to run datacenters — Infor is still managing MANMAN support for 3000 sites. The vendor is encouraging all of its customers to turn over their datacenter operations to them.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise trots out security in opener — The old flame that spurned the 3000's future ran into another kind of split-up when HP cut itself in two at the end of October. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise got custody of business servers and the support websites split up as HPE became the new name for that old flame.

Returning to Software, After Services — The most primal of the HP Platinum Migration partners, MB Foster, started to turn its focus onto data migration software for sale. The future of UDACentral lies in becoming a product that integrators and consultancies can buy, and customers can rent by the month. The CEO says the year to come will mark a rise in the percentage of software revenues for his company, where migration service has been leading sales for years.

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

December 28, 2015

Hello, who's still out there? Permanent 404s

Doh-4042015 has seen comings in the 3000 world, but more goings. Some MPE veterans have signed off of the 3000 mailing list, headed to retirement or the new work on commodity platforms like Linux or Windows. There was a singular departure, too, as Jeff Kell passed away after leaving a legacy of the mailing list-newsgroup of HP3000-L.

Kell was so notable that the iconic tech website Slashdot devoted a front page article to him late last month. Tracy Johnson reported that "I cobbled together a few links from the 3000 mailing lists and managed to get a Slashdot headline accepted for Jeff. The message below is Slashdot's report."

Creator of Relay On BITNET, Predecessor of IRC, Dies

Congratulations, your Slashdot submission was featured on the front page! Every day we review hundreds of submissions, but we can only post a few to the front page.

There have also been also the comings, goings and migrations of Web resources. Stromasys posted a case study about one of its new 3000 emulator customers. There have been other outposts that have gone quiet, or at reported missing, during this year. One of the temporary absences was one portal to the NewsWire. Another community resource is unavailable this week. Client Systems's website is off the radar, notable because it's the resting place for the HP Jazz resources including MPE utilities and tech reports.

In the meantime, those Jazz resources remain available on the Web at the HP Migration server of Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware. Heading to hpmigrations.com/ HPe3000_resources/HP_jazz/ gets you third party utilities, software, as well as a link to Papers and Training. Speedware licensed everything that was stored on Jazz when HP closed off its server at the end of 2008.

We're still on the lookout for the whereabouts of Client Systems, a company that once licensed the stories of the NewsWire. Those were the days when the dot-com boom hadn't gone bust yet. Client Systems was the exclusive North American HP 3000 distributor, during the era when Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise business needed somebody to prep and ship servers loaded with MPE and subsystem software.

While the clientsystems.com domain is pointing at a Network Solutions "website not available" parking page this week, it may not be a permanent goodbye. We know about these misdirections. Back in October, 3000newswire.com landed you at a parking page operated by rascally Russians. The front door to the NewsWire these days is our blog page. However, access to the stories of 1996-2005, presented as printed issues and online updates, became limited to our search engine. 

Our Latest News list of links to our blog articles fell out of service during that domain name theft. 3k Associates caught the cold that caused the NewsWire's sniffles, as 3k.com got hijacked for a little while. Those Latest News posts get created at 3k.com. 3k's domain theft meant our main domain went missing awhile.

It didn't look good. It's common to see such a domain theft go un-recovered, so we were happy to see 3k.com get back into its rightful hands. 3000newswire.com never got snatched, but we found a couple of community members who wondered if we were still around. When I mentioned to Vladimir Volokh our front door was being barred, it looked like everything we had was hijacked. His wife Anne, helping me with a story about masters who were improving MPE manufacturing software, sent her condolences.

Vladimir told me about the hijacking of your website--incredible! I'm wondering what developments will follow regarding the 3000 Newswire, if any. What a story!

Anne wasn't the only one who figured we'd gone offline. Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill worried for our health, too. These are too-common comings and goings on the Web, but you can't be certain what they genuinely mean until there's an obituary, or an email. (We'd say a phone call, but that's so 1995.) In the weeks when Chris Bartram of 3k did his mighty work to wrest his domain back from the Russians, it looked like the NewsWire was out of business. Or at least to anybody who doesn't use our 3000newswire.com/blog address.

3k is making a Web move now, a byproduct of seeing value rise in Bartram's two-character domain name. He's been one of our most precious resources here at the NewsWire since before our beginning. In the years before we started our news service, 3k Associates used our business communications expertise for data sheets, advertising, even Interex conference giveaways.

You'll still be able to say hello at 3kassociates.com, Bartram told me today.

The folks wanting to buy 3k.com want it for something un-HP3000 related (I don't know what). But the fact that it's a 2-letter domain name (which they haven't allowed for many years) makes it valuable. DNS appraisal services appraise it as high as six figures.

I went looking for 3k.com resources while I researched Command Interface scripts, since scripting has become a topic of interest to 3000 members. Either they've got 3000 scripts like JCL jobstreams they need to replace, or there's a desire to automate things so less management is required. The 3000 always needed less hand-holding than other servers. But people are the expensive resource today, so as they retire and interim help takes their place, automation keeps things running. In a new era where a veteran's :BYE doesn't mean goodbye to MPE, scripting can minimize maintenance.

There's been more permanent goodbyes to the Hewlett-Packard stewardship of 3000 information. Oh, you can get hits for HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's hpe.com site. But they're a collection of the StoreEasy 3000 storage gateway, or network switches. The HP 3000-24G-PoE+ Wireless Switch comes closest to matching a 3000 search. 

The byproduct of that HP goodbye is that some links from the up-and-running web resources like 3kassociates and hpmigration.com point at missing Hewlett-Packard pages. So it continues to go, these resources which help 3000 homesteading or assist in migrations. I give thanks for our sponsors, who keep us from going all 404 on you. The lesson to carry out of here is that appearances on the web can be deceiving -- or as we noted earlier this month, reports of a death can be exaggerated. Instead of wondering, you can call, all '95-style.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2015

Studying the Scripts for HP 3000s

A recent question on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup asked for help on scripting. The question aimed at the automation prospects through terminal emulation programs. Does Minisoft/92 script, a manager asked. Of course, and Tracy Johnson replied to give details as well as an example.

Minisoft scripts are plain text files with a file extension of .s92 and can be assigned to function keys f1 through f12. We use the keyboard mapping config menu to map it to Type "Script".  Once you choose "Script" a blank box appears below where you put the magic words DO SCRIPT followed by a path including the file name.

Joe FridayLast week, the use of scripts also surfaced while talking to Birket Foster about data migrations. A client of Fosters runs five scripts to clean up phone numbers during a transfer of data. Being able to reach for the scripts improved the quality of data, and the work was automatic. the power of scripting reminded me of a fine column written for us by Ken Robertson. Its subject was an introduction for Unix administrators to the use of shell scripts. But the writing was the kind of operational lore that can make a 3000 look more powerful to an admin new to the 3000.  Robertson wrote about it for the Newswire.

The marvels of scripting lie deep in the roots of MPE. When HP expanded the OS to MPE/XL in the 1990s, it added the Posix shell, which extended the 3000's scripting potential. The MPE/iX command interpreter has a generous command set, pushing the shell into the realm of a true programming tool. Its ability to evaluate expressions and to perform IO on files allows the end-user to perform simple data-processing functions. The Command Interpreter can be used to solve complex problems. Its code, however, is interpreted, which may cause a CI solution to execute too slowly for practical purposes.

For the average task, the MPE scripting language is easier to read and understand than most Unix scripts. For example, command line parameters in MPE have names, just like in regular programming languages. Of course, there are several script languages on Unix and only one on MPE. On Unix you can write shell scripts for any of the many shells provided (C shell, Bourne shell, ksh, bash, etc). Although there is also a Posix shell on MPE, most scripts are written for the CI. 

A command file can be as simple as a single command, such as a Showjob command with the option to only show interactive sessions (and ignore batch jobs):

:qedit
/add
1      showjob job=@s
2      //
/keep ss
/e
:

You have created a command file called SS — when you type SS you will execute showjob job=@s

On MPE, the user needs read (r) or execute access (x) to SS. On Unix you normally must have x access, not just r access, so you do a chmod +x on the script. This is not necessary in MPE, although, if don’t want users to be see the script, you may remove read access and enable execute access.

Structure of a Command File (aka CI script)

A script is an ASCII file with maximum 511 byte records. Unlike Unix, the records may contain an ASCII sequence number in the last 8 columns of each line. The command file consists of 3 optional parts:

1. Parameter line with a maximum of 255 arguments:
parm sessionnumber
parm filename, length=”80”

2. Option lines:
option nohelp,nobreak
option list

3. The body (i.e., the actual commands)”
showjob job=!sessionnumber
build !filename;rec=-!length,,ascii
In MPE scripts, there is no inline data, unlike Unix ‘hereis’ files.

Parameters

Notice in the example above that parameters are used with an exclamation (!), as opposed to the $ in Unix. The same is true for variables. Parameters are separated by a space, comma or semicolon. All parameter values are un-typed, regardless of quoting.

In a typical Unix script, the parameters are referenced by position only ($1, $2, $3, …). In an MPE script, the parameters have names, as in the function of a regular programming language, and can also have default values. In Unix you use $@ for all of the parameters as a single string; in MPE you use an ANYPARM parameter to reference the remainder of the command line (it must be the last parameter).

Here is a script to translate “subsys” and “err” numbers from MPE intrinsics into error messages. The subsys and error numbers are passed in as parameters:

parm p_subsys=108,p_error=63
setvar subsys hex(!p_subsys)
setvar error hex(!p_error)
comment the hex conversion allows for negative numbers
comment the #32765 is magic according to Stan!
setvar cmd “wl errmsg(#32765,!subsys);wl errmsg(!error,!subsys);exit”
debug !cmd

As you can see above, the Setvar command assigns a value to parameter or to a new variable. But there are also system pre-defined variables. To see them all do Showvar @;hp. To get information on variables, do help variable and to get help on a specific variable, say hpcmdtrace, do help hpcmdtrace (set TRUE for some debugging help).
In most MPE commands, you must use an explicit exclam ! to identify a variable: build !filename

However, some MPE commands expect variables, and thus do not require the explicit !. For example, Setvar, If, ElseIf, Calc, While, and for all function arguments, and inside ![expressions].

Warning: variables are “session global” in MPE. This means that if a child process, or scripts, changes a variable, it remains changed when that child process terminates. In Unix you are used to the idea that the child can do whatever it likes with its copy of the variables and not worry about any external consequences.

Of course having global variables also means that it is much easier to pass back results from a script! And this is quite common in MPE scripts.

Options

Options allow you to list the commands as they are execute (option list), disable the Break key (option nobreak), enable recursion (option recursion), and disable help about the script (option nohelp).

The script body below shows active process information. This example shows many of the commands commonly used in scripts: If, While, Pause, Setvar, Input and Run. Other commands you will see are Echo, Deletevar, Showvar, Errclear.

WHILE HPCONNSECS > 0
    IF FINFO("SQMSG",0)
       PURGE SQMSG,TEMP
    ENDIF
    BUILD SQMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG
    FILE SQMSG=SQMSG,OLDTEMP
    SHOWQ;ACTIVE >*SQMSG
    SETVAR PINLIST ""
    WHILE FINFO("SQMSG",19) <> 0
         INPUT SQLINE < SQMSG
         IF POS("#",SQLINE) <> 0 THEN
           SETVAR PIN RTRIM(STR(SQLINE,47,5))
           SETVAR PINLIST "!PINLIST" + "," + "!PIN"
         ENDIF
    ENDWHILE
    IF FINFO("SPMSG",0)
       PURGE SPMSG,TEMP
    ENDIF
    BUILD SPMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG
    FILE SPMSG=SPMSG,OLDTEMP
    SETVAR PROC "SHOWPROC PIN="+"!PINLIST"+";SYSTEM >*SPMSG"
    !PROC
    WHILE FINFO("SPMSG",19) <> 0
         INPUT SPLINE < SPMSG
         IF POS(":",SPLINE) <> 0 THEN
           ECHO !SPLINE
         ENDIF
    ENDWHILE
    PAUSE 30
ENDWHILE


Handling Errors

In most Unix scripts, if a step fails, you check for an error with an If-conditional and then take some action, one of which is ending the script. Without an If, the script continues on, ignoring the error.

In MPE, the default action when a step fails is to abort the script and pass back an error. To override this default, you insert a Continue command before the step that may fail. You then add If logic after the step to print an error message and perhaps Return (back 1 level) or Escape (all the way back to the CI).

     continue
      build newdata
      if cierror<>100 then
         print "unable to build newdata file"
         print !hpcierrmsg
         return
      else
         comment - duplicate file, okay
      endif

You can set HPAUTOCONT to TRUE to continue automatically in case of errors, but this can be dangerous. The default behavior at least lets you know if an unexpected problem occurs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:42 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2015

TBT: When 2006 Meant 2008 to 3000 Owners

Mark Twain report of deathTen years ago this week, our community was anticipating overtime news for retaining their 3000s. The year 2005's late December marked the HP announcement that the long-running "end of life" date for the server was being delayed an additional two years. After four years of telling customer that the promised end-of-2006 closing of Hewlett-Packard support was indelible, HP erased its plans and added 24 months of HP support availability.

The timing of the news included a message all its own about the 3000's expected life. When a full day-plus elapsed with nary a customer comment, we reported

As for the relative silence from the customer community, this might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. Much of the world is already making plans or departing for R&R. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, well, 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change the options for 2007.

We'd heard all of that year that "2006 means 2006." But by the week before Christmas, 2006 meant 2008. The impact was mixed among the community. The companies who had invested heavily in migration looked up with some dismay at an extended deadline that meant those projects had an extra two years to complete. The homesteading customers who relied on HP's support to justify homesteading breathed a sigh of relief.

But it was the community's vendors who took the bullet for the rest of our world. Platinum Migration Partners were working to fill their project calendars. Some had hired on extra contractor and staff help to service an expected rush of migrations leading to the end of 2006. There was a serious glut of experts during 2006 because of the change. In the homesteading sector, independent support providers looked up to see HP moving the goalposts on the support game. Rather than having a 2006 when expiring HP service contracts could be replaced by indie agreements, the year to come was still more than two years removed from a mandate to switch to third-party support.

HP always like to call the finale of its support program the 3000's End of Life. Prediction of the server's death were like the notices of Mark Twain's demise. That icon of humorists said in 1897, to set the record straight in The New York Journal, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." HP could not be certain even the end of 2008 would be the new end of life for the 3000.

"HP intends to offer basic reactive support services for e3000 systems through at least December, 2008," the company's fact sheet reported. There was the intention part of the statement (no promise) and then the qualifier of "at least." Four full years had elapsed in the migration era by the end of 2005, and Hewlett-Packard had no firm idea of how long its customers would spend using a system whose lifespan was exaggerated — in the wrong direction. As it had for many years, the 3000 was getting short-changed.

The year 2005 was the first for the Newswire's blog, so this extension of HP's plans was good news in our office. Rather than starting the Independent-Only Era in just 12 months, it turned out we wouldn't begin that period for another five years. End of 2008 would become End of 2010, an extension not as notable because it was not the first revision of HP plans.

We had the foresight or luck to consider the HP fact sheet to be a piece of history that we'd better preserve ourselves. The company's been scoured and sliced so completely by now that any mention of HP 3000 takes deep detective work to find on the HP Enterprise website. There's printers over in HP Inc with that designation. In 2005, the 3000 extension notice was on an all-3000 page that included migration success stories along with updates about licensing MPE's source code.

When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties -- if partner interest exists at that time -- to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.

We spent the next several weeks dissecting the HP announcement for clues about its meaning. Since 2006 no longer meant 2006, extra study of the most current HP strategy was in order. I wrote at the time

As for the third-party MPE source licensing offer, it’s real, but it’s hard to say when it will be extended, or to who. Or what will be in the license. HP's said, "HP intends to license major portions [italics ours] of MPE/iX source code to qualified providers for the purpose of helping them support their customers." Right now HP doesn’t have to open up the source code to anybody until December, 2008, when the vendor is currently scheduled to end all its HP 3000 support. It could be later than that, according to HP. They say they keep listening to what customers want to keep buying (if you overlook the fact that the customers wanted to keep buying 3000s in 2001 -- just not enough customers to keep HP interested in building them.)

As for the support business, guarantees got an extension. Sort of.

HP will remain in the support business in 2007 and 2008, but it will be “basic reactive” support, unless you need mission-critical enterprise level support. Basic reactive gets you HP’s repairs, but nothing proactive. And the vendor’s “6 hours from call to completion” guarantee isn’t part of the basic reactive service, according to Murphy from HP Services  — ultimately the arbiter of how long HP will remain in the support business.

It was something to ponder during a lull in business for the community. This news was dropped on the Monday of Christmas Week. Not exactly the most effective and productive time to announce a new lease on life for a mission-critical server and its OS. But for the owner of a 3000 hoping to wring out as much time as possible on a stable platform, HP's change looked like a holiday gift.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2015

Faster firewalls and free jobstreams for MPE

FirewallWe are trying to set up HP 3000 to HP 3000 communication via NS and FTP. The traffic is going through a firewall.  We have it working, but the speed is too slow.  We are getting 2-3 Mbps throughput on HP transfers. PC to PC transfers through the firewall are 22 Mbps.  I checked that the LAN switch port on the 3000 is set to 100 - Full duplex.  

I am being asked what are the the HP 3000 packet sizes or MTU. Where can I find and set the packet size?

Donna Hofmeister replies:

HP says, in the NMMGR Reference manual:

The Network Segment Size field specifies the largest packet (including all data, protocol headers, and link level headers) that will be sent by the LAN device. The only reason for entering a value smaller than 1514 is to make better use of memory for those systems where it is known that upper layer services will always send shorter messages. Note that whenever packets larger than the network segment size are sent, they will be fragmented to the network segment size, thus incurring fragmentation overhead at the source and assembly overhead at the destination node.

Default value: 1514 bytes
Range: 300–1514

What the above is not saying is that for most systems, setting this to anything other than 1514 will result in abysmal network performance. It’s much like a 100 megabit system acting like it's configured for 10 megabit -- because the system is busy fragmenting packets to fit into whatever number you've got.

On MPE, the tcp headers are stored in those 14 'extra' bytes. Regarding your tcp timers, click on the Allegro link here and react accordingly.

There used to be a CSL program that managed 3000 jobstreams. Now that there is the JOBQ parameter for MPE/iX, our site hasn't used that program in years. Maestro was the jobstream solution you paid for. What was that CSL program?

Connie Sellitto replies:

We used STREAMER from a CSL tape: It was customized for our company’s passwords, and allowed you to schedule a job for a different day, any time. It also allowed variable parameters.

Stan Sieler adds:

I think most of these programs from the CSL were aimed at terminating jobs for various reasons.

Perhaps you meant MASTEROP, which is still available for free from our Allegro website. We didn’t write it, but its creator Carl Kemp kindly gave us permission to put it on our website. Additionally, there’s OCS Express, which we maintain.

Can I use a PC instead of a Console on A- or N-Class HP 3000s?

Gilles Schipper replies:

Sure you can, but ...

If you want to use the primary console port, you would need a serial port on your PC, along with an appropriate terminal emulator such as Reflection or Minisoft’s MS/92. Or, you could connect to hp3k via the built-in Secure Web Console port and TELNET. Only the very earliest versions of A/N-class models lacked a SWC port, perhaps only just the earliest A400 models.

Tracy Johnson adds:

We use a PC connected to the NIC on the GSP all the time. You may have noticed one of the RJ-45 ports is labelled "10-Base-T Console LAN".  That's it. Of course you'll have to configure it at the Control-B menu.

For a LAN, the darn thing is slow at scrolling, too. It must be tied to the baud rate of the serial port.

We no longer use the serial port. Funny thing is they both echo the console at the same time. But only one at a time takes keyboard input. (You would have dueling operators at two keyboard vying for control.)

And if you want a LAN on your PC you'll need another NIC on it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2015

Virtual resources, real costs: VMware, Cloud

Cloud computing comparisonWhile doing stories on the Tomorrow of IT, virtualization of resources and platforms comes up a lot. In fact, the most popular choices for virtualization represent the today of IT for anyone budgeted for change. But for the company still tied to the traditional datacenter model, hosting an app on a cloud server or even virtualizing a processor might look like more distant futures. Their costs are very real, though, figures that represent a long-term investment that 3000 managers might find new.

Stromasys stories about the Charon HPA emulator for 3000 CPUs often feature VMware. The company's product manager Dave Clements says that VMware isn't essential to eliminating a physical 3000, replacing HP iron with a virtualized MPE server. A lot of the Charon customer base ends up using VMware, though.

Cloud has its costs to calculate, too. "A pretty good sized virtualized server in the cloud costs about $1,000 a month," Clements said. "We don't discourage it, but we don't sell it, either. We can do [cloud virtualization] but truth be known, it's not high on our list."

Budgets vary a great deal, and so $12,000 might look like a cost for a physical server where you only pay for it once every five years. A price for any virtualized software solution or a service could look out of reach for a smaller customer — plenty of those in the 3000 world — or a bargain for the big players (there are large corporations still in the 3000 user base today, too.). "Crazy expensive" is a phrase that's been tied to VMware. The company has a cost of ownership calculator that's educational, but even a five-server license is $16,000. Those dollars buy an IT manager the flexibility to host any array of platforms, though.

There is a small set of Charon users adopting VMware, according to Clements. "VMware is not a requirement for Charon," he said. "Most of our customers are on physical platforms. If VMware is available it can be used, unless there is a customer requirement for direct access to a physical device, like a tape drive."  

VMware has a cloud product line, too. Clouds come up in many stories in 2015. While interviewing Birket Foster for a story about Application Portfolio Management, he made this case for walking away from physical hardware costs.

If we were to own a fleet of cars or trucks, there'd be a fleet manager sitting at the table. They'd be able to tell me the current mileage on each of their cars, when the next oil change was due, and what it's costing them to maintain each car. Ask somebody the same kind of questions, about a server or anything in their IT fleet, and they have no idea. That's one of the reasons why as soon as they virtualize, they typically get to reduce the cost of their IT infrastructure by 30 percent, maybe as high as 60 percent — just by virtualizing.

Virtualization can be physical, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, or systems installed at Rackspace. Or it can be logical, like VMware as a platform for hosts, or Charon ready for MPE. Blending all three of these is the future of HP 3000 installations. The more virtualization you employ, of course, the more complex the solution becomes. Last week, HP customers and executives testified to keeping tech solutions simple.

Simple plus low-cost always had a price to offset though: paying people smart enough to make it reliable. "The hardware used to be expensive, and the people were cheap," Foster said. "Now, it's just the opposite."

What's offset these people costs are the standardizations for applications. Custom programming was a common choice while the 3000 was on the rise. Now applications can be considered off the shelf. Replacing a custom application with these off-shelf apps is a non-simple project. Most companies need help to do this. They engage virtual people — short-term consulting — to transform an app from custom to common. Then they can invest in the new datacenter tech: virtualization, with the blinking disk lights off in a co-located cloud datacenter.

At MB Foster, the company has an AWS version of its UDACentral software available. "We allow people to be able to migrate data through the cloud," Foster said. "A couple of times a year we test a new version to see how well UDACentral scales. We send a command to AWS to go from the two-processors we normally use to 128. We rent them for the two hours we do the testing. Building a server for that kind of test would be a lot of money invested, and not being used."

That's a physical expense, against virtual promises and opportunity, applied to real-world applications and workloads. There's a reason that the scope of virtualization is broad. Whether it will work in a datacenter's tomorrow is "it depends," but it seems like a test of the prospect is worth an investment — whether its virtualizing hardware to run MPE, or getting away from datacenter servers altogether. The former is the route for a homesteader, the latter a path made possible by migration.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:49 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2015

On MPE Chatting, B-Tree Plants and More

How we can chat on the HP 3000 system with the other users who have logged on?

Lars Appel replies:

You can try the TELL and TELLOP commands. For more information see :HELP TELL or :HELP TELLOP.

When I run dbutil.pub.sys, and type the command set MYDB btreemode1=on I get the message “Database root file must be at least “C”4 for SET <db> BTREEMODE1=O." Why can’t I set my btree mode?

Rene Woc replies:

Before you can “set btreemode1,” the database has to have Btrees. You add Btrees with “addindex MYDB for all (or specific master datasets)”. This command will also set root level to C4. To use “addindex” your system needs to be at least on TurboIMAGE version C.07.xx. So how do you find out what version of IMAGE you have? Use the version command in QUERY.

I need to take some groups off of the mirrored drives, and add (move) other groups onto the mirrored drives. Is it as simple to use the altgroup command and specify the volume set?

[Editor’s note: “mirrored drives” is a straw man that has nothing to do with the problem or answer.]

Craig Lalley and John Clogg reply:

It is simple but not that simple. What you need to do is create a temporary group on the target volume set. Copy files in the group you want to move to the temporary group. Delete the source group. Create the new group using

NEWGROUP xxx;homevs=volume_set
NEWGROUP xxx;onvs=volume_set

Note that it is a two-step command. Then rename the files from the temp group to the newgroup. John Clogg also noted that another approach would be to STORE the files, and restore them once the group was relocated. That way you could preserve creation and modification dates, and creator ID.

I have inherited a HP 3000, and I was trying to clean off an old TurboIMAGE database. I did a purge @.data and it purged about 100-plus files. However, it did not purge everything. They can’t be purged, even when logged in as manager.sys. The error that I get is CIERR 45, Privileged File access. I have tried to release it with no luck either. Any suggestions?

Steve Macsisak and Denys Beauchemin reply:

You can purge TurboIMAGE databases using the utility DBUTIL.PUB.SYS and the command PURGE (database name). The database name is the name of the root file, the one without numbers at the end. The command will purge all the datasets of the database. There are a few other ways to do this, but this is the most obvious.

[Editor's Note: Vladimir Volokh reports that if you have several databases, you must run this several times. Using MPEX, you can purge everything, so long as you are a manager of the account. All databases, all non-databases, everything will be purged with purge @.groupname. purge@.data (ispriv) will purge only databases in the group.]

I have two device numbers I don’t want to be in use and assigned to users on the network. LDEVs 5 and 6 are available for use and we don’t want them to be. Is there some place to configure these out of use?

Gilles Schipper replies:

Simply add these devices as network printer devices (id=hptcpjd path=none) in sysgen. This will prevent them from being used by any logon session.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2015

HPSUSAN resources enable long 3000 life

As if in lock-step, the issues about control of 3000 licenses rose up yesterday after we discussed control of performance numbers and HPSUSAN for 3000 CPU boards. Consultant Torben Olsen wrote from Denmark that creating a backup hardware unit for a 3000 would be in the best interests of his client. 

SpockAs has been discovered before in your community, having control of moving an HPSUSAN identifier to a backup box has issues. For one, there are fewer resources available to make such a move. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, being a company in the throes of establishing new order and processes, is not one that Olsen wants to employ.

"I am not yet ready to spend weeks trying to get a valid answer on this matter from HP, so I hope there are another way," he wrote on the 3000-L mailing list.

I encourage my last HP 3000 client as much as I can to move on to another platform, one where they can be more sure to get required support in the future.

In the meantime, we consider getting a copy of the hardware. But we have the probably well-known problem that if that should work, we also need to be able to change the HPSUSAN. In the old days Client Systems could help with that, but my search for them did not give any usable result. Are they still in business? Are there any other possibilities? 

Client Systems still operates a website that even offers HP 3000 hardware. Other HPSUSAN administration possibilities have revealed themselves on the 3000-L already. There's more at stake for the 3000 software vendors who still operate product support efforts, however. HPSUSAN is their way of knowing their software hasn't been copied illegally.

HP once considered the 3000's CPUNAME designations as the most prized piece of the tech puzzle. In the late 1990s, a ring of hardware resellers were turning HP 9000 hardware into HP 3000 systems, according to the claims in a set of HP lawsuits. The vendor cared enough about protecting its reseller network that it pursued punishment for those ringleaders. It even rigged up a High Tech Task Force, using friendly law enforcement, to try to make a case against that theft.

The control of an HPSUSAN is a different matter, one that HP has never challenged with such legal efforts. An HP 3000's HPSUSAN number belongs to its owner, and it can be transferred to another owner. Making a hot-spare of a 3000 demands some advanced tech, though, to read the HPSUSAN into another CPU board's processor dependent code storage.

Client Systems was the last North American distributor to be able to do this. It's a technique that is matched in skill by the ability to un-cripple an A-Class server so it can run many times faster than HP concocted in its marketing schemes. As we reported yesterday, Craig Lalley of EchoTech has done such an un-crippling, returning an A-Class to its full speed capability.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (the new name of the old home of the 3000) has little to gain by helping, or to lose while overlooking, these homesteading customers' needs. It's now up to the independent consultants to supply what's needed. For a corporation in as much flux as the now-split HP, the value of controlling a computer that it's dropped seems a minor issue. Lalley's on the 3000-L reporting his skills, and there are others in the community with similar experience.

Andreas Schmidt, a 3000 manager in Germany, summed up the past as well as a proposition for a future where HPSUSAN could remain in control of its owners.

In the good old days, only HP support engineers had a tool to change the HPSUSAN on the main board so that third party software, licensed through the HPSUSAN, could continue to work if a hardware event forced a HPSUSAN onto a new board. If HP also provided this little program as open source, you could plan to change the HPSUSAN appropriate to use other hardware with different HPSUSAN.

The question to pose to a support provider might sound like: "How can I create a hot-spare of my 3000's CPU board, for disaster recovery purposes?" Or it might sound like Terry Simpkins speaking five years ago at a CAMUS user group meeting. He was saying, "Why doesn't everybody have a spare CPU board as part of their DR program?" It was possible to get HP to do the swap back then, when it was a single company that only had ousted its second CEO in five years.

Randy Meyer is the General Manager and VP of HP's Mission-Critical Systems group today. His unit sells Integrity servers, the successor to the HP proprietary hardware legacy. Even though Meyer's office seems like a place to get a ruling on this, in those latter HP support years the HPSUSAN swapping happened as an HP Support activity. Both of these units went into the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Getting anybody at HP to recognize a 3000 as something other than a latex printer sums up the challenge that Olsen wants to avoid.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:35 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2015

Having a spare 3000 board a faster strategy

At a CAMUS user group meeting, Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties once shared advice about the need for getting a 3000 CPU board configured by HP during a downtime crisis. Don't do it, he advised. You can be ready for this with an on-site spare, just like his worldwide manufacturing company does for its 3000s.

HobbledIt was one of the last services available from HP, since it related to a licensing issue. Regarding this change that HP once did — for a Time & Materials fee — to copy an HPSUSAN number to fresh hardware, Simpkins said, "It baffles me about why anybody would get themselves into a situation where they had to react like that. Why wouldn't they have a spare processor board already set with their system name and SUSAN number sitting on the shelf?"

Now hardware is the customer's business alone. People are arranging to get the full power of their 3000s turned on. They want their horses un-hobbled.

Five years ago this month, HP stopped supplying 3000 hardware support. (Sometimes a rumor emerges about a company that can still call the vendor for support on a selective basis.) Simpkins said creating this kind of hot 3000 spare is an easy thing to do. "I wouldn't have anything to do with HP once I'd get my extra board set to my SUSAN number. They are not the only people in the world who can legally perform that service."

Simpkins' company is one arm of a much larger entity, one with operations in North America and Asia. It's not a firm that would fly under a legal radar just to have its 3000s supported independently. Even so, there are other hardware modifications available by now to give HP's 3000 hardware the horsepower it was denied by the vendor. The A-Class servers are the best example of how independence yields new power.

"The A400 has a 440 MHz processor that is crippled to run about 58 MHz (per MIPSTEST)," said Craig Lalley of EchoTech. "I uncrippled a customer, and their backup went from 6 hours down to 1 hour and 2 minutes."

"Color me unsurprised," said MPE veteran developer Denys Beauchemin. "But I am still disgusted at the level of crippling HP inflicted on the A-Class. The equivalent HP-UX version of that server was a workhorse."

Providers of this kind of service "have been vetted by HP's lawyers," Simpkins said, "and have been given a clean bill of health. To my knowledge, they will not do something untoward. But if you're sitting there with an HP 3000 running with an HPSUSAN number and an HPCPUNAME, I can't understand why anybody wouldn't already have a spare CPU board sitting in their closet, ready for that eventuality."

It's interesting to note Simpkins called the CPU failure an eventuality rather than a possibility. Every bit of hardware can fail — and even solid state portions of a 3000 have this somewhere in their future.

There's an important distinction to observe about the setting of an HPSUSAN number. Applying this ID to a non-3000 board doesn't sit well with HP, although there's nothing the vendor can do about this, either. In the past, entire PA-RISC systems have been turned into MPE-ready servers, hardware that was originally sold as HP-UX devices. That's not the same sort of re-configuration as being ready for a board failure on your 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 25, 2015

3000 community keystone Jeff Kell dies

Jeff Kell Dec. 2014Jeff Kell, the man who founded the keystone of 3000 help, advice and support that is the 3000-L mailing list, died on Nov. 25 of liver cancer and complications from damage induced by a diabetic coma. He'd battled that illness in hospitals and hospice since 2014. Kell was 57.

"It is a very sad day when a good wizard passes on," said coworker and colleague Richard Gambrell at the University of Tennesee at Chattanoona. "Jeff had a gentle soul and brilliant mind."

Kell was the rare IT professional who could count upon 40 years of experience running HP 3000s, developing for MPE, and especially contributing to the state of the art of networking for the server. He created the ultimate network for the 3000's community by establishing HP3000-L, a LISTSERV mailing list now populated with several hundred thousand messages that trace the business computer's rise, decline, and then revival, rife with enduring high tech value and a thread of humor and humanity.

Kell's obituary notes that he came by his passion for scuba early, having worked for a short time at the Chattanooga Aquarium where he fed the sharks. A key contributor to the development of LISTSERV, Kell was instrumental in UTC’s earning the LISTSERV 25th Anniversary plaque, which lists UTC as the 10th University to deploy LISTSERV.

Jeff at ReunionKell also served as a volunteer to chair SIG-MPE, SIG-SYSMAN, as well as a 3000 networking SIG, but it's nearly impossible to sum up the range of experience he shared. In the photo at the top of this post, he's switching off the last N-Class system at the university where he worked. Almost 40 years of MPE service flowed off those university 3000s. In the photo above, from the HP3000 Reunion, he's updating attendees on how networking protocols have changed.

In the mid-1980s he was a pioneer in developing Internet Relay Chat, creating a language that made BITNET Relay possible. Relay was the predecessor to IRC. "Jeff was the main force behind RELAY, the Bitnet message and file transfer program," Gambrell said. "It inspired the creation of IRC."

My partner Abby and I are personally indebted to Kell's work, even though we've never owned or managed a 3000. The 3000-L and its rich chest of information was my assurance, as well as insurance, that the fledgling 3000 NewsWire could grow into the world of the 3000. In the postings from that list, I saw a written, living thread of wisdom and advice from experts on "the L," as its readers came to call the mailing list and newsgroup Kell started. Countless stories of ours began as tips from the L, or connections to people posting there who knew mission-critical techniques. At one point we hired columnists to summarize the best of each month's L discussions in net.digest. In the era where the Internet and the Web rose up, Kell was a beacon for people who needed help at digital speed.

JeffKellHe was a humble and soft-spoken man, with a wry sense of humor, but showed passion while defending the value of technical knowledge -- especially details on a product better-loved by its users than the management at its vendor. Kell would say that all he did was set up another Listserver on a university computer, one devoted to becoming crucial to UTC's success. Chattanooga is one of the best-networked towns of its size in the world. Kell did much more than that for his community, tending to the work that helped the L blossom in the 3000's renaissance.

Kell looked forward to an HP which would value the 3000 as much as the HP 9000. In 1997 he kicked off a meeting with HP to promote a campaign called Proposition 3000: Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, sold from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX "as trivial as any other Unix platform." 

HP should be stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, "and not its weaknesses," he said. "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. If we take the limitations of the Posix shell and remove them, we have Proposition 3000," Kell said to HP managers. "I would encourage you to vote yes for this investment in the future."

More than 16 years later, when MPE's fate had been left to experts outside of HP's labs, Kell offered one solution on how to keep the server running beyond MPE's Jan 1, 2028 rollover dating gateway.

"Well, by 2027, we may be used to employing mm/dd/yy with a 27 on the end, and you could always go back to 1927. And the programs that only did two-digit years would be all set. Did you convert all of 'em for Y2K? Did you keep the old source?" Kell's listserver is the keeper of all 3000 lore, history, and wisdom, a database that can be searched from a Web interface -- even though he started the resource before commonplace use of what we were calling the World Wide Web.

Some might dismiss that resource as a museum of old tech. Others were using it this week, to connect newer-age tape devices to old-school 3000s. He retired the last of UTC's 3000 at the end of 2013 (in the photo above). His own help to the community members on tech specifics and the state of this year's networking will outlive him, thanks to his work setting this keystone for the community's exchange.

He had a passion for scuba, and could also dive deep into the latest of networking's crises. At the 2011 HP3000 Reunion, he held forth at a luncheon about the nuances that make up a secure network in our era of hack such as 2013's Heartbleed.

About 10 days after the Heartbleed news rocked the Web, Kell posted a summary on its challenges and which ports to watch.

Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've heard about Heartbleed. Every freaking security vendor is milking it for all it's worth. It is pretty nasty, but it's essentially "read-only" without some careful follow-up. 

Most have focused on SSL/HTTPS over 443, but other services are exposed (SMTP services on 25, 465, 867; LDAP on 636; others). You can scan and it might show up the obvious ones, but local services may have been compiled against "static" SSL libraries, and be vulnerable as well.

We've cleaned up most of ours (we think, still scanning); but that just covers the server side. There are also client-side compromises possible.

And this stuff isn't theoretical, it's been proven third-party.

Lots of folks say replace your certificates, change your passwords, etc.  I'd wait until the services you're changing are verified secure.

Most of the IDS/IPS/detections of the exploits are broken in various ways.  STARTTLS works by negotiating a connection, establishing keys, and bouncing to an encrypted transport. IDS/IPS can't pick up heartbleed encrypted. They're after the easy pre-authenticated handshake.

It's a mess for sure. But it’s not yet safe to necessarily declare anything safe just yet.

Even on a day when most people in the US are off work, the tributes to his help and spirit have poured in. "He was smart, soft spoken, and likable," said Gilles Schipper from his support company GSA. "He will be deeply missed. My condolences to his wife Kitty and the entire family."

Ed King, whose 3000 time began in the 1990s, said "Jeff was a great guy, full of wisdom and great stories, and he gave me a chance to flex my wings with some very interesting programming assignments, which kickstarted my career. He will be missed."

Developer Rick Gilligan called him "hard working, brilliant and a great communicator." Alfredo Rego said in a salute that "The members of Jeff’s family, and all of Jeff’s friends and colleagues, know that he made a tremendous difference during his life on this Earth."

Rich Corn, creator of the ESPUL printer software for MPE, said "Jeff was always a joy to talk to. So sharp, but at the same time so humble. Jeff made you feel like friend. A true leader in our profession."

The family's obituary for Kell includes a Tribute Wall on his page on the website of the Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. 

Personally, I'll miss his questing spirit and marvel in his legacy. What a Master he was.

Here on this evening of Thanksgiving, we're giving thanks for the richness of a world with humble wizards like Jeff. We're taking a few days off to revere our time together. We'll see you with a fresh report on Monday, including analysis of the final fiscal results from Hewlett-Packard as a full entity, unsplit.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2015

The Wide World of Connecting Storage

IO used to be more complex for IT. Sure, the array of choices for disk is vast today. But in the era when 3000s used to think they were lucky to get SCSI plugged into them, configuring disk connections was not simple. HP-IB protocol, built to link HP's instruments, was simple, used for all HP devices, and slow. But it was integrated and seamless compared to the SCSI of single-ended, fast/wide, and Ultra Fast.

Such was the case for one 3000 manager seeking advice from his colleagues. You never think about these things on a 3000 until the hardware breaks. Or backups fail. Or storage media gets rare. Aging hardware is one of several issues that require expertise, even if a 3000 runs the ultimate 7.5 version of MPE/iX. Our manager hunted for his help on the longest-running 3000 classroom in the world, the HP3000-L mailing list.

A single-CPU A-Class was moving away from DDS technology, the DDS-3 that was first launched in the '90s. There are other options for 3000 tape backup. But these options include single-ended, fast/wide, and other cable and termination combinations. DLT technology, introduced more recently but still a 1990s choice, runs with HP 3000s. It helps to get the ends right, though, if DLT is to have a new beginning on an old-school 3000.

"Until now they have done their backup on DDS," a manager talking to the 3000 newsgroup explained. "Lately they had a failure on the DDS drive, and have realized that it is getting difficult to get new tapes. They have decided to move to DLT8000, model C6378A, and have bought two of them. One is supposed to go live on the 3000, and the other to be stored as a spare device."

The DLT is hooked to the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on the A-Class. But ODE/Mapper doesn't recognize the device."

There was an error, and no DLT joy. Soon enough, one veteran consultant said, "You will have trouble connecting a fast wide SCSI device to an ultra-wide SCSI controller." It wasn't a rookie mistake, but the veterans who still prowl 3000-L had a solution and even a link to an inexpensive fix. So it goes, here in the fifth decade of HP 3000 mission-critical service. Answers are everywhere.

This wasn't an inexperienced 3000 pro, it seemed, when reading that he tried to "add the device in IOCONFIG by adding first the path 0/0/1/0.2, and then the device with the command: ad 8;path=0/0/1/0.2.0;ID=dlt;mode=autoreply."

SCSI on the 3000 sure isn't the world of USB, where just 2.0 and 3.0 cover the scope of IO choices. A $59 adapter card connected that DLT to the 3000. The IO challenge also prompted advice even a pro might not know — making a case for having fresher hardware than HP's to run MPE.

There was advice about using Mapper on the 3000 to troubleshoot an IO device from Michalis Melis.

Normally the path and the device should be recognized by running ODE/ Mapper without even loading the operating system. You do not have to go to SYSGEN. If Mapper fails you have a problem before the OS loads.

Craig Lalley made the link between two incompatible kinds of SCSI interfaces.

You are trying to hook up a Fast/Wide SCSI device to an Ultrawide interface. The C6378A can only connect to a HVD Fast Wide SCSI interface (A4800A SCSI card comes to mind). Remember, the A-class does not support Dual-Head cards, so your only option is A4800A. You need either a DLT8000 with a Fast-Wide interface, or you need a cheap A4800A HVD (High Voltage Differential) SCSI card. You can daisy chain devices to the card, but I would only use one tape at a time.

Lalley also tipped his hat to Keven Miller, who supplied the link to that $59 adapter card.

Then Denys Beauchemin, who has been among one of the more prolific contributors to the 3000-L, delivered detailed advice about connecting backup devices. His background reaches back to the first decade of 3000 use, including years spent with Hi-Comp on backup software development.

Fast/Wide SCSI (FWSCSI) is essentially HVD SCSI on SCSI-2 standard. This means that the signal is a differential in the voltage between various wires (HVD is High Voltage Differential) and Ultrawide SCSI is SE (Single Ended) SCSI, on the SCSI-2 standard which makes is wide (16 bits), like the FWSCSI.

So what is needed is a converter to power the signal from the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on your server to the FWSCSI interface on the DLT device. I have a number of those somewhere here, but they were for SE SCSI, not UltraSCSI.  They might work for that, since all they did was provide the powered signal and the cable is the one that converted from wide to narrow.

Another thing to consider is that since HP nicely crippled the A-class, that 3000 system would not be able to keep the DLT8000 streaming. And that device hates not streaming, so much so that it will enter shoeshine mode and perform abysmally. Just a parting gift from HP to the MPE community. You should hear what they're doing to the VMS crowd.

That last comment comes from Beauchemin's current duties as migration manager for the OpenVMS users who are leaving that platform. VMS had a steady Internet community to help Digital users, just as the 3000 has 3000-L. People like Beauchemin, largely working outside the 3000 world, are still providing advice for homesteaders -- even while assisting in migrations. After migration there is much to manage, but simply migrating off Hewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware makes using MPE/iX less complex.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:07 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 23, 2015

Virtualized clouds may shift due to Dell

Dells cloudsAlthough the merger isn't yet complete, EMC will become part of Dell in the year to come. Those are two impact players in the HP enterprise arena, fierce HP rivals as well as providers of gear in HP shops both migrated and homesteading. The biggest impact on HP 3000 customers might come not from either of these companies, though, but from a subsidiary. VMware, which is powering a significant number of virtualized environments, is 80 percent owned by EMC.

That makes Dell the primary owner of the most popular virtualization provider in the industry. In the wake of the merger announcement, consultants, developers and vendors from the community have looked to the future of Dell's VMware ownership. Even a possible impact on cloud computing has come up for discussion.

"Whoever owns VMware next could control and own the future of the cloud," goes the proposition of the new VMware ownership. VMware has certainly promoted its new efforts into cloud computing. But that doesn't make the vendor a controlling force in cloud computing.

The three pillars of cloud computing, according to cloud ERP provider Plex, are elasticity, efficiency, and cloud as a service. VMware is only a backbone for such cloud offerings. The actual cloud applications use a range of backbones. The most common one is Xen, used by Amazon Web Services. HP dropped out of the public cloud business earlier this year, facing losses while going up against Amazon and others.

However, corporate enterprise IT may include clouds on VMware. A VMware-based one might run on an internal security zone not visible to the Internet. Another style can be based on OpenStack, visible to the Internet.

"Dell owning 80 percent of VMware is a huge deal," says Gavin Scott, a developer and a veteran of decades on MPE/iX and former SIG-Java chairman. "But it's not because of clouds. It might actually be bad for VMware because it will push Dell's competitors to look at other solutions. VMware is crazy expensive, so customers may be quite happy to be led to other vendors' doorsteps."

"VMware is like Oracle," Scott told us. "The most expensive way to solve the problem. But it also has the most features and functionality and is a 'safe' choice."

"I think of cloud computing as involving the use of a third party's cloud resources," Scott said. "If you've got a big VMware virtualized infrastructure, that might just be running all your previously discreet servers in a bunch of VMs. If you're dynamically bringing clusters of servers on/off line to meet demand, that's more cloud-like."

"I think a lot of VPs of IT like to think they're trendy by having their own "cloud," and at that point the term is relatively meaningless." 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:54 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2015

Multi-threading traces years of MPE service

JugglerYesterday we explored the prospects of multi-threading for HP 3000 sites. It's an aspect of application and software design that can benefit from virtualization. In years past, when much of the 3000 application base was being created, separate hardware CPUs drove this multi-threading. Stan Sieler of Allegro, one of the authors of the textbook on Precision Architecture RISC "Beyond RISC," told us that multi-threading is likely to have made its way into 3000 software via Unix.

It's a concept, through, that's been possible for MPE ever since its beginning. The MP in MPE stands for Multiprogramming, Sieler reminded me, and that "Multi-threading is a form of multiprogramming or multiprocessing."

Generally, but not always (as words are often abused), “threads” are related to a single process.  E.g., my video compression program might work on several parts of the video simultaneously with three or four threads. On some computers, two separate threads of a single process cannot execute at the same time … on others, they can.  

On most computers nowadays, threads are implemented at the operating system level. On older systems, threading was sometimes implemented above the operating system, relying on user code to switch threads.  (I’ll skip co-routines, which few systems have now, but the Burroughs MCP did.)

Multi-programming is the concept where two (or more) processes (or “programs”) appear to run at the same time, but in reality each gets a short time to run, and then the CPU pays attention to the other process, then back to the first one… or “time slicing.”

On the 3000, few programs use multi-threading, but it is available. It came about the same time as Posix did, perhaps one release later (I can’t recall). In general, if you show me a 3000 program that uses threading, I’ll bet it’s written in C and originated in the Unix/Linux world. 

Essentially all computers nowdays have multi-programming. The original HP 3000 (pre-CX) did, too. (The HP 2100 (running RTE) had, IIRC, no multi-programming.)

Sieler adds that "Multi-processing is where you have more than one CPU … each CPU can run a single process at a time (and, with multi-programming, can appear to be running more than one at a time).

"So, you could easily have a program — even on the Classic 3000 — that ran multiple copies of itself (assuming, of course, you had a reason for doing it)."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:27 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 18, 2015

Application threading a gate for performance

Ski-gatesMany an HP 3000 app was designed in an era when threads were expensive. Multi-threading is another way of describing multiprocessing. It's the M in MPE. But few HP 3000 programs use multi-threading. Multi-processing uses multiple processors. These 2-way and greater 3000s could cost upwards of $200,000 over the last complete decade of sales in the 1990s. Since this was the MPE/iX value model, the cost reflected the combo of hardware and system software, during an era with user-count licenses for the OS driving up the capital cost of 3000 computing.

For any customer who had but one CPU propeller to push along their ship of software, a single-threaded app made good sense. But the single threading programs of MPE/iX are a gating device for engaging the full horsepower of virtualization. Dave Clements of Stromasys mentioned the common threading architecture for MPE/iX apps while we talked about VMware's connection with the Charon product. This is a common reason why every 3000 customer's Charon performance is one of those "it depends" solutions.

A user of Charon can sometimes get along with a relatively slow CPU clock speed for the Charon host hardware. At the Conax Technologies datacenter, a 2.7GHz Intel host is standing in for a Series 928 HP 3000. Virtualized CPU power is almost as fast as the original hardware there, according to the system manager — and then any application process that reaches out to the disk screams along, the manager added. But there's not a lot of multi-threading in the 3000 app world.

"We run into a lot of applications that are not multi-threaded," Clements said. "It makes a difference. We see that a lot in database applications. There's not a lot we can do about single-threaded applications," he added, in order to take advantage of the multi-threading abilities in newer and faster host CPUs. What makes Charon an effective emulator is, in part, its ability to excellerate multiple threading of processes. It's the same kind of lift as if the newer Intel chip designs were to give power upgrades to the PA-RISC CPUs. This is the promise of virtualization. Multithreaded apps get more from it.

Stromasys customers and prospects have not been reporting that speed is a barrier to their adoption of the product. Charon has the potential to run 3000 programs even faster if those apps have been written to use multiple threads. "Every customer poses the potential for a unique solution," Clements said. Other aspects can be changed, he said — things that are easier to update than application code which was probably first conceived before the Web was born.

As it turns out, just like in fine sheet sets, a high thread count helps smooth things for application computing, too. However, since app threading isn't going to change in a customer datacenter, other comforts for faster performance can be applied instead.

For example, system IO can be improved easily, from new controllers to faster devices to solid state disks. Hardware is cheap compared to the manpower of rewriting an application to take maximum advantage of newer CPU horsepower.

Controllers on the SANs, on the host, and switches for the storage devices to connect — all are hardware gating components in the formula for virtualization. At Conax, the system manager said the advantage to working with legacy software is "the bits don't change." Those are application bits he's referring to. Charon will be upgraded and improved many more times than most MPE/iX apps, here in 2015. Most of that 3000 software is frozen in time, a very stable time. In a growth business like virtualization, there's always room for improvement: of hardware, and of the virtualization software, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:50 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2015

Putting PDF Into a 3000's Data Flow

PDF logoHP 3000 experts know of a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer for getting reports into PDF format and then out via Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest, there are other commercial solutions. There's also several bolt-together techniques if you've got very limited budget to homestead.

Bob McGregor reports:

We use txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.

Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, adds:

I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the Windows system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.

The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago.)

John Pitman employed that concept of Appel's in a combination of an off-the-shelf FTP solution, a freeware PDF converter, along with a good deal of innovative 3000 integration.

Nominate a spooled ldev as always suspended (74 in our case, arbitrary). Users can choose this device as their printer in their menu, and all subsequent reports (until changed to another real printer ldev) will go to this device — and therefore NOT physically print. Some reports that are commonly used to import to Excel have been modified to make headings tightly lined up with the data columns, and only print one page heading, to ease the import process.

Run a job on 3000 that every few minutes scans for spoolfiles for this ldev, then copies them to Posix space specific to 74 (for generality), with the creating user and account in the file name (e.g. mgr_stock_O12345.txt), then delete the original spoolfile.

A scheduled program on the Windows box (every minute) connects via FTP to the 3000. When it finds a spool files as above example, it checks for a Windows destination dir of MGR_STOCK, and copies the file to it as O12345.txt, and deletes the 3000 copy of the file. The account name enables segregation of reports for different applications in our case. If the file is > 1MB (an arbitrary size of your choice), it's zipped. It could as easily be converted to any desired form — for example to PDF via the shareware cutepdf.

It could also readily email the output to a user, given access to a mail server, and a way to develop the email address. Users have a client to access the FTP server and obtain their .txt or .zip files

This has been running for more than 10 years with almost no issues. Occasionally a large file might hang FTP, but canceling and restarting the copy usually fixed it. I have seen report selection errors produce 500 MB TXT files.

You might use several suspended ldevs for different types or groups  of users. We ran this on four 3000s in different locations, each with their own separate windows boxes using BP-FTP server. This means that users in Australia can run a report on the Houston or China system to the local printer 74, pause, connect their FTP client to the relevant FTP server, and download the report without having to print it.

The process also enables soft storage of month end reports, which can be very useful for comparative purposes, auditing, and general historical reference. We now have about eight years of this information stored, with backups and CD copies. Much more compact than paper, and cheaper.

Michael Anderson of consulting firm J3K Solutions added that there is also a open source PDF tool, pdfcreator, a manager can use to set up a network PDF printer. "Some assembly required, and batteries not included," he noted.

Another vote came in for the Advant/X software from Tracy Johnson, the OpenMPE volunteer who manages the Invent3K shared open source server. Johnson notes that this STR Software product "while intended to convert spool files and then e-mail or fax them, can be used short of the transmission process."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 16, 2015

Webinars set courses for future operations

The next three days each contain a webinar that can help a 3000 manager decide how to best use their IT resources. One of the presentations covers a new cloud-based ERP migration solution, explained in detail, while the other two come from a long-time provider of data solutions for HP 3000s.

Chart a courseOn Nov. 17 (Tuesday) Kenandy demos its cloud-based, Salesforce-driven ERP stack. It's a new performance of the overview show broadcast at the end of September. Kenandy has enough features to replace more than a few MPE/iX apps, for any sites which are looking for replacement solutions on the way to migration. Registration is here on the Web, and the program starts at 1 PM Central Time, US.

Over the following two days, MB Foster airs a pair of Q&A, webinar-driven broadcasts about best practices for data management. The company is serving customers beyond MPE/iX sites now, from the experience of carrying out a migration as well as the integration of its software and practices in non-3000 customer sites.

Wednesday Nov 18th's Webinar covers Data Migrations Best Practices. IT operations generate opportunity and challenges to organize  data into useable information for the business. The Webinar will deliver practical methodologies to help you prevent costly disruptions and solve challenges. "A data migration project may not be your specialty," says CEO Birket Foster. "We are offering an opportunity to learn from our successes and minimize the business impacts of data migration, through best practices." The Webinar begins at 1 PM Central US, and registration is here on the Web.

Thursday Nov. 19th's Webinar (a 1 PM Central start time; register here) from MB Foster explains the strategy and experience needed to employ Operational Data Stores in a datacenter. An ODS requires integration, Foster says. 

"Essentially you’re changing what and why you deliver information, and where that information resides for end-users decision support and reporting," he says. "You would also change ongoing management and operations of the environment."

The meeting will deliver insights into MB Foster’s ODS and DataMart services, its technology, and best practices including:

1. What an Operational Data Store and DataMart are 

2. How actionable data can be delivered, quickly 

3. Why investing in an ODS and DataMarts are smart choices

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2015

Quotes On A Happening, 5,111 Days Ago

Computerworld on 2001 announcementMy career has not changed significantly, but I no longer believe anything HP tells me. They could say the sky is blue, and I'd seek a second opinion. They lied to our face once, I won't give them a chance to do it again. — Terry Simpkins, TE Connectivity

It was very difficult to reinvent and took several years. HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result — Doug Greenup, Minisoft

I had received the news prior to the public announcement. I was very angry with HP after being told by Hewlett-Packard at HP World that there was a long future for the system. — Paul Edwards, Interex director

We felt like we were supporting legacy products already, because most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn't change our plans much. — Terry Floyd, The Support Group

When I joined the conference call, in which management announced to CSY staff that they were pulling the plug on MPE and the 3000, I remember the date and the hour. My feeling was one of relief that they were going to stop pretending that the 3000 had a future. It might have had a future, but not with the level that management was investing in R&D at the time. — V.N., HP 3000 labs

I remember heaving a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep two proprietary platforms. Between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. — Christian Lheureux, Appic

I was working for a company called Hewlett-Packard at the time. I don't know what's become of them; I think they still sell ink. Last I knew, they sold personal computers too, but they weren't sure about that. — Walter Murray, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

CruellaThis really scared a lot of people at the company where I was working, but I kept telling them we had third party support, and not to worry. The directors decided to leverage our 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000. We secured a used 9000, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer 3000. — Connie Sellitto, Cat Fanciers’ Association

We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given its Internet capabilities. The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning, from which we never fully recovered. — Jeff Kell, founder of the 3000-L mailing list

I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. The job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s — and thankfully very little to do with HP at all. — Chris Bartram, founding 3000newswire.com webmaster.

Share your memory of the day below. Or email the Newswire.

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

November 12, 2015

TBT: HP translates brags about fresh e3000

IMG032


On a November afternoon fifteen years ago, users and vendors met in an Amsterdam conference center to celebrate integration. A handful of companies had melded their HP 3000 applications with the Internet. "All of the users I spoke with were already doing some kind of e-something, whether elementary or quite advanced,” said Adager CEO Rene Woc. One showed off how Java had helped create an interface for a company that was selling parts for power looms. Their customers were all over the world.

IMG042The users' presentations were especially notable because they were offered in five languages. Simultaneous translations were paid for by the HP 3000 division, the only time in more than 30 years of conferences I've been able to pick up a wireless headset and hear technical reports translated. Not into everyday C-level language, but into French, Spanish, German, Dutch and English. HP set up two rooms with a total of 10 translators. The vendor was working to encourage 3000 managers to speak the language of the Web. HP collected $365 per attendee to help defray the cost; 90 customers and partners attended from 14 countries.

Users wanted their 3000s to be better connected because they didn't want their systems left behind as IT expansion ramped up. Everyone had escaped Y2K worries by November of 2000. The dot-com boom hadn't gone bust, and in some segments like e-commerce, Web interfaces were bringing genuine innovation for interfaces.

IMG012The surge was less certain for companies which had limited their 3000 communications to data swaps over internal LANs. Some were using an intranet, employing the Web technology without exposing the 3000's data to the outside. Others like Lindauer Dornier used the Enhydra Web application server and Java/iX to send the power loom manufacturer's parts data to its customers across the world.

The HP 3000 at the heart of Dornier's operations was plugged in when Windows NT proved too slow. The Windows product that became Windows Server a few years later got dumped in favor of MPE/iX. The meeting "had a lot of flavor of the old days," said HP's Sally Blackwell. The emphasis was not on sponsorships. It was an exchange of information, with HP's help."

HP 3000 Division Product Marketing Manager Loretta Li-Sevilla made the trek from the HP 3000 headquarters, telling customers that “the 3000 is a rock solid foundation for an Internet future. With the 3000 as your platform of choice, that future is unlimited.” There was another 12 months of future remaining with an unlimited flavor.

The European arm of the HP's 3000 operations always performed with more panache. The extra promotion sprang from a need to compete more head-on with Unix in Europe. Enterprise operations had adopted HP-UX servers sooner than in the US. A 25th Birthday Party for the 3000 unreeled in Stuttgart in 1997, instead of in the US. At the three-day Internet brag meeting for 3000 users, CSY Europe Regional Business Manager Alexandra Wiedenmann said, “We will provide you with the products, technologies to help you move into the e-world. Nothing should stop you from Let’s Go e!”

Going faster than Microsoft: Dornier's Peter Herpich, who’d been managing HP 3000s since 1980, hired an independent consulting group to develop the parts ordering application. He said he learned that Java expertise transfers easily to the e3000, and he didn’t have to look for developers trained in both the 3000 and Java.

His consultants built the application on an NT system, but it performed slowly there. “I said I’m not happy,” he reported. “I said they should bring it to the HP 3000.” HP’s Lars Appel assisted the consultants, and the Java application was ported to the e3000 in six hours.

The company served more than 900 customers across the Web. “For me it was a surprise,” Herpich said. “It’s a success. I have 60 percent of our spare parts orders processed electronically. We have a new communication channel with the customers.”

In 2000 Herpich said he had no faith in Microsoft’s solutions, adding that a problem with a Microsoft system means “you have to install it a-new. I don’t want to use a replacement technology for three years, and then have to reinvest again.” He also noted that, “you don’t need specially trained HP 3000 people to create new applications on that machine. The consultants worked on an order system in Java, and brought it to the HP e3000.”

Enhydra was an open source application server for rapid development and deployment of Java and XML-based apps. The server handled all application operations between browser-based computers and a company’s back-end business applications and databases — in this case, IMAGE/SQL or Allbase and HP 3000 apps written in languages like COBOL.

After his presentation, Herpich joked that he saw the 3000 investment of his company paying off for his staff, too. “I can always tell which of our staff is working with the 3000. They have a tan in the summer, while the other people do not.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:42 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 11, 2015

Protecting a 3000 by Eliminating Its Services

Ron as PrivateHere on this day when we celebrate people who have served in the armed forces, a question emerged about enabling HP 3000 JINETD services. Or disabling them, to make a 3000 more powerful and secure. (Yes, it seems to defy the logic about more services being better, one that we can hear in national defense debates. We didn't have such debates at Signal Corps training for the Second Battalion.) The solution to the 3000 service problem included advice on how to trim back risk as well as performance drains on a 3000.

Grigor Terterian said he was having a Series 979 freeze up, because JINETD was receiving a call "for echo udb." Mark Ranft and Denys Beauchemin said the fastest repair would be to comment out echo in the inetdcnf file. Ranft got specific with an example.

:print inetdcnf.net
# Internet server configuration database
#
#echo  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#echo  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#daytime  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#daytime  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#time  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#time  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#discard  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#discard  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#chargen stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#chargen dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
telnet  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#bootps  dgram  udp wait   MANAGER.SYS /SYS/NET/BOOTPD bootpd
#tftp  dgram  udp wait   NET.SYS   /SYS/NET/TFTPD tftpd
ftp  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS /SYS/ARPA/FTPSRVR ftpsrvr

In the example above, only telnet and ftp services are enabled, Ranft said. This led Art Bahrs, a Certified Security Professional, to add that the services you leave on are the ones that can cause trouble, if you don't need them enabled.

Bahrs, who's also a retired Marine, celebrated his Veterans Day with this advice.

You should never, ever, no time, (did I mention 'never'?) run services you don't use or have a business or production need for.

Two reasons: First is security minded. If you have a service active, it is just another way to be hacked. Second is that an active, running service uses machine power, which is wasteful of electrons if there’s no need for it.

Ranft added his experience with inetd on MPE/iX:

Note that the command:

inetd.net.sys - c

will have inetd re-read the configuration.

Your success with this may vary. I've had lots of trouble with inetd in the far past. They got a lot better with the latest (final, for MPE/iX) set of patches. But on occasion, a scheduled restart (inetd.net.sys -k) and re-stream will probably help prevent issues.

I run my inetd with the logging feature.

!job jinetd, manager.sys
!....
!run inetd.net.sys;pri=cs;info="-l"
!eoj

This allows one to see the offending IP address in the $STDLIST.

Received call for: telnet tcp
telnet/tcp: Connection from unknown (10.0.1.226) at Fri Nov 6 19:56:28 2015
Received call for: echo tcp
echo/tcp: Connection from unknown (127.0.0.1) at Wed Nov 11 12:56:45 2015
Received call for: echo udp
echo/udp: Connection from unknown (127.0.0.1) at Wed Nov 11 12:57:07 2015
Received call for: echo udp
echo/udp: Connection from unknown (127.0.0.1) at Wed Nov 11 12:57:25 2015

As one veteran to others, I honor the services of all on this day, and thank you for your efforts toward our security. Long may it wave.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:59 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 09, 2015

Making 3000 Disk Faster By Virtualizing It

Age is an issue for HP 3000 homesteaders, a challenge that must be met on more than one front. Aging in-house expertise will require a replacement IT professional. That can be tricky to locate in 2015, but one way to approach the task is to train a consultant who's already a trusted resource.

Faster dashboardAt Conax Technologies, the veteran HP 3000 manager Rick Sahr was heading for retirement, an event that threw the spotlight on the suitability of MANMAN for ERP. Consultant Bob Ammerman stepped in to learn MPE/iX and the 3000's operations. That was a solution that followed an effort to replace MANMAN with another ERP software suite, running under Windows.

The trouble with the replacement application stemmed from its database. Oracle drove that app suite, and Conax and Ammerman were assured that having strong experience in Oracle wasn't a requirement of adopting the replacement app. "I'm a SQL Server guy," Ammerman said. His work to interface MANMAN with Windows helped to preserve the 3000's role. That rescue was the best way forward when the company chose to back away from the new app.

The shift in plans opened the door for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. As it turned out, the $100,000 of server and SAN disk purchased for the ERP replacement app was a good fit for virtualizing the 3000. Charon can just about match the CPU performance of the replaced Series 928. The bonus has been what virtualization has done for storage and disk speed. It's erased the other age barrier, the one presented by old disk drives.

"As soon as you go out to touch the disk, it just screams," Ammerman said of the Charon solution. Backups now blaze along, because the virtualized 3000 system is writing to virtualized tape drives. A Windows-based backup for the Dell server and the SAN takes care of protecting the disk images which aere created while using Charon.

The emulator's virtualization of the 3000 CPU is governed by the number of CPU cores, threads, and the speed of the chips. The Dell system runs at 2.7 GHz, a little lower than Stromasys has recommended. "It just works," Ammerman said of what's kept the 3000's age from showing. The nips and tucks that came along with the facelift of hardware are protecting the company's MPE/iX investments.

A retiring MPE guru, along with hardware that's more than 15 years old could point to a migration, one with a serious deadline for completion. "Nobody's in a hurry to move now," Ammerman said. "We'd hoped to get off the 3000 years ago." Now the letters of interest for replacing MANMAN have yet to go out to prospective vendors. Infor, the vendor that's holding the reins and license for MANMAN, has a shot at replacing the MPE/iX app.

When a company can expand its IT know-how by hiring the right person to learn MPE/iX, that's a serious gap that's been overcome. The hurdle of disk age was cleared at Conax by virtualizing that hardware so it runs on late-model drives attached to a Windows system. The most important part of the mission-critical solution remains stable and unchanged: the MPE/iX application.

It's all been made possible with the right approach to managing legacy hardware. "I like old tech," Ammerman said, explaining that he started with Data General business servers. DG has emulation solutions, too. Finding something fresh to emulate what's been successful has been a proven strategy for companies that can't justify migration yet.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:52 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2015

Licensing advice for hardware transitions

Today the CAMUS user group hosted a phone-in meeting, one where the main topic was how to manage licensing issues while changing hardware. Not HP to HP hardware, within the 3000 family. This migration is an aspect of homesteading: moving off the Hewlett-Packard branded 3000 hardware and onto Intel servers. The servers run Stromasys Charon HPA, which runs the applications and software built for MPE.

LicensesIn-house apps need no such relicense, but everything else demands disclosure. This is a personal mission for companies that want to leave HP hardware behind, but keep their MPE software. In one story we've heard, a manager said the vendor would allow its software to run under Charon. "But you're on your own for support," the vendor told the manager. No-support licenses are the kind that satisfy auditors. In lots of cases, self-support or help from independent companies is better than the level which that sort of vendor offers.

We've talked with three managers who've done this MPE software relicensing, all reporting success. Two of these managers told their stories at today's meeting. Last year we collected the tale of re-licensing from Jeff Elmer, IT manager for Dairylea Cooperative. They left a Series 969 for a PC-based host when old drives in the 969 posed a risk.

He said licensing the software for the Charon emulator solution at Dairylea was some work, with some suppliers more willing to help in the move than others. The $1.7 billion organization covers seven states and uses at least as many third party vendors. “We have a number of third party tools, and we worked with each vendor to make the license transfers,” said Elmer. 

“We won’t mention any names, but we will say that some vendors were absolutely wonderful to work with, while others were less so. It’s probably true that anyone well acquainted with the HP 3000 world could make accurate guesses about which vendors fell in which camp.”

Some vendors simply allowed a transfer at low cost or no cost; others gave a significant discount because Dairylea has been a long-time customer paying support fees. ”A couple wanted amounts of money that seemed excessive, but in most cases a little negotiation brought things back within reason,” Elmer said. The process wasn’t any different than traditional HP 3000 upgrades: hardware costs were low, but software fees were significant.

“The cumulative expense of the third party software upgrades was nearly a deal-breaker,” Elmer said. “In the end, our management was concerned enough about reliance on old disk drives that they made the decision to move forward. In our opinion it was money very well spent.”

Another guest at today's conference, Bob Ammerman, manages 3000 operations at Conex Technologies. He didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.

The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said, "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.

"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.

That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.

Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.

"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse. 

It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.

So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."

In the very first success story for Charon HPA, Warren Dawson moved his company's applications that relied on Powerhouse to the emulator in 2012. His company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations.

Nearly all of Dawson's third party vendors came on board and made efforts to ensure their software works. “One was a little slow in doing so, so we made a workaround," he said, "and then I made that a permanent workaround. I didn’t know when they would come on board. They came on just before we went live, and we’d already decided to move away from their product.” 

In the case of a switch in backup processes, Dawson’s procedures now back up twice as much data, using HP’s standard STORE and RESTORE programs — in less time than when the backup was done using the third party software on the HP box.

The change from using HP’s native iron to emulation has also reinvigorated some of Dawson’s MPE software vendors.

“I’ve even gotten better support from some of our vendors now that we’re emulating," he said. "They see that there’s an extended life in the system, and so a couple of them have made efforts in that regard. We’ve been paying support for years, and for some software we’d hadn’t asked for support in 10 years. They’ve come back to our requests to help us and been very good about it."

One backup software solution didn’t make the transition from 3000 hardware and storage devices to the emulated system. DAT tapes presented an extra effort. Dawson used a utility to copy the tapes to disk, “and for some reason when I did that, it didn’t work properly in the backup software. There was some sort of SCSI issue which was at Stromasys’s end, and they’ve since resolved that issue. But the backup vendor said initially they weren’t supporting the emulator, so we worked something else out.

The Quiz reporting tool is part of the software set that’s made the step onto the emulator. The company buys and maintains its Powerhouse licenses through a reseller, and that partner has handed the relicensing of Quiz onto the emulator. “I haven’t dealt directly with Cognos for a long time,” Dawson said.

Minisoft’s ODBC drivers run on the emulated system, since part of the application’s project is to extract data. Since the databases and the application have been emulated, Dawson’s remains able to use Visual Basic programs, using the ODBC drivers, to do reports as well as updates. Dawson singled out the company as taking extra time to help make the emulation succeed.

“Minisoft’s been the most helpful, because that reporting system started out being the most troublesome.  We’ve been having a VB 6 program issue, where those programs ran under Windows XP but are an issue under Windows 7. These programs were written 10 years ago, and the people who wrote them are long since gone. They explained how I could run their software in different ways, with the old driver under VB 6 on XP versus a new driver for .NET on Windows 7.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2015

Compliance rule pipes MPE app to emulator

RacineRacine Water & Wastewater, a municipal utility in Wisconsin, ran an HP 3000 and associated billing applications for decades. The organization even made the shift to final-generation HP hardware with an A-Class server. After the utility shifted IT operations to another platform in 2008, the Hewlett-Packard hardware for MPE/iX chugged along in archival mode. But the risk in running on drives more than a decade old grew serious. The organization that serves 100,000 customers in the communities around Lake Michigan reached out to an emulation platform from Stromasys to keep its archives vital.

The utility needed to maintain a legacy system in order to access archived data. After they had migrated their primary billing system to a newer system, only four years of archived data could be migrated to the new environment. More than 25 years of records remained on the HP 3000. By 2014, they knew they needed a solution to continue to access billing records stored on the HP 3000.

The State of Wisconsin mandates access to billing history records. To meet those compliance needs, the utility engaged with an independent consultant to research archival solutions. Mike York of Assertive Systems in Wisconsin began his due diligence and demo testing. Charon HPA came in for review, and while retrieving that A-Class server's HPSUSAN number, the HP hardware suffered a disk failure. Stromasys was able to help recover the system, even before the utility had adopted the Charon emulator.

According to a case study on the Stromasys website, a DDS-1 backup tape failed to load. Recovery was stalled. Ken Scolaro, administrative manager for the utility, was working with York to try to bring HP's 3000 hardware back online.

Scolaro and York sent a backup tape to the Stromasys engineer providing support on the project. Stromasys purchased a DDS-1 tape drive for the data recovery, and utilizing Oracle Box, built a Virtual Machine and recovered the HP 3000 system. After recovering the tape data and configuring the virtual HP 3000 with MPE/iX 7.5, the virtual machine was exported and sent via thumb drive to the customer. The utility then imported that VM to its local server.

The Stromasys sales representative provided a proof of concept for us," York said. "He accomplished this from an old and very questionable backup tape. Amazing." 

The Racine utility replaced the Hewlett-Packard iron with Intel-based hardware. Twenty years of data is now available via Charon. "Utility staff did not even notice this change was made," Scolaro said. "The system installed easily without any unexpected problems," the case study on the Stromasys website reports. "It has run flawlessly ever since."

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

October 26, 2015

Migrating licenses: an individual's mission

Mission-possibleHewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware is getting older, and although it's well-built, 13-year-old drives make for a good migration spark. The move to Stromasys emulators is another sort of migration, shifting MPE onto standard Intel hardware, but what of the application and software licenses? Getting them transferred is a mission for each company migrating away from HP-badged 3000s. So far, we've heard few reports of show-stopper licensing woes.

The first company that's discussed is the owners of the Powerhouse software. While that's not Cognos, or even IBM anymore, its owners are still a company that does not automatically see value in keeping a customer on support. Bob Ammerman didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.

The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.

"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.

That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.

Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.

"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse. 

It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.

So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."

That's long-term thinking on the part of Infor. Vendors who are cooperating in these license migrations look toward a future when MPE won't be an option any more for their customers. Some vendors have solutions that run on other platforms. As an example, MB Foster "was happy to do a transfer," he said. This strategy preserves an investment while it maintains support revenue for vendors.

Users at Conax employ a front-end interface to SQLMan. If the company could "bring down MANMAN nightly for a snapshot, we would." Instead, they shut down the application completely once a month. It also means that company historical data is online at anytime. "One company manager asked me to look at 2010 data, and we could," Ammerman said. "We used to have to purge the old data, but we don't have to anymore" with the SQLMan transfer procedures.

Carrying licenses forward involves calls and contact vendor-by-vendor, but some have policies in place. Especially those who've done decades of business with 3000 users. From backup software right down to applications, everything's been migrated to the fresher Intel hardware running MPE/iX. "They'd be silly not to re-license products," Ammerman said, "if they want to keep their support revenue."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2015

CAMUS to host homestead-migrate meeting

Icon HomesteadCAMUS, the manufacturing software society that serves ERP users, will host a meeting on November 5 to shed light on a solution to migrate off MANMAN. Or homestead on the application. The 90 minutes covers both prospects for the HP 3000 customer who continues to rely on MANMAN.

Even almost 40 years after its introduction to MPE, MANMAN is still running company operations around the world. Conax has built its business model around it while it makes temperature sensors. What's more, the MANMAN user still has resources like CAMUS and its membership. Board member Terry Floyd of The Support Group says the software is still central to his business.

Migration Icon"We can still say that almost all of our revenue comes from MANMAN, and that's amazing," he said. It can be expected that a support company like his, which specializes in ERP software, could dig in to serve MANMAN sites that operate with the source code as an application resource. The range of releases is wide, and not all of it is running in Native Mode of MPE/iX.

"All MANMAN users have all of the source code," Floyd said. "Most people are on NM, but I have run across a few running ancient versions before Release 6. Release 12 is current, and 8 or 9 is where some of our best customers are. Most MANMAN sites are probably on Release 11."

The ERP site managers, and anyone else running an enterprise server, can call in to the CAMUS meeting at 11 AM Central Standard Time on Thursday, November 5. The conference connection and call-in number will be emailed to anyone who registers with CAMUS board member Terri Glendon Lanza with a call to her at 630.212.4314, or via her email.

The Stromasys emulator portion of the program leads off the event, with a discussion from Birket Foster of MB Foster and Steve Cooper of Allegro. They'll discuss how the Charon-HPA emulator gets along with third party software and applications.

"We're having a round-table type discussion on implementing Stromasys for the HP 3000," Lanza said. "We're looking to hear experiences from folks who have implemented Charon. We'll be asking what the third parties have been like to deal with."

The other option available for MANMAN sites is to move on to something more modern in architecture. Cloud ERP from Kenandy will come up for discussion at 11:45, according to the meeting agenda, with a presentation led by Kenandy's Stewart Florsheim. Is Kenandy MANMAN, updated? The cloud software that's built around Salesforce1 was launched by ASK Software's founder Sandy Kurtzig, creating MANMAN back in the 1970s.

Around 12:30 Central time, callers will enjoy an opportunity for open discussion about ERP, the 3000, and probably migration. Callers don't have to be CAMUS members. But everyone needs to register to get that call-in number.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:03 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2015

Patching an HP 3000 with Patch/iX, Stage/iX

Editor's Note: Today a system manager asked for directions on using AUTOPAT on an HP 3000. That's very old school tech even for a classic system like the 3000 (TOH to Alan Yeo for digging out that link). More than 10 years ago, our contributor John Burke detailed the use of the more-modern MPE/iX patch tools.

By John Burke

Patch bicycleEven after HP introduced Patch/iX and Stage/iX to MPE/iX, these HP tools were poorly understood and generally under-used. Both are tremendous productivity tools when compared with previous techniques for applying patches to MPE/iX. There's a good reason for using the newer tools. Prior to the introduction of Patch/iX and Stage/iX, system managers did their patching with AUTOPAT, and you had to allow for at least a half-day of downtime. Plus, in relying on tape, you were relying on a notoriously flaky medium where all sorts of things could go wrong and create “the weekend in Hell.”

Patch/iX moves prep time out of downtime, cutting downtime in half because you create the CSLT (or staging area) during production time. Stage/iX reduces downtime to as little as 15-20 minutes by eliminating tape altogether and, furthermore, makes recovery from a bad patches as simple as a reboot.

This article is based upon the Patch Management sessions I presented at three Interex Solutions Symposiums. The complete set of 142 slides (over 100 screen shots) and 20 pages of handouts are downloadable from my website. The complete presentation takes you step-by-step through the application of a PowerPatch using Patch/iX with a CSLT and the application of a downloaded reactive patch using Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Included is an example of using Stage/iX to recover from a bad patch.

Why should you care about Patch Management? Keeping a system running smoothly includes knowing how to efficiently and successfully apply patches to the system. HP supplyed bug fix patches to MPE/iX and its subsystems through 2008, including two PowerPatches a year through 2006. Some patches add functionality to older 3000s. Patch/iX is a tool for managing these patches.

Patch/iX can be used to apply reactive patches, a PowerPatch, or an add-on SUBSYS tape with a PowerPatch. Patch/iX is actually a bundle including the PATCHIX program and a number of auxiliary files that are OS release dependent.

Patch/iX allows you to:

• Qualify all patches in a set of patches;

• Install reactive patches at the same time as a PowerPatch;

• Selectively apply patches from a PowerPatch tape; and,

• Create the CSLT (or staging area for Stage/iX) while users are still on the system; i.e., when it is convenient for you without incurring downtime.

Stage/iX is an OS facility for applying and managing the application of patches. Stage/iX reduces system downtime for applying patches to the length of time required for a reboot and provides an easy and reliable method for backing out patches. Stage/iX includes an interface to Patch/iX that creates the “staging area” and two utilities:

• STAGEMAN, which allows you to manage all aspects of patch staging, including which version of the OS will be used for the next update; and,

• STAGEISL, an ISL utility available from the ISL prompt whenever the system is down. It contains a subset of STAGEMAN functionality that allows you to recover from most problems.

Steps in staging

The set of all operating system files, for example NL.PUB.SYS, etc., are considered the current Base OS. Stage/iX creates and manages staging areas, which are HFS directories that hold versions of files that are different from the Base. More than one staging area can exist at a time. Each staging area contains the difference, or delta, between the Base OS and a patched version of the OS.

When a staging area is activated on the next boot, the files in the staging area are moved into their natural locations while the Base versions of the files are saved in a Stage/iX archive HFS directory. To back out a patch, the reverse takes place and the system is restored to its original state.

Once you are satisfied with the new and patched OS, you can COMMIT the staging area to the Base, deleting the staging area directory and all archived Base files. Note that Stage/iX and Patch/iX allow new patches to be staged and applied in a cumulative fashion. In other words, if you create a new staging area while another staging area is active, the new staging area will contain all the changes between the Base and the active staging area plus all the new changes.

Whether or not you use Patch/iX and Stage/iX, the key to successful OS patching is preparation. Information is the key to preparation. The System Software Maintenance Manual (S2M2) for your particular release of MPE/iX is the bible for all patch management activities. It contains a checklist for each possible update and patch activity along with detailed sections corresponding to checklist items. A hardcopy version and a PDF version on CD usually ship with each major OS release.

The S2M2 for each OS release is also available and downloadable from docs.hp.com. Information about specific patches is available at the IT Resource Center (itrc.hp.com). A PowerPatch usually comes with some patch specific documentation – make sure you have it available before you start.

Finally, before you ever sit down at the keyboard, create a Patch Book for the specific patch activity you will be attempting. You can do it with the hardcopy manual and a copy machine, but I prefer to use the PDF version, printing out the two-page checklist and each section that makes up the checklist to create my Patch Book.

How to get, apply patches

Suppose you just got the latest Patch Digest and there is a patch you need to install or you’ve read a thread on the 3000-L mailing list that references a patch you think you should install. Let’s look at how you can get and apply the patch using the ITRC, Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Note that the complete reference manual for both Patch/iX and Stage/iX can be found in the appendices of every S2M2 since, and including, the one for MPE/iX 5.5.

Before proceeding too far, check HPSWINFO.PUB.SYS to ensure the patch has not already been applied. [Note that Patch/iX will tell you if a patch, or even a superceding patch, has already been applied, but it only takes a moment to check HPSWINFO and it could save you some time.] Each patch has an eight character ID. For example, consider TIXMXC3B. The first three characters indicate the subsystem; in this case TIX stands for TurboIMAGE. The next four characters are internal to HP’s patch management mechanism. The final character is the version identifier; in this case “B” indicates the second version of this patch.

First off, identify the proper checklist, in this case Checklist B, and create your Patch Book. Next, review the information about the patches at the ITRC; in particular, look for any patch dependencies.

You need to make sure you have the latest version of Patch/iX installed on your target system. This is critical to your success. All sorts of bad things can happen if you use an old or incomplete version of the Patch/iX bundle. To check the version of Patch/iX, sign on as “MANAGER.SYS,INSTALL” and type in PATCHIX VERSION, The program will respond with something like: Patch/iX Version B.01.09

[Ed. note: getting patches from HP is a free process, but you may have some work in front of you to find a place inside HP support that recognizes the 3000 as a server, and knows how to deliver its patches. If you have a maintenance contract with a good third party — Pivital Solutions, for example — they can help lead you to the right HP cubbyhole.]

Once you have the current Patch/iX and your patches, you are ready to run Patch/iX and create your staging area. There are four steps in any run of Patch/iX:

• “Select Activities,” where you define what type of patching activity you want to perform. You have the choice of adding a PowerPatch, adding reactive patches from tape, adding reactive patches from download or adding SUBSYS products.

• “View Patches” (optional): You can actually view information about all the patches that have been applied previously to your system. Note that this can easily number in the hundreds for a system that is kept reasonably up to date.

• “Qualify Patches,” where Patch/iX does a lot of work to determine which patches of the set you supply it with can and/or should be applied.

• Create the stage, the tape, or both that will be used to actually change the OS.

This is all done while normal production continues and places a minimal load on your system. Once you have created your stage with Patch/iX, you run STAGEMAN to activate your staging area with the SET command. The next time you boot your system (and this can be done remotely from your home at 3 AM Sunday morning if you like), your changes will take effect. Total downtime is the time it takes to do a SHUTDOWN followed by a START NORECOVERY.

What if something goes wrong? If you have problems after successfully rebooting your system and you want to back out your patches, simply run STAGEMAN and use the SET command to make the Base the active stage, reboot your system and you are right back where you started. Suppose you cannot even boot the system successfully after setting the stage? Simply boot to the ISL prompt and use STAGEISL to set the active stage to BASE, reboot and, again, you are back to where you started.

Once you are satisfied with your changes after reasonable testing you can again run STAGEMAN and this time use the COMMIT command to make the active stage the Base and free up the disk space occupied by the old Base.

Of course I have only touched on the key points in the Patch/iX and Stage/iX process. There are a number of details I have left out that are covered in your Patch Book. My goal has been to demonstrate the ease with which you can patch an HP 3000 OS using Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Try it once and you will never go back to applying patches via AUTOPAT — nor will you ever again use a CSLT tape to apply patches if you can possibly help it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:54 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2015

Emulator helps DTC-printer shop into 2015

Hp-distributed-terminal-controller-dtc-2345a-2345a-b48A classic manufacturer of temperature and pressure equipment needed to bring its MPE/iX environment onto current-day hardware. Even though Conax Technologies was still using DTCs like the one at left to link 3000s to terminals, as well as to line-feed printers, the Charon-HPA software helped to lift the full MANMAN solution onto a virtualized HP 3000 environment. 

Like many of Charon's customers, Conax was working with aging Hewlett-Packard hardware. A Series 928 was linked to user terminals as well as printers over a DTC network. The Datacommunications and Terminal Controller was a hardware device, configured as a node on a LAN, to enable asynchronous devices to communicate to Series 900s. Terminals were directly connected to DTCs, and at Conex, printers as well.

"The printers were our biggest challenge," said Bob Ammerman, the IT consultant who oversees the MPE/iX operations at the company. "We had wires running to desks, we had DTCs. Some of the PCs were using QCTerm." About 40 users access MANMAN at peak times at the company's operations in New York State.

Those printers were a significant element in the multi-part form heritage of the company. After the implementation of Charon was completed, MANMAN "thinks it's still printing to the dot-matrix devices, but we've upgraded them to laser printers," Ammerman said. The emulator project included license transfers of Cognos PowerHouse products, the 60-user MANMAN license, as well as middleware from MB Foster and others. Conax took the responsibility for arranging each transfer.

Retiring aged hardware like old disks, dot matrix printers, and non-IP networks is a common need among Charon's user base. But the software is not as easily replaced. Applications like MANMAN become part of the fabric of manufacturing companies the size of Conax. Networking has made the leap from DTCs to TCP/IP. While the company could "take our remaining terminals and dumpster them," MANMAN and its decades of data has to keep working.

"Conax has built its business model around MANMAN," Ammerman said. Like many such companies, any move to another ERP solution would trigger changes to its business processes. Staying in the MPE environment, but moving the hosting hardware to a Intel-based server stack, preserved the firm's work of customizing software to meet company practices.

"Every piece of the 3000 software just ran" on the Charon emulator after testing and some revisions to accommodate needs at Conex. "As I like to say, the bits in there don't change," said Ammerman, who can count his IT experience back to the days of classic Data General minicomputers. While he admits to liking old tech, the new hardware-software stack is up to date on virtualization choices: the Dell servers (using 2.7 GHz processors) run VMware, with Ubuntu Linux configured to manage Charon, and MPE being managed by that Stromasys emulator.

The manufacturer has bought a perpetual license for Charon, which is software that's sometimes licensed for a fixed term. "I'd do it again," Ammerman said of the virtualization that brought a DTC-laden shop into the virtualization era. "We're very pleased with Stromasys."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2015

Data links make hardware migration possible

A one-system HP 3000 shop in Buffalo, NY brought its MPE-hosting hardware into the new era using the Stromasys emulator. The migration from HP's 3000 hardware to Dell servers was made possible by the use of an ODBC connection favorite, UDALink.

Temperature SensorBob Ammerman works at Conax Technologies, supplying his consultant system management and development for the maker of temperature sensors and compression seal fittings. The company has replaced its Series 928 with the Charon virtualized server, but a more modern interface to the historical data was an essential piece of the new solution, too. 

"It wouldn't have been possible without the MB Foster software," Ammerman said of UDALink. The newest version of what began as ODBCLink in the 1990s has been keeping the company's data available for pivot tables in spreadsheets and much more. The software vendor of UDALink is hosting an MB Foster Cares class to launch a new webinar series tomorrow at 2 PM EDT. Cloud use of the software is on the agenda, as is distributed processing.

The manufacturing data at Conax goes back to the period when UDALink was ODBCLink. Keeping it all available meant reducing the need for the classic Cognos tools, according to the manager there. But some crucial programming by Ammerman kept those ODBC hooks vital. The idea was to bring history into the present day.

Ammerman's home-grown software is SQLMAN, an interface that lets users tap into the MANMAN data with the touch of button to make those pivot tables for spreadsheets. While the Quiz software that was once sold by Cognos is still important, users at the company don't create their own Quiz reports anymore. The users choose from pre-developed reports, a move that slims down the need for so many licenses.

In the webinar, Birket Foster says he'll "be highlighting product features that may already be included in your license, as well as some special uses for your product that you may have not thought of already." Manufacturing managers using 3000s have probably thought about how they'll keep years of historic data available.

In a classic migration, the ERP alternatives often can't make room for historical data. But shifting an MPE application to new hardware is a relatively new option. Given the right tools, it's a strategy that even smaller shops can embrace while using legacy software. At another manufacturing site, the MANMAN use is ending, but the data must be extracted and moved. UDALink is working there, too.

Foster says its design goals have been to make UDALink at least 10 times faster than scripting for data migrations. That describes the efforts to create the links. At that homesteading Conax site, Ammerman said the performance of the tool is "pretty snappy on the emulator." Time efficiency is crucial to maintaining and extending value, whether a site is migrating or sustaining its 3000.

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

October 12, 2015

Making Room for a 3000's Historic Data

ReadingroomOne promise from migration projects is the brightening of skies through better user experiences. The futures get bright when they're reflected in new features, better interfaces and user experiences, faster performance and more complete connectivity.

However, some 3000 sites have discovered that while their futures look brighter on the way to a migration, their pasts fall in a dim light. In one example, a manufacturer in New York was on the way to replacing MANMAN with newer ERP software.

There was a problem, and it lay in the reams of history the company had amassed after two-plus decades of creating temperature sensors and sealed fittings. The new ERP target application couldn't reach into the history of MANMAN transactions. This kind of need can spring up so innocently you don't see it coming. A C-level exec, or just a VP, wants a report to include history back to 2010. The new ERP package will track everything that's current, but history is another matter.

It's the kind of requirement that's keeping HP 3000s running the world over. Rigorous analysis demands looking back, in order to project the future.

This afternoon we checked in with Wes Setree, a long-time HP 3000 expert who's moving out of the MPE world for good. He'd told the 3000-L mailing list group he's moving on, and his story includes a successful transition. Setree will be doing applications and Linux system management in a new job.

At his former employer, the HP 3000s are being pulled out of production use. But they're not going offline completely for another 14 months.

My previous employer was waiting to get one last line of business off their 3000, then look for a sunset on the platform. That occurred around Oct. 1, so their last few 3000s will be going offline most likely by end of next year -- since all the database info has been ported and they don't need to keep it plugged in.

Migration of data become the defining element of a 3000's life. Historical data needs to be migrated with care, and the right software can make the process an effective and efficient task. Setree lavished his praise on the system, as well as those on the mailing list who still work with MPE.

I, like many others on this list, am heartbroken for the demise of this incredible and stable platform, and I thought it would carry me through the end of my career. Sadly it didn't. For those of you who still run this platform I applaud you and wish you all the best. It could have and should have been the market choice for future generations.

 

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

October 09, 2015

Why Good News Can Stay Under Wraps

Life is full of bad news, the kind of events we seem to capture and yet are eager to pass along. There's drama in conflict, of course. The world of MPE and 3000 users has been rife with conflicts, pitting stability and legacy against the promises of modernization: mobile abilities, redundancy, commodity pricing, efficient scalability, and ease of use.

ConfidentialIn contrast, making a go of staying with a legacy solution like MPE and the 3000 might be a development that's not often shared. There's the judgement to endure about not responding to change with new strategy. There might also be some clever moves, all upstanding, that make keeping MPE hardware a reality. Sometimes spreading good news starts with letting the light fall on reality.

We've heard a story from an IT manager about his ERP solution, one that is living in an emulated environment. "I want to keep a low profile about this," he said in a conference call. "The less detail they hear about me, the better I like it."

What's at stake there is keeping an operating budget in good order. Move to an emulator and you'll have to talk about licenses and what they're worth in 2015. But if you emulate a Series 900 with software that's got the same horsepower, what's really the difference? Application suppliers have their ideals about what an upgrade adds up to, while utility and middleware companies are sharper dealers. By sharp we mean smart. They want to keep a customer, regardless of their MPE platform.

Managing the transfer of MPE licenses to the emulator is of great interest to the legacy application community. In the first week of November, the CAMUS user group will have a meeting designed to learn about licensing, if anybody can share their experiences. Terri Lanza wants to hear from ERP sites who've moved licenses onto Charon. The conference call takes place on Thursday, November 5.

Up to now, the best user profiles we could share about moving MPE software to Charon came from Warren Dawson in Australia, and Jeff Elmer at Dairylea Cooperative. Both of these IT managers relied upon third party software running on their 3000s. Almost everything made the move, legally and above board. What didn't move got dropped by these sites. A big-vendor application wasn't part of either of those stories, though.

We'd like to hear more from this community about the challenges of making a license transition, in part because this is a help-yourself task. Arranging these transitions is the responsibility of the 3000 manager, not an emulation company. You make your own deal, but hearing good news about it helps muster the effort.

There are vendors who are happy to transfer a license from HP's 3000 hardware to a Charon installation. That's the Good News, a report that might provide enough hope that a site would push forward with the HP-to-Intel transition. Vendors who didn't cooperate might be induced to do so in other circumstances. Everybody makes their own deal in the MPE world of 2015.  Price lists for moving from tier to tier have been retired. It's worth a call -- and a call back, if there's no response -- to a vendor to get some good news.

This subject is good news for a migrating company as well as anybody holding the position of homesteading. One common element among the Charon users is the reality that everything's got an expiration date. Stromasys helps companies buy time for transitions. How much time varies, just like the terms of any license deal in 2015.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2015

Reloading, Redux: How To

Loading cementIt used to be the worst thing that could happen to an HP 3000 was a reload of its data. Adager gained its central place in the 3000 manager's toolbox because it would prevent the need for a reload after database restructuring. Although the worst thing to happen to today's 3000 is the loss of an expert to keep it healthy and sustained, reloads are still a significant event.

Not very long ago, a 3000 manager was looking for a refresher on how to do a system reload. Ernie Newton explained why he needed one and shared what he knew. Advice about adding the DIRECTORY parameter, and using BULDJOB1 to set up the accounting structure, followed when Ernie said

We suffered a double drive failure on our Raid 5 disk array yesterday and I'm thinking that I may have to do a reload. It's been almost 15 years since I've done one. If I recall, I do a load when bringing the system up, then do a restore @.@.@.

Our resident management expert Gilles Schipper provided detailed instruction on doing a reload. We hope it's another 15 years for Ernie until he's got to do this again.

Here are the instructions, assuming your backup includes the ;directory option, as well as the SLT:

1. Boot from alternate path and choose INSTALL (assuming alternate path is your tape drive) 
2. After INSTALL completes, boot from primary path and perform START NORECOVERY. 
3. Use VOLUTIL to add ldev 2 to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. 
4. Restore directory from backup (:restore *t;;directory) 
5. openq lp
6. Perform a full restore with the following commands
:file t;dev=7(?)
:restore *t;/;keep;show=offline;olddate;create;partdb;progress=5
7.Perform START NORECOVERY

Gilles adds, "I would suggest setting permanent and transient space each equal to 100 percent on LDEV 2. The 75 percent default on LDEV 1 is fine as long as you don’t need the space. And if you did, your solution shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze the little extra you’d get by increasing the default maximum limits."

The reason for limiting LDEV to 75 percent is to minimize the otherwise already heavy traffic on LDEV 1, since the system directory must reside there, as well as many other high traffic “system” files.

You won't want to omit the ;CREATE and ;PARTDB options from the restore command. Doing so will certainly get the job done -- but perhaps not to your satisfaction. If any file that exists on your backup was created by a user that no longer exists, that file (or files) will NOT be restored.

Similarly, if you omit the ;PARTDB option, any file that comprises a TurboIMAGE database whose corresponding root file does not exist, will also not be restored.

I suppose it may be a matter of personal preference, but I would rather have all files that existed on my disks prior to disk crash also exist after the post disk-crash RELOAD. I could then easily choose to re-delete the users that created those files -- as well as the files themselves.

Another reason why the ;SHOW=OFFLINE option is used is so that one can quickly see the users that were re-created as the result of the ;CREATE option. Purging the "orphan" datasets would be slightly more difficult, since they don’t so easily stand out on the stdlist.

Finally, it’s critical that a second START NORECOVERY be performed. Otherwise, you cannot successfully start up your network.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2015

Pursuing Crowd-funding for an MPE Port

Open source software once provided a turbo-boost to the renaissance of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. For one manager, the concept still holds some promise to improve his 3000's offering.

"Does anyone have a newer port of Apache and SSL for the HP 3000?" Frank Gribbin asked last month. "If not, I know a reliable vendor who can do the port. Anyone interested in crowd-funding the effort?"

CrowdfundingGribbin has long been on the trailblazing path with the 3000. His company was among the first to put Java/iX to work in its production software. At the law firm Potter Anderson LLP, he's done development as a part of testing the Charon emulator, too. 

"Our 3000s are still useful and humming along," he said. "I haven't done anything in Java for awhile. But I've been having a lot of success using the Apache CGI capability to communicate with BASIC programs that access IMAGE databases."

BASIC. Still working in a 3000 installation.

"My interest in Java was to build a better user interface for 3000 apps," he said. "I thought that was one reason the 3000 was losing market share. Once I figured out CGI scripting and a web interface, I put my effort into that. On our 3000, most of the time, BASIC got the job done. I've written supplemental code in FORTRAN, SPL, Java and Visual Basic, too."

Java does suffer from performance issues on the HP 3000, in part because of HP’s strategy of throttling down the speeds of PA-RISC processors in A-Class and N-Class 3000s. Crowd-funding open source work is only one element in improving such software. While an outside organization might be able to get the language’s latest version ready for MPE/iX, any such group might also have to pay to transfer the Java for MPE license that HP originally got.

The last MPE/iX version of Java was getting the job done, language expert Gavin Scott said during one of the final SIG-Java meetings at HP World.

“Today's Java version for MPE should be good enough for most needs going forward,” Scott said at the 2004 meeting. “It's already Nth generation technology both from the point of view of Java from Sun and from the MPE porting effort. If you're developing your own code, having an older Java version should really be no problem. The only issue that arises is if you want to run some commercial package that's not certified for the older version, or can't be made to run due to it missing some later feature.”

“But once HP stops producing Java for MPE, there will be no future releases,” he added. “I believe you need to be a big company prepared to shell out a lot of money for a Java license and meet many very complex and expensive requirements.”

Scott noted at that time he knows of third-party Java execution systems, compilers, and class-library implementations — some of which are free. “But none are really a replacement for the full Sun Java implementations,” he said.

Gribbin spoke with a Java licensing representative about extending the life of the language on the HP 3000.

“While the source code is free, implementing it on our platform is our challenge, and certification for redistribution of a J2SE implementation is in the $75,000 to $100,000 range,” he said back in 2004. “J2SE provides an option for headless configurations, and we'd be okay in the test harness without GUI features.”

By now, the abilities of the Apache web server software are standing in for the language that HP once ported. Ports were a promising way to win new 3000 sites. Now they're a way to keep the system connected to the servers that HP allowed to rise up in the 3000's place.

"Vendors maximize profits with 'out with the old, in with the new,' " Gribbin said. "Customers minimize expenses with 'keep what is best of the old and enhance with the new.' Just a different priority."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2015

3000 Masters make the most of ERP access

Volokhs, Simpkins, SadaatThe MPE/iX servers which service manufacturing users still have feature-growth opportunity. That's the chance to improve usability, an opportunity often presented by third-party add-on software. A few of the 3000 masters met last month to integrate that sort of software. They were widely-known, recognized for advocating MPE computing, or sharing deep ERP background to make a 3000 work smarter and more securely.

Eugene Volokh, Terry Simpkins, and Ali Sadat came together for an afternoon in LA, hunched over laptops and connecting three MPE-savvy software programs. (Of course, Eugene's dad Vladimir couldn't help but look over his son's work.) At the heart of the equation was MANMAN, still in use at Measurement Specialties' 10 HP 3000 sites, running manufacturing and ERP in China and elsewhere. That remains Simpkins' mission. He's also stood up for homesteading, or choosing HP 3000s, ever since the middle '90s. His company was acquired last year by TE Connectivity, a process that sometimes shakes out legacy software and systems. Not this time.

Eugene and Terry SimpkinsHelping Simpkins was Vesoft's Eugene Volokh, co-creator of Security/3000. The servers Simpkins' company uses also use the Vesoft product first launched in the 1980s. Eugene was just a teenager when he helped his dad Vladimir build Security/3000. As you can see from the picture above, one of the most famous members of the 3000 community has gotten older — as have we all.

The summit of these masters was topped up by Ali Sadat (foreground, above), whose Visual Basic user interface runs in front of MANMAN at Simpkins' sites. The product which started in 1997 as AdvanceMan does more than just pretty up users' OMAR and MFG screens with buttons and pull-down menus. By now it's an interface to the Web and XML, and it also lets users work in more than one MANMAN module at a time, plus eliminates the typing of commands to execute MANMAN actions. It doesn't require any changes to existing MANMAN environments. For continuity the screens began as ones that were similar in form to the original MANMAN screens. The flexibility and usability is now an opportunity to use an interface for improvements. That's an improvement to an app that was first released in the late '70s. Sadat's Quantum Software calls the product XactMan by now.

But XactMan needs to pass through the Security/3000 gates to get access at the sessions in MANMAN -- at least it does at a sensible site like Measurement Specialties that's deployed passwords right down the session level. Sadat, Simpkins, and Volokh were hard at work for an afternoon engineering the integration. Vladimir updated us on the connection, adding that Security/3000's sessonname logon parameter -- a full execution of the MPE stub -- needs to know XactMan wants session access. XactMan takes up no user sessions on the HP 3000, regardless of the number of PCs that are interfacing to MANMAN.

Saving sessions used to be important, but the improved interface is the point today. Catching three masters of the 3000 at work was a nice candid moment, captured in the photos by Eugene's mom Anne. During that week in LA, there was a masters gathering of minds all older than 45. The 3000 community is beyond mid-life, but these four people were working to make sure it goes gracefully into its senior years.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)