July 21, 2014
Maximum Disc Replacement for Series 9x7s
Software vendors, as well as in-house developers, keep Series 9x7 servers available for startup to test software revisions. There are not very many revisions to MPE software anymore, but we continue to see some of these oldest PA-RISC servers churning along in work environments.
9x7s, you may ask -- they're retired long ago, aren't they? Less than one year ago, one reseller was offering a trio for between $1,800 (a Series 947) and $3,200. Five years ago this week, tech experts were examining how to modernize the drives in these venerable beasts. One developer figured in 2009 they'd need their 9x7s for at least five more years. For the record, 9x7s are going to be from the early 1990s, so figure that some of them are beyond 20 years old now.
"They are great for testing how things actually work," one developer reported, "as opposed to what the documentation says, a detail we very much need to know when writing migration software. Also, to this day, if you write and compile software on 6.0, you can just about guarantee that it will run on 6.0, 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5 MPE/iX."
Some of the most vulnerable elements of machines from that epoch include those disk drives. 4GB units are installed inside most of them. Could something else replace these internal drives? It's a valid question for any 3000 that runs with these wee disks, but it becomes even more of an issue with the 9x7s. MPE/iX 7.0 and 7.5 are not operational on that segment of 3000 hardware.
Even though the LDEV1 drive will only support 4GB of space visible to MPE/iX 6.0 and 6.5, there's always LDEV2. You can use virtually any SCSI (SE SCSI or FW SCSI) drive, as long as you have the right interface and connector.
There's a Seagate disk drive that will stand in for something much older that's bearing an HP model number. The ST318416N 18GB Barracuda model -- which was once reported at $75, but now seems to be available for about $200 or so -- is in the 9x7's IOFDATA list of recognized devices, so they should just configure straight in. Even though that Seagate device is only available as refurbished equipment, it's still going to arrive with a one-year warranty. A lot longer than the one on any HP-original 9x7 disks still working in the community.One developer quipped to the community, five years ago this week, "On the disc front at least that Seagate drive should keep those 3000s running, probably longer than HP remains a Computer Manufacturer."
But much like the 9x7 being offered for sale this year, five years later HP is still manufacturing computers, including its Unix and Linux replacement systems for any 3000 migrating users.
So to refresh drives on the 9x7s, configure these Barracuda replacement drives in LDEV1 as the ST318416N -- it will automatically use 4GB (its max visible capacity) on reboot.
As for the LDEV2 drives, there are no real logical size limits, so anything under 300GB would work fine -- 300GB was the limit for MPE/iX drives until HP released its "Large Disk" patches for MPE/iX, MPEMXT2/T3. But that's a patch that wasn't written for the 9x7s, as they don't use 7.5.
Larger drives were not tested for these servers because of a power and heat dissipation issue. Some advice from the community indicates you'd do better to not greatly increase the power draw above what those original equipment drives require. The specs for those HP internal drives may be a part of your in-house equipment documentation. Seagate offers a technical manual for the 18GB Barracuda drive at its website, for power comparisons.
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July 17, 2014
TBT: When users posterized HP's strategy
The Orange County Register captured this picture of the football-field sized poster that users assembled to call notice to the 3000 at the annual Interex show. We offer it in our collection of ThrowBack Thursday photos. Click on it for detail.
Recent news about a decline in the health of community guru Jeff Kell sparked a link to another 3000 icon: Wirt Atmar. The founder of AICS Research shared some medical conditions with Kell, but Wirt was never at a loss for gusto and panache. Twenty-eight years ago he started a print job in July, one that wouldn't be complete until the following month, when HP World convened in Anaheim. The 1996 show was held not too far from a high school football field -- one where ardent users of the 3000 wanted to make publicity for their beloved MPE server.
Thousands of panels rolled out of Wirt's HP DesignJet plotter, driven by an HP 3000 at his Las Cruces, New Mexico headquarters, each making up a small section of the World's Largest Poster. HP had set the record for largest poster just a few months earlier, with a basketball court's worth of 8x11 sheets, placed carefully to make a giant picture of Mickey Mouse. Wirt and his league of extraordinary advocates took on another element while they aimed at a bigger poster, by far. This World's Largest Poster was to be assembled outdoors, in the Santa Ana winds of Southern California.
All morning on that summer day the winds continued to climb, testing the resolve of a growing number of volunteers. Panels would spring up in the breeze, which seemed to flow from every possible direction. Atmar, whose company had printed the thousands of panels over a six week period and who had driven the poster in a U-Haul truck from New Mexico, stood alongside the poster's edge and gave instruction on holding it in place, using gutter-width roofing nails pressed into the turf.
But by 11 AM, no more nails were on hand, and the question was on everyone's lips -- where are they? The winds climbed with the sun in the sky, and volunteers were forced to use shoes and poster tubes to hold the panels in place. As a section would rise up, dedicated customers would call out,"It's coming up!" and then race to tack it in place, an organic version of a fault-tolerant system.
The document of about 36,000 square feet was somehow kept in place on the high school football field. The work of printing began in July. When Wirt was finally able to point across the field, at the completed poster, he breathed a sigh of relief and good natured fatigue. He quipped that after printing the four-foot rolls of paper needed for the poster, loading them into a van for the trip to California represented “the summer corporate fitness program for AICS Research.”Atmar, who died in 2009, was never at a loss for words about the 3000's potential and its fate. He touted the former with the zeal of a preacher and bemoaned the latter like a man saddled with in-laws who came to visit and never left. Like community leaders, he could make a sound case for the fact that Hewlett-Packard didn't understand what a gem it'd built in MPE and the 3000. The Poster Project was meant to remind CEO Lew Platt and the vice president of the computing group Wim Roelandts that the company already had customers who were avid about using a computer that had nothing to do with Unix.
At that point in HP's history of the 3000, computers had to at least integrate with Unix. The company had bet its enterprise future on Windows NT up to that point, but corporations were flocking to what was called an open systems environment instead. In truth, Unix was no more open than any other operating system, once each vendor finished called it something like Solaris, or AIX, or HP-UX, and ever more brands. At least MPE was plainly a specific environment.
But Atmar and his cohorts remembered that the 3000 was a general purpose computer, as first conceived. Demonstrating that the 3000 could produce artwork, and at a grand scale, was one aim of the Poster. The publicity stunt was covered by the Long Beach Press Telegram and the Orange County Register, among others. I rode in the Bell Ranger helicopter to take an aerial shot, but the Register's remains the throwback picture of record.
In an account of the event, Wirt was eager to point out all of the friends and allies who'd made the day possible.
A fair number of the people who participated in the poster can be recognized (primarily by their clothing). Alfredo Rego is walking across the top of the middle football player's helmet. Ken Paul, Ken Sletten and Jon Diercks are all at the base of the group of people in line with the "u" in the word, "Butt." Rene Woc is seen walking directly above the shoe of the rightmost football player. And Jeanette Nutsford appears just below the knuckles of the middle player.
July 16, 2014
Kell carries key account of 3000 revival
We've come to learn that community icon Jeff Kell is battling a serious illness. While I wish this keystone of MPE wisdom a quick recovery, and the best wishes to his wife, I'd like to share some insights he relayed about the transition from Classic 3000s to the ultimate edition of the server he's worked on and cared for most of his career at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
I'd asked Kell to explain what the HP CEO during that transition era, John Young, might have been talking about while the CEO told Computerworld in 1985 about the strategy of RISC. As the clipping from Computerworld to the left shows, Young was a lot less than clear about what RISC would do for HP's long-term computing plans. A comment in the second paragraph of the clipping -- about networking, one of Kell's most ardent studies -- made me want to reach out to him earlier this summer. Young's conflation of "9000 series terminals emulated the 3000 architecture in some ways, but not really completely" was something Kell could clear up.
I'm not aware of any similarities [Young noted] between 3000/9000 Series except after adoption of RISC, and they used the same processors/hardware. They may have shared some peripheral hardware earlier, but certainly had little in common until RISC. The 3000/9000 had practically nothing in common prior to that other than perhaps HP-IB peripherals.
Network-wise, the 9000-series was following the ARPA/Ethernet track, while the 3000 initially started down the IEEE/OSI architecture. Ethernet was only accepted by the 3000 as an afterthought, it was a checkbox on the NMCONFIG dialogue if you wanted to allow it, and it defaulted to OFF.
So unless Young was talking post-RISC (timeframe is wrong), I'm not sure how he would compare 3000/9000 lines at all. The initial RISC 3000s were in the last half of the 1980s. If I recall correctly, my "migration training" to the "new" 3000s was at the Atlanta response center around 1985 (or a little later) and we were expecting a 930. We ended up with a 950 (since the 930 sucked so badly.) But I do recall many of the details.
"At that time," he said, "we had stretched our Series-IIIs to the limit. HP had "loaned" us a 42 and 48 to "tie us over" until delivery of Spectrum. We had the week at the migration center in Atlanta and spent most of it doing switch stubs for our extensive set of SPL support routines. We finally got a 950 and never looked back, but we had several engineers scratching their heads in the process. We were doing some really peculiar stuff."
Those were "interesting times" indeed. I think at the time we had a Series III with 64 terminals attached (production), a Series III-R (development), a Series 40 or 42 (Library), an academic 44/48, a leftover Series III (academic), and that loaner pair of 42/48 (or 52/58?) to tie us over until Spectrum. We were long overdue for an upgrade, but no hardware was available yet to satisfy the need.
The 3000's direction on networking was most disturbing, taking the OSI standard model in the midst of our evolving Sun/Solaris Internet computers. We had 3000s on our LAN that could only talk to other 3000s on our LAN... while the rest of the server room was on the Internet. It was laughable.
It would be another decade before Posix came to MPE, and it started to play well with the other kids on the block. But unfortunately, a decade too late.
HP executives were taken up with the "Unix" movement... and the 9000s dominated their focus. The 3000s were just along for the ride. And looking back today, that wasn't such a great bet either.
Kell is a classic example of a chapter of living history -- and the lessons we learn from it -- that should be cherished by the community. After nearly 40 years, the decommissioned 3000s at his UTC shop were picked up for recycling. "We're now officially 3000 history," he said, "with nothing left on site."
July 15, 2014
3000 jobs still swinging their shingles
The Help Wanted sign remains out in the 3000 community for a couple of positions this week, genuine jobs that involve no migration of the server out of datacenters. Multiple offers inside the same week might actually give the employers a chance to compete with one another. But given the limited number of openings for MPE work, applicants aren't likely to be using one offer to leverage another.
At Cerro Wire, IT Director Herb Statham is looking for a programmer/analyst. Cerro Wire manufactures and distributes electrical wire for the residential and commercial building industries. Statham has been in the news in the past as an IT pro with a serious interest in the Stromasys emulator. Emulator interest has been known to be an indicator of a stable future for MPE applications.
Statham is looking for a P/A who knows COBOL for the 3000, IMAGE, MPE, and Suprtool. There's also Qedit, Adager, Netbase, Bridgeware, and byRequest running at the site in north central Alabama. The job's tasks run to development, change implementation, documentation and design, as well as planning. Applicants can send a resume to Statham at his email address.
Over at Measurement Specialties, the job we first noted near the end of June remains open. Business Systems Director Terry Simpkins is still open to reviewing resumes for a Business Analyst post."I thought I make it 'big jobs day' on the list and re-post our job opening here in Hampton, VA," Simpkins said, putting the job offer up on the same day as Cerro's opening. "I'm back from a three-week vacation and ready to start interviewing, so if you are interested, get me your resume as soon as possible. I'm ready to get some help."
Support for a global MANMAN implementation is the mission for the Measurement Specialties opening.
Areas of responsibility include:
- Daily user training and support
- Participate in projects in all functional areas of the business
- Serve as backup support for HP3000 operations and nightly processing
Key skills and capabilities include:
- Strong MANMAN experience and expertise
- Ability to read Fortran and perform some level of programming
- Strong understanding of MPEX scripting and Security/3000 menus
- Ability to handle multiple concurrent projects and tasks
The company has been installing 3000s in manufacturing plants around the world. A raft of facilities went online in China in the previous decade, all part of the MANMAN network for the company. Measurement Specialites is a public firm traded on the NASDAQ (MEAS).
Simpkins says that "If you are interested in a challenging and exciting opportunity with a dynamic and growing company," please contact
Measurement Specialties, Inc.
1000 Lucas Way, Hampton, VA 23666
Office: +1 757-766-4278
Mobile: +1 757 532-5685
July 09, 2014
How to Employ SFTP on Today's MPE
Is anyone using SFTP on the HP 3000?
Gavin Scott, a developer and a veteran of decades on MPE/iX, says he got it to work reliably at one customer a year or so ago. "We exchanged SSL keys with the partner company," Scott said, "and so I don't think we had to provide a password as part of the SFTP connection initiation."
At least in my environment, the trick to not having it fail randomly around 300KB in transfers (in batch) was to explicitly disable progress reporting -- which was compiled into the 3000 SFTP client as defaulting to "on" for some reason. I forget the exact command that needed to be included in the SFTP command stream (probably "progress <mumble>" or something like that), but without that, it would try to display the SFTP progress bar. This caused it to whomp its stack or something similarly bad when done in a batch job, due to the lack of any terminal to talk to.
As SFTP is a pure Posix program, I ended up making Posix-named byte-stream files for stdin and stdout, and generally did all the SFTP stuff from the Posix shell. The MPE job ended up being a bunch of invocations of SH -c to execute an echo command to make the stdin file, and then another SH -c to run SFTP with a ;callci setvar varname -- $? or something like that -- on the end to capture the Posix process exit code back into the CI.
I also parsed/grepped the stdout file after the SFTP completed/exited, in order to test for seeing the actual file transferring message. I also wanted to make sure that all of the stdin content had been processed, so I could detect unexpected early termination or other problems that might not show up in $?.
That's all from memory, as I don't have access to the scripts any longer. In the end, SFTP was completely reliable, after working through all of its little issues.
July 02, 2014
Co-op works out CHARON IO differences
Editor's note: Starting tomorrow it's a business holiday week's-end here in the US, so we are taking a few days to relax in a family reunion on the waters of a very well known Bay. We'll be back at our reporting on Monday.
At the Dairylea Cooperative in the Northeastern US, moving away from classic HP 3000 hardware to CHARON meant a bit of a learning curve. But the changes were something that even had a few blessings in disguise.
Moving files via FTP from the retired HP 3000 would be quicker and easier, said IT Director Jeff Elmer, "but of course it would require the physical box to be on the network. Getting our DLT 8000s to work with the emulator required some research, and some trial and error, but once you know the quirks and work around them, it’s actually quite reliable,” he said.
A new disaster recovery server had to be acquired. Dairylea purchased a ProLiant server identical to the one running what Elmer calls “our production emulator,” The DR emulator is installed it in the same city where the physical HP 3000 DR box was, complete with tape drives. Stromasys supplies a USB key for the DR emulator as part of the support fees; the key contains HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME codes required to boot up MPE and other software. The key is good for 360 hours of DR operation “and it expires at the same time our annual support does.”Dairylea’s HP-branded 3000 was a 969 KS/100, but its CHARON install emulates an A500-200 model, “so in general our performance experience is about the same. There are some times in the month when we have enough going on that things seem a bit slower than the physical box was, but overall our experience with the emulator has been very positive.”
The company has had enough computing bandwidth to experiment using that ProLiant DR box, since it’s not in day-to-day use. This work has expanded the virtual capability of that system’s VMware installation.
“We did a physical-to-virtual conversion of the Red Hat environment for the HP 3000 emulator, so our DR emulator is now running under VMware and we shut down the dedicated ProLiant server,” Elmer said. VMware handles making the USB key available to the emulator. “While you do not want to vMotion a running HP 3000 emulator, it seems to be quite happy under VMware. We can access the remote ESX hosts via vSphere, start the Red Hat host, start the HP 3000 emulator, and do a restore of the most recent full backup, all without getting out of a chair.
Elmer noted that all of the 3000 backups go to disk since moving to the emulator. This has eliminated the need to have a tape mounted by IT staff.
“We store to a virtual tape drive that is a file in the Red Hat space,” he said. “Those full backups are automatically copied off to an FTP server that is automatically replicated to our DR site — so we now have two copies of each full backup, one at the production site and one at the DR site.”
July 01, 2014
Northeastern cooperative plugs in CHARON
A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity.
A $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance and risk management — has become an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software while boosting reliability.
The Dairylea Cooperative has been using the Stromasys CHARON emulator since the start of December, 2013, according to IT director Jeff Elmer. The organization that was founded in 1907 serves dairy owners across seven states in the US Northeast, a collective that had been using two Hewlett-Packard brand RISC servers for MPE operations.
Dairylea has taken its disaster recovery 3000 offline since December 1. Although HP’s physical 3000 server is still powered up, it’s been off the network all year while production continues. “Once we made the switch to the emulator, we never went back to the physical box,” Elmer said. ‘We can’t see any reason to at this point.”
“However much we may love HP’s 3000 hardware, the disk drives are still older than half of our IS department. Some of our users never knew there was a change.”The Stromasys emulator has been the easiest element to manage in the co-op’s Information Systems group. “For some weeks now I’ve been wanting to get around to making arrangements for the removal of both physical HP 3000s,” Elmer explained, “but the day-to-day distractions of the many other computer systems that don’t run MPE keep filling up the time. Since going to the emulator the only thing we’ve used the HP 3000 physical box for is to store a few files to tape for transfer to the emulator.”
As with any replacement solution, CHARON has required some learning to adjust everyday 3000 operations. We'll have more on that tomorrow.
June 27, 2014
Mansion meet takes first comeback steps
A few hours ago, the first PowerHouse user group meeting and formation of a Customer Advisory Board wrapped up in California. Russ Guzzo, the guiding light for PowerHouse's comeback, told us a few weeks ago that today's meeting was just the first of several that new owner UNICOM Global was going to host. "We'll be taking this on the road," he said, just as the vendor was starting to call users to its meeting space at the PickFair mansion in Hollywood.
We've heard that the meeting was webcast, too. It's a good idea to extend the reach of the message as Unicom extends the future of the PowerHouse development toolset.
This is a product that started its life in the late 1970s. But so did Unix, so just because a technology was born more than 35 years ago doesn't limit its lifespan. One user, IT Director Robert Coe at HPB Management Ltd. in Cambridge, wants to see PowerHouse take a spot at the table alongside serious business languages. Coe understands that going forward might mean leaving some compatibility behind. That's a step Hewlett-Packard couldn't ever take with MPE and the HP 3000. Some say that decision hampered the agility of the 3000's technical and business future at HP. Unix, and later Linux, could become anything, unfettered by compatibility.
Coe, commenting on the LinkedIn Cognos Powerhouse group, said his company has been looking at a migration away from Powerhouse -- until now.
There were many business decisions made about the lifecycle and sales practices for PowerHouse over the last 25 years that hampered the future of the tool. Coe found technical faults with the alternatives to PowerHouse -- "over-complicated, hard to learn, slow to develop, difficult to maintain, prone to bugs, with far too much unnecessary and fiddly syntax."
I would like to see Powerhouse developed into a modern mainstream language, suitable for development of any business system or website. If this is at the expense of backwards compatibility, so be it. We are developing new systems all the time, and at the moment are faced with having to use Java, c# or similar. I would much rather be developing new systems in a Powerhouse based new language, with all the benefits that provides, even if it is not directly compatible with our existing systems.
The world would be a better place if Powerhouse was the main platform used for development! I hope Unicom can provide the backing, wisdom and conviction to enable this to happen.
But he was also spot-on in tagging the management shortcomings of the toolset's previous owners:
- Cognos concentrated on BI tools, as there appeared to be more money in them
- IBM bought Cognos for its BI tools for the same reason
- Powerhouse development more or less stopped many years ago
- Licences were very expensive compared to other languages. which were often open source and free
- Powerhouse was not open source and therefore didn’t get the support of the developer community
- Backwards compatibility was guaranteed, stifling major development
Powerhouse is a far superior platform for development of business systems. I cringe at the thought of having to use the likes of Java to replace or current systems or to develop our future systems!
Bob Deskin, hired by UNICOM to advise the new owners on a growth strategy for the toolset, reminded Coe that things like Java, Ruby, Python and Perl were not purpose-built for business.
Don't be too hard on those other languages. Some of them aren't what I would call complete programming languages. Some are scripting languages. And some are trying to be all things to all people. PowerHouse was always focused on business application development. Hang in for a while longer and watch what UNICOM can do.
June 26, 2014
3000 sages threwback stories on Thursday
Two weeks ago in the modest London pub Dirty Dick's, a few dozen veterans and sages of the 3000 system had their personal version of a Throwback Thursday. This is the day of the week when Facebook and Twitter users put out a piece of their personal history, usually in the form of a picture from days long past.
If pressed for a piece of June Throwback Thursday material, I might reach for our very first blog post. Nine years ago this month we kicked off our coverage of new, every-workday reporting. My first story was a tribute to a just-fallen comrade in the 3000 community. Bruce Toback died in that month the Newswire's blog was born. As I said in that first blog article -- "A Bright Light Winks Out" was already a throwback, before the term gained its current coin -- Toback was extraordinary, the kind of person that makes the 3000 community unique. He lived with a firm grip on life's handrail of humor. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 48. As part of a gentle and generous Toback memorial, David Greer hosts pictures of Bruce like the one above. Many of these were taken as Toback became important to the Robelle Qedit for Windows project.
The passing of a special life is a good reason to celebrate what remains for all of us. That's probably what motivated those London veterans to gather at Dirty Dick's Pub this month to toss off stories and toss back drinks. Bob Green of Robelle (pictured here in a throwback picture in the spring of 2001, when he was working from his Anguilla island headquarters) shared some pub photos and a brief report about this month's Throwback Thursday for your community.
“It was great to catch up with 3000 colleagues from around the world: Steve Cooper, Dave Wiseman, Brian Duncombe, Kim Leeper, Brad Tashenberg, the Nutsfords and many more (about 20 in all). We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine -- especially the new emulator -- and discovered what each of us was doing. [Editor's Note: Duncombe (above) had made this trip in a record 48-hour-complete turnaround, from Canada to the UK and back. The intensity still burns bright for some of your community members.]
Green noted, while posting photos of Cooper and Leeper in conversation, or the sweet couples' photo (below) of Jeanette and Ken Nutsford, "An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.
"Here are some photos from the party. Everyone is older, but perhaps you will remember some of them." This photo of the Nutsfords, ever the COBOL and HP Rapid standards-bearers, is something of a coup. The couple retired from the world of the 3000 to set off an epic career of cruise line travels, so catching them for a picture requires some foresight. They are circling the globe in a lifestyle that shows there's another, more rewarding kind of migration awaiting the luckiest of us.
June 24, 2014
Robelle shows off uniformizing phone data
The latest newsletter from Robelle Solutions Technology shows off how to normalize phone numbers in databases. (To be precise, this is a process that's different from classic database normalization: It's more like "uniformization," to cobble together a term, since normalization has already been taken, years ago while creating database maintenance procedures.)
The object of this uniformization is to remove the non-number characters from a phone number byte container. Normalization is a significant element in data cleansing. As IT pros on the move in a migration, or just diligent about their use of company resources will report, cleansing doesn't happen only when you're moving data between platforms or app to app.
Suprtool expert Neil Armstrong of Robelle said that "Considering the following data, you see that the phone numbers have all sorts of different formats."
>in myphone >list >xeq >IN myphone (0) >OUT $NULL (0) PHONENUM = #123.456.7890 >IN myphone (1) >OUT $NULL (1) PHONENUM = (123)567-1234 >IN myphone (2) >OUT $NULL (2) PHONENUM = (321).123.5678 IN=3, OUT=3. CPU-Sec=1. Wall-Sec=1.
Robelle -- whose Bob Green also posted news of this month's HP3000 Reunion meeting at Dirty Dick's pub in London -- asked Armstrong to show how all of these phone formats could be fit into a consistent container.
"The steps in normalizing the data are to remove the non-numeric numbers," Armstrong said in his article.
>in myphone >set cleanchar "" >clean "^0:^47","^58:^255" >def newphone,1,14 >ext phonenum=$clean(phonenum) >out newphone,link >xeq IN=3, OUT=3. CPU-Sec=1. Wall-Sec=1. >in newphone >list >xeq >IN newphone (0) >OUT $NULL (0) PHONENUM = 1234567890 >IN newphone (1) >OUT $NULL (1) PHONENUM = 1235671234 >IN newphone (2) >OUT $NULL (2) PHONENUM = 3211235678 IN=3, OUT=3. CPU-Sec=1. Wall-Sec=1.
You can then use an edit mask to format it in the same way. You do need to redefine the field being edited with a define of the number with just the length of the phone number:
>in newphone >form File: newphone (SD Version B.00.00) Has linefeeds Entry: Offset PHONENUM X14 1 Entry Length: 14 Blocking: 1 >def my,phonenum,10 >def targ,1,12 >ext targ=$edit(my,"xxx.xxx.xxxx") >list >xeq >IN newphone (0) >OUT $NULL (0) TARG = 123.456.7890 >IN newphone (1) >OUT $NULL (1) TARG = 123.567.1234 >IN newphone (2) >OUT $NULL (2) TARG = 321.123.5678 IN=3, OUT=3. CPU-Sec=1. Wall-Sec=1.
June 23, 2014
New search for 3000 expertise surfaces
New openings for HP 3000 production and development jobs are uncommon prizes by now. Contract firms have been known to solicit MPE help while making a migration happen. Application support suppliers need IT professionals who know the details of mission-critical software, too.
But every once in awhile, a company that's still dedicated to using MPE software sends the word out that it's hiring for HP 3000 and MPE specifics. Such is the case from Measurement Specialties. The location is at the company's Hampton Roads, Virginia headquarters. The job listing from Terry Simpkins, Director of Business Systems for the manufacturer which uses MANMAN, Fortran and VEsoft's MPEX and Security/3000 -- among other platform-specific tools such as TurboIMAGE -- describes both classic and specialized enterprise IT skills.
"The leading manufacturer of sensors and sensing systems" is seeking a Business Analyst.
Areas of responsibility include:
- Daily user training and support
- Participate in projects in all functional areas of the business
- Serve as backup support for HP3000 operations and nightly processing
Key skills and capabilities include:
- Strong MANMAN experience and expertise
- Ability to read Fortran and perform some level of programming
- Strong understanding of MPEX scripting and Security/3000 menus
- Ability to handle multiple concurrent projects and tasks
The organization says that "If you are interested in a challenging and exciting opportunity with a dynamic and growing company," please contact
Terry W. Simpkins
Director of Business Systems
Measurement Specialties, Inc.
1000 Lucas Way, Hampton, VA 23666
Office: +1 757-766-4278
Mobile: +1 757 532-5685
June 20, 2014
Time to Sustain, If It's Not Time to Change
In the years after HP announced its 3000 exit, I helped to define the concept of homesteading. Not exactly new, and clearly something expected in an advancing society. Uncle Lars' homestead, at left, showed us how it might look with friendly droids to help on Tattooine. The alternative 3000 future that HP trumpeted in 2002 was migration. But it's clear by now that the movement versus steadfast strategy was a fuzzy picture for MPE users' future.
What remains at stake is transformation. Even to this week, any company that's relying on MPE, as well as those making a transition, are judging how they'll look in a year, or three, or five. We've just heard that software rental is making a comeback at one spot in the 3000 world. By renting a solution to remain on a 3000, instead of buying one, a manager is planning to first sustain its practices -- and then to change.
Up on the LinkedIn 3000 Community page I asked if the managers and owners were ready to purchase application-level support for 3000 operations. "It looks like several vendors want to sell this, to help with the brain-drain as veteran MPE managers retire." I asked that question a couple of years ago, but a few replies have bubbled up. Support has changed with ownership of some apps, such as Ecometry, and with some key tools such as NetBase.
"Those vendors will now get you forwarded to a call center in Bangalore," said Tracy Johnson, a veteran MPE manager at Measurement Specialties. "And by the way, Quest used to be quick on support. Since they got bought by Dell, you have to fill in data on a webpage to be triaged before they'll even accept an email."
Those were not the kind of vendors I was suggesting. Companies will oversee and maintain MPE apps created in-house, once the IT staff changes enough to lose 3000 expertise. But that led to another reply about why anyone might pursue the course to Sustain, when the strategy to Change seems overwhelming.Managed Business Systems, one of the original HP Platinum Migration partners, was ready to do this sustaining as far back as a decade ago. Companies like the Support Group, Pivital Solutions -- they're still the first-line help desks and maintainers for 3000 sites whose bench has grown thin. Fresche Legacy made a point of offering this level of service, starting from the last days when it was called Speedware. There are others willing to take over MPE app operations and care, and some of these vendors have feet planted firmly in the Change camp, as well as staking out the Sustain territory.
Todd Purdum of Sherlock Systems wondered on LinkedIn if there really was a community that would take on applications running under MPE. We ran an article last year about the idea of a backstop if your expertise got ill or left the company. Five years earlier, we could point to even smaller companies, and firms like 3K Ranger and Pro 3K are available to do that level of work. Purdum, by his figuring, believes such backstops are rare.
Although I agree with the need for sustained resources to keep an HP3000 running, I'm not sure that "several vendors" can provide this. We have been in the business for over 23 years, and as a leader in providing hardware and application support for HP 3000s and MPE, I don't see many other vendors truly being capable of providing this.
Purdum asked, tongue-in-cheek, if there was a 3000 resurgence on the way he didn't see coming. No one has a total view of this market. But anecdotal reports are about all anyone has been able to use for most of a decade. Even well-known tool vendors are using independent support companies for front-line support. Purdum acknowledged that the support would be there, but wondered who'd need it.
Customers who use MPE (the HP 3000) know their predicament, and offering more salvation does not help them move into the right direction. I am only a hardware support company (that had to learn all HP 3000 applications) and it disappoints me a little that the companies you mentioned, most of which are software companies, haven't developed software that will allow these folks to finally move on and get off of this retired platform.
I can't change it, I just sustain it... applications and all.
Sustaining mission-critical use of MPE is the only choice for some companies have in 2014. Their parent corporations aren't ready for a hand-off, or budget's not right, or yes, their app vendor isn't yet ready with a replacement app. That's what's leading to software rentals. When a company chooses to homestead, it must build a plan to Sustain. HP clearly retired its 3000 business more than three years ago. But that "final" moving on, into the realms of real change, follows other schedules, around the world. On the world of Tattooine, Lars first changed by setting up a moisture farm, then sustained. And then everything changed for him and Luke Skywalker. Change-sustain-change doesn't have a final state.
June 16, 2014
Going Virtual, or Getting More Live
Virtual is the new efficient. Going virtual in computing means doing away with what's not essential. But what it really means is re-thinking how to do something that's been done the same since before anybody can recall. MPE is going virtual this year, and every year for the rest of this decade that it can shed its Hewlett-Packard hardware, much of it built in the previous century.
There are good reasons for going virtual, as well as good reasons for going what -- actual? Live, there, that's the word for it, in-person and physical. Yesterday I got a Father's Day treat at the movie theatre. We don't go there often anymore, but when we do, we want to be in an IMAX Mini theatre, wearing 3D glasses. Otherwise, there's always streaming at home to experience stories.
Why even bother to leave your chair? In a world where information and experience can feel as real as being present, those are good questions to consider while investing. Last night an NBA championship game was being played just 90 minutes from my house. But while it was sorely tempting, I absorbed the experience from my purple leather sofa in front of a modest flat-screen TV. I wasn't in the arena with my San Antonio Spurs. I had a virtual experience. But as its greybearded leader Tim Duncan looked like a youngster in winning once again, late in the game which is his career, I felt like I’d been there -- because I remember when Abby and I were there, cheering for a title 11 years ago.
Scientists tell us that this sort of memory is what makes virtual experiences most powerful. We imprint on the emotion and richness of a live event, remembering the race of the heart and the sweat on our brow. Or maybe the feeling of being known and understood, in a meeting of IT pros or inside a conference hall. This emulated intimacy becomes palatable when you know the real thing. It makes it possible to become a powerful tool in a world we’re experiencing at a broadband pace. We can also control the mix of the event’s information and our own comforts.
At my house we had the network broadcasting its video on the TV, and we didn't time-delay with our DVR like we do during the regular season games. The pictures were live. At the same time, we live close enough to San Antonio to get a clear feed of the Spurs' flagship radio station WOAI -- where our comforting announcer Bill Shoenig called the action. I simply could not recreate this kind of multimedia inside the arena. Because I had dread as well as elation to juggle for three hours, the whole melange was more tasty when I could see what I want -- enhanced with replay ---while I could hear what I craved: that upbeat voice, making an outlook on a story Whose outcome we could not predict.
Virtual was better. An emulation can improve on the original.
We crave this kind of experience in our work, too. There’s a bit of an unexpected miracle going on in Hollywood this month. A legendary mansion will be the site of a PowerHouse user conference and advisory board meeting. It’s not the right time to attend, for some managers who use that development suite. So at least one of those pros has asked if the whole conference couldn’t be webcast. HP did this earlier this month at its Discover conference.
COMMON, the user group for the IBM enterprise server manager, has been trying to emulate a trade show for awhile. It's all well within the realm of reality, tech-wise. But a conference presentation is one kind of thing to splash over the Web. The interaction between users is far tougher to duplicate. HP tried this show concept, years ago, attempting to mount a virtual conference, complete with expo area. It’s a concept that’s still ahead of its time. Visiting the COMMON virtual conference above even shows a few animated people outside an expo hall, well-rendered. But without anything to share with you. There's no live-world reference with these people to recall.
Virtualization can only go as far as our experience will allow. Here in mid-June, a London pub was hosting a meeting of 3000 veterans for what amounted to a reunion. No presentations, just talk. This kind of exchange was sometimes the most profound part of a meeting, which is why the PickFair mansion in Hollywood and Dirty Dick’s London pub will resound with voices, handshakes, and a communal beverage. In my house, the beer didn't taste any different at halftime of the Spurs game, because I was drinking one alongside my favorite fan.
Earlier this month there were slick productions with TV-grade lighting and sound at the HP Discover conference. Live on your laptop, you could watch three relatively-fresh CEOs from Intel, Microsoft and HP explain why working together is a better idea for their companies than the alternative they’ve been trying: HP selling OS products, Microsoft peddling hardware, Intel integrating both into its own branded knock-offs. We did experience the novelty of watching a trade conference event live. But aside from the comfort and economy, going virtual didn’t make it any better.
I missed the coarse roar off the rafters of the AT&T Center at the timeouts, when the Spurs forced Miami to rethink its defense. But those camera angles, that replay, and the sharp commentary improved my virtual experience. Virtualization can multiply the gifts of its original. But when you don't know the original, it's a good time to experience it.
Wednesday evening we're going to the Riverwalk in San Antonio for the victory parade, a celebration where the team is ferried around the river on barges, with fans thronging the riverbanks. It will be a Spurs crowd ten times the size of any we've experienced inside an arena. We could watch the parade on that flat-screen. But it's better to have those live experiences to leaven a virtual loaf. That's why a mansion and a pub are still important parts of a world that's heading for the efficiency of virtual.
June 13, 2014
User group's mansion meet sets deadline
June 15 is the first "secure your spot" registration date
PowerHouse customers, many of whom are still using their HP 3000 servers like those at Boeing, have been invited to the PickFair mansion in Hollywood for the first PowerHouse user conference. The all-day Friday meeting is June 27, but a deadline to ensure a reserved space passes at the end of June 15.
That's a Sunday, and Father's Day at that, so the PowerHouse patriarchy is likely to be understanding about getting a reservation in on June 16. Russ Guzzo, the marketing and PR powerhouse at new owners Unicom Global, said the company's been delighted at the response from customers who've been called and gathered into the community.
"I think it makes a statement that we're in it for the long haul," Guzzo said of gathering the customers, "and that the product's no longer sitting on the shelf and collecting dust. Let's talk."
We're taking on a responsibility, because we know there are some very large companies out there that have built their existence around this technology. It's an absolute pleasure to be calling on the PowerHouse customers. Even the inactive ones. Why? Because they love the technology, and I've heard, "Geez, I got a phone call?"
Register at unicomglobal.com/PowerHouseCAB -- that's shorthand for Customer Advisory Board. It's a $500 ticket, or multiple registrations at $395 each, with breakfast and lunch included. More details, including a handsome flyer for justifying a one-day trip, at the event's webpage.
June 06, 2014
A Long Time in Passing
It's very late spring here at my house, and that means our basketball ardor is at its zenith. This year my beloved San Antonio Spurs are already playing in the championship round. The NBA calls this The Finals. But for the last seven years, there's been nothing final about the Spurs' work to win a title. Each year the organization, as they like to call the coaches, managers and players that comprise the team, seems to make a serious Drive for Five after four previous championships. Their last championship was in 2007 -- or in the middle of HP's first "wait a minute" two-year extension of its 3000 business.
Over the past three years, though, analysts in the sports community have tried to write off the Spurs as too old to compete at the highest level. Tim Duncan, Spurs superstar and Hall of Famer in waiting, is about as old as a Series II HP 3000. Unlike that CISC model of server, Tim's gotten better with age, more crafty with the minutes he plays in what's clearly the last act of his career. The former monster scorer has become a passer.
By his side on the court, two other stars play, to make up the Spurs' Big Three. Everybody's got a Big Three now in basketball, from the Celtics to the Miami Heat. The Spurs were the first. Their other stars are as old as a Series III (Manu Ginobilli) and Tony Parker, a younger man, but as old as a Series 68.
One of my first assignments in journalism was as sports editor. I covered five prep school districts and wrote a lot of stories about boys and girls who were 13-18 years old. There was plenty of drama and heroics. What I learned back then was that age didn't matter, if you had the right coach and you were focused enough to learn how your skills could shape each game. Del Coryover was a star at 15 in Leander, carrying the football for a couple of touchdowns a night. Nobody told him he was not the right age to fly past bigger defenders.
So it seems, sometimes, for HP 3000 installations begun in the 1980s. Like those Spurs stars, these servers and the pros who manage them just keep coming back for more work. On the ABC network, they've taken to calling the Big Three and their legendary coach Gregg Popovich "The Same 'Ol Spurs," with affection by now. Their continued championship relevance, over a stretch of time that goes back to before there were A-Class and N-Class servers, has earned them respect. They are not flashy. Nobody pounds their chest and screams to the rafters after a monster dunk, or a back-door cut, or dropped-bomb three-pointer, or the blocked shot -- although they perform all of these nightly.
Last night they played badly, under brutal conditions. The AC failed in their homecourt at the ATT Center, and in that 90-degree indoor swelter they failed to pass crisply. Miami stole the basketball like bloodhounds after loose pork chops. But the Spurs play their bench men often, and in crunch time, too. It's a full-team approach, instead of superstars like cloud servers and Oracle databases. They survived on reliability last night, counting on the fact that fresh players make better plays. What makes the 3000 great is what makes the Spurs great: consistency, the clockwork-like execution that happens from hundreds of hours of practice, all laid down upon a bedrock of team-first strategy. They practice passing "from good shot to great shot."
As one example of delicious good to great dependability, consider something called the outlet pass in basketball. You probably never heard of it because it's fundamental. Tim has been re-coached by Coach Pop, as he's called, to use stunning talent to make these offense-sparking plays perfect and extraordinary. At their best, they can be the long-bomb touchdowns of basketball. For the basketball geek, the YouTube video embedded here gives you a taste of these Duncan veggies, whizzing the ball down-court to make the sizzle happen at the other end.
How is it possible that the outlet pass -- or a bank shot, one of Tim's mainstay plays -- still works wonders in the modern NBA? He does these things as a trademark that's earned him an un-flashy nickname: The Big Fundamental. When sports analysts are agog at the success of a bank shot -- first performed in the 1950s -- I think of the consultant who observed companies using the equivalent of the bank shot, PowerHouse.
"I am amazed to know that Powerhouse is still running on any platform," Bob Kaminski said, after Unicom bought the product and worked to revive it. As a young employee with the vendor he said, "I started with Quiz, Quick and QTP in 1983-84. Sold it, until I left Cognos in 1989. It was great then, and I assume is still a great tool."
But this passing year means more for the Spurs, and perhaps more for the 3000, than many others before. This season is one of redemption for the team, having seen that Fifth title slip away last year with 28 seconds left to play. It was a gut-punch few other teams could recover from, losing like that. The team responded by leading the league in wins during the next regular season, and now returning to The Finals to gain their revenge -- as well as their respect. Tim Duncan is in the twilight of his career, just like HP's hardware that runs MPE/iX is running out of time.There's a future for the operating system, the brand of computing that's as extraordinary as the selfless, ball-sharing approach Coach Pop teaches. In the Spurs locker room there's a hungry young star named Kawahi Leonard, gifted with speed and wingspan and intelligence that make him the next generation of The Big Fundamental.
And in your HP 3000 community there is CHARON, the HPA/3000 emulator that will sail higher and faster than any iron HP could ever design. Kawahi needs a coach of the caliber of Pop. CHARON needs coaching that should remind people of Harry Sterling, the last HP general manager who practiced the fundamentals of computer product management. Push the technology to something better like N-Class servers. Be selfless about your own HP future, because the customers matter more than your career.
When there's a Kawahi around, a Coach Pop tends to emerge. It might take awhile for them to find one another, and in the meantime there are pronouncements about how the star will never amount to championship material. Or a product won't make a mark on the market.
It's a long season for host-based servers, though. While IBM sells off its low-end server business, while Dell crawls into the services space and downplays its iron, the concept of managing an MPE machine yourself is still alive out there. It's pounding the ball up and down the court and looking for its leader, the one who will take a revitalized MPE platform and score. Not so that a lot of people will see and notice. But for a group of companies who are as small as any TV marketplace in San Antonio, it matters because it's history, carried out every day.
The Big Three and Coach Pop and the Spurs are passing -- both in the sense that they share the ball in their 10-man community of players, and they are working toward that final act of their careers. But it's been a long time in passing, their retirements. Some here in Texas say that even at advanced ages, the Big Three could hang around for another season, challenge for another title. Anything in life that hangs on longer than predicted, and remains productive and relevant and unique while it does, should be applauded and cheered. Those are the sounds coming from my living room this month, while we watch a legend extend days and nights of excellence.
And if it takes any team even longer than expected to make its passing -- while it remains essential -- what a gift, for those of us who love the fundamentals.
May 30, 2014
Deleting 3000 System Disks That Go Bad
As Hewlett-Packard's 3000s age, their disks go bad. It's the fate of any component with moving parts, but it's especially notable now that an emulated 3000 is a reality. The newest HP-built 3000 is at least 11 years old by now. Disks that boot these servers might be newer, but most of them are as old as the computer itself.
A CHARON-based 3000 will have newer drives in it, because it's a modern Intel server with current-day storage devices. However, for the nearly-total majority of the 3000 system managers without a CHARON HPA/3000, the drives in their 3000s are spinning -- ever-quicker -- to that day when they fail to answer the bell.
Even after replacing a faulty 3000 drive — which is not expensive at today's prices — there are a few software steps to perform. And thus, our tale of the failed system (bootup) disk.
Our disk was a MEMBER in MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. I am trying to delete the disk off the system. Upon startup of the machine is says that LDEV 4 is not available. When going into SYSGEN, then IO, then DDEV 4 it gives me a warning that it is part of the system volume set — cannot be deleted. I have done an INSTALL from tape (because some of the system files were on that device), which worked successfully. How do I get rid of this disk?
Gilles Schipper of GSA said that the INSTALL is something to watch while resetting 3000 system disks.
Sounds like the install did not leave you with only a single MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET disk. Could it be that you have more than one system volume after INSTALL because other, non-LDEV 1 volumes were added with the AVOL command of SYSGEN -- instead of the more traditional way of adding system volumes via the VOLUTIL utility?
You can check as follows:
If the resulting output shows more than one volume, that's the answer.
Schipper offered a repair solution, as well.Schipper's solution would use these steps:
1. Reboot with:
START NORECOVERY SINGLE-DISC SINGLE-USER
2. With SYSGEN, perform a DVOL for all non-LDEV1 volumes
3. HOLD, then KEEP CONFIG.SYS
4. Create a new System Load Tape (SLT)
5. Perform an INSTALL from the newly-created SLT
6. Add any non-LDEV1 system volumes with VOLUTIL. This will avoid such problems in future.
Those SLTs are also a crucial component to making serious backups of HP 3000s. VeSoft's Vladimir Volokh told us he saw a commonplace habit at one shop: Neglecting to read the advice they'd received.
"I don't know exactly what to do about my SLT," the manager told him. "HP built my first one using a CD. Do I need that CD?"
His answer was no, because HP was only using the most stable media to build that 3000's first SLT. But Vladimir had a question in reply. Do you read the NewsWire? "Yes, I get it in my email, and my mailbox," she said. But just like other tech resources, ours hadn't been consulted to advise on such procedures, even though we'd run an article about 10 days earlier that explained how to make CSLTs. That tape's rules are the same as SLT rules. Create one each time something changes in your configuration for your 3000.
Other managers figure they'd better be creating an SLT with every backup. Not needed, but there's one step that gets skipped in the process.
"I always say, 'Do and Check,' " Vladimir reports. The checking of your SLT for an error-free tape can be done with the 3000's included utilities. The venerable TELESUP account, which HP deployed to help its support engineers, has CHECKSLT for you to run and do the checking.
There's also the VSTORE command of MPE/iX to employ in 3000 checking. If your MPE references come from Google searches instead of reading your Newswire, you might find it a bit harder to locate HP's documentation for VSTORE. You won't find what you'd expect in a 7.5 manual. HP introduced VSTORE in MPE/iX 5.0, so that edition of the manual is where its details reside. (Thanks to Digital Innovations' HP MM Support website for its enduring MPE/iX manual archives).
It's also standard practice to include VSTORE in every backup job's command process.
There's another kind of manager who won't be doing SLTs. That's the one who knows how, but doesn't do the maintenance. You can't make this kind of administrator do their job, not any more than you can make a subscriber read an article. There's lots to be gained by learning skills that keep that 3000 stable and available, even in the event of a disk crash.
May 29, 2014
They knew what they had before it was gone
In the classic Joni Mitchell song, she asks, "Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got 'till it's gone?" However, in the HP 3000 world, the advocates, fans and users know the special place the 3000 held in their lives -- and long before it was really gone.
At the now-defunct Boyle Engineering, the last in a long line of HP 3000s was sold for scrap this month, according to Harlan Lassiter. When Boyle was purchased in 2008, the site that housed the 3000 was closed down. Equipment was left behind, but Lassiter -- who worked at Boyle 27 years -- kept track of an abandoned 3000 Series 928. He reported he was sad to see it go. One last boot-up was all that Lassiter wanted at Boyle, whose services were engaged to plan, design, and construct infrastructure projects.
Last time I was in the building, in the corner of the raised floor computer room, was our HP 3000 928 system, console monitor and LPQ1200 printer. Yesterday it was gone. Apparently it was picked up late last week as scrap. Also picked up and sold for scrap from the room were about 50 Dell LCD monitors (some new, still in bubble wrap) and perhaps 30 Dell desktop computers, APC battery backup systems, server arrays, and other assorted computer equipment. Much of the equipment could have been donated to organizations that could use a computer system, even though it would not be the most current.
That 928 was the last in a series of HP 3000 systems for the company, having begun with a Series II when I first started with Boyle in 1979 . We came a long way. I started as a programmer and left as the system manager. The system ran all of the company in-house accounting, finance, payroll and project tracking reports and engineering software. All software was developed in-house and was written in FORTRAN. As FORTRAN evolved through the years, so did the software. Files were converted from serial (flat) files to KSAM and eventually to IMAGE databases. What used to take overnight to process took less than an hour in later days.
It was a great learning experience. I guess I was hoping to fire the system up one more time just for nostalgia's sake, since I am the only one left that would be able to do such a thing.
Another piece of HP history, a living one that served both the 3000 and HP-UX systems, has been bulldozed, right off the ground of the old Hewlett-Packard Cupertino campus.Apple now owns the acres of Cupertino where the HP 3000 grew into a business powerhouse. The HP buildings have been razed, and Jim Hawkins of HP reports that even the grove of redwood trees is no more. Apple's building a spaceship-like headquarters in its place. Employees and retirees held picnics there, along with the historic Glendenning Barn which HP maintained as a reminder of the property’s pioneer-era life as an apricot orchard and farm. Hawkins, one of the last 3000-focused engineers at Hewlett-Packard, celebrated those redwoods as a place of the 3000 community.
The HP Cupertino Site, home for (most of) the HP 3000 R&D teams, and manufacturing source of (most) pre-RISC MPE servers, is now scraped clean in preparation to land Apple's "Steve Jobs memorial spaceship."
The redwood grove where execs used to serve us hamburgers during beer busts is all cut down, as are apparently all other trees except those on the borders of Pruneridge, Wolfe, Homestead, and Tantau streets.
After reading Lassiter's farewell, Ed Effinger shared a memorial in waiting. His was report of a forthcoming shutdown at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario. "We have a similar story to what mine will be next March," Effinger said, "as we plan to pull the plug on our Series 929. We also started with HP in 1975-76, to replace our old Honeywell system -- and I too have done all things here."
These are customers of more than 35 years of MPE computing, and that redwood grove was servicing the community at HP's campus even before that time. At least these veterans of the ecosystem know what they're losing, and how much that loss stings. At the old HP campus, it looks like Apple's paving paradise to put up a an underground parking lot.
May 28, 2014
3000: Cards and punching and tape, oh-29!
The Hewlett-Packard System/3000 -- that's what the computer called the 3000 was first known as during the era when punched cards and tape could drive its data. The 3000-L mailing list popped back up to life last week with stories about the era when hanging chads and IBM 029 punch machines were a working part of MPE's four decades of historic service.
History for an active operating environment whose pedigree includes punched tape and punched cards -- that's pretty much exclusive to the HP 3000. Punching pedigree is a mark of utility and durability, even if those card readers are only in museums and garages today. One recently sold on eBay for more than $300 to a collector.
Maybe it was the debut of a System 360 mainframe on Mad Men's penultimate season that put punched cards into the minds of its longstanding users. Mark Ranft of Pro3K told a story last month about his first IT job as a System 360 operator in the US Marine Corps -- and how that led to a Nortel assignment with a card reader and paper tapes. "Thankfully they had a Series III [HP 3000]. As an operator, I was bored to death, so I read all the manuals. That's how I got hooked on MPE."
About a month later, former OpenMPE secretary Tracy Johnson started the 3000-L readers down nostalgia lane by pointing to TELTAC: a Teletype tape-to-punched card conversion program. "Was there a Contributed Software Library program for that?" he asked. The MPE CSL was born as a swap tape, during this era of punched card holdouts. Gilles Schipper of GSA associates replied there was no need for a CSL program, because FCOPY has always had that capability.
The memories of cards and punching and the 3000 started to tumble out of the readers of the L. "If I recall correctly," said Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties, "when I was with HP's Disc Memory Division in Boise back in the early '80s, we actually had a card reader connected to one of our 3000s. I brought several boxes of cards with me from grad school, and we read them into EBCDIC files. Don't ask why I was carrying boxes of punch cards around the country."
The HP 3000, in its infancy, could use punched cards or paper tape. Those were two computing props not seen in Mad Men this spring. But they're remembered as durable data mediums, even by those of us who dropped a deck or two of them in front of a college computing center on the way to running a program."Why cards? asked Tracy Pierce. "A darn reliable medium. You never worried a sec about losing the data in those grad school cards. It's easy to mangle a card so it's not machineable, but darn difficult to really destroy its data. You can run cards through a shredder and still recover the data."
In just a matter of about eight hours, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga had chipped in a thorough history of how data was sent to and from the earliest HP 3000s. The story included a speed measurement that used a holiday as comparison. The HP optical mark sense card reader was the tortoise in the data race.
As for the "mark-sense" reader... we had this grand plan to do grades on "mark-sense" cards. The idea was to "print" class cards (one card per student, sorted by instructor by class), and let them pencil-mark the corresponding grade for the student. It was great in theory, but the mark-sense reader had much less than stellar performance and reliability (it sucked!). And having these "printed" cards burst on their perforations to yield the "card" left some rough edges, which the reader really, really hated. And it was slow as Christmas. Heck, it was slower than Leap Year.
We got an HP2000/Access system in Fall of 1975. It not only supported a card reader and printer, but also supported the remote job entry communications with the IBM at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. So we had a card reader upstairs in the student keypunch lab, as well as a printer, and there was no more waiting for submission. They could just feed their jobs directly to the reader, their printouts came back to the printer, and it was available constantly. Big step forward.
Later we got an HP 3000, and had a copy of MRJE/3000. Now students could enter their programs online via Editor/QEdit/Quad/whatever they prefer, submit their jobs via MRJE, and view their output in SPOOK before actually printing it out. Even better still.
Kell added that his campus kept the card reader for the 3000 for legacy purposes. This is a 3000 customer that only turned off its MPE systems last December.
Card readers for the 3000 lasted through the lifespan of the Series 70, which means into the early 1990s.
"HP reluctantly supported a card reader through Series 70," said Bob Jankowski of Ideal Computer. "It was definitely available with HP-IB interface and required a dedicated GIC and an auto tap switcher for power. I remember working on these a few times -- and one of my current customers still has theirs in the computer room. One of the wearing parts was called a 'picker sector.' Try saying that 10 times fast. The HP 7260A was the optical mark sense reader. I remember it being a serial device used through MPE-V and being picky about what it would read.
Kell's colleague Tony Shepherd recalled the budget-conscious approach that a computing pro of the 1970s had to embrace. Carpentry power tools and rubber stamps were sometimes among the best data tools.
The perforated card edges were a problem. We wound up printing and bursting them, then putting them in card trays (3,000 cards per tray) and sanding the long edges. It took a little explaining to get management to understand why we needed to buy a dual-action orbital sander with integrated vacuum pickup in order to get grades to post. Sears had one for about $50 that did a great job. We had a good incentive to get the OpScan process developed quickly, and it was indeed much better.
In those days we were just staying ahead of the bleeding edge -- we had a small (but dedicated and very smart) staff and no money. Solutions had to be quick and cheap. For example, one office wanted a new system to record sales of parking bumper stickers. We spent some hours "studying" their needs, then presented them with a bound ledger book and a Bates numbering stamp. It fulfilled all their stated requirements.
The physical manifestation of data, cards had personality. "The first card stock we used had problems with curling," Walter Murray reported from his early 3000 days, "but the second stock we tried worked pretty well. Something to do with "long grain" versus "short grain," as I recall. You'd think we were buying rice."
As for the card reader on Murray's Series II HP 3000, Kell described it as hardware that reduced the footprint versus IBM's original designs.
In the HP card reader you loaded cards on the right into a diagonally-slanted tray, pushed the start button, and it had some sort of combination air driven / pick roller thing that swiped the card through the reader into the output stacker on the left. It was pretty darn quick about it too... not up to par with an IBM's speed, but not slouchy at all. And it fit easily on a tabletop, while the IBM version was the size of a chest freezer.
The work was obviously tedious. It might have helped develop an attention to detail in the earliest part of a 3000 pro's career. Kell has the last word on what a keypunch looked like from that era.
If I remember models correctly, there was the 029 (punched cards real-time), the 129 (buffered a card, you could "backspace," it only punched the card once you released it) -- and this service bureau I worked for had some key-to-disk things that "punched" (wrote) data to floppy diskettes. When they were done and verified, you loaded the diskettes into another IBM thing that loaded the diskettes to 9-track tapes that were used as data input on the mainframe.
May 23, 2014
Unicom calls PowerHouse users to mansion
Editor's note: We're taking Monday off to celebrate the US Memorial Day. We'll be back May 27 with a look at the impact of HP's latest job cuts. The stock rose 6 percent today to a 52-week high on the news.
Many things are on the table for change in the PowerHouse community, now that Unicom Global owns the software suite and contracts with customers. One of the more notable adjustments in the new order is a June 27 users conference, a single day's meeting to be held on the grounds of a Hollywood landmark.
From 8:30 to 3 that day at "the Legendary PickFair Estate in Beverly Hills," customers and developers using PowerHouse can attend a user conference. At the same time, the vendor's CEO is hand-picking from executive community members who want to serve on the first PowerHouse Customer Advisory Board. The vendor is calling customers over the phone, in addition to email notices and postings on LinkedIn and other web locations. For some customers, the Unicom calls will be the first PowerHouse outreach they've heard in many years.
The meeting represents the launch of a PowerHouse user group, one of the first, if not a groundbreaker. I scanned through 20 years of HP 3000 reporting, and plumbed back another 10 while on watch at the HP Chronicle and as an independent editor, and couldn't recall a PowerHouse user group before now. The dim memory of a few Special Interest Group spin-offs from Interex comes to mind. We'd be glad to know if there's any PowerHouse history we overlooked.
The way this group differs from those other user group SIGs is that it's being founded by its vendor. In the days of Interex user groups -- from the early '70s through the end of the 20th Century -- that kind of leadership was considered too intrusive. But times have changed for user groups. They often need the support and attention only a vendor can deliver to a product's customers. HP and Encompass share the reins at HP Discover, the Hewlett-Packard enterprise user conference. Discover takes place June 10-12 at the Venetian Resort on the Las Vegas Strip. HP picks up the greatest share of the expenses at that meeting.
The PowerHouse meeting, a little more than two weeks later, calls users to a mansion -- the former home of Hollywood icons Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. PickFair is part of the Unicom portfolio, another piece of the evidence that PowerHouse is in for a journey across new grounds.Users are invited to attend, as well as make a statement about why they'd be a good part of the advisory board, at a Unicom webpage. The cost of the meeting is $500 per person, but if you register two or more attendees, the cost drops to $395 per person. The vendor is inviting customers to "attend the User Group and provide direct input into the PowerHouse roadmap."
There's a travel package deal available as well. Contact the corporation's Russ Guzzo -- who also happens to be leading the integration of PowerHouse into a company that has never sunsetted a product -- at 818.838.0606, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 20, 2014
Who's SUSAN, and what's her CPUNAME?
The MPE operating system, first booted for genuine use some 40 years ago, is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by owning an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX.
We reached out for clarity about this when a very large aircraft maker tipped us off -- once again it will examine replacing HP's 3000 iron with CHARON licenses. Once the MPE/iX software will be turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.
So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the CHARON emulator? Mc Rae explained.
The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist.
In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.
However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the CHARON emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.The U in HPSUSAN stands for Unique, as in System Unique Serially Assigned Number. Mc Rae said that HPSUSAN is one of a kind for HP-built 3000 systems. But SUSAN doesn't designate an MPE/iX license, even though MPE is licensed via hardware ownership.
Mc Rae explained to us, and to the CHARON prospective user, "MPE hardware and software was created before the technology of virtual systems and emulators, in the 1970s. Licenses were based on hardware ownership."
This sounds familiar. HP once compared the licensing of MPE/iX to license plates issued for a car. They could not be separated, these numbers and the car that was the HP 3000 iron. (Let's just put aside the common practice of those metal-plate days, when they'd give you a new number after your plate was older than 8 years in Texas.)
In 1999, HP was busy suing Hardware House and a few other resellers over the resellers' separation of HPSUSANs from HP's 3000 hardware cars. The House was taking other PA-RISC servers and pressing valid HPSUSAN numbers onto the non-3000 iron. People went to jail. Lo-jacks were ordered for ankles.
Thanks to the passage of 15 years' time, an HPSUSAN number can now move to a USB thumb drive plugged into a CHARON Intel- or AMD-based server. Those license plates can travel to a newer model of car. The emulator's HPCPUNAME, however, can only be designated as an A-Class or N-Class system, according to HP's knowledge. That'll likely be a reason to contact all software vendors whose products operate on the replaced HP 3000 iron.
You see, vendors use a combo of HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME to control licensing. Products such as Infor's MANMAN or PowerHouse not only want to read HPSUSAN -- which you can move to CHARON -- but also HPCPUNAME. If you're moving off a Series 979, for example, "979-100" isn't an emulated system under CHARON. No 979-100 for HPCPUNAME. You've got to get license permission from your software vendors to enable an A-Class or N-Class HPCPUNAME.
The HPCPUNAME on the CHARON system may not be set to 979, Mc Rae said. "Based on the CHARON HPA/3000 family, it is assumed that the HPCPUNAME will be set to an A-Class or N-Class CPUNAME," she said. "For example: HPCPUNAME = SERIES e3000/A500-200-50. As far as I know, CHARON can only emulate A- and N-Class systems." That's true: a Series 9xx model isn't on the HPA/3000 product list.
The silver lining in this cloud is that you're only doing this contacting and CPUNAME-changing once. Moving to an A-Class or faster CPU from a 9x9 system is the last time you'll be changing from an unsupported CPUNAME to something included in the CHARON product line.
In short, independent software vendors are going to have to be contacted, if they've licensed their products with the HPCPUNAME-HPSUSAN combo on a Series 9xx. Contacting your software vendors about a system upgrade is a fair business practice. But it's more than the right thing to do. Series 9xx users headed to the emulator look like they need that refresh to boot up their indie software.
May 19, 2014
PowerHouse users launch enhancement run
Years ago, the Interex users group for HP 3000 managers and owners provided a way to make MPE better. There wasn’t much that HP was willing to do to re-engineer its hardware servers — not working off the requests of customers. But ah, the operating system and its allied software subsystems were always open for system enhancement requests. They called it a System Improvement Ballot, and every year had an SIB.
In their day, these were much awaited missives from lovers of MPE to the heart of the OS, the HP labs. They were ranked and debated. The collection of a Gang of Six such requests made up the mission statement for OpenMPE from the first year of that group’s existence. When the labs went dark and that list was frozen, there was little hope of anything thawing the development stream.
That’s what makes the PowerHouse community so novel. After years of nothing new in the product line, the new owners have opened the doors to enhancement requests. The discussion of who’s going to manage the enhancement requests started bubbling up at the LinkedIn Cognos PowerHouse group. It tells a good deal about how slowly things were flowing at the time by looking at the name of that group. Cognos hasn’t been the owner of PowerHouse since 2009. Now that IBM has sold off the products and customer base, Unicom Global is using an established representative to build a wish list.
Bob Deskin has taken the discussion of enhancements onto the Powerhouse-L mailing list. If you're watchful about how much email fills your inbox, you can simply keep track of the list's archives without subscribing. Customers are giving the new PowerHouse management fresh improvement requests using that list.
There’s a lot of catching up and improvement to do. As one example, Fatal Errors of the software were “never documented in the manuals,” according to Bob Deskin, formerly the Cognos/IBM voice of PowerHouse products to the customer base."More often than not," Deskin said of the Fatal Errors, “they simply represent something that should not have happened. And the most common cause for that was something else that happened but shouldn’t have that ended up causing the Fatal Error. That’s why many of them are so hard to trace.”
Details of what could be brought up to date in PowerHouse, shared to that mailing list this week, are going into deep specifics. But that’s what you expect from the creators of software. Deskin’s encouraging transparency.
As you can imagine, the UNICOM PowerHouse team is still in transition. That said, they are looking to the future and although they and I have some ideas, we’d like to hear yours big or small. You can post them here for everyone to see. That way everyone gets to see them and expand on them.
There’s no guarantee about how many of these requests will ever be acted upon. Or even which versions of PowerHouse products (MPE, or VMS, or AS/400) are eligible for wishes. But Bob Deskin, consulting with Unicom to moderate a dialogue with users, suggests that everybody with a PowerHouse request chip in, right out in public.
A colleague of Deskin’s, one who’d worked with him both at Cognos and then later at IBM, offered this testimonial to Deskin being the right fellow to listen at this moment. Matt Ohmes said nobody’s a better match for this role -- a pivot point for PowerHouse, happening at Unicom.
I’ve worked with Cognos, then IBM for 31 years, many of the early years especially using PowerHouse and gained quite a reputation myself. And I would like to say that there is not another person — literally — on earth who knows more, or is better qualified to answer questions about PowerHouse than Bob Deskin.
May 15, 2014
Techniques for file copying, compressions
I need to submit a file to from an HP 3000 to my credit card processor, a file that is an 80-byte file. Before I submit it, I need to zip the file. I’m using the Posix shell and its zip program. I SFTP’d the file, but my vendor is not processing the file because it is supposedly 96 bytes long. If I unzip the file that I zipped, it becomes a bytestream file. I then check — by doing an FCOPY FROM=MYFILE;TO=;HEX;CHAR — and I see that no record exceeds 80 bytes. Why do they think it is an 96-byte file?
Barry Lake of Allegro replies
I would convert it to a bytestream file before zipping it
:tobyte.hpbin.sys "-at /SG2VER/PUB/LCAUTHOT /SOME/NEW/FILE"
Mark Ranft adds
I would try copying the file to an intermediate server. Zip it. And SFTP it. See if that provides better results.Tony Summers suggests there is good background instruction, to understand how MPE/iX files are different than those in Unix, at Robelle's MPE for Unix Users article.
I thought there was an option to FCOPY part of a record. If the record contains TODAY IS MONDAY and you want only columns 10-12, I thought there was an FCOPY subset option-- one that would result in just the characters in those positions (MON). Am I halucinating?
Francois Desrochiers replies
The SUBSET option is used to select records by record numbers or strings in certain columns, but you cannot select parts of records. It always works on complete records. You have to use other tools such as Suprtool, Qedit, Editor, Quad, or the Posix "cut" to extract columns.
Olav Kappert adds
You can also pipe the record into a variable and the parse whatever you want out.
May 14, 2014
Short Report: TTerm Pro's latest tool works
As we reported yesterday, the TTerm Pro app for HP 3000 emulation got an enhancement this month, one that makes the software very unique. NS/VT protocol support isn't exactly rocket science, but its not straightforward, either. The history of the 3000 is strewn with terminal emulator makers who didn't get this aspect all figured out.
Our ally Jon Diercks, who's the author of The MPE/iX System Administrator Handbook, updated his iPad app and gave the new 1.1.0 version a test. The short report: NS/VT seems to work, at first glance. Diercks added a second test to the first one of the app. He connected his iPad to the HPA202 freeware version of CHARON. With his exam, an HP 3000 terminal emulator was talking with an emulated HP 3000. He offered the screen shot above as proof.
Well, the 30-second report is ... it works! I fired up Charon, copied my previous TTerm telnet profile and changed to NS/VT, and the logon prompt came right up. The :SHOWVAR command above proves that NS/VT protocol is in use. I also launched NMMGR just to verify block mode still looks okay. I might play with it more later, but that's enough to satisfy my curiosity for now.
It's a marvel to consider how MPE has been carried into the future with this combination. The iOS operating system on the iPad is certain to have a longer life where it's improved than the alternatives based on desktops. By that, I mean I believe iOS has "got legs," as the saying goes among theatre people when they talk about a long-running show. You don't need a PC and Windows any more to emulate a 3000 terminal.
And with CHARON, you don't need the 3000 hardware anymore, either. All that's left is MPE and IMAGE, the bedrock of what we know as the 3000 experience.
May 13, 2014
iPad 3000 terminal emulator gains NS/VT
The only tablet-ready terminal emulator for HP 3000 users has crossed over even further into the language of MPE. The 1.1.0 version of TTerm Pro adds HP's 3000-specific Network Services/Virtual Terminal protocol. The new feature means that many more MPE applications will run without a flaw over the Apple iPad tablets.
To be exact, the latest version of TTerm Pro will run under iOS7, so it's possible that some other Apple mobile product could link up this app with a 3000. But a tablet is pretty much the minimum screen real estate for a terminal emulator. Jon Diercks, who tested the previous version of TTerm Pro, said in his review that an external keyboard connected via Bluetooth eased the use of tablet-based terminal emulation. But the screen capture at left -- collected back when TTerm Pro only did Telnet links -- shows you can even get a soft keyboard, plus function keys, onto an iPad's screen.
Turbosoft, which released a 3000-ready version of the iPad app last year, has lowered the price of TTerm Pro by 50 percent. It now sells for $24.95. Any 3000 managers who purchased the app last year can update it -- with its new 3000-savvy -- for free. NS/VT could be worth a lot more for any company that wants to preserve a 3000 application's capability to go mobile.The earlier version of TTerm Pro supported only Telnet connectivity, which meant that the longest-standing 3000 apps would not run in the iPad-based emulator. Mind you, this is not an emulator of the base 3000 PA-RISC processor, a la CHARON. This iPad app emulates HP's proprietary terminals for the 3000, specifically the HP 700/92 series.
The MPE applications which were tuned the finest for 3000 users relied upon NS/VT protocols. The protocol was developed by HP as an emulation itself: NS/VT gave users on Local Area Networks the same kind of performance and reliability only available through an ATP card inside a 3000. By using NS/VT, an application didn't require that a 3000 have that card.
AICS Research developed a QCTerm emulator during the late 1990s which relied upon Telnet for its network protocols. But AICS founder Wirt Atmar knew very well how much advantage NS/VT held over Telnet. Full-duplex is being emulated via NS/VT, and that ensures the delivery of data.
Full-duplex has traditionally been by far and away the preferred protocol for communication with a host computer, because you have this very strong reassurance that the host did indeed receive the character. The host's retransmission of the character back to you is an explicit verification that it saw and absorbed the character you just typed.
NS/VT is an HP-proprietary client/server protocol — but it is also nothing more than a simple and obvious extension of the design philosophy that had begun with the ATP card, where a remote processor transmits a line of text to the HP3000's CPU only when that line of text is complete.
Two ways are commonly available today to use NS/VT-like services. One requires the use of a DTC (data terminal controller), the other a terminal emulator. In both, the function of the original ATP card is being faithfully recreated. When you serially communicate with a DTC, a processor located on the DTC's serial card is absorbing every character you type and echoing it back to you. Only when a termination character is typed, or the line buffer is full, or a time-out occurs, is your line of text transmitted to the HP3000 as a single packet of information via the LAN that connects the DTC to the HP3000.
An NS/VT-based terminal emulator is maintaining essentially full-duplex communication with the DTC serial card — or your PC's memory. Every character you type under NS/VT is immediately echoed back to your screen. Only when you strike the carriage return (or the enter key) is your line of text transmitted over the LAN to the HP 3000. "Turn-around times" are so quick on a LAN (if it's not too busy) that you don't tend to notice the nature of one-way communication inherent to a LAN.
According to the ubiquitous management manual The MPE/iX System Administrator's Handbook, NS/VT is a better choice for applications on 3000s. "It usually yields the best overall results, because it is optimized for the way most MPE applications work," the book states in its Getting Connected section. NS/VT is enough of an emulation specialty that Attachmate offers the WRQ-developed Reflection as a separate Reflection HP product. The chief difference between the rest of the Reflection line is that NS/VT is included in Reflection HP. There's an uplift in price for this capability.
TTerm Pro includes NS/VT along with Telnet protocol. It's pretty obvious a company isn't going to replace all of its terminal emulator desktops and laptops with iPads. But it's a real help to know the protocol optimized for the HP 3000 now has a way to run on mobile tablets. Consider that previous sentence for a moment. Then decide how often technology continues to flow back to the world of MPE. Instead of $249 a seat, terminal emulation now costs $24.95. And upgrades are free if you're using an Apple tablet.
May 12, 2014
3000 world loses dauntless Dunlop carrier
Dunlop Tires are a brand from England known for their breakthrough as tires which bore their weight on air. The pneumatic tire was crafted by John Dunlop to prevent headaches for bicycle riders. All tires to that point -- the British call them tyres -- used solid rubber instead of inflated designs. The 3000 and MPE community had its own Dunlop for decades: John Dunlop, founder of the headache-busting HP3000links.com website. Dunlop is an HP 3000 pro of more than 30 years standing, and more than 20 of it he spent posting to and reading the wisdom on the 3000-L mailing list. Last week, Dunlop reported he's moving out of the world of the 3000, since his server at work has been decommissioned.
Yesterday I turned off the HP3000 918 for the final time. It became surplus to requirements, finally.
It had been humming away quite happily for the last several years without much in the way of maintenance, and it did what it does best, being one of the best and most reliable online transaction processors ever built. For durability and reliability, it was without peer.
A rather sad event seeing as I have been working on HP3000's for the last 30-plus years, although very little in the last year or so.
Dunlop has only retired his HP 3000 career, and retains his life as an IT pro. But for more than a good decade of his 30-plus years in the community, he carried vital links to 3000 information and technique from his labor-of-love website. HP3000links.com pumped up the skill level of MPE owners and managers. Dunlop dedicated his career to the 3000 in other ways as well.
In the middle of the prior decade, Dunlop served as the webmaster for the OpenMPE advocacy group. This was a time when that group was proposing paid membership. That website would have been essential to providing service to paid members. In the middle of the last decade, openmpe.com still had one of the most extensive lists of 3000 owners. Even without the paid membership, Dunlop was posting meeting minutes on the site during a period when there was close scrutiny of OpenMPE developments.
His own site was a lively circus-page of links to technical papers as well as a gateway to many 3000 websites of the past decade. "In spite of all the discussion about dwindling HP 3000 resources, the links I have pulled together and maintained are still available," Dunlop said in 2006, "and demonstrate that there is still a lot out there for the HP 3000 user." Dunlop acted as an editor while he maintained the site for more than a decade.
Four years ago he wondered why HP wanted to hang on to control of the 3000's configuration software after the vendor left the MPE market.
"There is software out there which will change HPSUSAN numbers," he said. "Surely HP would not be interested in chasing up anyone who used this software now, seeing as they have lost all interest in the HP3000?" Told that HP had just restated its forever-more control of SS_UPDATE -- the only 3000 support it will do on the record -- Dunlop replied, "I can't see why HP wants to retain control of this still, unless it's to try and milk a few more dollars out of the HP 3000 community."
The loss of a community member who knew the 3000 from the 1970s can feel like a death in the family, even though that person remains very much alive. The demise of HP3000links.com is very real, of course. Original material that it referenced is still alive on the web, in many cases. We did a survey of its vendor list during 2012, simply amazed at that time that it could have been so comprehensive.
Dunlop was signing off of 3000-L with his report. For years he's shared his wisdom while managing systems at Polimeri Europa UK Ltd. The company manufactures, among other things, synthetic rubber.
For many years, I have been mostly a lurker on this list but have benefitted greatly from the massed HP3000 knowledge so amptly demonstrated by the other members of this list. To all the contributors, much thanks for all your help over the years.
So, sadly, this will be my final post to the list as I will no longer be seeking help in HP3000-land. To all, best of luck. Cheerio!
One of his most notable contributions we could find in the 18-plus years of Newswire archives appeared in a 1999 article describing Posix startups under MPE/iX. The namespace for MPE which behaves most like Unix didn't always work properly on older systems:
Some sites are completely missing all of the HFS files (this is usually caused by an “incorrect” reload). From the MPE CI, try :LISTFILE /bin/. If no files are found, you will need to restore them from the FOS tape.
1. Restore the following from the tape:
2. :STREAM I0036431.USL.SYS
3. After I0036431 finishes,
All of the HP-supplied HFS files will be restored, and the directory structure and permissions set to the defaults.
Note: if you just want to restore all HFS files on a backup tape, try “:RESTORE /-@.@.@;SHOW;KEEP;OLDDATE;CREATE”.
May 08, 2014
A pretty fine book for MPE's after (HP) life
How could a vendor suggest that a widely-installed and mission-critical product be turned off? Have a look at what Microsoft is doing this year. The advice has been to turn Windows XP off, replace what's working. HP 3000 users got the same advisory in 2001.
That was a momentous year for MPE users, but the year that followed contained the same confusion from the vendor that Microsoft is facing now. I noticed this as I dug into Jon Diercks' MPE/iX System Administration Handbook. It carries fine information, an opinion I expressed in our recent mini-lesson about BULDACCT and some automatic security that it provides. As I did my digging I found a stale message inside the book, but it wasn't one that Diercks created.
You might believe that nobody could apparently see what was about to happen to HP's 3000 business, considering what appears on pages xxi through xxiii. It's a foreword from the General Manager of HP's Commercial Systems Division, Winston Prather. A book that was released in 2002 -- yeah, months beyond that 2001 exit notice -- includes this advice about ownership.
Today, with technologies like Samba, Java, GUIs, our WebWise products and our partners, the HP e3000 still provides a great environment for the creation and support of new object-oriented, web-based applications, as well as e-service and e-commerce environments.
The book's readers absorbed that message for years after HP insisted that Prather was wrong. Or to be accurate, when Prather took pains to tell his customers the 3000 was not a great environment for any of the above tasks. It was probably as confusing as what Microsoft's done this month by releasing an XP security patch after it insisted it would not. Some writers believe that patch should not have been released. That's the kind of sentiment I continue to hear about HP twice-delaying its 3000 exit.Follow the link from the top of yesterday's story and you'll find a writer who thinks "its a huge mistake" that Internet Explorer will not suffer from this month's zero-day exploit, even if the browser runs in XP.
IT admins, faced with the harsh reality of finally having to upgrade to a modern operating system, will sleep well knowing that Microsoft is a pushover and will continue to support XP while it has a significant number of users. The status quo is preserved.
Except it's not preserved, not any more than MPE/iX status was preserved during a pair of HP's two-year extensions. It's just that many companies -- perhaps the same percentage as the 3000 owners of 2002 -- find it beyond their budgets and resources to dump XP. And so even today, Diercks' book has value a-plenty to any company that still finds MPE to be the best tool for their circumstance. The book's not perfect, and Diercks always knew that was so, citing the rule all authors live by: omissions and errors will be in every creation. You must let your work go, however, learning from the creation and promising yourself to Do Better Next Time.
Put another way, perfect is the enemy of good. MPE was never perfect. If it were, than a mighty fine product like MPEX, an eXtension of MPE, would never have gained its candidacy as one of the elephants for the 3000 owner, developer, or administrator. Elephants, supported by a turtle.
Turtle? Elephants? And this has what exactly to do with MPE?
In a Hindu legend, the world is supported by four elephants, and those elephants ride on the back of a turtle. (It's a legend, so you'll have to take my word for this. Look at the picture above and you'll see four, with the fourth one tucked just behind the first.) But in this model of the world, MPE is that turtle. A few key independent software vendors are those elephants. You can decide for yourself who they might be, those elephants holding up the world -- which is the 3000 community.
But none of the elephants are mentioned in that fine MPE book. Diercks took care to note that he'd mention nobody's software except HP's in that book, no matter how fine the vendor's software performed. We've been in this situation, where including anyone just ensures that someone who's overlooked would be upset. You handle this situation a lot like Diercks did in his prologue: We know there are good products out there, but he wanted "to avoid being accused of unfairly representing (or failing to represent) any vendor or product."
One way of looking at the 3000's legend is to consider that MPE (and its database IMAGE), comprise the turtle in the Hindu story. Without MPE, there would be no Suprtool, no Adager, no MPEX. These might be considered elephants, and I'll leave you to fill in that fourth pachyderm. (If you're still with me, nominate a fourth elephant; that's going to be fun to share.)
While you're pondering all this, don't forget that Diercks' book is also something of a time machine. I mean that it contains a snapshot of the full faith of Hewlett-Packard in the 3000's MPE, right down to the hp.com/hpbooks webpage (now defunct) and HP logo on the title page Then there's Prather's best guess about the 3000's future, although it really was not written as a guess. See the language in the excerpt above; click for details.
Like Prather said in that foreword, things in the IT industry can change fast. Much faster than a printed book can be manufactured and released, with essential edits and reviews and distribution. If the publisher Prentice Hall had finished that book any later (because a publisher controls the birthdate of a book, not the writer) the MPE/iX System Administration Handbook might not even exist. That would be a great loss. At the least, this fine book wouldn't take us all back in time to HP's confusion about the 3000, confusion that mirrors Microsoft's of today.
May 07, 2014
MPE automates (some) password security
It only took a matter of weeks to create an unpatched security threat to the world's single-most installed vendor operating system, Windows XP. At about a 30 percent penetration of all PCs, XP is still running on hundreds of millions of systems. A zero-day Internet Explorer bug got patched this month, however, reluctantly by Microsoft. Once it cut its software loose -- just like HP stopped all MPE patches at the end of 2008 -- Microsoft's XP became vulnerable in just 20 days.
MPE, on the other hand, makes a backup file of its account structure that will defy an attempt to steal its critical contents. HP 3000 users can count on the work of an anonymous developer of MPE, even more than five years after patch creation ceased.
The automated protection of MPE's passwords comes through jobstreams from a key backup program. These files, created by using the BULDACCT program, are jobstreams that can only be read by 3000 users with CR (the jobstream's CReator, who might be an operator) or SM (System Manager) privileges, according to Jon Diercks' MPE/iX System Administration Handbook. Diercks advises his readers, "Even if your backup software stores the system directory, you may want to use BULDACCT as an extra precaution, in case any problems interfere with your ability to restore the directory data normally." However, he adds, the BULDJOB files are powerful enough to warrant extra care. After all, they contain "every password for every user, group and account, and lockwords for UDC files where necessary."
Note: the jobstream files you build on your own -- not these BULDJOBs -- can be secured on your own. But you must do that explicitly. These user-created streams' protection is not automatic.
In any case, you should use BULDACCT every day, according to Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh, not just as an optional extra precaution. "Do it before -- well, before it happens," he says. What can happen is a messy manure of a failure of an LDEV, one that scrambles the system directory.Put the BULDACCT option into your backup's stream file, so its jobstreams are created before your backups. Daily backups, of course. You're doing daily backups, right? And then storing that tape someplace other than the top of the HP 3000. You'd be surprised, said Volokh, how many 3000 sites use that storage location for a backup tape.
The BULDACCT option includes the jobstreams in the backup tape. After your backup is complete, you should PURGE these two streams from your 3000's disk.
Those BULDACCT jobstreams (BULDJOB1 and BULDJOB2) are automatically secured at the file level. This protects BULDACCT streams from hackers' pry-bars, a very good thing -- because this stream contains all system information including passwords.
You can then RESTORE these streams if you still have a disk error that leaves files intact, but ruins the directory structure. BULDJOB1 contains the instructions to rebuild directory structure, a job that runs before you RESTORE files. BULDJOB2 contains the SETCATALOG commands needed for to reassign all user, account and system UDCs, according to Diercks' fine book. Still available, by the way, online via O'Reilly's Safari e-book service.
Volokh says that if any of the above still seems unclear, 3000 managers can call him at Vesoft and he'll walk managers through the process. "For details, just call us. Don't chase the horse after the barn door has been opened."
May 02, 2014
Timing makes a difference to MPE futures
Coming to market with virtualized 3000s has been a lengthy road for Stromasys. How long is a matter of perspective. The view of an emulated 3000's lifespan can run from using it for just a few years to the foreseeable future. I heard about both ends of the emulator's continuum over the last few weeks.
In the Kern County Schools in Bakersfield, Calif., a 3000 manager said the timetable for his vendor's app migration is going to sideline any steps into using CHARON. Robert Canales, Business Information Systems Analyst in the Division of Administration and Finance, was an eager prospect for the software last May, when the company's Training Day unfolded out in the Bay Area. But the pace of migration demonstrated by his MPE software vendor, who's moving customers to Linux, showed his team that 3000 computing was not going to outlast the vendor's expected migration timetable.
Our main software vendor has since migrated several of their California K-12 education customers off of the 3000. We believe that our organization will be able to successfully migrate over to their Linux-based platform within the next 18-24 months. So from that perspective, we simply couldn't justify the financial investment, or the time for our very limited number of personnel, to focus on utilizing the CHARON solution for backup, testing or historical purposes.
The analysis at the district draws the conclusion that two more school years using available HP 3000 iron -- at most, while awaiting and then undertaking a migration -- will be a better use of manpower and budget than preserving MPE software. This is understandable when a commercial application drives IT. You follow your vendor's plan, or plan to replace something. Replacement could be either the physical hardware with an emulator, because the vendor's leaving your MPE app behind. Or everything: your OS environment as well as applications. Getting two years of emulator use, or maybe a bit more, isn't enough to fit the Kern County Schools resources and budget.
On the other side of that timetable, we can point out a comment from the recent CAMUS user group conference call. It suggests people will want to do more than mimic their 3000 power. They'll want to trade up for a longer-term installation.An MB Foster analyst noted that as hardware moves upward, from one level of emulation to a more powerful option, the changes might trigger application upgrading. That's a long schedule of use, if you consider that horsepower increases usually happened on 3- or 5-year timetables back when MPE ran only on 3000s. That mirrors a schedule that emulator vendors have reported as commonplace: several decades of lifespan.
Arnie Kwong clarified what he said on that call: that moving upward in the CHARON license lineup might be reason for a vendor -- like some in the 3000 world -- to ask for upgrading fees.
My understanding on CHARON is 1) If you change processor class (for example, from an 'A' license to an 'N' license) then you are likely to get 'upticks' from your third party vendors.
2) If you change to 'more processors' (for example, from one 'A' license to more than one 'A' license so that you can run separate reporting machines or year-end processing or the like) then you have more licenses as you are running more processors.
This isn't a change for anything that has been in place -- it's just a clarification of ours, that we haven't heard of anyone who isn't doing this the same way as its always been done. Stromasys is vending the 'hardware' and the software suppliers are providing the 'code' as things have always been.
We don't know how likely such upticks will be in the community. 3000 shops use an array of third party vendors. Some vendors do charge for processor uplifts. Others do not, and the number of vendors who will do this has not been confirmed by the installed CHARON base. We heard a report that a PowerHouse user was facing a six-figure fee to emulate their 3000. We heard that report before PowerHouse ownership changed at the end of 2013.
But if you think about that kind of scenario for a bit, you come up with a company that's extending its MPE power while it emulates. That's an investment to cover more than a few years. Emulating customers, just like the vendors who are offering this virtualization, are often into their applications for a very long ride. Before Stromasys emerged as the survivor in the emulation derby, there was Strobe Data. Willard West at that vendor talked about a multiple decades of a timetable for its HP 1000 and Digital emulation customer base.
"Our major competition has been the used hardware market," West said a decade ago. "We’ve out-survived that." At the time that we talked, Strobe was emulating Data General servers that were obsoleted 15 years earlier.
Emulation vendors know that time can be on their side if an application is customized and critical to a company. When time is on your side, the costs to revitalize an in-house application can be applied over enough years. Emulation mimics more than hardware platforms. It preserves IT business rules for returns on investment which have often been on MPE's side. MPE applications have outlasted their hardware and triggered upgrades. The clock on the ROI determines IT investments, just like it always has.
May 01, 2014
3000 mailing list notes becoming fainter
Have you ever been down to your mailbox with anticipation, pulled open the door and find nothing new? The HP3000-L listserve, which we variously call the 3000 newsgroup and the 3000 mailing list, is having that kind of dry spell. Like the rainfall that we yearn for in Texas this spring, it's been close to two weeks since a single new note has been in that mailbox.
There's little point in comparisons but being the thieves of joy. However, the days of 1,500 messages a month were more joyful for the prospect of MPE and 3000 wisdom in those times, a torrent shared and shaped by a larger community. A goodly share of those messages, even in the heyday, covered the flotsam of politics, as well as more scandalous off-topic notes on climate science and treason. You could shop for a car or camera off of the advice, in those days.
The message count has drawn down despite a stable subscriber tally reported by the hosting system, servers at the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga. A little less than 600 readers are now receiving 3000-L mail. That is, however, the number of subscribers who were tallied nine years ago. And at least all of today's mail -- well, nearly all -- is related directly to HP 3000s. Off-topic noise has been all but eliminated.
We have a slavish devotion to the 3000-L, as the community veterans call it. Thousands subscribed to its messages for free, and I read that rich frontier of information in the early 1990s and could believe in a monthly newsletter for 3000s and MPE. We even devoted a column to summarizing and commentary about its traffic, for many years. John Burke was columnist for many years of those reports; the columns ran for more than 9 years in the printed edition of the Newswire. (Find them at the classic archives of the Newswire Tech Features, or type net.digest in our search page off the link at left.) Our caveat in passing along that expertise was "Advice offered from the messages here comes without warranty; test before you implement." If not for 3000-L, our last 18 years of work here might not have emerged.
A similar dry spell for the "L" took place in February, but the current one is the longest we've measured so far. It's simple enough to break the drought, simpler than what we face in Texas, anyway. Ask a question online -- you can do it via a web browser -- if you're subscribed (or sign up, from the website.) Then watch the wisdom echo back. In some ways, the L is like a canyon wall that won't speak until you shout out to it. Or futuristic drone robots, waiting for a command.In years past, the mailing list was also a newsgroup. By using newsgroup reading software, and then later using a browser, readers of comp.sys.hp.mpe could enjoy all the wisdom, and wince or chuckle at the chaff. Alas, the synchronizing of listserv and newsgroup has broken down by now. You could not get a specific number in those days about readers. You knew how many subscribed via emails. But comp.sys.hp.mpe could be read and used by countless others.
After the previous dry spell, readers could learn how to lock a KSAM file in PowerHouse Quick, or get advice on how to rebuild a 3000's filesystem. The former is an arcane bit of technical knowledge, yes, but the latter is everyday wisdom. And the L offers a dialogue process, to follow up with additional questions.
Like the drone robots Huey and Dewey from the sci-fi classic Silent Running -- a movie so old that Bruce Dern was young while he starred in it -- the L is likely to run long after most people will find an everyday use for it. In an apt coincidence, Silent Running made its premeire the same year that HP did its first Series 3000 launch, in 1972. The 3000-L looks back for its wisdom, while the direction in which that film looked gave a view of one kind of future. Nobody can be certain when either of these stories will see their final showing. The Web, after all, remembers all.
April 29, 2014
Foolproof Purges on the HP 3000
The software vendors most likely to sell products for a flat rate -- with no license upgrade fees -- have been the system utility and administration providers. Products such as VEsoft's MPEX, Robelle's Suprtool, Adager's product of the same name -- came in one, or perhaps two versions, at most. The software was sold as the start of a relationship, and so it focused on the understanding the product provided for people responsible for HP 3000s.
That kind of understanding might reveal a Lewis Carroll Cheshire Cat's smile inside many an HP 3000. The smile is possible if the 3000 uses UDC files, and the manager uses only MPE to do a file PURGE. There is a more complete way to remove things from a 3000's storage devices. And you take care about this because eliminating UDCs with only MPE can leave a user unable to use the server. That grin is the UDC's filename.
To begin, we assume your users have User Defined Commands. User Defined Commands are a powerful timesaver for 3000 users, but they have administrative overhead that can become foolproof with the right tools. These UDCs need to be maintained, and as users drop off and come on to the 3000, their UDCs come and go. There's even a chance that a UDC file could be deleted, but that file's name could remain in the filesystem's UDC master catalog. When that happens, any other UDCs associated with the user will fail, too. It might include some crucial commands; you can put a wide range of operations into a UDC.
When you add a third party tool to your administrator's box, you can make a purge of such files foolproof. You can erase the Cheshire Cat's grin as well as the cat. It's important because that grin of a filename, noted above, can keep valid users from getting work done on the server with UDCs. This is not the reputation anybody expects from a 3000.First you have to find all of your UDCs on a system, and MPE doesn't make that as straightforward as you might think. Using SHOWCATALOG is the standard, included tool for this. But it has its limitations. It can display the system-level UDC files of all users in all accounts. But that's not all the UDCs on a 3000.
MPE, after all, cannot select to show a complete set files by attributes such as program capability. Or for that matter, by last accessed time, or file size, or file security. It's a long list of things that MPE makes an administrator do on their own. Missing something might be the path to looking foolish.
Employing a couple of third party tools from VEsoft, VEAudit and MPEX, lets you root out UDCs and do a foolproof purge, including file names. VEAudit will list all of the UDCs on a server, regardless of user -- not just the ones associated with the user who's logged in and looking for UDCs. The list VEAudit creates can be inverted so the filename is the first item on each line. Then MPEX will go to work to do a PURGE. Not MPE's, but a user-defined purge that looks for attributes, then warns you about which ones you want to delete, or would rather not.
By using MPEX -- the X stands for extended functionality -- you can groom your own PURGE command to look out for files that have been recently used, not just recently created. MPE doesn't check if a purged file is a UDC file.
Such 3000 utilities provided the server and its managers with abilities that went far beyond what HP had built into MPE and its IMAGE database. Now that MPE is moving on, beyond HP's hardware, knowing these third party tools will transfer without extra upgrade fees is like ensuring that a foolproof MPE will be running on any virtualized HP 3000.
They're an extra-cost item, but how much they're worth depends on a manager's desire to maintain a good reputation.
In the earliest days of the sale of these tools, vendors were known for selling them for the price of the support contract alone. That's usually about 20 percent annually of the purchase price. If a $4,000 package got sold that way, the vendor billed for just $800 at first. It made the purchases easier to pass through a budget, since support at the manager-tool level was an easier sell. Think about it. Such third parties passed up $3,200 per sale in revenues in the earliest days. They also established relationships that were ongoing and growing. They were selling understanding of MPE, not just software.
As we wrote yesterday, this kind of practice would be useful for the community's remaining software vendors. This is not the time to be raising prices to sustain MPE computing, simply because there's a way to extend the life of the hardware that runs MPE. As the number of MPE experts declines, the vendors will be expected to fill in the gaps in understanding. Those who can do this via support fees stand the best chance of moving into the virtualized future of 3000 computing.
April 28, 2014
Emulator begs, how free should MPE be?
As part of the recent CAMUS conference call meeting, Arnie Kwong of MB Foster mentioned the prospect of additional costs the CHARON emulator might trigger. As an example of one possibility, a user of a Series 900 server could move up to a multiple-processor instance of CHARON that's A-Class or N-Class caliber -- gaining MP ability without needed to plug anything into an HP-built hardware multifunction IO board.
Many vendors in the community wouldn't bother with any fee for increasing MPE horsepower at a customer site. They'd be glad for the extension of life of a support contract. And some companies always sold their MPE utility software on a single-fee basis. Whether you ran an N-Class or a Series 918, the cost was the same, usually in the middle four figures.
Some of the larger vendors, selling applications like Infor's MANMAN or PowerHouse when it was a Cognos product, priced their MPE software much differently. The customer base grew accustomed to those upgrade fees even though they didn't like them. Now that MPE/iX is strictly in the hands of independent companies for support, there's an expectation developing that prices for running the server should be much lower. Approaching free would be a preferred trend, but that strategy won't do the homesteading community as much good as imagined.
"The vendor community wants to keep things alive, and enabling economic success," Kwong said near the end of the conference call. "But part of this sucess is the people thing. Birket [Foster] and I have been participating in parts of this community for onto our fourth decade. There’s just a lot of goodwill on a people-to-people level. That’s one of the things that helps us all see all this through."
The rise of an emulator indicates there's a new possible economic opportunity for MPE and its users. That fact alone ought to show that no-fee upgrades to 3000 licenses aren't likely to appear -- at least not from vendors who've got a heritage of conducting that upgrade-fee business.Kwong noted that MB Foster has its own set of customers "that have moved to the CHARON environment. We continue to support them, thanks to the Stromasys folks who have been very cooperative about helping us maintain our test environment."
At the moment, there's little evidence out in the community that app vendors are embracing fee-free transfers to CHARON. The emulator has a sterling reputation in the Digital MANMAN marketplace. But in a one-hour CAMUS call with nearly a score of IT pros dialed in, no one spoke up to offer testimony that Infor has allowed an upgrade from 3000-based MANMAN to a CHARON instance. In some cases, a vendor of that size has delivered a price tag for an emulator license upgrade -- and in one example, the installation was then delayed.
Kwong's presentation was meant to shed light on the premise that making a transition to CHARON won't be a magic weekend project, or even one that happens without allied costs which are outside of the Stromasys license fees. This is a familiar arrangement to the 3000 manager. When you'd move from 9x9 to A- or N-Class, you expected software fees to be part of the budget. Testing on the part of the customer wasn't a major part of that sort of move, though. The software vendor had taken care of that.
Foster's company has done that testing for its product and verified it can be used with CHARON. Economic success in this nascent part of the MPE ecosystem will need to be built upon commerce. In specific, testing has got to be funded at vendor labs, either through support contracts or otherwise. It always has been.
OpenMPE wanted to free MPE more than a decade ago, but the prospect of a free MPE was never much more than a beery dream. Linux isn't free, unless it's running in your garage or basement. We're waiting to see how the new owners of PowerHouse handle this fee issue, just as one meaningful barometer mark. At one point in the past, more than 7,000 sites could call on PowerHouse to run on MPE. There's nothing like that left of the PowerHouse customer base, but it's still a good chunk to measure, even today.
April 24, 2014
RUG talk notes emulator licensing, recovery
Second of two parts
When CAMUS held its recent user group conference call, MB Foster's Arnie Kwong had advice to offer the MANMAN and HP 3000 users about the CHARON emulator for PA-RISC systems like the 3000. A more complex environment than HP's decade-old 3000 hardware is in place to enable things like powerfail recovery while protecting data. And readying licenses for a move to the Stromasys CHARON 3000 emulator means you've got to talk to somebody, he said.
"Everybody is pretty helpful in trying to keep customers in a licensing move," Kwong said. "If anyone tells you that you don't even have to ask, and that you're just running a workalike, that would be a mistake. You have to have an open and fair conversation. Not doing so, and then having a software problem, could be a fairly awkward support conversation. You can't make the assumption you'll be able to make this move without any cost."
If you create secondary processing capacity through CHARON, you'll have to execute new licenses for those licenses. But most of the third party vendors are going to be pretty reasonable and rational. We've all known each other for decades. People who do lots of IT procurement understand straightforward rules for handling that.
Kwong said that CHARON prospects should make a catalog of their MPE software applications and utilities, and then talk to vendors about tech compatibility, too.
In manufacturing IT in particular, its cost has been declining recently. "Short of somebody paying $10-15 million to re-engineer around SAP, or Infor's other products, most of the incremental spending in the MANMAN and 3000 environments have been to extend life. People do a lot of stuff now on Excel spreadsheets and SQL Server databases around the ERP system. We look to see if the 3000 is the essential piece, and often it is. We look at what other things are affected if we change that 3000 piece."
Kwong said that MB Foster has not done MANMAN-specific testing against its in-lab CHARON installations yet.
Data integrity questions came up from Mike Hornsby, who wanted to know about comparison in using transactional testing to evaluate possible data loss. Of the HP 3000's powerfail environment, Kwong said, "it's been one of the key strengths of the 3000 environment in particular." The tests at MB Foster haven't revealed any data loss. Kwong didn't dismiss the possibility, however.
"This is theory, but I'll say this: One of the things you have at risk during the crash recovery process is either in the CHARON emulator, or the underlying infrastructure in the cloud environment that you're running it in." In this meaning of the word cloud, Kwong was referring to the VMware hosting that's common to the 3000 CHARON experience.
"In those instances you could have failures that were never in their wildest imaginations considered by the folks who built this software-hardware combination. I have not seen anything personally in our testing where things have been horrendously corrupted, rolled over and died. But inherently in the environments they're running, there are assumptions of database logfiles, and particularly in certain key files and so forth, where your warmstart processing can be at risk."
When such failures occur — and they can happen in HP's provided hardware — "You have the same predictability in an emulated environment as you do in the 3000 hardware environment. I don't think I'd lose a lot of sleep over it." However, networking and storage architecture issues are different for the emulated MPE hardware than for HP's native hardware, he added,
But application expenses take the forefront over hardware and platform issues at the sites where MB Foster has discussed transitions of any kind. "When you take the context where the 3000 is running from a business standpoint, yes, you have licensing issues for maintenance and so forth," Kwong said. "But as a total percentage of the cost to the enterprise, the application's value and the application's cost to change anything, usually begins to predominate.
"It's not the fact that you have no-cost terminals and low-cost hardware anymore, it's what that application's power brings you. We've seen that newer managers who come in from outside at these sites with stable HP applications have vastly different expectations for what the application's going to deliver — also, different demands for the applications portfolio — than people who've been there for decades running the same architecture. The platform discussions usually aren't major economic drivers.
"Running a 3000 application in another environment, such as Windows or Linux, is never zero, although it's cheaper to do that in a Stromasys environment. We need to carefully consider the hardware scalability performance availability, and certain kinds of communication and networking interfaces that aren't qualified for use in the Stromasys environment yet."
"We look at how to approach the problem of migration and its processes. In talking to our customers and concerns they have at small one-person shops with boxes running for 20 years, a move will take a year or two years to do. People that we talk to say they're gotten by for a long time without having to pay the kind of money needed to migrate to SAP or Oracle, or FMS or JD Edwards. Those alternatives are on the list of things they look at.
"Few people are talking about development stages for the kinds of complex environments the folks on this call represent. The days of large scale development have pretty much gone by the board. Everybody's talking about what kind of capacity they can buy, and what kind of features can they buy, rather than concentrate on what kinds of things they could move to the new environment.
"For them, the Stromasys approach says they'll leave their software base the same and go to new hardware, essentially. There are a lot of business assumptions and a lot of applications assumptions that might change because you're running in that new hardware environment. Things that were always based on the 7x24 capability, running without a lot of staff expense — all of those things are now open to question and rethink. We encourage people to take a step back and look at their business planning assumptions and business models, because that's the foundation for why they bought the 3000 in the first place".
Kwong he believes most of the users on the call could agree HP didn't do badly by them in the initial offering of high-value, investment-protected systems. Now that the system is into its second decade beyond HP's exit announcement, protecting that value deserves some fresh assessment.
April 23, 2014
Emulator's edition earns closer look in call
First of two parts
The recent CAMUS user group meeting, conducted as a conference call, promised some testing and analysis of the Stromasys CHARON HP 3000 emulator -- as done by an outsider. MB Foster is an insider to the HP 3000 community, but the vendor doesn't have an affiliation with Stromasys as a partner. Not at this point, although there are always opportunities for longstanding vendors to join their customers with such a new solution.
CEO Birket Foster said the company's been asked by its customers if MB Foster products would run safely in the CHARON environment. The question not only has been of high interest to 3000 managers. One similar answer lies in the Digital environment, where CHARON has more than 4,000 installations including some CAMUS members who run MANMAN in a VAX system. All's well over there, they report.
CHARON is so much newer in 3000-land. Principal Consultant Arnie Kwong of MB Foster outlined some of the research results from testing on an Intel i7 server with 64GB of memory and SSD storage, as well as a more everyday 8GB capacity box, albeit an AMD-based system. (Both systems can run CHARON for the 3000 emulation.) Wong said using a private VMware cloud, or private backup machines, are common computing-share practices that deserve extra attention with new possibilities of CHARON. "What will it let me do that's different?" he asked.
One of the assumptions of using cloud infrastructure and these new capabilities is whether the fundamental operating characteristics, business processes and business rules embedded in applications like MANMAN are sufficient for what you're doing now. Having talked to lots of MANMAN customers, all of the industry-standard and regulatory practices can be impacted if we do something major like shifting the platform.
Kwong went on to forecast the use of CHARON in a cloud-based implementation and ponder if that use affects regulatory compliance, as well as "the ability to operate on a global basis, and what new opportunities we can do in that mold." He said he'd confine his comments to instances where a cloud-based infrastructure was already in use at MB Foster customer sites. "But our leading candidate to do this kind of thing isn't a VMware kind of architecture." CHARON, Kwong noted, relies heavily on VMware to do its emulation for HP 3000 operations.Most members of the user group on the call have pieces of their IT infrastructure running in a cloud aspect, such as Google Mail. "They have Internet-based functionalities, global applications that function well. We looked at the HP 3000 applications such as MANMAN that are enabled and helped by having all of that architecture in place." The 3000 is a platform service inside a cloud environment, Kwong said.
Migrating a 3000 to CHARON means "you have to have some systems engineering and systems administration done to bring it up. A key is to look at sizing of the environments and properly sizing data and program sizes and shapes, as far as the size of the application portfolio. You should look at what you are going to be able to effectively maintain."
Testing for such an emulated environment may require more time from technical staff that the time you have available, considering the depth of MPE/3000 knowledge in many sites. "Concurrently, you need to have folks with knowledge of your cloud infrastructure. A key takeaway for this call is you need to pay attention to staff availability of people with a deep technical knowledge, both on the HP side and in your cloud infrastructure."
Kwong said that managers can snapshot production states, to on to things such as a physical inventory cycle. "In a case of global operations, that might not have been easily possible before. Using the virtualization infrastructure offered via CHARON, and storage infrastructure in particular, you can do functions you just weren't able to do in the HP 3000 environment that's tied to physical hardware."
In an evaluation from MB Foster that could lead to implementing CHARON, the company looks at the business cycle activities that need those kind of functions, "and study how we'd map it; for example, could I give one to three days more production time."
One Stromasys representative on the call checked to see if the MB Foster results were off the limited-use Freeware edition, or a full-production installation. Kwong said it was full-production, and the Stromasys rep said the company didn't have a relationship yet with MB Foster. The two said they'd take that issue offline. Regarding the license movement needed to enable CHARON use, Kwong said it wasn't an automatic assumption that everything could move without a major cost, but "it's fair to say that in a lot of cases you'll be able to move without a tremendous cost in relicensing.
Foster said that slides which summarize its results and planned migration processes for the CHARON testing will be available in a forthcoming MB Foster Webinar Wednesday.
April 18, 2014
Denying Interruptions of Service
For the last 18 hours, the 3000 Newswire’s regular blog host TypePad has had its outages. (Now that you're reading this, TypePad is back on its feet.) More than once, the web resource for the Newswire has reported it’s been under a Denial of Service attack. I’ve been weathering the interruption of our business services up there, mostly by posting a story on my sister-site, Story for Business.
We also notified the community via Twitter about the outage and alternative site. It was sort of a DR plan in action. The story reminds me of the interruption saga that an MPE customer faces this year. Especially those using the system for manufacturing.
MANMAN users as well as 3000 owners gathered over the phone on Wednesday for what the CAMUS user group calls a RUG meeting. It's really more of an AUG: Applications User Group. During the call, it was mentioned there’s probably more than 100 different manufacturing packages available for business computers which are like the HP 3000. Few of them, however, have a design as ironclad against interruption as the venerable MANMAN software. Not much service could be denied to MANMAN users because of a Web attack, the kind that’s bumped off our TypePad host over the last day. MANMAN only employs the power of the Web if a developer adds that interface.
This is security through obscurity, a backhanded compliment that a legacy computer gets. Why be so condescending? It might be because MPE is overshadowed by computer systems that are so much newer, more nimble, open to a much larger world.
They have their disadvantages, though. Widely-known designs of Linux, or Windows, attract these attempts to deny their services. Taking something like a website host offline has a cost to its residents, like we reside on TypePad. Our sponsors had their messages denied an audience. In the case of a 3000, when it gets denied it’s much more likely to be a failure of hardware, or a fire or flood. Those crises, they’ve got more rapid repairs. But that’s only true if a 3000 owner plans for the crisis. Disaster Recovery is not a skill to learn in-situ, as it were. But practicing the deployment it’s about as popular as filing taxes. And just as necessary.
Another kind of disruption can be one that a customer invites. There are those 100 alternatives to MANMAN out there in the market, software an MPE site might choose to use. Manufacturing software is bedeviled with complexity and nuance, a customized story a company tells itself and its partners about making an object.
There’s a very good chance that the company using MPE now, in the obscurity of 2014, has put a lot of nuance into its storytelling about inventory, receivables, bill of materials and more. Translating that storytelling into new software, one of those 100, is serious work. Like any other ardent challenge, this translation — okay, you might call it a migration — has a chance to fail. That’s a planned failure, though, one which usually won’t cost a company its audience like a website service denial.
The term for making a sweeping translation happen lightning-quick is The Magic Weekend. 48 hours of planned offline transformation, and then you’re back in front of the audience. No journey to the next chapter of the MPE user’s story — whether it’s a jump to an emulator that mimics Hewlett-Packard computers, or the leap to a whole new environment — can be accomplished in a Magic Weekend. Business computers don’t respond to magic incantations.
The latest conference call among MANMAN users invoked that warning about magic. Turning the page on the story where Hewlett-Packard’s hardware was the stage for the software of MANMAN and MPE — that’s an episode with a lot longer running time than any weekend. Even if all you’re doing is changing the stage, you will want to test everything. You don’t want to be in middle of serving hundreds and hundreds of audience members at a time, only to have the lights grow too dim to see the action on the stage.
April 16, 2014
How to tell which failed drive is which LDEV
I have someone at a remote site that may need a drive replaced. How can I tell which drive is a certain LDEV?
Keven Miller, who at 3kRanger.com describes himself as "a software guy with a screwdriver," answers the question -- for those that don't have the benefit of seeing an amber light on a failed drive.
Well, for me, I run SYSINFO.PRVXL.TELESUP first. Then you have a map of LDEV# to SCSI path. Next, you have to follow your SCSI path via SYSINFO.PRVXL.TELESUP.
From the example above, on my 928, 56/52 is the built-in SCSI path. Each disk has a hardware selection via jumpers to set the address of 0 to 6. (7 is the controller). You would have to inspect each drive, which could be one of the two internal ones, or any external ones.On an A-Class, you have the two internal drives
0/0/1/1.15 (intscsia.15) (I think top drive)
0/0/2/1.15 (intscsib.15) (I think bottom drive)
Plus an external, Ultra2 wide on 0/0/1/0
Narrow single ended on 0/0/2/0
slot-1 on 0/2/0
slot-2 on 0/4/0
slot-3 on 0/6/2
slot-4 on 0/6/0
Then, depending how the externals are housed, it could be just an address switch on the back of the housing case. Not sure about an N-Class, or a 9x7, or a 9x9. But the processes are the same. If you're running anything more complex, like RAID, a hardware guy will help.
Hardware guy Jack Connor of Abtech adds
There's the 12H, NIKE, VA family, and XP disc frames that are the common arrays.
Or, if it's not an array, but something like a Jamaica disc enclosure, you can look at SYSGEN>IO>LD to determine what all discs should be present, then do a :DSTAT ALL to see who's missing and record that path including the SCSI address.
You then would go the card that has the major path, such as 0/2/0/0, and then follow that cable to the Jamaica enclosure. Look at the back to determine from the dip switch setting what each slot's SCSI address is. That would be the failed drive.
Also, often times with a Jamaica enclosure the drive will have either a solid green light on or, alternatively, be totally dark while all the other drives see activity (with flashing green lights).
April 15, 2014
Not too late to register for RUG meet
The CAMUS manufacturing app user group has a meeting tomorrow (April 16), starting at 10:30 Central time. An email to organizer and CAMUS RUG officer Terri Lanza will get you a dial-in number for the event. Birket Foster of MB Foster, one of the community's longest-tenured migration and sustainability vendors, will brief attendees on his perspective of the CHARON HPA, the HP 3000 hardware emulator.
CAMUS also has a Talk Soup as part of its dial-in agenda that runs through noontime. They only host their call twice a year, and it's a worthwhile endeavor to check in with others who are running HP 3000s in production mode.
Contact Lanza for your dial-in at email@example.com.
April 14, 2014
HP did keep MPE's CALENDAR up to date
Last week I lumped a error of omission by users into the basket of Hewlett-Packard's 3000 miscalculations. I made my own mistake by doing that. In part of an article about the 3000 user's longer view, I figured the miscue that sparked programming for the Y2K crisis fell into HP's lap. After all, the date handling in MPE was built to break down in 2028. Surely the valiant reworking of two-digit year representation came from a shortcoming out of HP's labs as well, I reckoned.
Vladimir Volokh called me to correct that concept. There was much work to do in our community to salvage good computing in the years leading up to 2000. But that work was the result of developers repairing their own mis-estimations of the durability of 3000 applications. Four-digit representations of years were possible from the very first month the 3000 went into serious duty. (That month happens to be just about 40 years ago, as of this month.) The users of the system, and commercial developers, just didn't see the need for using precious storage to represent four complete digits during 1974.
Four decades have brought the 3000's dating capability within sight of the end-date of accuracy. In the same way as 2000 was a community-wide roadblock, Volokh said that, just like age 70 is the new 60, "2028 has become the new Y2K."
The year 2028 is notable for customers who don't plan to leave the HP 3000. It's the year when timestamps stop being accurate, because the CALENDAR intrinsic in MPE/iX only uses 7 bits to store year information.
For those HP 3000 applications using CALENDAR, HP has advised you use the newer HPCALENDAR in your apps. The newer intrinsic, polished up in 1998 with version 6.0, extends the 3000 application's date accuracy to more than five decades beyond the 3000's inception. 2027 will be the last year to accurately generate timestamps in the 3000's filesystem. HPCALENDAR goes further, for whatever that's worth.
An HP advisory explained the differences, at least in part:
When HP first began to talk about a Posix timestamp function that works on the 3000, the advice needed a bit of explanation from HP's lab engineer Bill Cadier.
The original MPE timestamp format was that used by the CALENDAR intrinsic, a 16 bit quantity allowing 9 bits for the day of the year and 7 bits for the year, added to 1900. Since the largest number represented by 7 bits is 127, this format is limited to accurately storing years up to 2027.
The newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic uses a 32 bit quantity, allowing 23 bits for the year, since 1900 and the same 9 bits for the day of the year. This format provides a significantly longer period of timestamp accuracy.
If, for example someone needs to store the maturity date for a 30 year mortgage started this month, neither the traditional CALENDAR format nor the time() format will work as they are only accurate to 31 December 2027 and 19 January 2038 respectively. The HPCALENDAR date format provides 23 bits to store the year added to 1900 — and since one can store 8,388,607 in those 23 bits, this format provides the best accuracy for storing future dates on the e3000.
The advisory says in part
Certain Posix applications may use the time() function as the basis for timestamps; and may therefore, store timestamps in the format used by time(), which is a 32 bit quantity representing the number of seconds from the epoch 1 January 1970. This format is limited to accurately storing timestamps up to 19 January 2038.
If your applications have a need to create and store future transaction timestamps, HP recommends using HPCALENDAR, HPDATECONVERT, HPDATEDIFF, HPDATEFORMAT or HPDATEOFFSET to ensure they are created correctly.
HP built MPE to an extraordinary level of durability. Employing MPE/iX on the application level, you can use the invented-in-HP HPCALENDAR intrinsic for apps. Alas, as of this month, the intrinsic for the filesystem, CALENDAR, does have a shorter working lifespan. But I overstepped in thinking that HP wasn't thinking far enough into the future about the 3000. It's just that a reasonable choice about the time-span for filesystem date intrinsics seemed ample, at space enough for 54 years. However, the 3000 is clocking in to begin year Number 41 this month. It may take a village of MPE's experts to reach into 2028 and beyond.
HP first released 5.5 PowerPatch 4 as a Year 2000-ready release during December of 1997. But a more comprehensive, company-wide definition of Year 2000 compliance resulted in new versions of the date intrinsics, which HP first made available in that 1998 PowerPatch.
At the time, users felt like they were overwhelmed enough with their own repairs, and didn't want to think they'd be waiting on HP to repair application date handling. One healthcare IT manager said, "It seems that what I suspected is correct — Y2K fixes will be forthcoming up to and even after Year 2000 arrives. At some point we must evaluate how bad the problems are, and settle on a base release.”
HP's MPE product manager at the time acknowledged that some customers would need to install a PowerPatch "if they use HP’s date intrinsics in their applications." The statement makes me wonder what else a modern-day programmer would be using in an app. There are other ways that an MPE app could cast the date of a transaction or a file. Perhaps anybody who'd develop this sort of intrinsic magic on their own could help in the village-wide challenge to accurately date in 2028.
April 11, 2014
Again, the 3000's owners own a longer view
Heartbleed needs a repair immediately. Windows XP will need some attention over the next three years, as the client environment most favored by migrating 3000 sites starts to age and get more expensive. XP is already "off support," for whatever that means. But there's a window of perhaps three years where change is not as critical as a repair to Heartbleed's OpenSSL hacker window.
Then there's MPE. The OS already has gone through more than a decade of no new sales. And this environment that's still propping up some business functions has now had more than five years of no meaningful HP lab support. In spite of those conditions, the 3000's OS is still in use, and by one manager's accounting, even picking up a user in his organization.
"Ending?" Tim O'Neill asks with a rhetorical tone. "Well, maybe MPE/iX will not be around 20 years from now, but today one of our people contacted me and said they need to use the application that runs on our HP 3000. Isn't that great? Usage is increasing!"
Pondering if MPE/iX will be around in 20 years, or even 13 when the end of '27 date bug surfaces, just shows the longer view the 3000 owner still owns. Longer than anything the industry's vendors have left for newer, or more promising, products. My favorite avuncular expert Vladimir Volokh called in to leave a message about his long view of how to keep MPE working. Hint: This septuagenarian plans to be part of the solution.Vladimir is bemused at the short-term plans that he runs across among his clientele. No worries from them about MPE's useful lifespan. "I'll be retired by then," say these managers who've done the good work of IT support since the 1980s. This retirement-as-futures plan is more common than people would like to admit.
Volokh took note of our Fixing 2028 update awhile back. "It's interesting that you say, "We've still got more than 13 years left. Almost every user who I've told you about has said, 'Oh, by then, I'll retire.' My answer is, 'Not me.' I will be just 90 years old. You call me, and we'll work out something.' "
I invite you to listen to his voice, delivering his intention to keep helping and pushing MPE into the future -- a longer one than people might imagine for something like XP.
Why do some 3000 experts say a longer view seems like a good chance? Yes, one obvious reason is that they don't want to say goodbye to the meaningful nature of their expertise, or the community they know. I feel that same way, even though I only tell the stories of this community.
But there's another reason for the long view. MPE has already served in the world for 40 years. HP thought this so unlikely that they didn't even program for a Y2K event. Then the vendor assumed more than 80 percent of sites will be off in four years' time after HP's "we're quitting" notice. Then it figured an extra two years would do the job.
Wrong on all three accounts. Change must prove its value, and right soon, if you intend to begin changing soon. There's another story to tell about that reality, one from the emulator's market, which I'll tell very soon. In the meantime, change your passwords
1. If a website you use is vulnerable to Heartbleed; check here with a free tool, or it has been (list below).
2. It has now been repaired.
Here's a list of websites which were vulnerable, from Github. Yahoo is among them, which means that ATT broadband customers have some password-changing to do. That's very-short-view change.
April 09, 2014
How SSL's bug is causing security to bleed
Computing's Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) forms part of the bedrock of information security. Companies have built products around SSL, vendors have wired its protocols into operating systems, vendors have applied its encryption to data transport services. Banks, credit card providers, even governments rely on its security. In the oldest days of browser use, SSL displayed that little lock in the bottom corner that assured you a site was secure -- so type away on those passwords, IDs, and sensitive data.
In a matter of days, all of the security legacy from the past two years has virtually evaporated. OpenSSL, the most current generation of SSL, has developed a large wound, big enough to let anyone read secured data who can incorporate a hack of the Heartbeat portion of the standard. A Finnish security firm has dubbed the exposed hack Heartbleed.
OpenSSL has made a slow and as-yet incomplete journey to the HP 3000's MPE/iX. Only an ardent handful of users have made efforts to bring the full package to the 3000's environment. In most cases, when OpenSSL has been needed for a solution involving a 3000, Linux servers supply the required security. Oops. Now Linux implementations of OpenSSL have been exposed. Linux is driving about half of the world's websites, by some tallies, since the Linux version of Apache is often in control.
One of the 3000 community's better-known voices about mixing Linux with MPE posted a note in the 3000 newsgroup over the past 48 hours to alert Linux-using managers. James Byrne of Harte & Lyne Ltd. explained the scope of a security breach that will require a massive tourniquet. To preface his report, the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and SSL in the TCP/IP stack encrypt data of network connections. They have even done this for MPE/iX, but in older, safe versions. Byrne summed up the current threat.
There is an exploit in the wild that permits anyone with TLS network access to any system running the affected version of OpenSSL to systematically read every byte in memory. Among other nastiness, this means that the private keys used for Public Key Infrastructure on those systems are exposed and compromised, as they must be loaded into memory in order to perform their function.
It's something of a groundbreaker, this hack. These exploits are not logged, so there will be no evidence of compromises. It’s possible to trick almost any system running any version of OpenSSL released over the past two years into revealing chunks of data sitting in its system memory.The official security report on the bug, from OpenSSL.org, does its best to make it seem like there's a ready solution to the problem. No need to panic, right?
A missing bounds check in the handling of the TLS heartbeat extension can be used to reveal up to 64k of memory to a connected client or server.
Only 1.0.1 and 1.0.2-beta releases of OpenSSL are affected, including 1.0.1f and 1.0.2-beta1.
Thanks for Neel Mehta of Google Security for discovering this bug and to Adam Langley and Bodo Moeller for preparing the fix.
Affected users should upgrade to OpenSSL 1.0.1g. Users unable to immediately upgrade can alternatively recompile OpenSSL with -DOPENSSL_NO_HEARTBEATS.
1.0.2 will be fixed in 1.0.2-beta2
For the technically inclined, there's a great video online that explains all aspects of the hack. Webserver owners and hosts have their work to do in order to make their sites secure. That leaves out virtually every HP 3000, the server that was renamed e3000 in its final HP generation to emphasize its integration with the Internet. Hewlett-Packard never got around to implementing OpenSSL security in its web services for MPE/iX. 3000 systems are blameless, but that doesn't matter as much as insisting your secure website providers apply that 1.0.1g upgrade.
The spookiest part of this story is that without the log evidence, nobody knows if Heartbleed has been used over the past two years. Byrne's message is directed at IT managers who have Linux-driven websites in their datacenters. Linux has gathered a lot of co-existence with MPE/iX over the last five years and more. This isn't like a report of a gang shooting that's happened in another part of town. Consider it more of a warning about the water supply.
In a bit of gallows humor, it looks as if the incomplete implementation of OpenSSL, frozen in an earlier edition of the software, puts it back in the same category as un-patched OpenSSL web servers: not quite ready for prime time.
April 07, 2014
MPE patches still available, just customized
Last week a 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s.
This mention of MPE bug repair was a reminder, actually, that Hewlett-Packard set the internals knowledge of MPE free back in 2010. Read-only rights to the operating system source code went out to seven companies worldwide, including some support providers such as Pivital Solutions and Allegro Consultants.
The latter's Stan Sieler was watching a 3000 newsgroup thread about the error winding up. Tracy Johnson, the curator of the 3000 that hosts the EMPIRE game and a former secretary to OpenMPE, had pointed out that his 3000 sometimes waits longer than expected after a PAUSE in a jobstream.
I nearly always put a CONTINUE statement before a PAUSE in any job. Over the years I have discovered that sometimes the CPU waits "longer" than the specified pause and fails with an error.
A lively newsgroup discussion of 28 messages ensued. It was by far the biggest exchange of tech advice on the newsgroup in 2014, so far. Sieler took note of what's likely to be broken in MPE/iX 7.5, after an HP engineer had made his analysis of might need a workaround. Patches and workarounds are a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get 'em if you want 'em.A workaround is the more likely of repairs for something that's not operating correctly in MPE, by this year. Patches were a free HP 3000 element, and those that HP created still are free today -- unlike the situation for HP's still-supported servers. The dilemma is that the final round of patches HP built weren't tested to HP's satisfaction. Plus, there's no more vendor work on new repairs.
Enter the third party supporters, the companies I call independent support providers. They know the 3000 as well as anybody left at HP, so long as they're a party to the source code for the operating system. In many cases, a binary patch isn't what a customer wants. Such a thing has to be tested, and a lot of production 3000s are under lockdown today. Changes are not invited.
But in the case of an MPE/iX jobstream PAUSE error, there's always a chance for a fix. HP's Jim Hawkins looked at Johnson's problem and ranked the causes Nos. 1-4. Number 4 was "possible MPE/iX bug."
Sieler said that it looked like this was a genuine MPE/iX flaw. What to do, now that the MPE/iX lab at HP -- which once included Hawkins -- has gone dark? Sieler pointed to patching.
After analyzing hxpause, the executor responsible for implementing the CI PAUSE command, I suspect there is a bug in the MPE/iX internal routine "pausey", which hxpause uses. The bug appears to be triggerable by :BREAKJOB/:RESUMEJOB, but I have not characterized precisely what triggers it. It is, however, apparently the result of the equivalent of an uninitialized variable.
I believe Allegro could develop a patch, should a customer be interested in it.
Patches beyond the lifespan of an HP lab are a touchy topic. A binary patch, as Allegro's Steve Cooper describes this kind of assignment, is likely to live its life in just one HP 3000 installation. It's a creation to be tested, like any patch.
And now it seems that patches are not only a for-pay item, but something to be guarded. HP even pressed a lawsuit against an independent company when the vendor observed that its patches were being distributed by the indie. No money changed hands in the suit settlement, but the support company said it would stop redistributing HP's patches.
This kind of protective culture from systems vendors is endemic by now, according to Source Direct's Bill Hassell. "This is a hot topic, both for customers as well as third party support organizations," he reported. "There have been very strong reactions from customers to recent statements about firmware restrictions." Hassell, well-known as an HP-UX expert among former Interex user group members, pointed to a handful of articles from HP's own blog and the industry press such as ZDNet, or one from PC World.
But the first one Hassell pointed at was the message from HP's own Mary McCoy, VP of Support for HP Servers, Technology Services. It's titled Customers for Life. In essence, the February posting says HP's firmware only gets an upgrade for "customers with a valid warranty, Care Pack Service, or support agreement."
We know this is a change from how we’ve done business in the past; however, this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for our customers and partners. This decision reinforces our goal to provide access to the latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property, for our customers who have chosen to maximize and protect their IT investments.
In the face of this, and other HP announcements such as ProLiant patch availability, the customers who are commenting at HP's website are not happy. One noted that "the customer segment who will suffer the most from this revision in HP firmware availability will be the small and medium businesses performing their own in-house IT support." Some say the pay-for-patch mandate is only going to drive them to other vendors for small business servers. HP asserts that every vendor is doing this by now.
Enter the indie patching potential for MPE/iX. Binary patches are much more of a possibility when source code is in the hands of a support company. As far as I know, the source for HP-UX, or any other proprietary Unix, isn't in the wild, and the same can be said for Windows. Linux source is always available, of course. Nobody is going to be tagged as a Customer for Life when they choose Linux.
But that's also true of MPE/iX. Enter an indie support relationship and you get the benefits of that vendor's expertise, based upon the level of their understanding of MPE. Leave that relationship and you're not penalized. You're just on the hunt now for another support vendor of equal caliber.
A support company's caliber is measured by the way it conducts its business practices, not just what it knows how to create or fix. This vendor lock-in is something familiar to a 3000 owner. But it was technology, not business decisions, which enforced such lock-in during the 20th Century. The indie companies have a patch for the current era's lock-in error.
April 04, 2014
Save the date: Apr 16 for webinar, RUG meet
April 16 is going to be a busy day for MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster.
Long known for his company's Wednesday Webinars, Foster will be adding a 90-minute prelude on the same day as his own webinar about Data Migration, Risk Mitigation and Planning. That Wednesday of April 16 kicks off with the semi-annual CAMUS conference-call user group meeting. Foster is the guest speaker, presenting the latest information he's gathered about Stromasys and its CHARON HP 3000 emulator.
The user group meet begins at 10:30 AM Central Time, and Foster is scheduled for a talk -- as well as Q&A from listeners about the topic -- until noon that day. Anyone can attend the CAMUS meeting, even if they're not members of the user group. Send an email to CAMUS leader Terri Lanza at firstname.lastname@example.org to register, but be sure to do it by April 15. The conference call's phone number will be emailed to registrants. You can phone Lanza with questions about the meeting at 630-212-4314.
Starting at noon, there's an open discussion for attendees about any subject for any MANMAN platform (that would be VMS, as well as MPE). The talk in this soup tends to run to very specific questions about the management and use of MANMAN. Foster is more likely to field questions more general to MPE. The CHARON emulator made its reputation among the MANMAN users in the VMS community, among other spots in the Digital world. You don't have to scratch very deep to find satisfied CHARON users there.
Then beginning at 1 PM Central, Foster leads the Data Migration, Risk Mitigation and Planning webinar, complete with slides and ample Q&A opportunity.Registration for the webinar is through the MB Foster website. Like all of the Wednesday Webinars, it runs between 1-2 PM. The outline for the briefing, as summed up by the company:
Data migration is the process of moving an organization’s data from one application to another application—preferably without disrupting the business, users or active applications.
Data migration can be a routine part of IT operations in today’s business environment providing service to the whole company – giving users the data they need when they need it, especially for Report, BI (Business Intelligence) or analytics (including Excel spreadsheets) and occasionally for a migration to a new application. How can organizations minimize impacts of data migration downtime, data loss and minimize cost?
In this webinar we outline the best way to develop a data conversion plan that incorporates risk mitigation, and outlines business, operational and technical challenges, methodology and best practices.
The company has been in the data migration business since the 1980s. Data Express was its initial product to extracting and controlling data. It revamped the products after Y2K to create the Universal Data Access (UDA) product line. MBF-UDACentral supports the leading open source databases in PostgreSQL and MySQL, plus Eloquence, Oracle, SQLServer, DB2, and TurboIMAGE, as well as less-common databases such as Progress, Ingres, Sybase and Cache. The software can migrate any of these databases' data between one another.
April 03, 2014
Learning to Love Your Legacy
As the next end of days bears down on us -- Windows XP will become a former Microsoft product next Tuesday -- it's worthwhile to remember that the life beyond a vendor's designs can still fulfill. XP will operate in millions of places from next week and onward, but it's going to be a legacy system to many IT planners. That puts it in a similar spot with MPE, as well as IBM's legacy, the Series i systems.
Yes, they all have differences in their legacy standings. MPE's hardware -- well, the stuff badged with HP on it -- is beyond a decade old. There's nothing new there. Microsoft's hardware is everywhere, but the security essentials are taking a mortal wound starting next week. As for the IBM legacy options, we turned to Fresche Legacy's Jennifer Fisher. The company helped build up the 3000 and MPE worlds as Speedware, before it rebranded itself and expanded its focus to IBM.
Fisher, the VP of Global Sales and Marketing, said that love and IT can and do go together, something the company has experienced while serving both the 3000 and Series i worlds. "When we say 'IT can make you smile' and 'love your legacy,' this is want it's all about," she said. "You need to nurture and care for the legacy. Leverage it, and make it work for you."The IBM Series i customer has had a ride through rebranding, too, coming out of decades of being known as AS/400 users, to become i Series, then finally IBM i. The computer's using a proprietary chipset IBM's built called POWER, something that IBM put into its Linux, Unix and PC-based servers. Those were once called Series P (for Unix) and Series X (for Linux, and Windows -- even XP). Changes in names come along the line to the legacy user. MPE/iX was MPE/XL, and before that MPE V.
Legacy server systems built in a certain era, like the IBM i and the 3000, or the omnipresent XP -- these still do their duty long after their vendor's interest wanes. IBM i is still a product for sale by the vendor, unlike XP or MPE. IBM's hardware "continues to evolve and is a focus for IBM i," Fisher said. Fresche took a wider look for customers in the enterprise market space when it rebranded.
Our focus has expanded to the larger midrange space, but we are still taking care of our HP 3000 friends. We continue to grow in the space, especially around application support. More and more, we are seeing customers needing legacy expertise in COBOL, Powerhouse and Speedware on the 3000 -- but also RPG, COBOL and Synon in the IBM i space. These two are so similar. Both midrange systems have been the backbone to the organizations they have served, and continue to be in many ways.
Fisher notes, like the other suppliers who continue to reach out to the needs of legacy users, that system developers have built the bones of the legacies.
In both cases, the business analysts and developers who put their blood, sweat and tears into driving the business have created a legacy of their own, and Fresche Legacy is all about helping them to continue that. There is so much value in these systems. We are here to help drive the business value that IT was recognized for in the past. We want to restore that reputation, by bridging the gap between IT and the business.
As an example of what Fresche is doing for its IBM customers, the company rolled out a new release of its X-Analysis, V10. The software performs documentation and design recovery for IBM i environments, and is the flagship product of Fresche Legacy’s Databorough division.
The company says its modernization projects have driven demand for better control and reuse of the business rules embedded in legacy apps. In the IBM environment, those are RPG, COBOL and Synon applications. (That last one is a popular development environment from CA.) This new release provides fresh capabilities for automated analysis, documentation, data modernization, plus consolidation and export of business rules from legacy code. X-Analysis now has annotation and visualization features. This sort of tool gives a legacy IT manager the means to synchronize business, regulatory, and modernization requirements within their software.
"Complexity metrics and maintainability indices are the foundation of any efficient development practice,” says Garry Ciambella, Vice President of R&D. "This release of X-Analysis provides IT organizations and IBM i development managers with a much clearer set of measurable inputs to quantify resource requirements and run development projects. There’s a lot less guesswork and much better results."
March 28, 2014
MPE's dates stay at home on their range
2028 is considered the afterlife for MPE/iX, and MPE in general, based on misunderstanding of the CALENDAR intrinsic. The operating system was created in 1971 and its builders at the time used 16 bits, very state of the art design. Vladimir Volokh of VESOFT called to remind us that the choice of the number of bits for date representation probably seemed more than generous to a '71 programmer.
"What could anyone want with a computer from today, more than 50 years from now?" he imagined the designers saying in a meeting. "Everything will only last five years anyway." The same kind of choices led everybody in the computer industry to represent the year in applications with only two digits. And so the entire industry worked to overcome that limitation before Y2K appeared on calendars.
This is the same kind of thinking that added eight games to the Major League Baseball schedule more than 50 years ago. Now these games can be played on snowy baseball fields, because March 29th weather can be nothing like the weather of, say, April 8 in northern ballparks.
Testing the MPE/iX system (whether on HP's iron, or an emulator like CHARON) will be a quick failure if you simply SETCLOCK to January 1, 2028. MPE replies, "OUT OF RANGE" and won't set your 3000 into that afterlife. However, you can still experience and experiment with the afterlife by coming just to the brink of 2028. Vladimir says you can SETCLOCK to 11:59 PM on December 31, 2027, then just watch the system roll into that afterlife.
It goes on living, and MPE doesn't say that it's out of range, out of dates, or anything else. It rolls itself back to 1900, the base-year those '71 designers chose for the system's calendar. And while 1900 isn't an accurate date to use in 2028, 1900 has something in common with Y2K -- the last year that computers and their users pushed through a date barrier.The days of the week are exactly the same for dates in 1900 as for the year 2000, Vladimir says. "It's ironic that we'll be back to Y2K, no?" he asked. VESOFT's MPEX has a calendar function to check such similarities, he added.
The MPE/iX system will continue to run in 2028, but reports which rely on dates will print incorrectly. That's probably a euphemism, that printing, 14 years from now. But it's hard to say what will survive, and for how long. Or as Vladimir reminded us, using a quote from Yankee baseball great Yogi Berra, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
The year 2028 was 67 years into the future when the initial MPE designers chose the number of bits to represent CALENDAR dates. Who'd believe it might matter to anyone? "Will Stromasys continue to run after 2028?" asked one ERP expert a few years back during a demo. "Just as well as MPE will run," came the reply, because CHARON is just a hardware virtualization. The operating system remains the same, regardless of its hosting.
And as we pointed out yesterday, one key element of futuristic computing will be having its own date crisis 10 years after MPE's. Linux has a 2038 deadline (about mid-January) for its dates to stop being accurate. Linux-based systems, such as the Intel servers that cradle CHARON, will continue to run past that afterlife deadline. And like the Y2K days of the week that'll seem familiar in MPE's 2028, an extension for Linux date-handling is likely to appear in time to push the afterlife forward.
Perhaps in time we can say about that push-it-forward moment, "You could look it up." Another quote often misunderstood, like the 2028 MPE date, because people think Berra said that one, too. It's not him, or the other famous king of malapropisms Casey Stengel. You Could Look It Up was a James Thurber short story, about a midget who batted in a major league game. Fiction that became fact years later, when a team owner used the stunt in a St. Louis Browns ballgame by batting Eddie Gaedel. You never know what part of a fantasy could come true, given enough time. Thurber's story only preceded the real major-league stunt by 10 years. We've still got more than 13 years left before MPE's CALENDAR tries to go Out of Range.
March 27, 2014
Beyond 3000's summit, will it keep running?
If you consider the last 40 years and counting to be a steady rise in reputation elevation for the HP 3000 and MPE -- what computer's been serving business longer, after all? -- then 2027 might be the 3000's summit. A couple of 3000 experts have climbed a summit together, as the photo of Guy Paul and Craig Lalley above proves. What a 3000 might do up there in 20 years prompted some talk about 2027 and what it means.
The two 3000 veterans were climbing Washington state's second highest mountain, Mt. Adams, whose summit is at 12,280 feet. On their way up, Paul and his 14 year old grandson had just made the summit and ran into Lalley, and his 14 year old son, on their way to the top.
The trek was announced on the 3000 newsgroup last year. At the time, some of the group's members joked that a 3000 could climb to that elevation if somebody could haul one up there. "Guy is a hiking stud," said his fellow hiker Lalley. "Rumor has it that Guy had a small Series 989 in his back pack. I wasn't impressed until I heard about the UPS."
After some discussion about solar-powered computing, someone else said that if it was started up there on Mt. Adams with solar power, the 3000 would still be running 20 years later.
Then a 3000 veteran asked, "But won't it stop running in 2027?" That's an important year for the MPE/iX operating system, but not really a date of demise. Such a 3000 -- any MPE/iX system -- can be running in 20 years, but it will use the wrong dates. Unless someone rethinks date handling before then.
Jeff Kell, whose HP 3000s stopped running at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in December, because of a shutdown post-migration, added some wisdom to this future of date-handling.
"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 added that "Our major Y2K issue was dealing with a "semester" which was YY01 for fall, YY02 for spring, and so forth. We converted that over to go from 9901 (Fall 1999) to A001 (Fall 2000), so we were good for another 259 years on that part. Real calendar dates used 4-digit years (32-bit integers, yyyymmdd)."
At that summit, Paul said that two climbers "talked for a few minutes we made tentative plans to climb Oregon's tallest mountain, Mt. Hood, pictured in the background. We have since set a date of May 16th."
We've written before on the effects of 2027's final month on the suitability of the 3000 for business practice. Kell's ideas have merit. I believe there's still enough wizardry in the community to take the operating system even further upward. The HP iron, perhaps not so much. By the year 2028, even the newest servers will still be 25 years old. Try to imagine a 3000 that was built in 1989, running today.
Better yet, please report to us if you have such a machine, hooked up in your shop.
Why do people climb mountains? The legend is that the climber George Mallory replied, "because it is there." 2028 is still there, waiting for MPE to arrive. Probably on the back of some Intel-based server, bearing Linux -- unless neither of those survives another 14 years. For Intel, this year marks 15 years of service for the Xeon processor, currently on the Haswell generation. Another 25 years, and Xeon will have done as much service as MPE has today.
There is no betting line on the odds of survival for Xeon into the year 2039. By that date, even Unix will have a had its own date-handling issue. The feeling in the Linux community is that a date solution will arrive in time.
March 25, 2014
How to Delete All But the Last 5 Files
On our Series 937 I need a routine that will delete all but the last five files in a group that begins with certain values and have a certain pattern to the file names.
Example: We keep old copies of our PowerHouse dictionaries, but only need the last five. I can not do it by date like other groups of files, since it does not get changed everyday. Sometimes we'll go weeks, even months before we make a change.
I have a routine for other groups of files (interface files) that get created every day and keep only the last 31 days. This is done very easily with VESOFT’s MPEX by simply checking the create date. I was wondering if anyone has a routine either in JCL or MPEX that will keep the last 5 instances of these files. The two file-naming conventions are PT###### and PL######. The ###### represent MMDDHH (month, day, hour).
A wide range of solutions emerged from HP 3000 experts, veterans and consultants.
Francois Desrochers replies
How about doing a LISTF and use PRINT to select all but the last 5 into another file (PTPURGE):
You could massage PTPURGE and turn each line into a PURGE. It has been a while since I used MPEX, but maybe it has an indirect file function e.g. %PURGE ^PTPURGE.
Of course MPEX has such a function. Vladimir Volokh of VESOFT supplied an elegant solution involving a circular file, a feature added to MPE/iX more than 15 years back.
First, build an MPE circular file (to do this, look at HELP BUILD ALL). The nearly 1,000 lines that will follow include an explanation of the CIR parameter. We use logfiles below in our example.
BUILD V; CIR; DISC=5
FILE V, OLD
LISTF LOG####, 6;*V
(MPE's asterisk, by the way, can be used in about 19 different ways, Vladimir adds.)
Your result in V can be your last five names. Now you purge, using MPEX -- because purging something minus something is an MPEX-only function. (Using the caret sign is a way to signal all the files mentioned in the file V.)
There are other solutions available that don't require a third-party gem like MPEX.Olav Kappert replied
This is easy enough to do. Here are the steps:
Do a listf into a file 'foo'
Set 'count' = end-of-file count
Set 'index' to 1
Set 'maxindex' to 'count' - 5
Increment 'index' by 1
If 'index' < 'maxindex' then
Loop to read 'foo'
The exact syntax is up to you and MPE.
Barry Lake adds
Very simple if you're willing to use the Posix shell. If this needs to be done with CI scripting, it's certainly possible, but way more complicated. Someone else may chime in with an "entry point" command file to do this in "pure" MPE. But here's the shell method:
So... move the last 5 out of the way, delete whatever's left, then move the 5 back into place.
March 24, 2014
40 years from a kitchen-size 3000 to 3.4GHz
Forty years ago this spring, the HP 3000 was just gaining some traction among one of its core markets: manufacturing. This was a period where the computer was big enough to take over kitchen space in a software founder's home, according to an HP software VP of the time. That server didn't run reliably, and so got plenty of attention from the software labs of that day's Hewlett-Packard. And if you were fortunate, a system the size of a two tall-boy file cabinets could be yours for $99,500 in a starter configuration, with 96KB of core memory.
MPE was so new that Hewlett-Packard would sell the software unbundled for $10,000. The whole collection of server and software would burn off 12,000 BTU per hour. HP included "cooling dissipation" specs for the CX models -- they topped off at a $250,000 unit -- so you could ramp up your air conditioning as needed in your datacenter. (Thanks to the HP Computer Museum for the details).
Those specs and that system surfaced while I wrote the Manufacturing ERP Options from Windows article last week. Just this week I rolled the clock forward to find the smallest HP 3000 while checking on specifications. This 2014 era 3000 system runs off an HP DL380 server fired by on a 3.44 GHz chip. It's plenty fast enough to handle the combo of Linux, VMWare and the Stromasys CHARON 3000 emulator. And it's 19 inches x 24 by 3.5.
We've heard, over the past year from Stromasys tech experts, that CPUs of more than 3 GHz are the best fit for VMWare and CHARON. It's difficult to imagine the same operating system that would only fit on a 12,000 BTU server surviving to run on that 2U-sized DL380. The newest Generation 8 box retails for about one-tenth of the cost of that '74 HP3000 System CX server unit. But the CX was all that ASK Computer Systems had to work with, 40 years ago. And HP needed to work with ASK just to bring MPE into reliable service. "It didn’t work worth shit, it’s true," said Marty Browne of ASK. "But we got free HP computer time."
The leap in technology evokes the distinction between a Windows ERP that will replace ASK's MANMAN, and other choices that will postpone migration. Especially if a company has a small server budget, enough time to transfer data via FTP or tape drive -- and no desire to revise their manufacturing system. What started in a kitchen has made its transition to something small enough to look like a large briefcase, a thousand times more powerful. Users made that happen, according to Browne and retired HP Executive VP Chuck House.The last time I saw these two in a room together, the No. 2 employee at ASK and HP's chief of MPE software management had a touching exchange over the roots of MANMAN -- an application that's survived over four decades. (No. 1 at ASK would be the Kurtzigs, Andrew and Sandy. It's always been a family affair; their son Andy leads Pearl.com, a for-pay Q&A expert site.)
At the HP3000 Software Symposium at the Computer History Museum, Browne said that if the 3000 had failed to take root, ASK would have been hung out to dry.
Marty Browne: It used to be so expensive to buy computer time to do development work. And it was so much better a deal for me to do this 3000 development. I was able to put several years of engineering work into my product before I ever sold it. I could not have afforded that since I was bootstrapping my business.
Chuck House: Let me add that was true for Sandy too. She got a free HP 3000 for her kitchen.
Browne: It was not in the kitchen. We had the first HP 3000 on the computer floor at HP. Did you say kitchen?
Browne: Yes, we got an HP 3000. We had to work at night, by the way.
House: But it was free time.
Browne: It was free time. It didn’t work worth shit. It’s true. But we got free HP time.
House: No, we used you to debug.
Browne: Pardon me?
House: You were our debuggers.
Browne: Yes, right. HP provided an open house in a lot of ways, I mean that’s part of the HP culture. They were good partners. HP is an excellent partner.
Moderator Burt Grad: So if the 3000s had not been able to sell, you would have been hung out?
Why is this history lesson important today? You might say that whatever MANMAN's bones were built from is sturdy stuff. Customization, as we noted in that ERP article, makes MANMAN sticky. Robert Mills commented to clarify that after I posted the article.
MANMAN could be customized and added to by the customer because they were given full documentation on the system. ASK would, for a reasonable cost, make modifications to standard programs and supply you with the source code of the modified programs. Even MM/3000 had a Customizer that allowed you to make database and screen changes. Can you do this with MS Dynamics and IFS? Will Microsoft and IFS allow this, and give you the information required?
The answer to the question might be just a flat-out no, of course not. Just as HP stopped selling MPE unbundled, Microsoft and IFS don't customize their application. But partners -- some perhaps the equivalent of Marty Browne, abeit of different skill -- would like to do that customization. It's just that this customization in the modern era, which would run on the same DL380, would come after host environment transfer, plus work configuring and testing the apps and installation of a new OS. Then there's the same transfer of data, no small task, which is about the only one that these options have in common.
If a migration away from the HP 3000 for ERP is essential, that change could cost as much as that 1974 CX server did. This is one reason why still-homesteading companies will work hard to prove they need that budget. A $2,000 DL380 and disks plus CHARON might be more cost-effective and less disruptive. How much future that provides is something your community is still evaluating.
March 18, 2014
Customizing apps keeps A500 serving sites
HP's A-Class 3000s aren't that powerful, and they're not as readily linked to extra storage. That's what the N-Class systems are designed to do. But at one service provider's shop, the A500 is plenty powerful enough to keep a client's company running on schedule, and within budget. The staying power comes from customization, that sticky factor which is helping some 3000s remain in service.
The A500 replaced a Series 987 about a year ago. That report is one point of proof that 9x7 systems are still being replaced. It's been almost two decades since the 9x7s were first sold, and more than 15 years since the last one was built. The service company, which wants to remain unnamed, had good experience with system durability from the 3000 line.
We host a group of companies that have been using our system for over 20 years. So, we’re planning on being around for a while. One of these customers may migrate to a Windows-based system over the next few years, but I anticipate that this will be a slow process, since we have customized their system for them over the years.
The client company's top brass wants to migrate, in order to get all of its IT onto a single computing environment. That'd be Windows. But without that corporate mandate to make the IT identical in every datacenter, the company would be happy staying with the 3000, rather than looking at eventual migration "in several years' time." It will not be the speed of the server that shuts down that company's use of an A500. It will be the distinction that MPE/iX represents.There are many servers at a similar price tag, or even cheaper, which can outperform an A500. HP never compared the A-Class or N-Class systems to anything but other HP 3000s. By the numbers, HP's data sheet on the A-Class lineup lists the top-end of the A500s -- a two-CPU model with 200 MHz chips -- at five times the performance of those entry-level $2,000 A400s being offered on eBay (with no takers, yet.) The A500-200-200 tops out at 8GB of memory. But the chip inside that server is just a PA-8700, a version of PA-RISC that's two generations older than the ultimate PA chipset. HP stopped making PA-RISC chips altogether in 2009.
HP sold that 2-way A500 at a list price of just under $42,000 at the server's 2002 rollout. In contrast, those bottom-end A400s had a list price of about $16,000 each. Both price points didn't include drives, or tape devices. Our columnist at the time, John Burke, reported on performance upgrades in the newer A-Class systems by saying
There is considerable controversy in the field about the A-Class servers in particular, with many people claiming these low-end boxes have been so severely crippled (when compared to their non-crippled HP-UX brothers) as to make them useless for any but the smallest shops. Even if you accept HP’s performance rating (and many people question its accuracy), the A400-100-110 is barely faster then the 10-year-old 928 that had become the de-facto low-end system.
I see these new A-Class systems as a tacit agreement by HP that it goofed with the initial systems.
The power of the iron is just a portion of the performance calculation, of course. The software's integration with the application, and access to the database and movement of files into and out of memory -- that's all been contributing to the 3000's reputation. "I’ve been working on the HP since 1984 and it’s such a workhorse!" said the service provider's senior analyst. "I've seen other companies that have gone from the 3000 to Windows-based systems, and I hear about performance issues."
Not all migrations to Windows-based ERP, for example, give up performance ground when leaving the 3000 field. We've heard good reports on Microsoft Dynamics GP, a mature set of applications that's been in the market for more than a decade. Another is IFS, which pioneered component-based ERP software with IFS Applications, now in its seventh generation.
One area where the newer products -- which are still making advances in capability, with new releases -- have to give ground to 3000 ERP is in customization. Whatever the ERP foundation might be at that service provider's client, the applications have grown to become a better fit to the business practices at that client company. ERP is a set of computing that thrives on customization. This might be the sector of the economy which will be among the last to turn away from the 3000 and MPE.
March 14, 2014
Listen, COBOL is not dead yet, or even Latin
It's been a good long while since we did a podcast, but I heard one from an economy reporting team that inspired today's return of our Newswire Podcasts. The often-excellent NPR Planet Money looked into why it takes so long to get money transferred from one bank to another. It's on the order of 3 days or more, which makes little sense in a world where you can get diapers overnighted to your doorstep by Amazon.
Some investigation from Planet Money's reporters yielded a bottleneck in transactions like these transfers through the Automated Clearinghouse systems in the US. And nearly all automated payments. As you might guess, the Clearinghouse is made of secret servers whose systems were first developed in the 1970s. Yeah, the 3000's birth era, and the reporting devolved into typical, mistaken simplication of the facts of tech. Once COBOL got compared to a languge nobody speaks anymore, and then called one that nobody knows, I knew I was on to a teachable moment. Kind of like keeping the discussion about finance and computing on course, really. Then there's a podcast comment from a vendor familiar to the credit union computer owner, a market where the 3000 once held sway.
Micro Focus is the company raising the "still alive" flag highest for COBOL.
But while every business has its language preferences, there is no denying that COBOL continues to play a vital role for enterprise business applications. COBOL still runs over 70 percent of the world’s business -- and more transactions are still processed daily by COBOL than there are Google searches made.
You might be surprised to hear how essential COBOL is to a vast swath of the US economy. As surprised as the broad-brush summary you'll hear from Planet Money of how suitable this language is for such work. To be sure, Planet Money does a great job nearly every time out, explaining how economics affects our lives, and it does that with a lively and entertaining style. They just don't know IT, and didn't ask deep enough this time.
Have a listen to our eight minutes of podcast. You can even dial up the original Planet Money show for complete context -- there are some other great ones on their site, like their "We created a t-shirt" series. Then let me know what your COBOL experience seems to be worth, whether you'd like an assignment to improve a crucial part of the US economy, and the last time you had a talk with anybody about COBOL in a mission-critical service.
March 12, 2014
Wiring Up the Details for Emulation
For two-plus years, Herb Statham has been inquiring about the Stromasys CHARON HP 3000 emulator. He first stuck his hand up with curiosity before the software was even released. He's in an IT career stop as Project Manager for Cerro Wire LLC, a building wire industry supplier whose roots go back to 1920. Manufacturing headquartered in Hartselle, Alabama, with facilities in Utah, Indiana and Georgia.
Statham is checking out the licensing clearances he'll need to move the company's applications across to this Intel-powered solution. The privatization of Dell turns out to be a factor in his timetable. Dell purchased Quest Software before Dell took itself private. By the start of 2014, Dell was still reorganizing its operations, including license permissions needed for its Bridgeware and Netbase software. Cerro Wire uses both.
I’m after some answers about moving over to a virtual box" Statham says. "I know CHARON's emulating an A500, but that [Intel] box [that would host it] has four processors on it. I’ve heard what I’m going to have to pay, instead of hearing, 'Okay, you’re emulating an A500, with two processors.' They’re looking more at the physical side.”
This spring is a time of change and new growth for legacy software like Netbase, or widespread solutions such as PowerHouse. While the former's got some room to embrace license changes, the latter's also got new ownership. The PowerHouse owners Unicom Systems have been in touch with their customers over the last few months. The end of March will mark the projected wrap-up on Unicom's field research. At Cerro, the Quest software is really the only license that needs to be managed onto CHARON, according to Statham.Cerro Wire's got an A500 now as a result of several decades of 3000 ownership. The company is fortunate enough to have control over its main applications, software based on the DeCarlo, Paternite, & Associates IBS/3000 suite. At the company HQ in Hartselle, Alabama, Statham said turning to the 3000 early meant source code was Cerro's to revamp and extend.
"We have highly customized it, and we’ve written applications around it," Statham says. "When we bought it, source code was part of it. Some of the programs that were written for it now do a lot more than they used to do. Some have been replaced altogether."
The company replicates its data from the Hartselle center to an identical A Series server, including a dedicated VA 7410 RAID array, in Indiana. Netbase was a replication groundbreaker for the 3000 from the late 1980s onward, so it's essential to keeping the MPE/iX applications serving Cerro.
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.
"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 — and so you didn’t have to worry about the year, because there was some type of workaround."
But Stromasys became an HP Worldwide Reseller Partner last year, so perhaps even that question could be resolved. What nobody can be sure of, at the moment, is if Dell might want CHARON to be hosted on its server hardware, now that it owns Netbase.
March 10, 2014
Getting 3000 clocks up to speed, always
The US rolled its clocks forward by one hour this past weekend. There are usually questions in this season about keeping 3000 clocks in sync, for anyone who hasn't figured this out over the last several years. US law has altered our clock-changing weekends during that time, but the process to do so is proven.
Donna Hofmeister, whose firm Allegro Consultants hosts the free nettime utility, explains how time checks on a regular basis keep your clocks, well, regular.
This past Sunday, when using SETCLOCK to set the time ahead one hour, should the timezone be advanced one hour as well?
The cure is to run a clock setting job every Sunday and not go running about twice a year. You'll gain the benefit of regular scheduling and a mostly time-sync'd system.
In step a-1 of the job supplied below you'll find the following line:
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
Clearly, this needs to be changed.
If for some dreadful reason you're not running NTP, you might want to check out 'nettime'. And while you're there, pick up a copy of 'bigdirs' and run it -- please!
Also, this job depends on the variable TZ being set -- which is easily done in your system logon udc:
SETVAR TZ "PST8PDT"
Adapt as needed. And don't forget -- if your tztab file is out of date, just grab a copy from another system. It's just a file.
This job below was adapted from logic developed by Paul Christidis:
!TELLOP ALL MPE SYSTEMS
!TELLOP ==SETTIME -- SYNCs SYSTEM CLOCK W/ TIME SERVER !
!# from the help text for setclock....
!# Results of the Time Zone Form
!# If the change in time zone is to a later time (a change to Daylight
!# Savings Time or an "Eastern" geographic movement), both local time
!# and the time zone offset are changed immediately.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see an immediate
!# jump forward to the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see no change.
!# If the change in time zone is to an earlier time (a change from
!# Daylight Savings to Standard Time or a "Western" geographic
!# movement), the time zone offset is changed immediately. Then the
!# local time slows down until the system time corresponds to the
!# time in the new time zone.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see a gradual
!# slowdown to match the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see an immediate forward jump, then a slowdown until the
!# system time again matches "real" Universal Time.
!# This method of changing time zones ensures that no out-of-sequence
!# time stamps will occur either in local time or in Universal Time.
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME A-1
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
!if hpcierr <> 0
! echo hpcierr !hpcierr (!hpcierrmsg)
! tellop NTPDATE problem
!tellop SETTIME -- Pausing for time adjustment to complete....
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME B-1
!setvar FallPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 10 AND hpdate > 24)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 11 AND hpdate < 8))
!setvar SpringPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 4 AND hpdate< 8)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 3 AND (hpdate > 7 AND hpdate < 15)))
!# TZ should always be found
! if hpday = 1
! if SpringPoint
!# switch to daylight savings time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]-1
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
! elseif FallPoint
!# switch to standard time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME C-1
Mark Ranft of 3k Pro added some experience with international clocks on the 3000.
If international time conversion is important to you, there are two additional things to do.
1) Set a system-wide UDC to set the TZ variable. (And perhaps account UDCs if accounts are for different locations)
TZ = CST6CDT
2) There is also a tztab.lib.sys that needs to be updated when countries change when or if they do DST.
ACCOUNT= SYS GROUP= LIB
FILENAME CODE ------------LOGICAL RECORD----------- ----SPACE----
SIZE TYP EOF LIMIT R/B SECTORS #X MX
TZTAB 1276B VA 681 681 1 96 1 8
# @(#) HP C/iX Library A.75.03 2008-02-26
# Mitteleuropaeische Zeit, Mitteleuropaeische Sommerzeit
0 3 25-31 3 1983-2038 0 MESZ-2
0 2 24-30 9 1983-1995 0 MEZ-1
0 2 25-31 10 1996-2038 0 MEZ-1
# Middle European Time, Middle European Time Daylight Savings Time
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