January 15, 2018

Emulation or iron meets Classic 3000 needs

A few weeks ago the 3000 community was polled for a legendary box. One of the most senior editions of Classic 3000s, a Series 42, came up on the Cypress Technology Wanted to Buy list. The 42 was the first 3000 to be adopted in widespread swaths of the business world. It's not easy to imagine what a serious computing manager would need from a Series 42, considering the server was introduced 35 years ago.

Series 42 setupThese Classic 3000s, the pre-RISC generation, sparked enough business to lead HP to create the Precision RISC architecture that was first realized with its Unix server. The HP 9000 hit the Hewlett-Packard customer base and 3000 owners more than a year before the 3000's RISC servers shipped. Without the success of the Classic 3000s, though, nobody could have bought such a replacement Unix server for MPE V. Applications drive platform decisions, and creating RISC had a sting embedded for the less-popular MPE. Unix apps and databases had more vendors.

That need for a Series 42 seems specific, as if there's a component inside that can fulfill a requirement. But if it's a need for an MPE V system, an emulator for the Classic 3000s continues to rise. Last week the volunteers who've created an MPE V simulator announced a new version. The seventh release of the HP 3000 Series III simulator is now available from the Computer History Simulation Project (SIMH) site.

The SIMH software will not replace a production HP 3000 that's still serving in the field, or even be able to step in for an archival 3000. That's a job for the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server. But the SIMH software includes a preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image. MPE V isn't a license-protected product like MPE/iX.

Some CIOs might wonder what any MPE system, running MPE V or MPE/iX, might provide to a datacenter in 2018. The answers are continuity and economy, elements that are especially evident in any emulated version of a 3000. Old iron is on the market at affordable prices. If a PA-RISC system can be sold for $1,200, though, it's interesting to consider what a 35-year-old server might fetch. Or who would even have one in working order to sell.

Software like Charon, and to a lesser extent SIMH, earns its consideration more easily than old iron. Virtualization is so embedded in IT plans that it's a bit of a ding to admit you don't virtualize somewhere.

The deep-in the-mists tech of the ATC terminals is a big part of the new SIMH. The new capability shows off the limitations that make it obvious why PA-RISC 3000s are still genuine data processing solutions. The SIMH terminal IO uploads via Telnet using a Reflection terminal emulator are now over 100 times faster than earlier releases of the MPE V software. As a reminder of the IT world's pace during the 1980s when MPE V was king, the new, faster upload time for a one-megabyte file has decreased from 69 minutes to 30 seconds.

That's still a 2-MB a minute pace. A Simulator's User Guide shows the way for ATC setup required for successful Reflection Transfers. That's from the era when locating a Reflection client program on a 3000 was essential for moving data in many applications. That was also the era when HP was manufacturing its own disc drives in Boise, Idaho. The burn-in testing for those drives up in that factory was powered by a massive row of Series 42s. My 1988 tour at Boise was the last time I saw a Series 42 in use.

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

Follow the 3000 NewsWire on Twitter
for immediate feeds of our latest news
and more twitter.com/3000newswire.

January 08, 2018

Searching and finding in MPE/iX with MPEX

Searching ManIt's a world where it's ever-harder to find files of value. This week a story aired on NPR about a hapless young man who mislaid a digital Bitcoin wallet. The currency that was worth pennies eight years ago when he bought it has soared into the $15,000 range. Alas, it's up to the Bitcoin owner to find their own money, since the blockchain currency has no means for recovery. Another owner in the UK a few years back, James Howells, lost millions on a hard drive he'd tossed out. A trip to the landfill to search for it didn't reward him, either.

Being able to locate what you need on your HP 3000 involves going beyond the limits of MPE/iX. Searches with the Vesoft utility deliver more results and faster than any native capabilities.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group suggested MPEX as a searching solution. "MPEX with wildcards and date parameters is what I use for search," he said, "for instance"  

%LISTF @xyz@.@(CREDATE>12/1/2017),3    

Or

%PRINT @.@;SEARCH="Look for this"

Seeing MPEX come up as a solution for search reminded us of a great column from the Transition Era for the 3000. Steve Hammond wrote "Inside Vesoft" for us during that time when 3000s not only continued to hold data for organizations, but production-grade data, too.

Gonna find her, gonna find her, Well-ll-ll, searching
Yeah I’m goin’ searching, Searching every which a-way, yeh yeh

— The Coasters, 1957

By Steve Hammond

I have to admit it — I’m a bit of a pack rat. It drives my wife crazy and I’ve gotten better, but I still hold onto some things for sentimental reasons. I still have the program from the first game I ever saw my beloved Baltimore Colts play. On my desk is the second foul ball I ever caught (the first is on display in the bookcase). I have a mint condition Issue 1 of the HP Communicator — dated June 15, 1975 (inherited when our e3000 system manager retired). It tells that all support of MPE-B terminated that month, and the Planning Committee chairman of the HP 3000 Users Group was a gentleman from Walnut Creek named Bill Gates (okay, not that Bill Gates).

My problem is even when I know I have something, I just can’t find it. I had an item the Baseball Hall of Fame was interested in; they had no ticket stub from the 1979 World Series, which I had — seventh game no less. But it took me over two years before I literally stumbled across it.

I wish I could add some sort of easy search capabilities to my massive collection of junk like we have in MPEX.

The most commonly used is the search option in the PRINT command. But there are a couple of other ways to search that I’ve used over the years for different reasons, and we’ll look at those too.

In the olden days, when passwords were embedded in job streams, when we changed passwords, we would have to find every job with the password in it. A long, tedious task that never found all of them. And yes, the ultimate answer was converting to STREAMX, but that’s a column for another month.

When MPEX added the PRINT;SEARCH command, life became much easier and we found many uses for it. As the versions of MPEX evolved, the command gained power. The simplest form is:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD;SEARCH=”FILE”

This will search for any line with the word “FILE” in it — exactly “FILE”, not “file” or “File” or “fILE”, you get the picture. Easily solved with:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=caseless “file”

or

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=cl “file”

Either of those will get you the word “file” in any form.

You can do boolean searches:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH= “FILE” and “TEMP”

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=”FILE” or “RUN”

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=”RUN” and NOT “PRODPGM”

The first returns any file that has a line or lines with both FILE and TEMP, the second looks for FILE or RUN and the third looks for files with any lines that contain RUN but do not have PRODPGM.

You can even delimit your searches — let’s say you have a tape drive that you call “DAT”. Well, doing the search

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=”DAT”

will find the reference to DAT as the tape drive you’re interested in, but as a bonus feature it will also find “DATA”, “DATABASE”, etc. By using the DELIMIT option:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=delim “DAT”

you will find only occurrences of “DAT” with non-alphanumeric characters before and after it. Taking this a step further, you can right and left delimit your search

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=ldelim “DB”

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=rdelim “DB”

The first will files with lines containing DBSTORE but not PRODDB, and the second vice versa. You can even add the caseless option to delimited option:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=caseless rdelim “DB”

Caseless can be abbreviated “CL” and delim can be “D”.

But there’s another way you can do searches, which I found very useful - searches that I used out of a LISTF, building an indirect file for later use. You can’t do that with PRINT, because PRINT well, prints the result, showing the occurrence of the string you are searching for. Let’s say we were changing the name of a database — DEVDB to PRODDB. All I really need to know is all the jobs that have the reference to “DEVDB” — I don’t need to see the context of the string, I just need to know the files. And I need to know the fully-qualified name of the file and I want it in a file named INDFILE1.

This is where the file attributes FCONTAINS FSEARCHSTRING and FSEARCHEXP come into play. The second and last are similar because you have to state that there are greater than 0 occurrences in the file (or any value for that matter), but otherwise they all work the same.

%LISTF @.JOBS.@ (FCONTAINS(“DEVDB”)),6>*INDFILE1

or

%LISTF @.JOBS.@(FSEARCHSTRING(“DEVDB”)>0),6>*INDFILE1

or

%LISTF @.JOBS.@(FSEARCHEXP(“DEVDB”)>0),6>*INDFILE1

As I said, FCONTAINS looks for the existence of that string in a file and basically FSEARCHSTRING does the same thing. But with FSEARCHSTRING, you can do :

%LISTF @.JOBS.@(FSEARCHSTRING(“DEVDB”)>2),...

which says you want to find a file that has any line with a minimum of three occurrences of “DEVDB”. Why would you want to do that? If you haven’t learned yet that you don’t ask that question, then we need to talk later.

The better question is why the “FSEARCHEXP” attribute? I’m glad you asked. This is the one of these attributes that lets you to a caseless search:

%LISTF @.JOBS.@(FSEARCHEXP(“CL’DEVDB’”)>0),...

Note the additional set of quotes in there. FSEARCHEXP also lets you do boolean searches, but that’s just getting way too complicated!

The final question is why did I do it this way? If I was going to change a string, I would do an overnight job that found the files that needed to be changed. I would put the output of that process into an indirect file in the LISTF,6 output format (fully qualified file name). I would then use the indirect file as input for the job or process to change the string.

So now, you should go out and SEARCH THOSE FILES, FIND THOSE STRINGS, UPPER CASE BE DAMNED!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: How to discover the creation date of a STORE tape

Newswire Classic

By John Burke

It is probably more and more likely that, as the years pass by, you will discover a STORE tape and wonder when it was created. Therefore it is a good idea to review how to do this. I started out writing “how to easily do this,” but realized there is nothing easy about it — since it is not well-documented and if you just want the creation date, you have to do a bit of a kludge to get it. Why not something better?

It turns out the ;LISTDIR option of RESTORE is the best you can do. But if you do not want a list of all the files on the tape, you need to feed the command the name of some dummy, non-existent file. ;LISTDIR will also display the command used to create the tape.

By the way, this only works with NMSTORE tapes. For example, when ;LISTDIR is used on a SYSDUMP tape that also stored files, you get something like this (note that even though you are using the RESTORE command, if it contains the ;LISTDIR option, nothing is actually restored):

:restore *t;dummy;listdir

>> TURBO-STORE/RESTORE VERSION C.65.19 B5151AA <<

RESTORE *t;dummy;LISTDIR
FRI, DEC 31, 2004, 3:22 PM
RESTORE SKIPPING SLT IN PROGRESS ON LDEV 7

MPE/iX MEDIA DIRECTORY
MEDIA NAME : STORE/RESTORE-HP/3000.MPEXL 
MEDIA VERSION : MPE/iX 08.50 FIXED ASCII
MEDIA NUMBER : 1

MEDIA CREATION DATE
WED, MAY 7, 2003, 7:06 AM

SYSGEN ^SLTZDUMP.INDIRECT;*SYSGTAPE;LDEV=7;
REELNUM=1;SLTDATE=52863;TIME=117839624

MEDIA CREATED WITH THE FOLLOWING OPTIONS
OPTION DIRECTORY
OPTION ONVS

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

January 03, 2018

How to make a date that lasts on MPE/iX

January 1 calendar pageNow that it's 2018, there's less than 10 years remaining before HP's intrinsic for date handling on MPE/iX loses its senses. CALENDAR's upcoming problems have fixes. There's a DIY method that in-house application developers can use to make dates in 2028 read correctly, too.

The key to this DIY repair is to intercept a formatting intrinsic for CALENDAR.

CALENDAR returns two numbers: a "year" from 0 to 127 and a "day of year" from 1 to 366.
 
FMTCALENDAR takes those two numbers and turns it into a string like Monday, January 1, 1900.  It takes the "year" and adds it to 1900 and displays that. "In a sense," explains Allegro's Steve Cooper, "that's where things 'go wrong'."
If one intercepts FMTCALENDAR and replaces it with their own routine, it can say if the "year" is 0 to 50, then add 2028 to it, otherwise, add 1900 as it always did.  That would push the problem out another 50 years.
This interception task might be above your organization's pay grade. If that's true, there are 3000-focused companies that can help with that work. These kinds of repairs to applications are the beginning of life-extension for MPE/iX systems. There might be more to adjust, so it's a good idea to get some help while the community still has options for support.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:48 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Moving DDS stores to disk

Moving-van-640Editor's note: In the last two weeks 3000 owners have been asking about DDS tape storage migration and how to find 38-year-old systems. Here in the last working day for the year 2017, it seems like we're running in a time machine. Here's some help on moving old data to new media.

We're taking Monday off to celebrate the new year. Not many people figured the 3000 would have users working in that 15th year since HP stopped making the server. We'll be back Wednesday with a new story. Seems like anything can happen.

I want to restore some files from a DDS tape to a store-to-disc file. It been a while I am not sure if this is something that can be done. I need some help with the syntax.

Alan Yeo says

I think you need to restore the files from the tape and then store them to disc, as the resulting disc file needs to build a header of the files it contains.

So after restore, the store to disc syntax is something like

!SETVAR BACKUP_FILE "nameoffileyouwantocreate"
!FILE BK=!BACKUP_FILE;DEV=DISC
!FILE SYSLIST=!BACKUP_FILE;DEV=LP
!STORE fileselectionstring;*BK;SHOW;PROGRESS=5

Keven Miller adds

There is also TAPECOPY that reads STORE tapes and creates an STD (Store to Disk) on disk -- provided the STORE is all on one tape. I have a copy of the program on my website. Look for TAPECOPY, it's a tar file.

At another location on my site you can see the Text file document, and a .wrq file for using with Reflection with Labels option, or the .std  file which is a store-to-disc.

I also have Tapecpyv, an SPL version usable on both MPE/iX and MPE/V. This SPL one is the latest.

The syntax


:FILE TAPEIN;dev=7
:TAPECPYV  "TD  MYSTD"

Reads the STORE tape on dev 7 into STD file MYSTD.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:22 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2017

2028 and beyond: This FAQ answers all

FaqAbout a month ago, HP 3000 managers, vendors and developers shared techniques on getting their MPE/iX systems a longer lease on life. The barrier of 2028 and beyond has been cleared. Now it's time to clear up some questions about the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding the lifespan of the 3000's OS.

Will my HP 3000 stop working on January 1, 2028?

The hardware itself may be worn out by then, but nothing in the operating system will keep PA-RISC systems — emulated or actual — from booting, running programs, or passing data and IO through networks and peripherals. MPE/iX will do everything it can do today, except report dates correctly to and from software and applications which rely on an older CALENDAR intrinsic.

If I don't change anything on my 3000, will the operating system know what day it is on January 1, 2028?

SHOWTIME will report that it's the year 1900. SHOWCLOCK will report the correct year.

Will all file information remain correct?

All file creation and file modification timestamps will be accurate, and files which are created will have correct timestamps, too.

So what kinds of software will be reporting the wrong date starting in 2028?

Software which still relies on CALENDAR for its date-keeping may show incorrect dates. This software can be applications as well as utilities and reporting software. Changes to source code for the programs which use CALENDAR, replacing it with HPCALENDAR, take care of the issues. If software uses internal logic for data calculations, it will continue to work correctly in 2028, so long as it doesn't rely on CALENDAR. The problem actually occurs if FMTCALENDAR is called to format the date. Unless that call is trapped, FMTCALENDAR will always produce a date between 1900 and 2027.

What about the compilers for the OS?

COBOL 85 uses the newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic. The older COBOL 66 uses the older CALENDAR. 

What can I do if I don't have source code for my applications?

Vendors who continue to serve the MPE/iX market can change the call to CALENDAR into a call to HPCALENDAR. A support provider can assist a customer, with the cooperation of the source code holders, in using the newer HPCALENDAR. Alternatively, the call to FMTCALENDAR can be trapped at run time, and the replacement routine can re-map early 1900 years into years starting with 2028.

How about MPE/iX itself? Will that intrinsic ever be repaired? How do I get SHOWTIME running correctly?

Some portions of the OS will continue to rely on the old CALENDAR, which only has 16-bit range to use. Source code license holders—the eight companies licensed by HP to use MPE/iX source—may have an advantage in bringing some OS internals into line with site-specific patches. They are site-specific because HP doesn't permit a revised version of the OS to be recompiled and distributed. SHOWTIME is likely to remain incorrect, since it uses CALENDAR and FMTCALENDAR.

What about date-dependent work like job streaming?

Applications that can be revised to use HPCALENDAR will stream jobs on correct dates. Native job-streaming service in MPE/iX will work if a command uses a request such as "three days from now." In general, the more closely a piece of MPE/iX software relies on CALENDAR, the less likely it will be to deliver accurate dates starting in 2028.

My third-party software might keep track of the date to keep running. What can I do?

Source code revision will be the most direct solution in this case. Some support companies are considering a certification service for Year 2028 operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 20, 2017

Replacement hardware archives key context

Wayback Wednesday

The replacement hardware arrived in a box that fit inside my mailbox. We bought a jumbo-sized mailbox in 1993, one big enough to let the industry trade journals lie flat on its floor. In those days our community relied on big tabloid publications to keep abreast of the future. Today the pages are digital and needing paper for news is fading fast.

MD RecorderThe Minidisc MZ-R50 showed up in great working order, a replacement for the recorder that logged my interviews in the rowdy and roiling days of the 3000's Transition Era. The Minidisc is late '90s tech that can arrive by way of US Mail. A Series 929 wouldn't fit in any cardboard box with padding. That server is 104 pounds of a 2-foot by 18-inch unit that's 22 inches high. UPS could pull it off a truck, though.

My 1997 MZ-R50 has the same age as a Series 997, and like the 3000 server, the hardware has unlocked access to archival information. You buy these things to replace failed hardware, or sometimes for parts. Only the battery had failed on the R50. That's a component likely to be dead on old 3000s, too.

I plucked a Minidisc at random to test my new unit and found an interview about how Interex decided to put distance between itself and Hewlett-Packard. I wrote about the change in the relationship in 2004, but just a fraction of the interview made it into the NewsWire.

The thing about archival data is it can grow more valuable over time. Context is something that evolves as history rolls on. In the late summer of 2004 it wasn't obvious that Interex was overplaying its hand, reaching for a risk to sell the value of a vendor-specific user group. HP told the group's board of directors that user group support was going to be very different in 2005. The reaction to the news sealed the fate of the group. It began with a survey, shifted to a staff recommendation, and ended up as a board decision.

The recorded 2004 interview now puts those views and choices in context. You'll care about this if you ever need a user group, wonder how your enterprise vendor will support customers' desires, or hope to understand how corporate resources influence partnerships.

The key interview quote that made its way into our "HP World stands at brink of changes" report was a line from then-board president Denys Beauchemin. “We’re not competing with HP,” Beauchemin said about HP World 2005. “HP’s going to be there next year. HP will scale back drastically.” The scaling back was a correct assessment. The competition turned out to change everything.

The demise of a 31-year-old user group might seem like an inevitability from a 2017 perspective. Connect is the user group serving anyone in the HP Enterprise market today. It's joined by the small CAMUS user society, the same one that discussed and uncovered the strategy to get beyond the year 2027 with MPE/iX. Membership in both groups is free. Back in 2004 those were $99 memberships, with thousands to count on.

The rescued recording from that chat with Beauchemin gave me context a-plenty to absorb.

What HP said is they have four user group events to go to next year. They're trying to cut back. They're trying to do an HP-produced show and invited user groups to attend.

HP aimed to replace its spending on user group-run HP shows with one event. Cutting back was always going to happen in the plan. Interex got notice a year before it collapsed that HP's spending was going to drop.

If we decide to do our own thing, then HP will be at HP World in San Francisco — but it would not be with the same presence they had in the past. No huge booth. They will scale back drastically. They would sponsor and endorse HP World. It's not like they're yanking the rug out from under us, not at all.

There was no rug-pulling. The deck of the Good Ship User Expo Floor was tilting hard, though. HP said it was going to do enough of a show to let user groups will share revenues from an HP Expo “to support and sustain those organizations," adding that "The user groups’ charters are not to drive revenue and profit, but to train end-users in a way that the groups can recover costs.”

The revenue and profit was the charter of any Interex show. An organization with teeth needs to be fed. Now Interex had a competitor: the vendor at its own heart. Customers and vendors had a choice to make about conferences.

They respect the independence of Interex. They really like the advocacy survey and all of the other stuff we do— which is very much in keeping with our screaming at HP, but in a nice way.

The screaming was customer communication that dated back to the 1980s. A management roundtable was a publicity and customer relations minefield starting in the 1990s. Interex considered itself an advocacy group first. The engine of its enterprises, though, was booth sales for its annual expo.

If we were to go with HP in their mega-event, the impact would be in terms of the independence of third party folks we could have at the show. 

The archival recording off my replacement hardware took note of the kinds of vendors who'd never make it onto an HP-run expo floor. Competitors in systems, in storage, in services. Interex needed those prospects to fill up a healthy show floor.

To his credit, Beauchemin and the board recognized HP was essential to the conference's survival. 

If HP were to say it wasn’t interested in going to San Francisco in 2005, then we would have an issue. They haven't said they'd do that. HP is trying to cut back on the number of events they go to — especially the ones that are not in their control.

The group used this decision process about control: First, survey members about moving closer to HP and giving up independence—and learning that 55 percent favored that move. Then the user group staff got a shot at developing a recommendation about staying independent or ceding control of the conference to HP. Finally, the board took a vote based on that recommendation. There was a short timeframe to decide.

HP World 2004 is fast approaching. We need a story to tell about HP World 2005.

It's easy to see, in the context of 2017, that a user group staff would recommend staying on a course to keep projects and jobs in group control. It's hard to see how a board would vote to oppose any recommendation of joining with HP. So there was an approval to stay at a distance from HP. Cutting across the desires of any organization's managers is tough. What turned out to be just as hard was finding enough revenue to keep the organization alive.

The exhibitors and community leaders who helped found the group already saw a show that focused elsewhere. The fate of HP World had more impact on the 3000 customers who are leaving the platform than those who staying to homestead.

“It’s all focused on migration,” said Terry Floyd of the ERP support company the Support Group. “I expect that a lot of the 3000 people at HP World will be looking for HP 9000 solutions. We’re sending someone to talk to partners on the Unix and Integrity side.”

Pursuing a bigger relationship with partners who competed with HP had a huge cost. It was a risk that the group couldn't afford by the next year. One of the most senior members of the 3000 community said the end was in sight for Interex.

“HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” Olav Kappert said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in between, maybe even Interex will disappear.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2017

Reaching for replacement systems is news

IMG_2873Replacing HP's 3000 hardware is a natural occurrence in a homesteader's life. Components and systems built in the middle 1990s wear out after 20 years of use, whether it's frequent or infrequent. I felt the same way when I checked out the stored recordings here in my offices. I've been at conferences and interviews with a recorder since 1996. I used Sony's Minidisc all the way through the middle 2000s. It was better at indexing than cassettes. Finding anything is the real magic trick once the talk or the interview is done.

A homesteader might feel the same way about their applications and data created for MPE/iX. My Minidisc recorder above that failed was built in 2001 and like an HP 3000 of that era, alas, it runs its recordings no more. I could walk away from the Minidiscs — a couple of dozen at 74 minutes each — and assure myself nothing of value would be there.

MZ-R50Homesteaders don't have that luxury because their applications are so much harder to replace. It's easier for them to replace their aged hardware. My replacement Minidisc unit that's on its way was built even earlier than the one that just failed on me. The new-to-me MZ R-50 scheduled to arrive Saturday was first sold in 1997. The one that eBay's delivering might be a little less aged than that. But it's safe to say my replacement system will be 18 years old. It's advertised as still-working. Lots of its brethren are being sold for parts only.

In 1997 Hewlett-Packard was rolling out the Series 997, a high-end server that delivered the best performance numbers MPE/iX could claim by that fall. The Series 997 sold for $327,930 for a single-processor server, including a 100-user license, 512Mb of memory, a console and a UPS. IMAGE/SQL was part of that package, but the real value there is the compatibility with the applications—the equivalent of those talks and interviews.

IMG_2874That 997 server costs as little as $1,200 for a 5-processor unit today. A homesteader will need to arrange an MPE/iX license to step into that replacement hardware. I don't need a license to run those old Minidiscs, but I don't get the same level of hardware discount, either. The $329 R-50 now sells for $71. It will, if it arrives in working shape, run these recorded bits of 3000 history above.

That's 80 percent off for the 1997 Minidisc, and almost 100 percent off for the Series 997-500. The mere availability of 1997 hardware for business or recording is a testament to good design and the willingness to spurn change.

The 997 was sold in the fall of 1997 as network-ready, something not to be taken for granted just three years after the Web emerged. ARPA Services was how HP described the industry-standard networking software. HP changed customers for each new IO slot for the card cage to increase capacity (the $950 part A1828AZ). A DDS-3 DAT tape Autoloader was $7,999.

Today's tape systems that still work for these classic beasts usually sell for under $200. The tape is a moving component, much like the Minidiscs are. Again, that they're sold at all is the miracle of us all staying connected. A simple search for "Series 997 replacement hardware" turns up parts for a Porsche. Adding "HP 3000" to the front of that search points to a web page from Cypress Technology.

In addition to being forced to pay a much greater part of my original Minidisc recorder price, I also don't have the emulation option which MPE/iX apps enjoy. There's no equivalent of the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server in the Minidisc world. The Minidisc recorder-players didn't do much calculation, although I could tag and name recordings and jockey through them using a crude thumbwheel input.

By the end of the week I'll see how well an 18-year-old business recorder has survived in the wild. It will do well to perform like an HP 3000 does after two decades. But the hardware vitality is not really news to us, is it? Oh, and the Minidisc media—that's still for sale (new) today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 13, 2017

Forbes news not fake, but it's surely slanted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

December 11, 2017

Still migrating after all these years

Project-scheduleI began writing about migrations only in 2001, after HP decided that moving was the way forward for 3000 folk. I already had 17 years on the 3000 beat by then. Much has happened over these last 16 years, and yet, less than you would think in some places. Companies began in earnest to move away from MPE/iX, sometimes for very good reasons. For example, if your application vendor starts sending you end-of-life warnings for your software, it's a good time to plan for a trip away from an HP 3000.

At other kinds of companies, migration seemed to be the safest way forward. Starting sooner than later was part of the 3000 ethos, too. That ethos might be one reason why some 3000 customers were working in their second decade of departing the 3000. The apps that were not broken didn't have to replaced right away, did they?

Eleven years have gone by since I produced this 8-minute podcast about one of those customers. From the very first year of the Transition Era we knew about the Speedware shop at Virginia International Terminals. VIT was a success story HP shared with its uncertain customers. VIT made the move to HP's Unix and all was well.

However, more than four years later (in 2006) not everything was moved off the 3000. Earlier this year we heard from someone at VIT about replacing their final MPE/iX app. This year. An interesting thing happened on the way to the exit. First they found the job bigger than they could handle themselves. To their credit, their IT management saw a bigger picture. Why just have a functional migrated application? You want it as efficient as it can be.

Back in 2006 VIT thought that way. It tested its migration about 18 months later than expected. Not everything made its way through that assisted migration process. VIT must have found a way to let migration pay its way, permitting a bit of functional MPE/iX to be left alone. Our 2006 podcast talks about the Why of a migration, as well as what happens when that Why changes.

Start to finish from 2002-2017 might be the longest term of any migration. A good 3000 manager doesn't care how long it takes. They care if it's done right—and on the schedule that best suits their organization. The podcast made a point back then which continues to be true. It's your calendar that matters.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2017

Distributor seeks 3000 experts for contract

Help-wantedIt doesn't happen often, but the 3000 world has a request for experts in the employment market. Dwight Demming at National Wine & Spirits posted a notice yesterday, saying he needed two to three "HP 3000 programmers to work on a year-long project."

NWS has been a 3000 user since the 1990s, running an in-house application that tracks shipping of, well, wine and spirits. The customer has always been a forward-looking shop. A few years back the company in Oak Brook Illinois was using Hillary Software's byRequest to move its email and PDF from the 3000 to computers in the rest of the IT environment. byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application.

Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said at the time, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest will support secure FTP as well as standard FTP.

The current assignment at the company calls for programmers who are "highly skilled in COBOL, Image/SQL, and VPlus. The work can be done remotely, Demming said in his posting, "with occasional visits to Oak Brook."

The biggest payoff for the employment offer might be in the final line of Demming's post: "Possibly leading to full-time employment." That might be HP 3000 and MPE/iX work, or it might be work on a migrated platform. But a year's worth of HP 3000 work starting around 2018 is a benefit few people could have forseen back when HP turned off its MPE/iX lab lights seven years ago.

Applications for the jobs can be sent to Demming at his email address.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 06, 2017

Staying on target is tough for 3000's exiles

3000 firing squadThe perspective of tech veterans who left the 3000 community used to sway opinions of those who remained. Vendors sold services like support or software for MPE/iX. Then HP made sales difficult by striking the 3000 off its price lists. So the vendors and IT pros who couldn't make a sale or a living left our world. Some departed and remained wistful and respectful of what HP created for MPE/iX. Others have not done so. They departed and began to disrespect and mock the tech solution that made them a pro.

It makes no sense, they've now said for more than a decade, to put any more resources into MPE/iX or a 3000. Some exiles once lined up a 3000 in a cornfield and shot it up with weapons. The act was an effort at comedy. (A great actor on his deathbed reminded the world that dying was easy, and comedy is hard.) The cornfield gunfire was ruthless because those shooters were targeting a legacy.

The bullets hit the computer, but the shooters were off target. The firing squad treatment included an arsenal worthy of Yosemite Sam. A cannon missed the mark and had to be wheeled closer. The buffoons acted out a fantasy, the finale of what they called “an HP 3000 mainframe computer.” 

Those shots felt the same as those the 3000's devotees have endured in the Migration Era. The era is just about over, but so many of its exits were based on fears of parts inventories gone dry or a lack of vendor attention. Some vendors turned on their community, stoking new business by running down the old success. Those parts are rare, they say, and you can pay us to help you change your mind. HP ran aground with its strategies for computing. Now the CEO is leaving and saying that technology wisdom has a better chance of hitting the value target than business experience.

The web, social media, and even 20-year-old mailing lists have made civil speech an endangered species. It's not professional or honest to label a line of work, and those who do it, as "stupid." That ignorant distain has given us Fake News and Alternative Facts. Crackpots and nincompoops make for outlandish exiles. Building something up by tearing something else down still remains Bad Form, as Captain Hook said in Peter Pan. Misfires on migrations have turned three-year exits into 12-year boondoggles. 

I'm sitting on a story about one of those odysseys. After HP gave the 3000 a bum's rush to the business door, the exiles' potshots at MPE's value rang out. Catcalls at MPE from the 3000's exiles won't put such odysseys on course. The simple math of taking four times longer to do something than planned—well, that's a True Fact, even if it's not often told. The target for why anything happens can be tough to find. When life doesn't turn out as you hoped, and your 3000 lifetime doesn't last, taking blind shots at a legacy always looked like going off half-cocked.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2017

2028 was never MPE's end of life date

HourglassEven though it was designed in the late 1960s, MPE never had an end of life date. Hewlett-Packard chose to call its end of business deadline for MPE/iX the 3000's end of life. HP was done in December of 2010, but the end of life claim was never true. Now we've learned that not even the expiration of the CALENDAR intrinsic's accuracy, in 10 years from this month, won't make the 3000 die, either.

During the latest CAMUS conference call, a few developers and support providers made the future clear. The year 2028 would not be the moment when a 3000 would fail to boot up and run software including the MPE/iX OS. This was only the year when CALENDAR wouldn't be useful.

"I'm hearing the system won't roll over and die on January 1, 2028," said one 3000 owner during the call. 

"Correct," said Doug Werth at Beechglen. "There are some things that may stick at 2027, depending on how the code was written." Some dating features go back to 1900 for the YYYY elements of the date fields. "There are a lot of places in the operating system that still use the CALENDAR format," Werth added.

Support providers can prepare repairs for the places where MPE uses CALENDAR. The seven companies with source code for the 3000's OS, such as Pivital Solutions, can craft more elegant solutions.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group said MANMAN calls CALENDAR in the subroutine SLJDMPE, "which is used all over the place." Floyd has identified and outlined a repair for MANMAN's source code that permits the MPE/iX application to run until 2049.

Nobody has had much conversation about another alleged end of life date for alternatives to MPE/iX. Unix and its date handling routines stop being accurate in 2038. It's also true for Linux, which drives a lot of the enterprise applications that have tried to replace 3000 apps, as well as much of the cloud-based servers like Amazon's. End of life is not a phrase used in that discussion, one so prevalent that Year 2038 has its own Wikipedia page.

The latest time that can be represented in Unix’s signed 32-bit integer time format is 03:14:07 UTC on Jan. 19, 2038. The date is 2,147,483,647 seconds after Jan. 1, 1970. (Both MPE used 1 January 1900 as a start date.) Beyond that time in that January of 2038, due to integer overflow, Unix time values will be stored as a negative number and the Unix and Linux systems will read the date as Dec. 13, 1901 rather than Jan. 19, 2038. There's even a cute animation of what the cutover will look like 20 years from now.

Embedded Linux is getting some attention for its date failure situation. Linux uses a 64-bit time_t for 64-bit architectures only; the pure 32-bit Application Binary Interface would not be changed due to backward compatibility. Embedded Linux systems would then support 64-bit time_t on 32-bit architectures, too.

At least MPE's CALENDAR will continue to provide the correct date of the correct month on the first day of 2028. A pivot point might be one way to resolve that for any customer who cannot modify application source code. The modification would use HPCALENDAR as a replacement for CALENDAR.

As we expected and hoped, MPE experts are already thinking about how to resolve Y2028. That they'd be doing so here in 2017 should be proof enough that the end of life of MPE/iX is far away. That's not so for the HP 3000—although an emulated 3000 has got a hardware end of life. Stromasys Charon relies on Linux, so there's work afoot to resolve that, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: ODE's 3000 diagnostics

DiagnosticsOne diagnostic super-program, ODE, holds a wide range of tests for HP's 3000 hardware. These testing programs got more important once HP mothballed its Predictive Support service for the HP 3000 in 2006. Predictive would dial into a 3000, poke around to see what might be ready to fail, then report to HP's support engineers. ODE's diagnostics are a manual way to perform the same task, or fix something that's broken.

However, ODE includes programs that require a password. Stan Sieler has inventoried what was available in MPE/iX and examined each program for whether it's unlocked for customer use. That was back in the days when 3000 owners were still HP support customers. Today the 3000 owners are customers of third party support firms like Pivital Solutions, or Sieler's own Allegro. The locked programs remain in that state, more than six years after HP shuttered its support operations.

ODE's options received a run-through from Sieler.

Disk Firmware Download Utility 2 (DFDUTIL2)
Version B.02.21 (23rd Sep 2003)
No disks were found.

Note: Didn't seem to want a password. Since Seagate disks are so prevalent, one would expect some means of updating firmware on them ... if firmware updates exist.

DISKEXPT2 
Version B.00.23

Note: Needs a password

Note: although it doesn't "see" Seagate drives, you can configure them in and access them.

DISKUTIL2
Version B.00.22
No supported devices found on this system.

Note: doesn't "see" Seagate drives, and you can't configure them in.

NIKEARRY2
Version B.01.12

Needs a password

VADIAG2
Version B.01.07
Please wait while the system is scanned for Fibre Channel Adapters...
No Fibre Channel Adapters were found. The test cannot continue. Aborting.

(No password requested up to that point.)

WDIAG
Version A.01.53

Needs a password

WDIAG is the PCXW ODE-based diagnostic program. It tests the processor of the various PCXW-based systems in the offline environment. The program consists of 150 sections, 1/150, which are organized into the following groups

1. CPU data path tests, Sections 1/6 (6 sections)
2. BUS-INTERFACE tests, Sections 7/10 (4 sections)
3. CACHE tests, Sections 11/25 (15 sections)
4. TLB tests, Sections 26/34 (9 sections)
5. CPU instruction tests, Sections 35/86 (52 sections)
6. CPU extended tests, Sections 87/101  (15 sections)
7. Floating point tests, Sections 102/134 (33 sections)
8. Multiple processor tests, Sections 140/150 (11 sections)

IOTEST2 
Version B.00.35

PERFVER2
Version B.00.15

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 29, 2017

Wayback Wed: MPE gets its last millicode fix

Drywall-patchTen years ago this month HP's labs delivered its final fix for MPE/iX millicode. The patch demonstrated the last critical repair of the OS by the HP development labs. It had been 16 years since HP had to do a fix for the 3000's millicode. The 2007 millicode patch was crucial whenever a customer's applications accessed mapped files and utilized Large Files, those which are 4GB or greater in size

HP introduced the Large Files feature in 2000, just after the community had cleared Y2K challenges. The corruption could occur if any one of five out of the last six bytes of a Large File failed to transfer correctly. Corruption introduced by MPE/iX is so uncommon that the patch became essential—and a way to gauge how much the community might lose when HP's labs would close up.

The labs were ready in a way the customers rarely saw. HP announced the bug with repairs and white papers already available.

OpenMPE sought an opportunity to take a role in the repairs. OpenMPE advocates showed concern that binary repairs like this one would present a challenge to application developers who need to integrate them into MPE/iX in the future. OpenMPE wanted to do this work. The advocacy group never got its opportunity to participate in the development work for 3000 sites.

HP's repair rolled out four years to the day after the company ended sales of the 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, remained available throughout 2009 and 2010. At the time of the repair, HP had not yet licensed its source code for MPE/iX. Delivery of that source code wouldn't take place until 2011. HP's binary patches for the corruption were not done in source code.

Large Files was a feature gone sour, by HP's own reckoning. The vendor was trying to remove the code from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the system converted to Jumbo files, which are much better engineered.

One aspect of the repair that stood out was the readiness of its release. At the time of the announcement HP labeled the repair General Release, moving at a rapid clip beyond beta test status. Dozens of other fixes and enhancements for the OS remained in beta status when MPE got its farewell at HP. Those patches would've been cut off from the customers under the standard release policy. HP made the beta patches available at the end of its MPE operations.

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

November 27, 2017

How dead is tape in 2017? HP thinks it's not

RIP tape backupHP 3000s have been held together with tape. Mylar tape, the sort in 8-inch reels and modern cartridges, has been the last resort for recovery. The world of MPE/iX computing survived on its backups whenever things went awry. It's easy to assume tape's dead these days. People think the same thing about the HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise agrees with the latter death notice, not the former. Tape thrives today because of Big Data.

Why would an MPE/iX customer care about newer tape? Resources like on-premise backup are shared today, here in the era where HP is read to sell a seventh-generation of Linear Tape Open. LTO isn't costly, which makes it a good fit for the always-economical 3000 world. In fact, the media is cheaper than the more common DLT tapes.

"I would still recommend LTO," says Craig Lalley of EchoTech. "I know a couple of my customers are using it. The performance will not be as high as other computers', but that's more or a CPU/backplane issue."

The MAXTAPBUF parameter is essential in using LTO, he adds. As to speed,

The N-Class 750—with a couple CPUs and a high speed fibre disc sub system that definitely helps—but it will never peak the LTO-1 throughput. It's still the fastest tape storage for the HP 3000. So the real advantage is amount of storage. And remember, it is always possible to store in parallel: two, three and four tape drives at once, in parallel as opposed to serial.

It seems that the new job for tape in 2017 is not everyday backups. These ought to be done to disk, a function supported by MPE/iX since 1998. Today's tape is there to backup the disk backups. Backups of backups are very much a part of the MPE Way.

The forthcoming HPE StoreEver MSL3040 Tape Library is designed for small to mid-sized organizations. It offers flexibility and storage capacity of up to 4.08PB with LTO-7. Hewlett-Packard is just one of many companies to keep pushing LTO forward. The standard isn't moving all that fast, though. Five years ago LTO-5 was the cutting edge for complete data protection and secure, long-term retention of business assets.

Using LTO devices for backups of backups on-premise is straightforward for anyone who's created a virtual HP 3000 using Stromasys Charon. So long as the host Linux server can communicate with the LTO device, it can backup a 3000 that's been virtualized. An emulator removes the risk of staying on the MPE/iX environment. A virtualized server won't be tied to interfaces from 15-year-old 3000 iron, or IO designs first crafted in the 1990s.

Five years ago some experts said that cloud storage was the final nail in backup tape's coffin. Our intrepid author Brian Edminster took a closer look at what a service like Amazon Glacier could do for the HP 3000 user. But it's almost as important to listen to what he's got to say about support of the latest LTO tape devices.

One of the primary advantages of creating the 3000's PA-RISC architecture was supposed to be peripheral support. HP would write and maintaining fewer device drivers once its enterprise servers shared an architecture. PA-RISC led HP away from the HP-IB interface, something Hewlett-Packard created for instruments, not computers. But in practice, the operating systems still needed specialized engineering to pass data quickly between server and peripheral.

These LTO tape drives are the kind of peripherals which HP supported more slowly, if at all, during the final decade of MPE lab work. The first LTO with an HP badge, Ultrium, ran half as fast (160 mb/sec) as the same unit hooked to HP-UX -- because its mandatory MPE interface was engineered for half the bandwidth of the more updated Unix-based servers. HP never made up the difference in speed, and that shortfall arrived right out of the gate with LTO-1. LTO-5 was the state of the art in 2010, two years after HP closed the MPE labs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks for Exceeding All Estimates

Thanksgiving-Table-2013
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise sailed into the Thanksgiving holiday beating estimates. The company eked out a "beat" of analyst estimates for quarterly profits, exceeding the forecasts by 1 percent. Overall the fiscal year 2017 results for sales were flat ($37.4 billion) and year-to-year earnings fell. Even that tepid report beat estimates. Nobody's expecting HP Enterprise to rise up soon. Keeping its place is a win.

It's about the same spot the HP 3000 and MPE/iX have shared for some time. After the exodus of migrators tailed off, the community has been losing few of its remaining members. A slice of them met Nov. 16 on a call. Someone asked if there was anything like a user group left for 3000 owners. I was tempted to say "this is it" to the CAMUS members on the line. Someone offered an opinion that the 465 members of the 3000 newsgroup were a user group.

I'm thankful there's still a 3000 community to report to here in 2017. We've exceeded estimates too. Nobody could have estimated that the HP 3000 and MPE/iX would last long enough to try to resolve the 2028 date handling changes. Hewlett-Packard once expected 80 percent of its customers would be migrated by 2006. That was an estimate which was not exceeded, or even met.

I'm grateful for keeping my storytelling and editing lively during this year, halfway through my 61st. I've got my health and vigor to count on, riding more than 2,000 miles this year on my bike around the Hill Country. I'm grateful for family—lovely bride, grandchildren to chase and photograph—and for the fortunes that flow in my life, the work of book editor, coach and seasoned journalist.

HP's steering back to its roots by replacing a sales CEO with a technology expert in Antonio Neri. “The next CEO of the company needs to be a deeper technologist, and that’s exactly what Antonio is," Meg Whitman said on a conference call discussing HPE's succession plan. I can also be grateful for that appreciation of a technologist's vision. Like the death notices for MPE/iX, the fall of technology on the decision ladder was overstated. In 2006 I talked with an HP executive who believed "the time of the technologist" had passed. Strategy was going to trump technology.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise isn't eager to count up its business selling its servers. The report from last week needed this caveat to claim earnings were up for 2017

Net revenue was up 6 percent year over year, excluding Tier-1 server sales and when adjusted for divestitures and currency.

The most recent quarter's results included HP's cut-out of large server sales, too. "When you can't count the numbers that are important, you make the numbers you can count important," said think tanks about Vietnam war results. There are been casualties while HP let non-engineers call the shots. If Hewlett-Packard Enterprise can be led by an engineer for the first time since Lew Platt's 1990s term, then technology has exceeded corporate estimates of its relevance. Our readers learned about their tech bits long ago. We're grateful to have them remain attentive to our pages.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:31 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2017

Whitman leaves HP better than she found it

WhitmanHP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is stepping down from the company's leadership seat, effective January 31, 2018. After her run of more than six years it can be argued Whitman is leaving an HP in better shape than she found the corporation. One measure of her success lies in HPE's revenue growth in spite of headwinds, as the analysts call challenges like cloud competition. That fact can be offset with the number of layoffs during her tenure. Most estimates put that figure at more than 30,000, an employment disruption that ranges even wider when accounting for divestitures and the split-up of HP.

Numbers don't say enough about Whitman's impact on the future of the vendor which invented HP 3000s and MPE. After a string of three CEOs who ended their terms disgraced or fired, she brought a steady gait to a company in desperate need of a reunion with its roots. The Hewlett-Packard of the 1980s delivered the greatest success to MPE customers. In hand-picking Antonio Neri as her successor, Whitman has returned HP to its 20th Century roots. The Enterprise arm of HP will be led by an engineer who's worked only for HP. The last time that was true, Lew Platt was CEO of an HP that was still in one piece, instead of the two of 2017.

Hewlett-Packard finally made that transition into two companies on Whitman's watch, after a decade when the printer-server split was debated around the industry. She also pruned away the leafy branches that made the HP tree wider but no taller: Autonomy and other ill-matched acquisitions were cut loose. She said in an interview on CNBC today that the time for "supermarket IT" suppliers is gone, and the future belongs to the fast. Whitman's years reversed some damage at HP, which at least beat analyst estimates for its Q4 earnings. 

"What If" was once an ad slogan for Hewlett-Packard. The question could be posed around Whitman's role at the company. What if this executive woman took HP's reins in 1999? She was already a CEO in that year at eBay. From the way Whitman has brought HP's headlong blundering to heel, she might have kept the company focused on the mission of the current day's HP Enterprise.

The rise of mobile computing and off-premise IT was always going to hound HP, a corporation built to sell specialized hardware and proprietary software. Passing the baton to an engineer leader—Neri started in the HP EMEA call center—shows Whitman knows more about HP's culture than anyone who's had the CEO job since 1999. She remains on HP's board and said she'll be available for sales calls in the future, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2017

Experts say 2028 date hurdle is a small fix

December2027-calendarCAMUS user group members listening on a one-hour call Thursday heard the sound of a calendar page being ripped off. Experts in system management and development said the 2028 date deadline—when MPE's CALENDAR intrinsic stops being accurate—is only a moment of change that users and programmers can work around.

Unlike Y2K, it turns out that Y2028 is going to let everyone sleep well while they do their fixes. One 3000 expert said there's a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt being spread about 2028.

CALENDAR sits at the heart of many programs and systems, and no one on the call debated the intrinsic's useful lifespan. At midnight of the eve of 2028, the 16 bits of CALENDAR won't be enough. The intrinsic was built for the 1970s, not the third decade of the 21st Century.

But like the moment when Luke Skywalker left Dagobah to fight Darth Vader, there's been another Jedi of the OS. Hewlett-Packard built HPCALENDAR in the early 1990s once it decided to sell the 3000 against Unix. Replacing CALENDAR with HPCALENDAR will supply the 2028 fix.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in after the call to show how he'll make that change in MANMAN whenever a customer needs running room of more than 10 years from the end of this December.

"Here is my spec for the Y2028 problem in MANMAN," Floyd said. The repair requires access to application source, something that many of the remaining MANMAN sites have.

Modify the MANMAN source code, replacing all calls to the CALENDAR Intrinsic (which returns a 16-bit integer) with calls to the HPCALENDAR Intrinsic, using a 32-bit integer variable. Change the next line or two of code to extract the Year and Day from the proper bits returned. Then, depending on MANMAN Release Number and availability of all source code,

a) Recompile/Re-Link every program in MANMAN, or

b) Recompile/Re-Link selected programs and Re-Link Dispatchers.  

MANMAN's Integer Date format (based on an offset from 1900) is capable of supporting dates beyond 2050, but is artificially stopped at 28,552 = 12/31/49. 

This Y2028 fix will extend the life of MANMAN well into the future.

After the conference call, Floyd said he thought the work to carry MPE/iX into 2028 would take less than half a day. Depending on the support provider, a lot less.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:39 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 13, 2017

HP's shrinkage includes iconic HQ address

  800px-HP_HQ_campus_4
Hewlett-Packard pointed at a shrinking ecosystem as a reason to cut down its futures for the 3000. Time in the post-HP world for MPE/iX moves into its Year Number 17 starting tomorrow . That's right; the Transition Era completes its 16th year tomorrow at about 1PM. Transitions aren't over, either. In the meantime, MPE's clock now starts catching up with Hewlett-Packard's headquarters. The iconic address of 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto will not be HP's much longer. On the subject of icons, that's a oscilloscope wave to the left of the original HP logo on the building above.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 12.09.17 PMHP is moving its corporate throne to a company and a building in Santa Clara soon. The existing HQ has been in service since 1957, but consolidations in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise—which also has a shrinking ecosystem—mandated the move. The offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the shrines to the HP Way, management by walking around, and the shirt-pocket calculator designs, will be packed up sometime next year. The HQ look of Silicon Valley's first corporation is distinctive.

Hewlett-packard-original-officesEverything has its lifespan, from ideas to the office desks where overseas currency and coins lay on blotters, resting in the side-by-side rooms Hewlett and Packard used. The coins and bills represented the worldwide reach of the company, left on the desk as a reminder of how far-flung HP's customers were. HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said HPE consolidations are part of making HP Enterprise more efficient.

Dave Packard coins"I’m excited to move our headquarters to an innovative new building that provides a next-generation digital experience for our employees, customers and partners," Whitman said. "Our new building will better reflect who HPE is today and where we are heading in the future."

Companies which use HP's hardware to run MPE/iX might also see efficiency as one benefit of moving out of their use of HP's servers. A virtual platform, based on Intel and Linux, is hosting MPE/iX. Charon goes into its sixth year of MPE/iX service later this month.

A customer could look at that Hanover Street address, which will be without HP for the first time since Eisenhower was President, and see a reduction. HP Enterprise will be sharing office space with Aruba, a wireless networking firm HPE acquired in 2015. Aruba also has big hopes for cloud computing. Cloud is the future for HPE growth, according to the company. HPE is cutting out 5,000 jobs by year's end. The workforce might be considered a part of the HPE ecosystem, too.

Office buildings certainly have to be considered part of an ecosystem for a corporation. Important elements? Perhaps, if only because the statement they make about a company's permanence and continuity. The HPE Aruba building HQ will surpass Hanover Street in longevity by 2077.

In 60 years when MPE/iX apps will run somewhere, if only in a museum, they will be on a virtualized platform. As it turns out, the ecosystem for software—the embodiment of an idea—is more durable than any corporation's. MPE/iX will catch up with the HP HQ lifespan in 2033. When a customer takes custom engineering into 2028, it's just a five-year lifespan to surpass Hanover Street. Ideas have a permanence buildings can wish for. Those ideas get such permanence while they remain useful.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 10, 2017

CAMUS Conference calls meeting on 2028

It's official. The CAMUS user group is holding a phone-in meeting of about two hours on November 16. The subject on the agenda is being called the HP 3000's Y2028 Issue, a tip of the hat to the Y2K challenge the 3000 survived 17 years ago.

2017-18-clockThe call starts at 10:30 CST, led by CAMUS president Terri Glendon Lanza. The agenda as of today lists Allegro, Beechglen and Stromasys as assisting in discussion of a roadblock to unlimited use of MPE/iX. Lanza will provide the call-in number to anybody who contacts her. You can sign up for the free call by emailing Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.

The meeting, an annual affair, lists these issues surrounding MPE's long-term future—otherwise known here as The 10-Year Clock, starting to tick this December 31.

Our main topic will be what we are calling the “Year 2028 Problem”. Without a fix, all HP3000 and Charon MPE systems will experience invalid dates beginning January 1, 2028. After this main topic, there will open discussion for all platforms.

If you are running the MPE (MPE/iX) operating system on an HP3000 or Charon platform, the Year 2028 Problem topic ought to be of great interest to you. Most, if not all, of our CAMUS members who are running MANMAN and other applications on an HP3000 or Charon MPE OS system will likely have moved on to another system by 2028. But if not, we believe that the time for a fix is sooner than later, given the dwindling availability of expertise.

Membership of CAMUS goes beyond MPE/iX customers who use ERP systems. DEC sites are also on the rolls. "If you are running on a different system," Lanza said, "you might still find this topic fascinating."

Lanza said the NewsWire's article from May of two years ago "got many of us thinking 10-12 years out" into the future. We'll be on the line on the 16th to offer whatever help we can. As usual, that help will consist of locating people with genuine expertise. If you're supporting MPE in any way, there's room for you to share experience and ideas.

In 2015 I wrote about a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and uses HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running into 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which MPE/iX will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?

The CALENDAR intrinsic that may block HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that year's New Year's Day, less than 13 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.

VladimirNov2010A voyager might see CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is one part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.

"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.

But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.

The HP 3000's date intrinsics will outlast those in Unix, so long as a program uses HPCALENDAR. HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using it on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.

Lifting the limits in application date handling -- that's one level of engineering skill. Extending the operating system limits beyond the 16-bit CALENDAR is a task with a greater challenge. It doesn't mean that it cannot be done. What matters is how healthy the 3000's best experts will be in 10 years or so. Vladimir says he'll be younger than 90 by then. Almost everyone in today's community will be even younger. And isn't 70 the new 60? It will matter when the 3000 needs the last set of bits to move from 16 to 32.

There's a old joke about software shortcomings being called features, rather than a bugs. Veterans learn to call them limitations and look for ways to overcome these aging designs. Everything is aging, even something as omnipresent at Windows XP. It's a fact that XP is dying, and the 3000 is dying. Well yes, says Vladimir. He tells his hundreds of customers who he visits, "We are all dying. But slowly."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2017

Flood drives off HP, even as 3000s churn on

Server_rack_under_FloodLate last week Hewlett Packard Enterprise—the arm that builds HP's replacements for 3000s—announced it will be moving manufacturing out of Texas. According to a story from WQOW in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the facilities from HP's Houston area are pulling out and headed to higher ground in the Midwest. HP said its operations were flooded out beyond repair by Hurricane Harvey. A report from the Houston Business Journal says HPE is sending more than 200 manufacturing jobs north due to the Texas rains. “Because of the destructive effects of flooding two years in a row, the company has decided to move more than 3,000 employees to a new site in the greater Houston area,” HPE said in a press release.

HP 3000s have fared better in high waters. A couple of the servers up in the Midwest keep swimming in front of a wave of migration.

Back in 2013 we reported a story about a once-flooded HP 3000 site at MacLean Power, a manufacturer of mechanical and insulation products. The 3000's history there started with Reliance Electric at that enterprise, becoming Reliant Power and then MacLean-Fogg. Mark Mojonnier told his story, four autumns ago, about the operations at Mundelein, Illinois.

The new company, Reliable Power Products, bought its first HP 3000 Series 48 in 1987. We had a flood in the building later that year and had to buy another one. The disk drives were high enough out of the water to survive, so when the new one arrived, we warm-booted it (with the old disk packs) and it picked up right where it left off.

The 3000s continue to out-swim the waters of change there for awhile longer. Monjonnier updated us on how the servers will work swimmingly until 2021, and why that's so.

More than 200 users are working with the company's N-Class server every day. There's another N-Class running as a disaster recovery system at MacLean. Changes in management, which produced changes in migration strategies, put the 3000s at MacLean above the waterline for an extra four years, by Monjonnier's estimates.

"The long term estimate for the HP 3000 unplug date is now 2021 if all goes according to schedule," Monjonnier said. "In the meantime, the HP 3000s are still chugging along."

About the same time that our half of the company (Power) selected the EPICOR [application] for the future, the other side of the company (Vehicle) decided on JDEdwards. A few years into the implementation, there was a change in management. The new management determined that the entire company would go with JDEdwards. So, after about three years down the EPICOR road, we started all over, going down the JDEdwards road instead. Personally, I think this was a good decision.

So we are still running our pair of HP 3000s. We have implemented JDE at one of the seven "Power" locations. This has reduced the HP 3000 user load down about 15 users, but company growth has increased that load to about 250 users most of the time. We are getting ready for our second (and largest) factory to switch to JDE in June, 2018. There are a lot of people working on this one.

As for HP Enterprise, it's going to move manufacturing out of its current Houston campus because of devastating flooding from the hurricane, and another flood the year before, HPE said in a release. More than 3,000 HPE non-manufacturing employees will move to a new campus the company will build in the Houston area.

The manufacturing facilities on its current Houston campus were “irreparably damaged by Hurricane Harvey,” so it will permanently move manufacturing operations to Chippewa Falls and its supply chain partner Flex in Austin, officials said in a release.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:19 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 03, 2017

Dealing with PCL in modern printer networks

HP 3000s generate Printer Command Language, the format syntax HP created for its line of laser printers. The 3000s were glad to get PCL abilities in their applications and utilities, but PCL is not for everybody. Multifunction devices not schooled in HP technology, such as those from Xerox, need a go-between to extend the 3000's printing.

The easiest and most complete solution to this challenge is Minisoft's NetPrint, written by 3000 output device guru Richard Corn. When we last reported on Corn's creation it was helping the Victor S. Barnes Company pass 3000 output to Ricoh multifunction printers.

But for the company which can't find $995 in a budget for that 3000-ready product, there's a commercial Windows alternative you might try to integrate into your system designs. Charles Finley of Transformix explains that the path to print outside of PCL has multiple steps.

Finley says of the fundamentals:

1. You need to get the print output from the HP 3000 to some device that is external to the HP 3000
2. You may need to intercept the PCL generated on the HP 3000 and format it for the intended device.

On the one hand, you can license the product of either Richard Corn or Minisoft to manage all this -- or if you want to use what MPE provides, you need to intercept the stream by using something that pretends to be an HP LaserJet.

In the second scenario, assuming you can connect the printers to Windows computers, you can use LPD and an interceptor of some kind. A commercial product we have used is RPM from Brooks Internet Software to accomplish the communication part of the process, plus some other PCL translator product to convert the PCL to whatever you need on the printer.

We had two projects in which, instead of the RPM product, we provided our own little interceptor (described at www.xformix.com/xprint) that does the same kind of thing as RPM. We have the Windows machine pretend that it is an HP PCL printer and configure the HP 3000 to print to it. We used other commercial software (two different products) to intercept the output intended for what it thinks is a LaserJet and format the print output so that it prints correctly.

I believe in each case the customers wanted to translate the PCL to PDF and do other stuff with it on the Windows computer before actually printing it. In one case, they wanted to store the PDF on the Windows computer and store reference data in a SQL Server database so that customers could selectively view and print the file at will.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 01, 2017

CAMUS wants a deeper look at 2028

TankerThe Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society (CAMUS) is one of the few user associations that remain as 3000 resources. It's a modest group made up of a few dozen MANMAN sites that rely on MPE/iX. Much of the devotion is wrapped around efficiency and stability. ERP is a big migration that can take years to get right. These 3000 sites are absorbed with keeping their ships in the deep water, away from the shoals of premature change.

Change is coming, though, as if it's a lighthouse on the horizon for the 3000 skipper. The change is called 2028, or more accurately, Dec. 31, 2027. In about 10 years or so, MPE/iX will stop keeping dates as expected. Nobody could forsee a day, 45 years ago, that a 3000 would still be in production service. The HP 3000 will turn 55 in late 2027. There's a good chance emulation hardware will be functioning well on that last day of 2027. Stromasys has made the lifespan of HP's MPE hardware a non-critical element.

Some customers are looking at how to edge past that lighthouse of a date. CAMUS holds a phone-in user group meeting once a year, and this month's meeting wants to examine ways to steer around the 2028 reef. It's possible, and CAMUS might be the group to help steer this course. All it takes are production systems that could be cloned and tested with a fix.

The group has invited its members and 3000 experts to discuss the workarounds. The meeting has been penciled in as a Thursday, November 16 event. "We are looking to bring in experts to speak to the issue of what is being described as the Year 2028 Problem,” said Ed Stein, "which is where HP 3000 systems run out of valid dates beginning 1/1/2028, per the MPE operating system."

CAMUS meetings are free to attend, meaning it matches up well with the operating budgets for many 3000 shops. The server's in a mission critical position at companies which aren't devoting much spending to it. That's always been one of the 3000's charms: it delivers more than it receives. Managers can get more details on the meeting and sign up by emailing Terry Glendon Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.

Tactical planning for the HP 3000's future is a current practice at shops like MagicAire. The company that manufactures mobile cooling units has a Series 939 that continues to run MANMAN and carefully-crafted applications. Ed Stein there has a need to think about something more pressing than getting his apps and utilities licensed for emulator use. He's thinking strategic.

Stein chooses to think about the end of the 3000's calendar days. He's interested in getting someone to fix the date issue that will arise at midnight on Dec. 31, 2027. The foresight is the first customer readiness we've seen that examines what can be done before that day arrives.

Developers and vendors have been talking about 2028, but not yet in explicit design language. Stein is the first customer who's doing the talking.

I am more concerned right now with the Year 2027 MPE issue. Not that we plan to be on MPE in that year—but if a fix is to be had, that fix needs to be done sooner than later, given the age and availability of the required expertise to develop a fix. There may be no one around in 2026 who knows how to fix it, in the event that in the worst case we are still on an HP 3000.

My company would look at paying for a fix now as insurance.

It's 10 years and five months away, but the end of 2027 is the deadline for regular date handing to stop working. It makes the challenge a Year 2027 issue if you consider Y2K to have been a Year 1999 issue. The most intense work always happens ahead of a deadline. If you're savvy, it's many years before a deadline.

There are likely partners on the horizon for the 3000 community's efforts to leap into 2028 (a Leap Year, by the way, but that calendar event won't be of any help.) Looking out into a world of 10 years from now, virtualization and emulation will still be operating at companies. Stromasys has the most to gain from keeping MPE/iX moving forward into 2028.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2017

Advice on keys for 3000s, and KSAM files

When building a TurboIMAGE database, is it possible to have IMAGE automatically sort a segmented index for the key field?

Gilles Schipper says

No, but you can create TurboIMAGE b-tree index files which allows generic and range searches on items that are indexed - specifically master dataset key items. Only master dataset key items can be associated with b-tree index files.

You can find out more starting at Chapter 11 of the TurboIMAGE manual.

How can I reduce the size of my existing KSAM files? I have removed lots of records from the system and the KSAM files are consuming lots of magnetic real estate, even though there are few records left.

Chuck Trites says

Make a copy of the KSAM file. Then use the verify in KSAMUTIL to get the specs of the file. Purge the KSAMFIL and the KEYFILE if there is one. Build the KSAM file with the specs. FCOPY from the copy to the new KSAM file and you are done. It won't copy the deleted records to the new file.

Francois Desrochers explains

Do a LISTF,5 to get the current key definitions.

Build a temporary output file with all the same attributes:

:BUILD KSNEW;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;KSAMXL;KEY=(B,1,10)

Copy the records from the original file to the temporary file

:FCOPY FROM=KSTEST;TO=KSNEW

Purge the original file and rename the temporary file:

:PURGE KSTEST
:RENAME KSNEW,KSTEST

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:24 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2017

OpenSSL's gaps for 3000s surface again

HP did its best, considering what was left of the MPE/iX lab budget, to move the server into modern security protocols. Much of the work was done after the company announced it would end its 3000 business. The gaps in that work are still being being talked about today.

OpensslA message on the 3000 newsgroup-mailing list noted that installing the SFTP package for the 3000 uncovers one gap in software. John Clogg at Cerro Wire said that "I successfully generated a key pair and loaded the public key on the server, but that didn't solve the No key exchange algorithm problem. One posting I found seemed to suggest that the problem was an old version of the SSL library that did not support the encryption the server was trying to use." A note on enabling the 3000's OpenSSL from 2010 still wished for a library newer than what's left on MPE/iX.

The work that remains to be done—so a 3000 can pass sensitive info via SFTP—has been on a community wish list for many years. Backups using SFTP are missing some updates needed to the SSL library. At least the server's got a way to preserve file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type. Preservation of these attributes means a file can be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.

In the heart of the financial industry in 2003, a modest-sized HP 3000 connected to more than 100 customers through a secure Internet proxy server. That encryption combination was emerging as HP went into its last quarter of sales for the system. But today's standards are miles ahead of those of 2003.

"The old OpenSSL library does not support the ciphers needed to meet current standards," Clogg said. "I was able to make the connection work because the FTP service provider has a configuration setting to enable "insecure old ciphers." Fortunately, this will work for our purposes, but it would be unacceptable if we were transferring banking, credit card or PII data."

The 3000's OpenSSL library is older than 1.01e, which another homesteader says is the cutoff for security that protects from the Heartbleed hacks and RSA key generation compromises.

James Byrne of Hart & Lyne said

The appropriate fix is to update the SFTP client software and associated OpenSSL libraries to versions which possess the high grade key exchange algorithms required by the sshd server. But given the stage of life the HP 3000 has entered, that may not be possible.

We handled a similar problem some time in the past by setting up a Linux host to act as an SFTP proxy. We connected the HP 3000 to the proxy via a cross-over cable to a NIC devoted solely to the HP 3000. Files were then securely transferred between the proxy and the HP 3000 via plain old FTP.

Clogg hoped that "Maybe some porting guru will do a port of the current SSH and SSL libraries someday. In the meantime, James' use of an intermediate server is probably the best solution."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2017

Clouds? All the time, even Sunday Morning

Communication LinkYou can tell a technology has reached everyday adoption by watching TV. Not the Netflix or basic-cable television. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning yesterday when David Pogue explained cloud computing for the masses. My technology consumer and partner in life Abby was on the couch, inviting me to watch along. I figured CBS would give Pogue about 5 minutes to examine the tech that's driving the world. He got 9 and managed it well. Abby paused the show to ask a question. It's become easier than ever to answer these cloud queries.

HP 3000 Communication ManualThe 3000 manager of today needs to comprehend clouds, even if they don't use them in their MPE/iX environment. The potential to drive a 3000 from the cloud is still out there for the taking, because Stromasys will host Charon from a cloud. Why that's a good idea remains to be tested, but the theory is sound. First of all, you didn't want to manage proprietary hardware from HP to run your MPE/iX. Now with the cloud, you don't have to manage hardware at all. MPE/iX becomes a service, a term that Pogue never mentioned in his 9 minutes.

It's okay. The story needed the visuals of acres of Virginia covered with datacenters (a word Pogue spoke as if it were "Atlantis") and the sounds of his walk inside a cloud facility (Fans. Lots and lots of fans, although not a word was said about what was making all that noise.) You can't expect a deep dive from morning news, but CBS and Pogue did a good job. Cloud's mainstream now. Streaming movies, you know.

Programmer TemplateWe watched the show about the same way most of the homesteading community runs their MPE/iX. Locally hosted (on our DVR unit) and running on our fixed terminal (the old Sony flatscreen in the den). The only cloud involved in the experience was ATT's, since our Uverse account has its listings loaded into the DVR from a big disk someplace.

The best instance of any cloud related to the MPE/iX of today is a replacement for it. Kenandy has a Salesforce-based application suite of the same name. The Support Group has just about wrapped up the first install of the solution for a 3000 site. Salesforce is the big dog in app platforms served via the cloud. Amazon is probably underpinning Salesforce, because Amazon Web Services (AWS) is underneath just about every kind of cloud. The tech that drives Netflix is also powering the next platform for MANMAN sites that need to migrate.

"So it's in the air?" Abby says. "Not much," I say, "unless your laptop is on wi-fi, or you're using a smartphone. You get the cloud's goodness over wires."

While all of that future-tech was over the air, I found myself telling her about a 45-year-old piece of plastic to explain why we call off-premise computing "the cloud." It's my version of an explainer, anyway. The 3000 was cloudy before cloudy was cool.

HP 3000 Packet Switched Net CloudOn the classic programmer's flowchart template shown above, all we get from that durable plastic that's related to cloud computing is the lightning bolt. It denotes communication and it usually referred to the kind of direct-line stuff we use in our house to watch CBS off our DVR. Dedicated to one terminal, on-premise. But it didn't take too long after that for X.25 to come along and add a cloud icon to the end of those bolts. By the early 90s the computer world was describing fast switching packet networks using a cloud. Here's one from a 3000 manual.

The 3000, like most of the world's business computers of the 1980s, had its own X.25 product for communication. Well before The Support Group began to lead customers to Kenandy and Salesforce, the company offered the EDI utility program EDiX/3000, the EDI Subsystem for MANMAN. Data exchange is a deep part of the company's experience.

The shorthand I shared with my partner was that the cloud symbol was born in an era when the 3000 was a first choice for HP business computing. I shared examples from our own life for cloud services: backups for our iPhones and movies from Netflix. Seems like magic. The skepticism about security in the cloud wasn't a part of the CBS show. Too deep for 9 minutes. Pogue asked about power failures at the millions of square feet of Virginia datacenters and the Amazon Web Services spokesman said "it's all backed up."

Those are four words every 3000 manager knows by heart. The security is another matter. The data inside a 3000's building is air-gapped if it's not Web-available. Net resources like AWS have redundancy, but nothing is failure-proof. The extra risk of running sensitive data through networks which are open to the world has given homesteaders pause when they consider alternatives for migrating.

Cloud is getting more mainstream by now. It's worth a look and maybe even a try for a cloud-based Charon. The noise that Pogue walked through for his tour of Atlantis? You won't hear it from your laptop, running ERP that's out there, somewhere.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2017

Fine-tune: Database passwords, slow clocks

We are trying to access a database on our old system using QUERY and it is asking for a password. I have done a LISTF ,-3 on the database, but there is no lockword listed (which I assumed would be the password). Where do I find the password assigned to a database?

John Burke replied

Assuming you do not have access to the original schema and you want to know what the password is, not just access the database, then sign on as the creator in the group with the database, run DBUTIL.PUB.SYS and issue the command SHOW databasename PASSWORDS.

Mike Church and Joseph Dolliver added

If you just want to access the database, log on to the system as the database creator and, when asked for password, put in a “;” semicolon and hit return.

Why is my system clock running slow? Our HP 3000 loses about one minute per day.

Bob J. replies

One possibility was addressed by a firmware update. HP's text from a CPU firmware (41.33) update mentions:

“System clock (software maintained) loses time. The time loss occurs randomly and may result in large losses over a relatively short time period. Occurrences of the above problem have only been reported against the HP 3000 979KS/x00 (Mohawk) systems. Software applications that perform frequent calling of a PDC routine, PDC_CHASSIS, affect the amount of time lost by the system clock. Your hardware support company should be happy to update for you.”

[Editor's note: as this question was posed a few years ago, today's hardware support company will be an independent one. We've always recommended Pivital Solutions.]

Tongue firmly in cheek, Wirt Atmar noted

My first guess would be relativistic time dilation effects as viewed by an observer at a distance due to the fact that you’re now migrating off of the HP 3000 at an ever accelerating rate. My second guess, although it’s less likely, would be that your machine has found out that it’s about ready to be abandoned and is so depressed that it simply can no longer work at normal speed. We’ve certainly kept this information from our HP 3000s. There’s just no reason that they need to know this kind of thing at the moment.

And in the same vein, Bernie Sherrard added this, referring to HP's promised end of 3000 support on Dec. 31, 2006

Look at the bright side. At a loss of one minute per day, you won’t get to 12/31/2006, until 2 AM on 1/2/2007. So, you will get 26 hours of support beyond everyone else.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:57 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 16, 2017

Getting the Message Across for MPE/iX

MessagesNot long ago, the HP 3000 community was wondering about the limits of message files in the operating system. HP introduced the feature well back in the 20th Century, but only took Message Files into Native Mode with MPE/iX 5.0. That's certainly within the realm of all operating HP 3000s by today. The message file, according to HP's documentation, is the heart of the 3000's file system InterProcess Communication.

Message files reside partly in memory and partly on disk. MPE XL uses the memory buffer part as much as possible, to achieve the best performance. The disc portion of the message file is used only as secondary storage in case the memory buffer part overflows. For many users of IPC, MPE XL never accesses the disc portion of the message file.

Yes, that says MPE XL up there. The facility has been around a long time.

What do you do with message files? A program could open a message file and write a data record every 2 seconds. The data record could be the dateline plus the 2-word return from the CLOCK intrinsic. In another example, a message file could be used to enable soft interrupts. It might then open a log file to write progress messages from the interrupt handler.

HP's examples of using message files are illustrated using Pascal/XL, so you know this is 3000-specific technology. You'd think they'd be little-used by now, but this month the developers on the 3000 mailing list were asking about limits for the number of message files. An early answer was 63, but Stan Seiler used a classic 3000-era method to discover it: testing.

The answer is 4083. Or, why testing counts.

I just successfully opened 4,083 new message files from one process. Since the max-files-per-process is 4095, I suspect I could probably have squeezed in a couple more, but my test program already had some files open.

That this programming facility is still in use seems to suggest it's got utility left. Multiple programs and processes use message files to communicate. HP explains in an extensive document, "Suppose that a large programming task is to be divided into two processes. One process will interface with the user. This process is referred to as the "supervisor" process. It does some processing tasks itself and offloads others to a "server" process. This process only handles requests from the supervisor and returns the results."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:29 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2017

Take the Training, A Young 3000 Jedi Can

Jedi-younglingsEarlier this month I enjoyed a cookout at the HQ of The Support Group. The company that migrates MANMAN sites to the cloud of Kenandy and supports homesteading sites had a new face at the office. The young intern was on his way to working for a startup, but was getting some experience in an established software and services company in the legacy market.

He was also learning the HP 3000 for the job. Not yet 35, the intern had a deep array of 3000 expertise to call on while he helped support homesteading sites. Such customers can lose their own deep 3000 workers and then might rely on support for how-to answers.

The intern and some homesteaders are examples of people who'd benefit from 3000 MPE/iX training. When I recounted my experience with trying to learn the mysteries of the Apple Watch, I figured it was safe to say formal MPE training would be out of reach for anybody who didn't have their own support resource. I could be certain HP was unable to teach anyone how to use MPE/iX, at least in person one to one. The HP manuals do remain out in the community on websites outside of HP.

As it turns out, when I state something in the negative, a positive exception emerges. I'm always glad to get news like this. Resources can get overlooked or lose visibility. That's why Paul Edwards reached out this morning to raise his hand in class, as it were. Paul is still offering MPE/iX training.

He hasn't had a student for quite awhile, he said, but his training services are still available. Paul's webpage for education includes MPE/iX Fundamentals and System Manager courses, plus a class on TurboIMAGE. Edwards has also trained people in the use of third party tools.

"This curriculum covers MPE core training and is appropriate for everyone in the MPE community," his webpage reports, "especially those who are homesteading or in the process of moving to another platform. We also offer courses from third party companies.

"In keeping with our conviction that instructor-led, hands-on training is the most effective delivery method, these courses are taught by certified HP and vendor instructors."

And so, the hands-on method of learning the Apple Watch is now officially well-behind the HP 3000. The Watch has been in the world for about three years, and the 3000—well, young Jedi, it's technology that's older than the first Star Wars. Younglings should learn the ways of its force, so they can become a 3000 knight like their fathers.

As for that Watch training, 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs steered me to a website that covered using the earlier version of the Apple Watch from the ground up. Apple's also got a manual for the Watch, much more modern than the 3000's training online. The 3000 community has always been good about giving a reference for any good learning resource. They are trained to share.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:26 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 11, 2017

Keeping Watch On Answers From Support

Hp-01_calculator_gf_set_01Getting answers about how to use interfaces can be troublesome. Graphical interfaces never made it to the native MPE/iX applications unless a third party tool helped out. VPlus wasn't graphical, but ScreenJet made it more like a GUI. Powerhouse and Speedware developed graphical skins for MPE/iX apps written in those fourth generation languages.

Underneath all of that is the common language of the 3000, the commands and their prompts. The computer's user base by now has this command interface drilled into memory. Once in awhile the managers and users on the 3000 mailing list ask for a refresher on how to configure a network or a storage device.

A mailing list like that is one way to approach 3000 support. In this, the 44th year of MPE and 3000 life, you could expect users supporting each other to be a popular choice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy of any support you scrape off an email or a website, unless the information comes at a price. "Information wants to be free" drove the concept of user-swapped support. Support ought to flow freely, but paying for it keeps the resources fresh and responsive.

Apple_watch_series_3The 3000's interface seems like an anachronism here in 2017. You might expect that, but it's something companies must accommodate if a 3000 becomes a foreigner in a datacenter without expertise. The OS can seem as obtuse as anything not well known. New owners of smart watches have a learning curve that can seem as steep as knowing which network services to disable in MPE/iX for the stoutest security. I rode that watch curve today and came away sore. The support saddle provided an experience with Apple that reminded me of Hewlett-Packard's customer situation.

A new Apple Watch comes with an interface no user has experienced before. It has little to do with a smartphone's design and nothing at all related to a laptop. You are either pre-Watch or you're Watch-ready; there's no prerequisite warmup ownership to give you a lift. The Watch Series 3 comes with no on-board help, either. This makes it inferior to the 40-years-older MPE, and also makes the Watch something like a high-concept product from HP's past, the HP-01. That was the personal device which, like many products from the HP Way, was way ahead of its time.

The HP-01 has a legendary slot in HP's history because it was the most consumer-driven product the stodgy HP had ever created by 1977. It came out of the company's calculator group, a unit that had a stellar reputation by 1997. HP's calculators were the ultimate tool of engineers, rivaled only by the TI products. Nobody had the benefit of a touch-sensitive screen 40 years ago. A watch with a stylus as its only pointing device didn't have much chance in the 70s.

Apple's got the benefit of those 40 years of experience in sales to consumers. That does not mean the support for the Watch is much better. Learning from Apple how to use it has devolved to a 30-minute session over a laptop video call. An hour of persistent, patient calling and chats with Apple today yielded only an invitation to a class that "tours" the Watch. If it's a group of 20 customers in that room, there's probably not going to be ample time to learn during the Q&A. This is why customers of the 3000 purchased training, resources that are on a par with paid support contracts.

The Apple Watch experience is new at my house. I feel much like I did when I sat at my first 3000 terminal and tapped out the fundamental commands to configure the system. My experience was limited to experimental work, because I never was paid to manage this system I've written about since 1984. My role was to carry forward and curate training and techniques from 3000 experts.

Those experts are still out there making a living, sometimes by doing a Q&A (that's a support call) with their customers who've forgotten or never learned some aspects of MPE/iX. Just like you can paw through the YouTube videos to learn the Apple WatchOS, the Web delivers 3000 training in antique documents. A 1998 Using HP 3000 MPE/iX Fundamental Skills Tutorial is pretty much the top hit in a Web search of "MPE/iX Training." The tutorial is a useful HP document to prepare a new operator, although it includes 29 pages of EDIT/3000 lessons, which is about 28 pages more than that text editor deserves.

We're only three weeks into our Watch era here at my house. Apple made it easy to desire and to buy, the kind of skills that lifted the company beyond the realm of Hewlett-Packard. I read a recent analyst note that asserted Apple's outrun HP because the former is enjoying a healthy middle age. The Watch was a noted example of the continued pace of advancement. I'd pay for Apple Watch training. Since a 3000 owner doesn't have that training option from the vendor anymore, the support vendors can perform those duties.

When the HP-01 made its swan dive in the market, interface training was part of its failure. Your MPE, which grew robust in the same timeframe, thrived on training. It's a lesson that goes along with any new interface -- or it would if Apple could look over at the legacy of something like the HP 3000, made mighty with on-board help and training from the vendor.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:01 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 06, 2017

Staying Secure with MPE/iX Now and Then

Account-relationships-securityThe IT news is full of reports about security breeches. If an Equifax system with 143 million records can be breeched, then Yahoo's 3 billion email accounts were not far behind, were they? Security by obscurity for outward-facing MPE/iX systems isn't much protection. That being said, the high-test security that is protecting the world's most public systems seems to failing, too. A few years ago, the US Office of Personnel Management had its systems hacked. Millions of fingerprints were stolen from there.

Hewlett-Packard built good intra-3000 security into MPE/iX, and third parties made it even more robust. Back in the 1980s I wrote a manual for such a product called EnGarde that made MPE/iX permissions easier to manage. Vesoft created Security/3000 as the last word in protecting 3000s and MPE/iX data. Eugene Volokh's Burn Before Reading was an early touchstone. The magic of SM was a topic explored by 3000 legend Bob Green in a Newswire column.

Homesteading managers will do well to make a place in their datacenter budgets for support of the 3000. Security is built-in for MPE/iX, but understanding how it works might be a lost art at some sites.

The fundamentals of securing an MPE/iX system go way back. A wayback server of sorts at the 3k Ranger website provides HP's security advice from 1994. It's still valid for anyone, especially a new operator or datacenter employee who's got a 3000 to manage. They just don't teach this stuff anymore. 3000s get orphaned in datacenters when the MPE/iX pros move on into retirement or new careers.

The printed advice helps. A direct link to the Ranger webpage can be a refresher course for any new generation of 3000 minders.

Managers of MPE/iX systems need to look out for themselves in securing HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard gave up on the task long ago. In the era that led to the end of 3000 operations at HP, the vendor warned that its software updates for MPE/iX were going to be limited to security repairs after 2008. They weren't kidding. The very last archived HP 3000 security bulletin on the HP Enterprise website had stern advice for a DNS poisoning risk.

BIND/iX and DNS were marvels for MPE/iX platforms in the 1990s. HP told all its customers early in 2009 that for that year's DNS poisoning, "The resolution is to discontinue the use of BIND/iX and migrate DNS services to another platform." Ouch.

HP's 3000 group did its part to bring the community up to date during that year of 2008. Another resource on the 3k Ranger site is a Powerpoint slide deck from Jeff Bandle, an HP MPE/iX engineer at the time. The presentation of MPE/iX Network Security: An Overview is only nine years old, but by now it appears to represent HP's final word on securing HP 3000 networks. If there's ever any need at a homesteading site to show a network manager which MPE/iX networking services are controlled by configuration files, Bandle's slides have a complehensive list on pages 29-35.

This stuff might be lost if not for the redundant archiving among the community's support resources. A DIY approach is possible for experienced managers. A guide to help navigate the advice is even better. Much of the homesteading community would be best served by a support contract with one of the remaining 3000 resources like Pivital Solutions.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:07 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 04, 2017

Data on 3000s still needs to be synched

SynchronizeSome HP 3000 apps are making their way to other platforms. Many already have, counting across the 15-plus years that might be considered the MPE/iX Migration Era. Data is always making its way from a host to someplace else. Making a sound master data repository is the work of synchronizing software. There's such a product for MPE/iX, one that's been in production use since 2006.

MB Foster makes UDASynch, which it says "supplies high performance and minimal system load synchronization services from server to server, server to website, and to operational data stores within your enterprise." Next week the vendor will talk about its product and its potential in a webinar on Oct. 11 at 2PM EDT.

Minimal load benchmarks, by MB Foster's accounting, mean a less than 2 percent drain on your main 3000, the one whose apps are supplying the data to be synchronized. UDASynch is a multi-platform product. The MB Foster product uses an intermediate Windows-based server to collect the 3000's data. This information then can be passed on to servers running the Unix, Windows or Linux environments.

UDASynch has been built with 3000 specifics in mind. It does a full database name check, has a memory reuse function, a debug option to convert XML to a binary file, the ability to search a table list using the IMAGE database name, a feature to automatically create backup files when the backup file is full, and a feature to call DBGET with '@' list if DBPUT is called with a partial list.

When data elements are routed between several servers, each has the ability to modify original data versions. Data synchronization ensures that regardless of data modifications, all changes are merged with the original data source.

Synchronization is a key part of a modern data architecture. Globalized supply chains and more collaboration between manufacturers and retailers are driving the need for accurate master data. It's a part of what's called a Master Data Management strategy. MDM uses a data hub and data synchronization, according to Saumya Chaki in Enterprise Information Management in Practice. That's the kind of book an IT architect can use to build out a broader platform for data.

Synching an IMAGE database with an SQL database can ease a move in a customer's Migration Era, whenever it occurs, plus provide a solid test environment for converted code and screens.

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

October 02, 2017

Way Out in MPE's World, Desert Sands

BinzagrThe HP 3000 has had a presence in the Middle East since the computer was a new HP product. EMEA stood for Europe, the Middle East and Asia in Hewlett-Packard's business region lineup. The Binzagr Company in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was an early subscriber to the NewsWire. The firm deals in "distribution and logistics for a wide range of consumer products, spanning food and drink, personal and beauty care, home care and automotive tires."

It's been quite some time since MPE/iX had a presence in the Middle East, though. That's changing for a little while this year. Stromasys is bringing its products to GITEX, the annual consumer computer and electronics trade show, exhibition, and conference that takes place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates next week.

The vendor selling software that preserves and extends MPE/iX applications will be showing off Charon at the Dubai World Trade Centre Hall 1, Swiss Pavilion Booth B1-40.

Old-DubaiThe GITEX website says that annual attendance at the show is 147,133. I've written about the HP 3000 since 1984, and I've never seen MPE associated with any show boasting an attendance in six figures. Comdex used to claim those kinds of numbers, and GITEX is as far-flung and diverse as Comdex in its heyday. More than 4,400 exhibitors will be on 92,903 square meters of show floor.

"Whether you're already using our Charon legacy server emulation solutions, or are interested in learning more, we hope you'll visit us," said a cheery email from Stromasys. That's right: it's taken an independent software company to put notice of MPE solutions in front of a vast audience.

Stromasys said it will be demoing solutions for VAX, Alpha, HP 3000 and SPARC systems, all of which are now available on the cloud. The Middle East has a rich history as a hotbed of trade. Binzagr grew up from a trading partner in 1881, tracing the company’s history from trading on the ancient spice route between Europe and the East.

It's a 130-year run at Binzagr and counting. Good habits have a way of extending the life of many things. It's not easy to describe the possibility of finding a platform for business that hit the market in 1974 still being promoted in 2017. Perhaps there's a word for such odds in Arabic. It's the culture that gave us mathematics, after all.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 29, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Libraries, Large Disks

LibraryWhere can I find a list of HP DLT libraries and what version of MPE can drive them?

No libraries are supported on MPE in random mode. While autoloaders can easily be made to work quite well on the HP 3000, one requires specialized software in order to make use of the full functionality of a DLT library. What is important from an HP 3000 point of view is as follows:

• The tape drives in the library must be supported on MPE and can be connected to the 3000. This means the drives must be DDS or DLT4000, DLT7000 and DLT8000. If the system is an HSC (pre-PCI) architecture, the drives must be HVD SCSI. If the system is a PCI system (A- or N-Class,) the drives can also be LVD.

• The connection to the library robot or picker, must also be supported on the 3000, again HSC needs HVD and PCI can do LVD or HVD.

• Finally you must have software that will connect to the picker and drive it. This software can either be running on MPE or on another system, to which the picker is connected. MPE itself cannot drive a robotic library.

I want to install disc drives larger than HP's 144GB. What issues should I consider?

The maximum disk size for MPE/IX is theoretically 2^31 sectors. Due to overhead and rounding DISCFREE output will show 2,147,483,632 sectors for such a disk, this is equal to 549,755,809,792 bytes. So, a disk of this size would likely be sold as a 550 GB disk (powers of ten) though it contains 512 GB from an engineering perspective (powers of two).

Even with the Large Disk Patches, MPE/iX users should be cautious when considering the usage of disks larger than 18-36 GB on MPE/iX systems for the following reasons:

MPE/iX transaction throughput increases when MPE is allowed to spread IO across disks. Even though newer disks are faster than older disks there are limits to disk speed and bus speed which must be taken into account.

Moving from nine 2 GB disks to one 18 GB disk, for example, will often create a disk IO bottle neck. For best performance we recommend that the number of MPE LDEVs never be reduced - if one has nine 2 GB disks then they should be replaced with nine 18 GB disks to ensure no loss of throughput.

The ultimate incarnation of MPE and its lowest (machine dependent) layer was specifically designed for the PA-RISC architecture. This thin layer allowed the MPE lab to create an operating system that had very little shielding from the hardware layer. While the HP-UX approach was to create a (thicker) layer, which allowed for greater hardware independence, MPE’s approach allowed operations to move more expeditiously through the computer, thus giving it the ability to do more (and generate more IO).

I've heard about IMAGE/SQL's dynamic rollback recovery, but need to know more about its applicable intrinsics.

Employing DBXBEGIN, DBXEND, DBXUNDO can be used to protect the unloading of millions of database records. Using MPE/iX’s transaction manager (XM), uncommitted logical transactions can be rolled back dynamically (online) while other database activity is occurring. The dynamic transaction can be rolled back in the following ways:

1. Programmatically with a call to the DBXUNDO intrinsic, or;

2. Automatically when the application aborts or a system failure occurs within the transaction.

The SYSINFO program has crashed our N-Class. In the past, HP just told us don’t run the program. It's always seemed to be a useful tool. What should I watch out for?

From Hidden Value editor emeritus John Burke:

SYSINFO is one of those darling little programs that is available from HP on every system but technically unsupported. The Catch-22 comes in when in various documentation HP suggests you run SYSINFO to check something or other, but then will not support you if something goes wrong.
SYSINFO in the past was notorious for crashing loaded, multi-processor systems when “all”, “mem”, “module” or “cpu” commands were called. As far as I know, this is still a potential problem. It also had the nasty habit of breaking mirrors in a Mirror/iX environment though I believe that has been fixed.

As of MPE/iX 6.5, STM introduced additional complications; for example, “mem” can just start looping chewing up CPU time and never returning information if STM is not running correctly. There are other reports about bogus information being returned. SYSINFO can be a very useful program for displaying information about your system. However, it must be run with great care.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:45 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 27, 2017

Wayback Wed: HP green-lights emulators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 22, 2017

Importing CSV Text Into COBOL II

CSV iconI'm importing a Comma Separated Value (CSV) text file into a COBOL II program. I want to compare a numeric field from the file to a number. But the input text field can be different for each record. How do I code in COBOL to accommodate the different number sizes in the text file?

Walter Murray, who worked inside HP's Language Labs where COBOL II was developed before moving out into the user community, noted that Suprtool was likely the best solution to the problem. But after someone suggested that COBOL's UNSTRING statement could be useful, he had his doubts. 

Along with suggesting that "importing the file into an Excel spreadsheet, and saving it in a more civilized format," Murray had these notes.

The UNSTRING statement will be problematic, because one of your fields may have one (or more?) commas in it, and you may have an empty field not surrounded by quotation marks. You might have to roll your own code to break the record into fields.  If you are comfortable with reference modification in COBOL, your code will be a lot cleaner.

Once you do isolate the check amount in a data item by itself, you should be able to use FUNCTION NUMVAL-C to convert it.  Yes, NUMVAL and NUMVAL-C are supported by COBOL II/iX, as long as you turn on the POST85 option.

Olav Kappert offered a long but consistent process.

First thing to do is to not use CVS; use tab-delimited. No problem with UNSTRING. Just use the length field and determine if the length = 0.

Do an UNSTRING of the fields delimited by the tab. Then strip out the quotes. Determine the length of each field and right-justify each field and zero-fill them with a leading zero. Then move the field to a numeric field.

You now have your values. Do this for each field from the unstring. You can create a loop and keep finding the ",".  By the way, determine the record length and set the last byte+1 to "~" so that the unstring can determine the end of record. Long process, but consistent in method.

In addition to generating a CSV file with leading zeroes, Alan Yeo suggested using the X field.

Move the CSV value to a full size X field, then strip trailing spaces, and then move the result to an X redefines of your numeric. Please note, as your numeric is V99, you might also want to strip all "." and "," before the compare.

Dave Powell offered up a general purpose, bullet-proof COBOL program to accomplish the task, fully referenced at the 3000-L newsgroup archive. The entire discussion of the mission is also online at the archives.

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:05 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 20, 2017

Hardware broker posts reducing numbers

SpeedChart-Series-997-IntroOut on the 3000-L mailing list, a hardware broker posts a message every month to report on pricing for HP's 3000 hardware. For many 3000 owners, HP hardware is going to take them to the retirement date of the MPE/iX applications. Hewlett-Packard built plenty of the boxes, ending in 2003. That's 14 years ago next month, so that's the youngest a 3000 built by HP can be. They're only getting older.

The pricing lineup from the hardware broker has listed N-Class systems in prior months. None are on the latest inventory. One notable addition is A-Class HP 3000s. They're for sale at the broker for $1,200. It's a one-processor model, but at least it's an upper-tier single-CPU A-Class. The broker's got discs and other needed peripheral goods, too.

One of the other items on the inventory list sheds light on how the world of HP hardware has changed. Just below that $1,200 A-Class server is a 2GB memory module, selling for $125. That's memory for a Series 997 system, a 3000 that was last built late in the 1990s. That 997 list price was in the six figures when first introduced, the top of the first 9x7 PA-RISC line in 1998. The memory module is available, and that's something of a miracle. HP's hardware still lasts a long time.

That it's priced as low as it is today, from the broker: encouraging for the 3000 site that wants to preserve HP's hardware to drive their MPE/iX apps. Customers believe they'll be able to get HP hardware for MPE/iX as long as they want. They might be right, depending on how long that date is into the future. Memory boards still for sale nearly 20 years after system introduction seem to prove that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:57 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2017

Stromasys demos its app futures at VMworld

One of the last vendor chipsets from industry giants now has its future set, a tomorrow where apps need someplace to live. Oracle's not exempt from closing down its Sun workstation and server line. A recent announcement from Oracle introduces the beginning of the end of the Sun SPARC processors. HP turned off development of its PA-RISC chipset in 2008. The vaunted Itanium chips have now received their last generation, Kittson. What follows these announcements is always the end of the line for the hardware running them. Customers determine how long they'll go forward with vendor hardware.

Charon running SPARCStromasys made its annual trip to VMworld to show off its solution for two of these solutions. Charon for PA-RISC has been saving MPE/iX applications from hardware obsolescence since 2012. The company's VMware demonstration covered the solution that steps in for the SPARC end of life. As in its demos for the 3000's chipset emulation, the SPARC solution at VMware ran on a laptop.

The company's product manager Dave Clements was interviewed at the show about the overall capabilities of the product line. Stromasys started its lineup emulating DEC processors, moved to HP's PA-RISC, then added Sun's SPARC not long afterward. Alpha chips are also emulated using Charon.

Openpower-power-roadmap-newSystem vendors who relied on these specialized chips have become rare. It's true: Apple's newest iPhone 8 coming out on Friday uses an A11 processor, built by the phone's vendor. In the enterprise computing arena, only IBM sticks to a proprietary chip. The Series i continues to use the POWER chipset. No one can be certain for how long. Last spring, IBM rolled out a roadmap that would take POWER beyond the year 2020. IBM is the last vendor to commit to its chipset for that period of time. like HP Enterprise, uses other chips. Any industry-standard chip could only power the Series i apps through some kind of emulation.

PA-RISC-clockHP and Intel once had sweeping plans for Itanium. For a time in the 1990s, the chip was supposed to take over for x86 architecture. Then technical realities set in, followed by market rules. Apps that used the x86 software was too different from programs designed for PA-RISC. HP and a handful of other system vendors could not sell enough to make those dreams of market domination a reality. Finally, Microsoft dropped Itanium support five years ago.

When dreams fail, there's emulation here in 2017. The x86 foundation has been with the industry since the 1980s. It powers solutions like Charon, long after the SPARCs, Itaniums and PA-RISCs have left the field.

There's nothing announced yet for Itanium emulation. But there's little doubt which company would be first in line to build it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:36 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 15, 2017

Friday Fine-tune: Disk and memory checks

The utility cstm has the ability to show the configuration of your current memory installation: the makeup of 3000 memory in terms of boards used. What command delivers this information?

First, enter the MAP command to see a map of the hardware on your system. Each item on the resulting list has a line number. Note the line number for “memory” and use it in the “select device” command, then enter the “info” command. For example, if the memory is device 64:

cstm>select device 64
cstm>info

If you enter the map command now, you will see the status of the memory will be “Information starting” or “information running”. When the status changes to “Information Successful,” you can display the result with the “il” (information log) command. Note: You can avoid the necessity of repeatedly looking at MAP to determine whether the info function has completed by entering “wait” at the prompt following the “info” command. You will not receive another prompt until the info process has completed.

Another answer without using cstm is to run SYSINFO.PRVXL.TELESUP and at the prompt type MEMMAP. You should avoid this solution if using Mirror/iX, since it will break the mirror.]

What MPE command shows me much total hard disk space I have available to me, and how much of that is being used? Also is it possible to break that up per account? For instance, can it tell me how much hard drive space I would gain by purging a particular account?

Use :DISCFREE C for checking disc space used and available by drive and in total. :REPORT z.@ will let you know how much your accounts are using. You may want to run :FSCHECK and do a SYNCACCOUNTING first.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:59 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 08, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: Moving systems quickly

Here in the 14th year after HP stopped building 3000s, customers continue to use them. They use them up, too, and when that happens it's time to move a system from one machine to another. Here's some timeless advice from a net.digest column of the NewsWire on how to move quickly.

How do you move a large system from one machine to a completely new system, including disk drives, in the quickest way possible and minimizing downtime? In this particular case, it is a 7x24 shop and its online backup to a DLT4000 takes 16 hours.

Stan Sieler came up with an interesting approach to this particular problem, an approach that can be extended to solve a variety of problems in large 7x24 shops.

• Buy a Seagate external disk drive.

• Configure the Seagate on both the old system and the new system.

• Connect the Seagate on the old system.

• volutil/newset the Seagate to be a new volume set, “XFER” (REMEMBER: Volume set names can and should be short names!)

• Do one (or more) STORE-to-disks using compression with the target disk being the new Seagate drive.

• When the entire system is backed up onto the XFER disk, VSCLOSE it and unplug it (Caution: The safest approach is to power off your system first.)

• Attach the new disk to the new system (see caution above) and reboot.

• Set up the XFER group on the new system.

:newgroup xfer.sys

:altgroup xfer.sys; homevs=XFER

• restore the data

:file xferA; dev=99 (or whatever ldev XFER is)

:restore *xferA; /; olddate;create (if necessary)

Obviously, this leaves out interesting things like setting up UDCs, directory structure, etc. The point of this note is to introduce the concept of using a 36Gb disk drive as a transfer media.

Bijo Kappen and Patrick Santucci both pointed out that TurboStore’s store-to-disk module is smart enough to create another “reel” when the 4Gb file limit is reached. From the TurboStore/iX documentation:

If STORE fills up the first disk file specified for the backup, it creates as many additional disk files as needed, or uses existing disk files. They will be built with the same default file characteristics as the first disk file. The naming convention used for additional files is to append the reel number to the end of the first disk filename. The resulting name will be an HFS-syntax name. For example, if STORE needed three disk files to store all files, they would be named:

/SYS/MYBACKUP/STORDISC

/SYS/MYBACKUP/STORDISC.2

/SYS/MYBACKUP/STORDISC.3

John Lee reported doing the very thing Stan suggested:

“This does work. We do it all the time here when moving information between systems.

“Another variation we’ve found useful is using large, inexpensive, disks for archive purposes. Instead of purchasing often expensive archival devices such as CD or optical jukeboxes, just throw the information on some cheap hard disks inside a cheap enclosure and hang it off your system. Users then have access to all this information online. It might not be right for everybody, but in many cases it is."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:58 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 01, 2017

Steps for a Final Shutdown

Kane-death-deadlineWe're hearing a story about pulling the next-to-last application off an HP 3000 that's run a port facility. At some point, every HP 3000 has to be guided into dock for the last time. These are business critical systems with sensitive data—which requires a rigorous shutdown for sending a 3000 into a salvage yard.

While this is a sad time for the IT expert who's built a career on MPE expertise, doing a shutdown by the numbers is in keeping with the rest of the professional skill-set you can expect from a 3000 manager. I am reminded of the line from Citizen Kane. "Then, as it must for every man, death came to Charles Foster Kane." Nothing escapes death, but a proper burial seems in order for such a legendary system.

Chris Bartram, whose 3k Associates website offers a fine list of public domain MPE/iX software, has chronicled all the details of turning off an HP 3000. "I have performed last rites for a 9x8 server at a customer site," he says, "and have been through the exercise a couple times before."

There are 10 steps that Bartram does before switching off the 3000's power button for the last time.

Bartram reported that he first purged all accounts except sys, hpspool, and 3000devs (and had to log off all jobs, shut down the network, and disable system UDCs to do that). Then:

2) Reset/blanked all system passwords (groups, users, accounts)

3) Purged all groups from SYS account that I could (aside from in-use groups) as well as all users except MANAGER.SYS,OPERATOR.SYS, MANAGER.HPSPOOL.

4) Went through PUB.SYS listf (file by file) looking for anything that might be a job stream or contain user data (or anything not critical to keeping the system up) and PURGEd it

5) Went into VOLUTIL and condensed my discs

6) Created a group called JUNK.SYS (you would need to do this on each volset; this box only had the system vol set)

7) Wrote and ran a short script that copied NL.PUB.SYS (the largest file remaining on the system) into JUNK.SYS in a loop using filenames A####### and X####### until all disc space was used up

8) Typed the command PURGEGROUP JUNK.SYS

9) Went into NMMGR and changed IP addresses on the box to something bland/different; including the default gateway (also deleted any entries in the NS directory if there are any)

10) Sequentially PURGE @.GROUP.ACCT for all groups (leaving PUB.SYS until last)

11) Shut down the box.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:23 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 28, 2017

VMware ties virtualization to Amazon's tail

Comet-tailStromasys is a regular presence at the annual VMware conference. This year's event kicked off yesterday with an announcement that ties VMware to Amazon's Web Services. Businesses that want to run some VMware workloads on AWS can do so at Amazon's Oregon cloud datacenters.

VMware is also a regular in the Charon configurations for HP 3000 virtualization. Cloud-based offerings around Charon have been in the Stromasys lineup for several years. The opportunity to be the first 3000 site to operate from the cloud is still out there, but Stromasys is ready.

Charon's HPA product manager Doug Smith says VMware is by no means essential to eliminating a physical 3000. A lot of companies have VMware installed, though, and when they're spent that kind of money they're often interested in how to leverage their datacenter resource. Creating a virtualized Linux server to cradle the virtualization of PA-RISC demands a lot. Some companies have VMware on very powerful servers, so that can help.

Most of the Charon customers are on physical platforms. If VMware is available it can be used unless there's a customer requirement for direct access to a physical device like a tape drive.

Cloud promised a lot for a long time, but it has had costs to calculate, too. This is where the AWS partnership is likely to make a difference. Stromasys product manager Dave Clements said at the start of 2016, "A pretty good-sized virtualized server in the cloud costs about $1,000 a month. We don't discourage it, though."

VMware tried to launch its own cloud services and failed, so now their Amazon ally "gives us a strategic and long-term partnership." It's called VMware Cloud for AWS. The VMware show also included an introduction of a new Kingston SSD device, the NVMe SSD, to eliminate data bottlenecks. SSD is one of the hidden advantages of taking a 3000 host into virtualized Charon territory.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:56 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 21, 2017

The Next Totality: Will it be our last?

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 18, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: SCSI codes, and clean-ups for UDCs and 3000 power supplies

Cleanup-siteI need to clean up COMMAND.PUB.SYS on my 3000. There's a problem with BULDACCT. Is there a utility to help manage the UDC catalog?

Stan Sieler replies:

One option is "PURGE," which ships on all MPE systems :) Of course, that means you have to rebuild the UDC catalog. We recently encountered a site where, somehow, an HFS filename had gotten into COMMAND.PUB.SYS. You can't delete UDC entries with HFS filenames, nor can you add them. I had to edit the file with Debug to change the name into something that could be deleted.

Keven Miller adds:

I believe you want the utility UDCSORT from the CSL, the UDC sorting and reorganization program.

There are so many SCSI types. It's got to be the most confusing four letter acronym. Is there a guide?

Steve Dirickson offers this primer:

SE (single-ended): TTL-level signals referenced to ground; speeds from 5 Mhz to 20 MHz

Differential (HVD): something around +/-12V signals on paired wires (old-timers think “EIA 20mA current loop”); same speeds as SE

LVD (Ultra2): TTL-level differential; 40 MHz clock

Ultra160: same as LVD, but data signals double-clocked, i.e. transfers on both clock transitions like DDR DRAM. LVD and Ultra160 can co-exist on the same bus with SE devices, but will operate in SE mode. HVD doesn’t co-exist with anything else.

Upon arrival this morning my console had locked up. I re-started the unit, but the SCSI drives do not seem to be powering up. The green lights flash for a second after the power is applied, but that is it. The cooling fan does not turn either. The  fan that is built into the supply was making noise last week. I can’t believe the amount of dust inside.

Tom Emerson responded:

This sounds very familiar. I’d say the power supply on the drive cabinet is either going or gone [does the fan ‘not spin’ due to being gunked up with dust and grease, or just ‘no power’?] I’m thinking that the power supply is detecting a problem and shutting down moments after powering up [hence why you see a ‘momentary flicker’].

Denys Beauchemin added:

The dust inside the power supply probably contributed to its early demise. It is a good idea to get a couple of cans of compressed air and clean out the fans and power supplies every once in a while. The electrical current is a magnet for dust bunnies and other such putrid creatures. 

Tom Emerson reminisced:

Years ago at the first shop where I worked we had a Series III and a Series 48. Roughly every 3-6 months an HP technician would stop by our office to perform Preventative Maintenance. Amazingly, we had very few hardware problems with those old beasts. Once we didn't have a tech coming out to do PMs anymore, we had hardware related failures, including a choked-up power supply fan on a disk cabinet.

Finally, Wayne Boyer said"

Any modular power supply like these is relatively easy to service. It is good advice to stock up on spares for older equipment. Just because it’s available somewhere and not too expensive doesn’t mean that you can afford to be down while fussing around with getting a spare shipped in.

The compressed air cans work—but to really do a good job on blowing out computer equipment, you need to use an air compressor and strip the covers off of the equipment. We run our air compressor at 100 PSI. Note that you want to do the blasting outside! Otherwise you will get the dust all over where ever you are working. This is especially important with printers as you get paper dust, excess toner and so forth building up inside the equipment. I try and give our equipment a blow-out once a year or so. Good to do that whenever a system is powered down for some other reason.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 16, 2017

How Free Lunch Can Cost You The Future

Blue-plate-special-free-lunchStaying put with 3000 homesteading has been a sure road to spending less. That's in the short term, or maybe for intermediate planning. A longer-term strategy for MPE/iX application lifespans, especially the apps serving ERP and manufacturing, includes a migration and less free lunch. Those times are ending in some places.

"Life was really easy for the last 25 years, with no upgrades and no new releases," Terry Floyd of TSG says of the second era of ERP on the 3000s. MANMAN customers looking into that past could track to 1992, and then the versions of MANMAN owned by Computer Associates. MPE/iX was in the 5.0 era, so there have been many revisions of the 3000's OS since then. The hardware was stable, while it was not so aged. It's not unheard of to find a company that hasn't upgraded their 3000 iron since the 1990s. Yes, Series 928 systems work today in production.

"There is just nothing cheaper than running a stable ERP on a stable platform like MPE," Floyd adds. He also notes that migrating a MANMAN site out of the 3000 Free Lunch Cafe is made possible by the latest Social ERP app suite. "If Kenandy was less flexible," he says, "it would be a lot harder in some instances."

Free Lunch, as described above with devotion to existing, well-customized apps, is quite the lure. It can cost a company its future, making the years to come more turbulent with change and creating a gap when a free lunch won't satisfy IT needs. Pulling existing apps into a virtual host with Stromasys Charon can pay for part of the lunch and provide one step into the future.

Migration to a subscription model of application, instead of migrating PA-RISC hardware to an Intel host, makes a company pay for more of the future. The payments are measured, though. If the payoff is in enhancements, the future can brim with value like a golden era of application software.

Kenandy does its ERP magic with its endless flexibility by subscribing a site to the software. Improvements and repairs that extend the value arrive like presents under the tree. The cost is determined in advance and support is wired into the same revenue stream as development. HP separated those streams in its 3000 era. App providers like Computer Associates did the same. Floyd points back to the ASK Computing ownership of MANMAN as a golden enhancement era. That was 1982-85, he says.

However, a subscription model nails a customer down for years of continuous paying. It's more like a very good lease, and if you read the software contracts closely you'll find most of it was licensed, not sold. The exceptions were the MANMAN sites which owned their source code. The idea of owning source that was built by a vendor who won't enhance it -- because you now own the code -- is a big part of the Free Lunch lure. You don't pay anymore for software.

"Free lunch is closing down," Floyd says. Yes, it was a relief to know owning a server and the code outright dialed back operating costs. But a subcription model "is of value because it forces you to move forward. It has continuous upgrades and enhancements."

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:34 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2017

Increasing Challenges of 3000 DIY Support

Beer-fridge-supportDo It Yourself efforts sometimes emerge from ingenuity. Enthusiasts build mashups of products like a beer cooler melded with an old fridge. DIY desktop PC builds were once the rage, but most datacenters' efforts today are Build To Orders. The challenges of DIY support for production-class servers is also starting to become a tall order. The increased efforts are being found in HP's Unix environments, too.

"DIY is increasingly hard to do," says Donna Hofmeister of Allegro, "mostly due to aging hardware. Often, those left in charge of MPE systems have little knowledge of the system. We get called when things are in a real mess. This applies to a lot of HP-UX shops now as well."

The oldest of hardware has its challenges on both sides of the PA-RISC aisle, both HP 3000 and HP 9000s. As an example, last week Larry Simonsen came upon DTC manuals in his cleanup pile. "I have some old manuals I do not find on the Internet using Google," he said. "Where do I upload my scans before I destroy these?" The aged gems cover support for the DTC 16TN Telnet Terminal Server, DTC 16iX Lan Multiplexer and DTC 16MX Communications server. The installation guide is HP part 5961-6412

Destroying old paper is environmentally friendly once the information is captured in some way. The capture gives the community ways to share, too. Keven Miller, a support pro who's stockpiled HP's manuals on the 3000 and MPE/iX, said those DTC manuals are only in his library as versions for HP-UX documentation. Like a good support provider always does in 2017, he got serious about capturing this tech data about the 3000.

"If you happen to choose to scan, send copies my way to include in my collection," Miller said. "Or if that's not going to happen, drop them off or I'll come get them and scan (at some future date) myself."

Parts have driven working HP 3000s into migration scenarios. A depot-based support operation assures a customer they'll never come of short of a crucial component. Pivital's Steve Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed out that a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) has a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP part.

How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? A provider is willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.

The easy questions to answer for a new client are "Can you supply me support 24x7?" or "What references will you give me from your customers?" Harder questions are "Where do you get your answers from for MPE questions?" Or even, "Do you have support experts in the 3000 who can be at my site in less than a day?"

But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions" "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware has started breaking down more often in the 3000 world. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of business reasons. One consistent reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in HP's supply chain.

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

August 11, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: A Diagnostics Tour

Newswire Classic
From Stan Sieler

There are two kinds of diagnostics: online and offline.

The online come in two flavors:

1. Older releases of MPE/iX have online diagnostics accessed via SYSDIAG.PUB.SYS (which is a script that runs DUI.DIAG.SYS). (MPE/iX 6.0 and earlier, possibly MPE/iX 6.5 (I'm not sure))

2. Newer releases of MPE/iX have online diagnostics accessed via CSTM.PUB.SYS (which is a script that runs /usr/sbin/stm/ui/bin/stmc).

Both are, well, difficult to use. (HP-UX also switched from sysdiag to stm.) Both have some modules that require passwords, and some that don't.

The offline diagnostics are on a bootable CD or tape. The lastest offline diagnostics CD (for PA-RISC) that I could find was labelled "2004."

That CD has seven diagnostics/utilities. I tried running all of them on an A-Class system. The "ODE" one is special; it's a program that itself hosts a number of diagnostics/utilities (some of which require passwords).

I'm not saying these diagnostics are "password-protected," because that implies they need protecting. "Password restricted" or "password deprived" might be a more accurate phrase. :)

filename type start size created
=====================================================
XMAP -12960 832 1568 04/08/10 17:12:26
ODE -12960 2400 880 04/08/10 17:12:26
EDBC -12960 31344 1696 04/08/10 17:12:26
EDPROC -12960 33040 6928 04/08/10 17:12:26
MULTIDIAG -12960 39968 6256 04/08/10 17:12:26
TDIAG -12960 46224 7216 04/08/10 17:12:26
CLKUTIL -12960 53440 240 04/08/10 17:12:26

ISL> tdiag
...probably doesn't require a password (can't run on A-Class)

ISL> clkutil
no password

ISL> edproc
...probably doesn't require a password (can't run on A-Class)

ISL> edbc
...probably doesn't require a password (can't run on A-Class)

ISL> xmap
...probably doesn't require a password (can't run on A-Class)

ISL> multidiag
****** MULTIDIAG ******
****** Version A.01.12 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

All the rest from here on are ODE utilities/diagnostics. I ran each one, and document whether or not it requires a password. (A few utilities seem to have little or no use because HP hasn't provided a method of saying "Hey, my disk drive isn't an HP drive, and it's over here.")

ISL> ode (collection of diags/utilities, each different) 

****** Offline Diagnostic Environment ******
****** TC Version A.02.26 ******
****** SysLib Version A.00.78 ******
****** Loader Version A.00.62 ******
****** Mapfile Version A.01.61 ******

(ODE) Modules on this boot media are:

filename type size created description
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
README2 TM 63 04/07/13 64 bit version that displays README fil
MAPPER2 TM 146 04/07/13 64 bit version of the system mapping ut
MEM2 TM 257 04/07/13 64 bit Memory diagnostic
AR60DIAG2 TM 590 04/07/13 Fibre Channel 60 disk array utility (64
ARDIAG2 TM 682 04/07/13 64 bit version of the ICE & ICICLE disk
ASTRODIAG2 TM 273 04/07/13 64 bit version of the ASTRO IO Controll
COPYUTIL2 TM 320 04/07/13 64 bit version of the Disk-to-tape copy
DFDUTIL2 TM 264 04/07/13 64 bit version of the Disk firmware dow
DISKEXPT2 TM 241 04/07/13 64 bit version of the expert disk utili
DISKUTIL2 TM 222 04/07/13 64 bit version of the nondestructive di
NIKEARRY2 TM 324 04/07/13 Nike disk array utility
VADIAG2 TM 906 04/07/13 hp StorageWorks Virtual Array Utility
WDIAG TM 1084 04/07/13 CPU diagnostic for PCX-W processors
IOTEST2 TM 880 04/07/13 64 bit version that runs ROM-based self
PERFVER2 TM 126 04/07/13 64 bit version that runs ROM-based self

ODE> mem2
****** Version B.02.27 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

ODE> ar60diag2
****** AR60DIAG2 ******
****** Version B.03.29 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

ODE> ardiag2
****** ARDIAG2 ******
****** Version B.05.11 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

ODE> astrodiag2
****** ASTRODIAG2 ******
****** Version B.00.25 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

ODE> copyutil2
****** COPYUTIL2 ******
****** Version B.01.11 (19th Mar 2004) ******

no password
NOTE: didn't seem to want to see Seagate disk drive.

Copy Utility (COPYUTIL) Help Menu
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

UTILINFO - Shows information on COPYUTIL including quick start info.

HELP - This menu, or use HELP <help item> for more detailed help.

DISPMAP - Displays the devices found.

TAPEINFO - Reads the header of a tape and displays the information,
such as the product string and path of the disk, the
creation date, the vol #, and so forth.

TAPEDRVINFO - Reads the hard compression mode of a tape drive and
displays the information.The info is only available for SCSI/FIBRE DAT tape drives.

DRVINFO - Shows inquiry information of any disk drive or tape drive.

TLINFO - Shows inquiry information for a Tape Library/Autochanger. The addresses of robot hands, magazine slots and tape drives are listed there.

TLMOVE - Moves a tape from a magazine into a tape drive, or vise versa.

BACKUP - Copies data from a disk to tape(s).

RESTORE - Copies from tape(s) back to a disk (The tape must be made with COPYUTIL's BACKUP command).

VERIFY - After a successful BACKUP, by VERIFY user may double check the contents of the tape(s) with the data on the disk.

COPY - Copies from a disk device to another disk device. The supported devices are restricted to SCSI devices so far.

FORMAT - Formats a given disk back to its default values.

TERSEERR - Turns on or off the terse error flag. Default is off.

IGNOREERR - Turns on or off the ignore error flag. Default is off.

ODE> dfdutil2

****** Disk Firmware Download Utility 2 (DFDUTIL2) ******
****** Version B.02.21 (23rd Sep 2003) ******
No Disks were found.

Didn't seem to want a password.

Since Seagate disks are so prevalent, one would expect some means of updating firmware on them ... if firmware updates exist.

ODE> diskexpt2
****** DISKEXPT2 ******
****** Version B.00.23 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

Note: although it doesn't "see" Seagate drives, you can configure them in and access them. 

ODE> diskutil2
****** DISKUTIL2 ******
****** Version B.00.22 ******
No supported devices found on this system.

Note: doesn't "see" Seagate drives, and you can't configure them in.

ODE> nikearry2
****** NIKEARRY2 ******
****** Version B.01.12 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

ODE> vadiag2
****** VADIAG2 ******
****** Version B.01.07 ******
Please wait while the system is scanned for Fibre Channel Adapters...
No Fibre Channel Adapters were found. The test cannot continue. Aborting.

(No password requested up to that point.)

ODE> wdiag
****** WDIAG ******
****** Version A.01.53 ******
Enter password or a <CR> to exit:

(from a friend:)


WDIAG is the PCXW ODE based diagnostic program. It is intended to test the Processor of the various PCXW based systems in the offline environment. The program consists of 150 sections, 1/150, and are organized into the following groups:

1. CPU data path tests, Sections 1/6 (6 sections)
2. BUS-INTERFACE tests, Sections 7/10 (4 sections)
3. CACHE tests, Sections 11/25 (15 sections)
4. TLB tests, Sections 26/34 (9 sections)
5. CPU instruction tests, Sections 35/86 (52 sections)
6. CPU extended tests, Sections 87/101 (15 sections)
7. Floating point tests, Sections 102/134 (33 sections)
8. Multiple processor tests, Sections 140/150 (11 sections)

ODE> iotest2
****** IOTEST2 ******
****** Version B.00.35 ******

no password required

ODE> perfver2
****** PERFVER2 ******
****** Version B.00.15 ******

no password required

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:00 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 09, 2017

Parts become hair triggers for some sites

Ordering parts for HP 3000s used to be painless. HP's Partsurfer website showed the way, letting a manager search by serial number, and even showing pictures in a full listing of components. Click to Buy was a column in the webpage.

PartsurferThat's a 3000 option that's gone from the HP Enterprise Partsurfer website, but there are options still available outside of HP. Resellers and support vendors stock parts — the good vendors guarantee them once they assume responsibility for a server or a 3000-specific device. Consider how many parts go into a 3000. These guarantees are being serviced by spare systems.

Parts have become the hair trigger that eliminates 3000s still serving in 2017. "Availability of parts is triggering migrations by now," said Eric Mintz, head of the 3000 operations at Fresche Solutions.

Homesteading to preserve MPE/iX is different and simpler matter. Virtualized systems to run 3000 apps have been serving for close to five years in the marketplace. That's Charon, which will never have a faded Partserver website problem. No hardware lasts forever, but finding a Proliant or Dell replacement part is a trivial matter by comparison. A full spare replacement is one way to backstop a Charon-hosted MPE/iX system, because they run on Intel servers.

"Some customers do want to stay on as long as possible," Mintz said. Application support helps them do this. So do depot-based support services: the ones where needed parts are on a shelf in a warehouse space, waiting.

The longest-lived example of depot part service I've seen came for a Series 70 HP 3000. This server was first sold in 1985. About 22 years later, one of the last was being shut down in 2007.

Ideal has just retired its last 70 about a month ago," Ryan Melander said. "The machine was just de-installed into three pieces and shipped back East, where it will sit for two years—and if needed, be fired back up for archive data. We have only had two power supply incidents in the last year. However, the old HP-IB DDS tape units became very hard to support.  We do have a fully functional system in our depot."

One working theory about hardware in the industry is that older generations of computers were built to last longer. Given the capital cost of the units, customers (especially the 3000 owners) expected them to run forever.

A-Class servers were last built in 2003. A 22-year run of service would get the last one retired in 2025. Ah, but you have to factor in the quality of the build. Getting to 2020 might be interesting. A depot support solution would be essential to avoid squeezing that hardware trigger.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:52 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 07, 2017

Support firms vet, curate online 3000 advice

French-CuratorsJust a few weeks ago, we reported on the presumed disappearance of the HP 3000 Jazz lore and software. The resource of papers and programs written for the MPE/iX manager turned up at a new address at Fresche Solutions' website. Fresche was once Speedware, a company that licensed use of all the Jazz contents—help first compiled by HP in the 1990s.

Now it looks like HP's ready to flip off the switch for its Community Forum. These have been less-trafficked webpages where advice lived for 3000s and MPE. Donna Hofmeister, a former director of the OpenMPE advocacy group, noted that an HP Enterprise moderator said those forums would be shut down with immediate effect.

I discovered this little bit of unhappiness:
7/31 - Forum: Operating Systems - MPE/iX

Information to all members, that we will retire the Operating Systems - MPE/iX forum and all boards end of business today.

As far as I can tell, all MPE information is no longer accessible! :-( I'm not happy that no public announcement was made <sigh> If you can demonstrate differently, that would be great!

But a brief bout of searching this morning revealed at least some archived questions and answers at the HPE website about the 3000. For example, there's a Community post about advice for using the DAT 24x6e Autoloader with MPE/iX. It's useful to have an HP Passport account login (still free) to be able to read such things. The amount of information has been aging, and nothing seems to be new since 2011. It wasn't always this way; HP used to post articles on MPE/iX administration with procedural examples.

Not to worry. The established 3000 support providers have been curating HP's 3000 information like this for many years. No matter what HP takes down, it lives on elsewhere. "We gathered a lot of the Jazz and other HP 3000 related content years ago to cover our needs," said Steve Suraci of Pivital. "While I don’t think we got everything, I do think we have most of what we might need these days." Up to date web locations for such information should be at your support partner. Best of all, they'll have curated those answers.

Knowing what's useful, correct, and up to date: that's what a guide does. Indie support companies like Pivital do this (Pivital happens to be an all-3000 company). Only a DIY shop -- with no support budget for the 3000 -- has any business skipping support. Production 3000s deserve the backstop of a support guide.

For example: That HP Community forum has lots of user-supplied answers to questions about MPE/iX. Without any direct access to the forum, though, the traffic died four years ago. That means there's nobody left reading the forum to check the accuracy of the free advice.

The 3000-L still has 470 subscribers, and a 3000-L archive that can be searched. That's a fair number of readers to keep solutions on target. However, if your production 3000's support resource is limited to 3000-L, that's probably not enough to keep a mission-critical application online. Taking a journey with a system whose OS has been static since 2009 requires a guide -- or at least an expert curator to filter what advice is working and what is not sound anymore.

John Clogg, still maintaining a 3000 at Cerro Wire, offered a link for HP's latest location of 3000 manuals.

As of this moment, MPE manuals are still available at:
http://h20565.www2.hpe.com/portal/site/hpsc/template.PAGE
/public/psi/manualsResults/
?javax.portlet.begCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken&
javax.portlet.endCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken&
javax.portlet.prp_e97ce00a6f76436cc859bfdeb053ce01=
wsrp-navigationalState%3DmanLang%253Den
&javax.portlet.tpst=e97ce00a6f76436cc859bfdeb053ce01
&sp4ts.oid=416035&ac.admitted=1501870675581.125225703.1851288163

Here's a Tinyurl link: http://tinyurl.com/yaw5o2wm

Judging from that HP URL, probably even HP can't find it to turn it off. I hope this post doesn't help them in that endeavor!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:58 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)