December 09, 2013
Long run of 3000 unreels beyond the dark
By Ron Seybold
This is the time of the year when movie critics everywhere assemble their retrospectives of 2013 films. The HP 3000 has been having something of a revival, as they call the movie's screening of old classics, because of the Stromasys emulator. Such an invention never would have gotten traction without HP's mistakes made after November, 2001. People stood by their servers, in part because they got messages from HP that the computer's run would be extended.
While they remained in their seats, CHARON's MPE-on-Intel debut was spooled up on the next projector.
In 2005, after all, there was the rude surprise to the vendors who became ardent partners of migration off the 3000. The deadline of 2006 became 2008, and then finally 2010. One such vendor said it was a disservice to partners who were ready to pick up the pieces. At HP’s support business lair, the company's lifespan of the 3000 was measured in how many months of payments might arrive from large customers. It had nothing to do with the quality of the server’s ecosystem, and everything to do with the quantity of the revenues it created.
But as the karma police often do, they’ve caught up with the company which made raw business growth its mantra, instead of Next Bench design and Management by Walking Around. Old collegial business got eaten alive by tigers from the PC vendor Compaq, unleashed by the first CEO plucked from outside HP. So when Carly’s proxy fight took HP out of the hands of its family, and then spying and sexual harassment and then being fleeced on acquisitions followed, our friends in this market took bitter solace in seeing karma catch up. The water was still cold out in the sea around that scuttled ship. But at least the captains of the line were getting soaked. Three of every four 3000 owners never bought another HP enterprise server.
But that bitterness, the shaking of our fists at fate, it doesn’t make swimming in the current easier. Better to flatten our hands and stretch our arms into the bracing water and survive, see how it changes our lives. That’s the story we really want to tell, the one that we don’t know how we’ll live though. Only that we know that we will indeed live through it. Just wait. The last reel might be the sweetest.
At the Newswire we’ve lived through more than 18 years to tell some surprising stories. How the spirit and great heart of a community of people who use computers raised thousands of toasts on a single Halloween 10 years ago. You will never see a worldwide wake for a computer again. People love Apple’s products, and Steve Jobs got a floral tribute across the doorsteps of hundreds of his stores. But a little computer line that never had more than 50,000 machines running at once? A number so small that Apple sells that many iPhones in just eight hours? How could something so small ever generate smiles and black armbands and barbecues all at once, around the globe?
It had something to do with people, not with machines. Just like those seats in the dark at the Paramount Theatre had everything to do with light. When the Austin Film Festival opened up this fall, It had been 15 years since I’d been standing on line for a movie, hours at a time. But what was promised was light in black and white with an acting icon (Nebraska, with Bruce Dern at 77, still younger than Fred White) or in color and as obscure as a big-star movie could get (The Art of the Steal with Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon) released in Canada so quick you couldn’t tune into two episodes of Glee before the movie was gone. Or a searing and sobbing documentary about women who were battling obesity with weight loss surgery, All of Me, the movie that won the audience prize at the Festival.
I waited the longest for the movie with the biggest buzz, the Coens’ Inside Llwellen Davis. After two hours on line and three in the theatre, I felt like somebody who’d been eager for an HP Unix replacement. Good, sure, but not equal to my expectations. I’d been set up by Raising Arizona, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Blood Simple, and Fargo. The equivalent of the Series III, MPE V, the Series 68, the Mighty Mouse, the Spectrum computers of PA-RISC. The movie was just average by their standards, like the N-Class servers, or the petite A-Class that Dave Snow carried under his arm in the spring of 2001. At the time, it was so coveted somebody wanted to buy that first unit right there in the room of a conference that was also a casualty, SIG-PROF, dead along with Interex. We learned later HP crippled the A, to prop up prices of other 3000s.
We grew bolder as we all grew older, those of us who found a lifeboat, crafting our own raft away from the wreck. We learned things better than we knew a little bit: writing for story and drama, or Ruby on Rails and .NET, or yoga video production, or the art of teaching. Our friend John Burke, he of so many Newswire words, became a mathematics professor. It was just the way things added up for all of us. Everybody had a new plot of daily work, even while they kept cultivating what was left over from the bounty of the 1980s and 1990s.
There are more surprises yet, things as delicious as Susan Sarandon taking questions after another little known gem, the musical Romance and Cigarettes — so under-appreciated its director John Tuturro bought it back from the studio to save it. When the late great James Gandolfini breaks into song, belting out a Tom Jones tune, I didn’t believe it could work until I saw it. Something like the experience I saw in California when MPE booted up on a laptop, and a 3000 vet learned over and said it felt like everything MPE was brand new again.
Tension makes for a good story, the uncertain outcome of the hero’s greatest desire. Our most essential desire is to survive and grow older in peace and wisdom. Our movie’s last reel hasn’t unspooled yet, and the lights haven’t come up while the credits roll. Keep your thick soled shoes nearby. We can get in line together because we know each other, and say, “I wonder what we’ll see today?” Maybe we’ll hear a story a few more times about our escapes and heroic plans for next year. The business of our lives runs on stories.
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December 06, 2013
Waiting in line to see a story of survival
By Ron Seybold
I whiled away hours on the streets of Austin a few weeks ago, waiting to take a place in the dark. The Austin Film Festival was rolling, celebrating its 20th Anniversary with nine days of movies. Anniversaries usually prompt memories. We tell stories of how things used to be in our lives, partly to mark how far we’ve travelled, along with how far we’ve grown.
We don’t like to think about growing older. Not most of us, not when we have to lace on our shoes with extra thick soles like I did to stand on a Congress Avenue concrete sidewalk, waiting for the newest Coen Brothers film to unreel at the gaudy, throwback Paramount Theatre. I stood beside a woman who’d been setting sound stages with props for several decades. She talked for more than an hour about how Bruce Willis loved the tacky statue she chose for Armageddon, loved it so much he bought it after the movie wrapped. I heard that story four times in about 90 minutes.
Some of our readers might feel the same way about the annual November Nightmare story I write, recalling the tacky HP business deke on 3000 owners. It changed all of our lives, though, so it merits its testimony. But as I’ve promised in my last paragraph of this year’s edition of the Nightmare, this year is the last time I’ll tell that story. Everybody knows the Titanic goes down at the end of that North Atlantic voyage. The story we don’t know is how the survivors’ lives went on. Most of all, we want to know what they did next. How did the disaster affect them?The after-effects of late 2001 surprised most of us. Run down the list and you will find surprised parties at the customer sites, of course, and then at the vendors whose entire living was built on the future of the system. Yes, Abby and I at the Newswire were among those surprised, at least by the timing.
But after all, we were surprised we’d made most of the way through 2001 on her dream of serving news about a computer that everyone said was dead in 1995. We got six swelling, hot-growth years out of the gamble. But then another 12, as of this fall, serving news about the survivors, even how to survive, as well as chronicles of the casualties.
Others who were surprised were competitors. HP’s competitors at IBM, who figured on sweeping up plenty of 3000 customers, but that didn’t happen. The 3000’s competitors at HP, who figured on gathering nearly all of the market into Unix folds. Again, didn’t happen. Customers were now free to choose anything, because everything was a struggle. Swimming toward the Unix lifeboats, the ones with the high gunwales painted with the same vendor colors as the scuttled cruise liner — well, that looked less fruitful than letting their Windows ships hold more business passengers.
HP was also surprised that so many 3000 owners went noplace for years, despite a deadline that should’ve made everyone leap into seas of change. Even our competitors we faced at the Newswire surprised us, by leaving us last standing in the HP-only news business. Good man Tim Cullis at HP User in the UK, the Interex volunteers and allies like Chuck Piercey and his HP World. Also, HP Professional and its magazine mavens. All gone away, gone to good grass pasture, or gone under. We didn’t figure we’d be here, left to turn out the lights on whatever day that finale appears. We’re not eager for the dark.
But many of us crave the dark when there's a great story waiting inside it -- like when we sit in front of a movie screen.
December 04, 2013
A-Class servers bid to retain some value
When HP released the A-Class HP 3000 models, the computers represented a new entry point for MPE servers. This lowest-end machine, including an MPE/iX license and the IMAGE/SQL database, sold at retail for $15,900. It ran about 70 percent faster than the 3000's previous low end unit, the Series 918. The customer base was hungry for something this small. HP product manager Dave Snow walked the first one down the aisle at the SIGPROF user meeting.
That was more than 12 years ago. The A-Class was built upon PA-RISC processors, chips that are several generations behind HP's latest Itanium-class CPUs. You might expect that the A-Class boxes could be worth less than one tenth of what they sold for during the year that HP curtailed its 3000 plans.
Cypress Technology has got three of these A-Class servers available via eBay, selling them for $3,400 each. They've been out on the auction website for awhile now -- more than 10 days -- but the Buy It Now price hasn't come down. So far, the sellers are still arranging for a transferrable license for these boxes. That's something that runs up the price of a used 3000. But then, so can the extras.Let's pause here for a moment and consider the value retention of this piece of IT equipment. A robust PC, tricked out at the top end of 2001 technology, couldn't even manage the price of a doorstop in today's marketplace.
Take HP's fastest laptop of 2001, the Omnibook 6000. Listed at a minimum of $1,799 on its release, the computer
...combines the power of Intel's fastest mobile processor with HP's tradition of providing reliable, manageable, stable, secure and expandable products. Its sleek styling with magnesium alloy cover, rubberized corners and grips, and spill-resistant keyboard, help make this a durable machine that holds up well for people on the go.
Today on the same eBay website, that $1,799 computer is selling for $95. You can get one as cheap as $40.
HP's computers, whether laptop or rack-mounted, were built to last with above-the-norm components. No, you won't mistake the drives and memory in that Omnibook with those that have the quality of an A400-100-110 HP 3000. But after a dozen years, without a license that would satisfy an auditor, the 3000 sells for more than 20 percent of its list. The Windows-based laptop, portable in a way that only the 3000 user could dream about, is selling for about 5 percent.
These A-Class systems each have a 9GB boot disk (yeah, smaller than a thumb drive's capacity) and a 300GB main storage disk, along with a whopping 2GB of RAM. The sellers report that they're working on getting an auditor-happy license for the pre-installed MPE/iX 7.5 on the A-Class, too.
These came from HP as part of the e3000 trade in program. I am still in the process of getting all the license transferred on all these A400 and A500 boxes that we got. So to answer your question about a licensed copy of MPE/iX, not yet but yes soon, hopefully.
HP took the value protection of its 3000 line a little too seriously. The horsepower on these A-Class boxes was hobbled by MPE/iX, so a chip that ran at 440MhZ was made to perform at 110. But with MPE/iX as its core value, and the fact that these were the ultimate generation of HP-crafted 3000s, several thousand dollars for trade-in servers that are more than a decade old proves a point about value protection.
When you can find someone offering an Omnibook for $195, running the latest Linux and PostgreSQL installed, you'll have something to compare.
December 02, 2013
While you were away, what HP put into play
We're back after a 4-day holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday period can be interesting times for watchers of Hewlett-Packard. We count ourselves among that group, even though the company has little to do with the lives of homesteading 3000 users. (But not nothing at all -- we heard last week that HP Support contracts for 3000-connected HP peripherals have been altered. End-of-support-life dates have been adjusted, according to our source. Check your contract; indie providers are available as an alternative.) HP announced the Odyssey program to give a Linux future path for Unix customers during the week. Of course, the 3000 exit notice took place just a week before Thanksgiving in 2001.
However, much broader items than tactical details of contracts surfaced over this holiday weekend. The most splashy was the news that Hewlett-Packard is now the company providing infrastructure for the US Healthcare.gov website. That's the site that turned away about 80 percent of users during October because of technical and bandwidth problems.
HP signed a $38 million contract with the US Health and Human Services agency this summer, but Terraform (a subsidiary of Verizon) had built out the website hosting that blocked many an attempt to use it. Over the weekend, healthcare.gov doubled its bandwidth and can now reportedly serve 50,000 users simultaneously. That sounds like a lot, but about 800,000 citizens tried to open an account. (Just as a note, as of 2 PM today, we registered an account and shopped for the first time online.)
The largest simultaneous user count we've ever heard reported for a single HP 3000 server was 2,200. Consider that was a single server, built with PA-RISC (two generation-old chips) using SCSI IO. Redundancy has been an essential high-volume aspect of 3000s since Quest Software built its NetBase/Shareplex replication solution in the 1980s. Quest, now a division of Dell, still supports HP 3000 sites using the product, according to John Saylor there.The problem at healthcare.gov has been its architecture, rather than the horsepower of the iron. HP seems to have little to lose in taking over this contract. By the accounting at the Wall Street Journal, 36 states rely on application through healthcare.gov and just under 27,000 people were able to enroll in a plan during the first month. The 14 state exchanges enrolled 79,391 people during the same period.
The Journal article says the government has been aware of "certain problems with the Terremark hosting service since late 2010." HHS moved its Medicare and Medicaid service centers to Terremark during a two-year hosting contract. These service centers oversee Healthcare.gov.
The details in the WSJ report include an oversight, which if true, would be laughable in a standard HP 3000 environment: "Its design didn't include a full backup version of the site in a different data center. Healthcare.gov is still housed with a single data center." The HP 3000s which Hewlett-Packard unplugged from its own datacenter in October had backups in Austin. HP also got a $4 million contract in September for healthcare.gov DR services.
On the company valuation trail, HP played out a Q4 2013 report that Buys Time, Not Triumph according to a WSJ analysis. "Tech Giant Arrested Its Slide in Some Key Areas, but Pressures Will Intensify. One good quarter doesn't equal a turnaround." But the numbers which included dreary figures for HP's Unix operations still managed to push HP's stock to a two-year high as of this morning.
The markets were not spooked by the prospect of business critical server sales dipping once more.
HP also opened up access to its board of directors in a vote during the Thanksgiving week. A vote by a simple majority of shareholders will be enough to change HP rules governing the nomination of directors or the size of the board. Previously, a two-thirds supermajority was required. "The change doesn't immediately let activists storm the boardroom, but could lower the gates that keep them out," said a Journal article.
HP got its current board chairman, Ralph Whitworth, when its rules changed in 2011 to admit that principal at "an activist hedge fund Relational Investors LLC."
Right now, you've got to own at least 3 percent of HP's stock for three years to nominate a director. The Journal said only three people have owned that much sstock since the end of 2012. This makes nomination of new directors an insider affair today.
November 26, 2013
Tweaks for network speed arise from Empire
The classic HP 3000 adventure game Empire has been around since the 1980s. It's now running on a system at Tracy Johnson's datacenter, and he's used the services for the free game to explore network speed on a 3000 -- and how to improve it.
The Empire machine is on an admittedly slow network. In other words it is on the cheapest Cox business line that was set up for 5Mb upload and 1Mb download. The circuit's real purpose is so visitors in our facility can surf the Internet over wireless without logging into our network. So the Empire machine was put on it as the default endpoint for connections coming inbound.
My question is, given the outbound speed is only 1Mb, are there any arcane tweaks I could change in NMMGR? Would smaller packet sizes do? Do I really care about checksum?
Jeff Kell replied
Depending on the 3000 model, you're only running at 100Mbps, so there is really no "speed" tweak that is relevant. You want to insure basic connectivity issues. The 3000 isn't that great or reliable at autonegotiation, so you may need to hardcode the 3000 and the switch on the other side to 100Mbps/full duplex. Nothing sucks worse than autonegotiation failure; a switch will typically "default" to 10/half if autonegotiation fails.Kell added that "Checksums only matter if you care if the data is accurate :) If you turn them off, errors may go undetected."
If you have enough traffic on the link to really generate congestion, you may want to check your TCP timers. There have been numerous postings in the past on tweaking the default timers (which tend to recover slower than the typical network device on retransmits).
Donna Hofmeister from Allegro added a link to a relevant whitepaper.
"Take a gander at the Allegro paper on TCP timers: http://www.allegro.com/?page_id=79. And yes, checksum matters."
November 25, 2013
Calculating the 3000's Time to Purchase
On an informal call with a 3000 vendor today, he delivered some sound advice about purchasing. "In the end, it's really about how they buy -- not how you sell." This makes a difference to everyone at this time of year, when fiscal year-end closing is less than six weeks away.
Sometimes a buyer of IT products or a service will want to make a purchase, but then the learning curve gets twisted. The manager might have an outdated estimate of how long it takes to get something into a status for a PO. This can be especially true for an HP 3000. Even when the system is on the path away from mission-critical, en route to migration, buying something related to a 3000 can be a distant memory.
This is not to be confused with renewing support contracts. Those are renewals, not outright new purchases. The time needed to get to a PO can include the processing time at related vendors, in some cases. For example, there's the licensing which is part of making a transition to the only emulator for HP 3000s. Software suppliers, or HP, require time to approve transfers. You only learn how much time your organization, or your vendor, needs by purchasing something. Or attempting to, near the end of your fiscal year.At Dairylea Cooperative, transferring the 3000's MPE/iX license to an emulator took almost a week, Jeff Elmer reports. The HP employee Erick learned about the process from Stromasys, the maker of the emulator.
Once Erick was on board, it was just a matter of signing another document and processing a credit card purchase of $432. It took 3 days from the point when they said it could be done to when I had the appropriate documents via e-mail. (It took 3 days to convince them to do it, so the process overall was 6 days. I hope convincing them to do it is no longer necessary.)
Over at Boeing, the internal workings of the purchasing process for emulator hosting hardware will be tested. "I think we are too late in the year to get the hardware," said the 3000 manager there.
One vendor said they figured on 16 months to get to the PO point for their product. Another said their mission to close a purchase was nearly complete -- but the customer's legal counsel still had to weigh in on the deal. It's a good idea to review the timeline for purchasing if you're just getting back to supplying your 3000 with something, even if it's just assessments for transition or sustaining services.
That's especially true if you're left with money in your budget you'll need to spend, or lose it for next year. Only a buyer can put a Rush on an IT purchase. We're in the Season of the Rush now, the same part of the calendar when HP announced its 3000 exit. It was no surprise when nothing related to migration purchasing happened during the following year.
November 21, 2013
UK reunion of 3000 mates achieves quorum
Dave Wiseman reports that he's achieved a quorum for a December 5 meeting of HP 3000 users and vendors. The gathering at a "Young's pub for the cognoscenti" starts after 11 AM on that Thursday in London, at a venue called Dirty Dicks.
We're not kidding. But the name of a pub with good food for thought fits Wiseman's aim for this first European reunion. He wanted a meeting where vendors could network, without worry about which users might attend. It's not the traditional aim of a user meeting, but these are untraditional times for the 3000 and MPE.
"Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars. Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretence of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bring a stand!)
"I've left in our US friends on this message," Wiseman announced with the notice of the quorum, "although of course it is unlikely that they will come. But they may be interested in what is happening -- maybe we could have an international vendors meeting one day!"
I trailed round London looking at a few venues and found a couple of pubs that would let us have space without charging for it. All of the hotels wanted to charge money!
Only one has sent me the email that they promised and they also offered the best venue – we would have exclusive use of the front upstairs of Dirty Dicks. They have a range of real ales (it's a Young's pub for the cognoscenti) and a menu below (not grand, but the food isn't the only thing we're there for.)
For the non-British 3000 user, Young's has been "one of London's oldest and most recognisable cask ale brands and the pubs that bear the same name," according to The Guardian. And of course for the 3000 users who are among the best-versed in the world about classic information analysis and management, they'll know that cognoscenti are "people who are considered to be especially well informed about a particular subject."
"Dirty Dicks is just across the road from Liverpool Street station," Wiseman said, "so for those of you flying into Stansted it is very convenient; less so if you come to Heathrow."
The address is 202 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4NR. The meeting will have the benefit of offering Christmas fare as well as its regular menu. If you're in the area and want to attend, drop a note to Wiseman at his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vendors and 3000 friends who are confirmed to be on hand, as of late last weekend:
November 20, 2013
PowerHouse still hums half-dozen years later
Six years ago this month, IBM tendered an offer to purchase Cognos and make the vendor a part of IBM's business intelligence group. PowerHouse was not the star of that transaction, or even a featured player. The most widely installed 4GL in the 3000's history had a bit part by that time in the Advanced Development Tools group of Cognos. ADT was profitable but not growing. Users were assured the IBM acquisition was not a death knell.
This is clearly the case today, even if some of the familiar faces are gone. Bob Deskin, the product manager for PowerHouse who answered reams of questions about Cognos intentions, retired in July. Christina Hasse, a regular on the conference speaker circuits of the 1990s, remains with the company. Then there's Charlie Maloney, whose name is invoked often today while customers try to locate a PowerHouse-aware executive in IBM.
"Has anyone been able to find someone at IBM/Cognos to deal with Powerhouse Licenses since the takeover?" asked Ken Langendock, a PowerHouse consultant. "I know Marianne Stagg has retired."
Hasse replied, "You can always contact Charlie Maloney to start the conversation and he can help you find the correct person to work with. His contact information is: email@example.com, 978 - 899 - 4722." And if you spend any time at all on the IBM website looking at Cognos products other than Powerhouse, a chat box pops up quickly to offer help.The Business Analytics arm of IBM is where the Cognos products reside today. The Canadian company offered the 3000 market the first third-party reporting option in Quiz, and IBM even hosts a user manual for Quiz on the IBM website. There's a primer for the new PowerHouse user. But an active webpage for the version of the product that runs under MPE is not online any more. IBM operates off of documents pages for these kinds of products, and leaves the live website pages to the Business Intelligence aspects of Cognos.
Cognos would prefer that its HP 3000 customers migrate. In fact, the company says that “As part of our HPe3000 migration strategy, PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web, and Axiant 4GL support Marxmeier AG’s Eloquence, which has an IMAGE emulation layer.”
The PowerHouse and Axiant operations are a small part of the Cognos business, but the company insists that the products and their customers are a profitable segment. When consultant Robert Edis speculated on the fallout of a late 2006 Cognos-Speedware alliance, Edis said that development was likely to cease. PowerHouse product manager Bob Deskin replied at the time that "Eventually everything comes to an end. But we have a while to go yet."
IBM, to its credit, maintains products much longer than nearly all other vendors. The AS/400 server business, rooted in 1970s systems, has morphed several times during the last decade to include the latest in IBM hardware and software technology, and has now become Series i. Charles Finley of Transformix, an HP migration solutions and consultancy, pointed this out on the PowerHouse list.
The saving grace is that IBM does not seem to “pull the plug” on any software product that produces recurring revenue. My guess is that they will do what they have done with [the database] Informix. They keep supporting it but they do not enhance it much. At the same time they offer substantial migration paths to other IBM offerings.
What I mean is that they offer a comprehensive solution including tools and services to help customers change to some product and technologies that IBM considers sustainable in the current software markets.
Indeed, there's no plug-pulling. In 2011 IBM reiterated its support for PowerHouse on HP 3000s, although it's Vintage support.
IBM has identified PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web 8.49F as the final version of the ADT product offering on the HPe3000. This was documented in the release notes for that release, and there are no subsequent releases of PowerHouse 4GL or PowerHouse Web for the HPe3000 on our current roadmap. Mature Platform Extended Support is now part of the IBM Cognos Vintage Support offering. We are extending those provisions to PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web on the HPe3000 – MPE/iX platform.
Vintage Support provides the following services:
• Customers may continue to log cases with Customer Support.
• IBM will attempt to provide a workaround solution. Vintage support has the following restrictions:
– IBM will not provide any additional versions of the product.
– IBM will not provide any additional Interim Fixes, Refresh Packs, Fix Packs.
– IBM cannot guarantee the compatibility of the products on any future versions of Supported Environments beyond those stated for the version of the products current at the date Engineering Support ended.
November 18, 2013
MANMAN and a 3000 in new Ohio action
Just when you thought the HP 3000 and MPE were done with new installations, along comes a manufacturer to put another system online.
If you break it down, this kind of event needs a few elements to succeed today.
1. A license structure for software (apps and utilities) that is low-budget. Extending third party licenses, for example, rather than buying new ones.
2. In-house expertise to manage and maintain a new system -- or if not in-house, then in-organization
3. A requirement for inexpensive HP hardware for the install. Because if you're going to put something online that has an HP badge on it today, you'll want component redundancy. Think spare CPUs and CPU boards.
The 3000 install was mentioned during last week's CAMUS manufacturing RUG conference call. Measurement Specialties has been a MANMAN manufacturing app and 3000 supporter for so long that ERP Director Terry Simpkins was even used by HP to testify about the integrated 3000 solution. In print. In an ad. Remember print ads for computer systems? HP even bought a few in the 1990s.
Simpkins wasn't at his usual spot during the CAMUS call because he was in Ohio, we were told, working on another outpost in the MSI network. There's more than a dozen worldwide, with many outside of North America. There were years when Simpkins was in China for weeks on end.Some MANMAN customers have a clear path to put as much application up as they like. These forward thinkers got a source code license from ASK Software when such a thing was available from the MANMAN creators. Computer Associates and the succeeding MANMAN owners cut off the source purchasing.
A 3000 owner who maintains their own applications, written in house, is in a similar situation to a site installing MANMAN from source code. In fact, they have a lot in common. One of the reports from users on that RUG call was that most of the efficient operations in MANMAN come from mods. No, not the rockers from the Sixties in Britain. It's short for modifications, of course, custom programming either built in-house or bought from a consulting and support house.
Back in 2011, the MSI IT Director Bob Andreini had a staff of 32 to help him manage operations. Simpkins was responsible for MSI's ERP implementation and support, with a primary focus on MANMAN.
Simpkins has been asked in the past why new operations in MSI go online running MANMAN, sometimes resulting in a 3000 coming online. His answer: "We are using HP 3000 systems for general ledger, accounts payable, inventory control, purchasing, production scheduling, order entry, and invoicing." Way back in 2008 there were 11 locations around the world, "and we have a substantial investment in its continued operation."
Measurement Specialties has been a self-maintainer of its 3000 hardware for more than a decade. They've done their own independent support. Simpkins been a clear speaker along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt for as long as I've known him. 13 years ago HP was trying to assert that IT managers were not looking at platforms anymore when they deployed apps, just the software. Here's the exchange we had in a Q&A for the Newswire.
HP likes to tell us in the press that IT managers at your level don’t make deployment decisions around platforms anymore, that applications are the only thing that matters. What do you believe?
I think that’s bullshit. If I’m looking for an application and I find two that run equally well, and one of them runs on a platform I already have expertise with, I’m all over that one. I don’t believe that we’re all in a heterogeneous environment, or that we want to be in one. I’m not afraid of a heterogeneous environment, but why do I want to add complexity to my life if I don’t have to?
November 15, 2013
Newer-comers looked forward for us all
Yesterday I wrote about the group of companies who supported this publication at the time of Hewlett-Packard's November 2001 pullout from the 3000 -- and how many of them have survived that numbskull HP strategy. I don't want to overlook another set of stout community members -- those who showed up to help out and spread the word on keeping up with 3000s, well after HP said the party was supposed to be over.
Pivital Solutions comes to mind first. They were HP 3000 official resellers, the last ones to claim a spot for that, more than a year after HP pulled out of the futures business. Started print advertising, became sponsors of the Newswire's blog. All to freshen up our world with another resource to keep 3000s online, running long after HP figured the ecosystem would become toxic.
I'd also like to tip my hat to ScreenJet, another supporter who arrived in our media after November 2001. First in print, then as one of three founding sponsors of the Newswire blog. With a blog not being a thriving commercial concept in 2005, ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software and Robelle were first to the table to ensure we could afford to report and tell stories online as our primary communication. Robelle was with us from our very first year in print, but ScreenJet and Marxmeier joined in after HP said there was no future in 3000s.
Another new face has been Applied Technologies, a modest consultancy which has been a source of articles as well as financial support. You can get surprised by such good things that happen in the wake of something challenging -- like humanitarian acts in the face of natural disasters. If you clicked on a link to help typhoon victims over the last week, you're that kind of person.Add to this list of newer-comers here the MPE Support Group, Transoft, DB-Net, Unicon, Allegro Consultants, Can-Am Software, Bradmark, Viking Software, Acucorp, PIR Group, Comp Three, Ordina Denkart, ROC Software, Blueline Services, Core Software, Printer Systems International, Tally Printer, Managed Business Solutions. All arrived after November 14, 2001. Honestly, the list of companies who've been part of our community by supporting the Newswire, whether for one month or for 216, is long. At our last count there have been 146 companies who've had enough of a yearning for the 3000 that they'd be a part of our blog or print issues.
I'm grateful for every one of those commitments, gestures of looking forward for us all -- to a future of deep changes, or to a tomorrow that preserves the heritage of our yesterdays. This will be the last year I'll recall that sudden dagger of November 2001 with a story and an essay. If you want more stories of that day, leave yours to the comments fields below, or send them along via email.
November 14, 2013
4,383 days for an ecosystem to slip, survive
It's November 14 once again, a date plenty of people don't consider special. I was part of a telephone-only CAMUS user group meeting today. While we chatted before our meet began, I asked if anyone knew the significance of the date. It took a few minutes of hinting before someone -- Cortlandt Wilson of Cortsoft -- said this was the day HP ended its future vision for a 3000 business.
At the time HP said it was worried about the fate of the MPE and 3000 ecosystem. It had good reason to worry. It was about to send a shock wave that would knock out many denizens in that ecosystem. The losses to customers can be counted many ways, and we have done that every year since that fateful day. This is the 12th story I've written about the anniversary of the HP exit. The day remains important to me when I count up what's been pushed to extinction, and what has survived.
Companies come to mind this year. The photo at right shows the vendor lineup for our printed November 3000 Newswire in 2001. (Click it for details.) It was a healthy month, but not extraordinary. Almost 30 vendors, including three in our FlashPaper, had enough 3000 business to make budget to advertise. We'll get to the ones who remain in business after a dozen years. But let's call the roll to see what HP's ecosystem exit pruned or hacked away.
3KWorld.com was a worldwide 3000 website operated by Client Systems. It was large enough to draw its own advertising and used all of the content of the Newswire under a license agreement. It's gone. Client Systems has hung on, though.
Advanced Network Systems (web software circa 2001) and Design 3000 (job scheduling) and Epic Systems (hardware resales) are all gone, too. Interex went out of business in 2005 in a sudden bankruptcy; OmniSolutions (MPE interface software) and TechGroup (consulting) and WhisperTech (a programmer's suite) and COBOL JobShop (programmer services) are all gone, too.
Believe it or not, out of a list of 29, those are the only complete extinctions. Some of the rest have changed their colors like a chameleon, blending into the IT business of 2013. And many have gotten too pared down to consider the broad business outreach they felt confident about in 2001.Still serving under their same flag after all these years? Count on 3K Associates, Adager, Computer Solutions, Genisys, Lund Performance Solutions, MB Foster, Minisoft, Nobix, Open Seas, Orbit Software, RAC Consulting, Robelle, ROC Software, Robust Systems, and The Support Group.
A few others have evolved but remain alive after being absorbed. WRQ is now deep inside Attachmate, so deep the WRQ name is no longer part of the corporation. Quest Software slipped into Dell this year. Both of these acquired companies still sell, or support, MPE clients. The same is true of Speedware, which rebranded as Fresche Legacy while it's now honing in on IBM AS/400 clients.
And then there's Hewlett-Packard. Ah, the hand that threw the switch that sent a shock to the ecosystem. Within six months of November 14, the dominant Compaq managers were led by a CEO in her third year to erase HP's Way. Bill Hewlett's son Walter lost a proxy fight so legendary that it's the example used on the Wikipedia entry for proxy fight.
It's coincidental that the departure of 3000 products from HP's future happened at the same time as the vendor's decade-plus slide. The company has reported profits each year. HP became Number 1 in sales by adding billions in PC business. But the rest of the company's heritage has become a specter. Some community members take some bitter solace in knowing that the HP which believed in their computer died its own death less than a year later in a courtroom, where that proxy fight had its finale.
People must weather change as a regular part of life. One friend of mine took note a personal shift in business opportunity, on the heels of a decline, and uttered the prayer of the pivoting hopeful player: "The only constant is indeed change."
The tally of 3000 pros and resources pushed into extinction after these 12 years isn't limited to the Newswire's November 2001 lineup. Other extinguished companies from the Interex side include Hi Comp (backup software) plus the lineup of Interex conferences including HP World, the HP e3000 Solutions Symposium, and one of the hardest-working technical meetings, SIG/3000. A meeting in person is a high-risk opportunity to learn and grow. The Web filled in, at a rate we couldn't imagine in 2001.
Oh, the irony of that November. We wrote a lead story for our Flash Paper that reported a record month for 3000 sales at the US distributor of the server. We then had to fold over another sheet of paper at presstime, an Extra, to explain that HP said it only started a two-year period of "business as usual," to quote the impossible spin of the vendor's marketing chief. "There really was no other choice," said the company's general manager of the time about the exit scheme.
There was another choice, but HP didn't make it for the 3000. Get over it, or forget it, or take the time to make a good transition -- these were all responses that changed tens of thousands of lives and careers. We don't know of many people who left IT altogether for another career since then. Some have retired, or at least planned to do so.
Through those dozen years I've tried to put the most reasonable face on the inevitable trend that HP started. The vendor said its decision to talk about its walkout on this market was "about concluding it's time to advise customers about the long-term trend." It's certainly been a longer term than HP could imagine in 2001. More than twice as long if the remaining vendors and customers count for anything. I believe they do -- representing sage management of a resource, or the prospect for a transition-migration services company and vendors of products for the same.
If 20 out of those 29 advertising partners are still in business, the impact of that trend is limited to what two-thirds of them have done next, or what they've done with what's left. Downsized with layoffs and canceled projects. Consolidated product lines and froze enhancements. Launched new products into different, crowded markets. Found a buyer or a senior partner to infuse cash and new commerce in a new direction. Timed their own exit with enough fortune to retire.
Unlike these companies -- some so small their operating budget wouldn't buy coffee service for a single HP sales region -- Hewlett-Packard didn't want to be the last person to leave the MPE party. Lead onward to Unix, it figured, telling customers on Transition Day No. 1 that free licenses for HP-UX were available. Six years later, according to Dr. Robert Boers of 3000 emulator vendor Stromasys, HP told them that 75 percent of former 3000 owners were using something other than HP servers.
It's a story with potential to be a rousing case study by business graduates, the exit of a vendor that could bank on more than 25 years of business selling a proprietary product. But it can be debated that a simple roll call of survivors tells just the most public part of the story. The career changes and chameleon shifts, the evolution of the elder generation of computer wizards can only be told one story at a time. If there are any less than 4,383 stories like that to tell, I'd be surprised. But we've all lived though a dozen years of surprises throughout that inevitable trend. I'm still here to tell stories, about survival as well as slippage. Try to permit next year's November -- the 40th year of MPE -- contain a memory of the day your ecosystem changed.
November 11, 2013
Emulator's transfers trigger shopping fees
At the IT shop up at Boeing, Enterprise Hosting Services manager Ray Legault reports that he's getting quotes for the transfer of his MPE/iX software licenses to the Stromasys CHARON emulator. At the end of the process, the HP 3000s that have been running at Boeing in Legault's shop will have their ERP software transferred to an Intel-based server -- one which boots up and runs the 3000's OS and all subsystems.
HP's end of the process is well-defined and costs $432. The Software License Transfer request form requires information including
• Current License Owner details
• New License Owner details
• Proof of Ownership (SAID)
• List of Licenses to be transferred
• SLT fee payment information
• Current Owner signature relinquishing ownership
HP also requires the 3000 owner to sign their own SLT form, as the New License Owner. "Once the full documentation is received, we will aim to process your request within 10 business days," said the confirming email from the SLT operation. In spite of the fact that a 3000 owner already has paid for an MPE/iX license, the fee still applies.
That's the last segment of the process with certain costs for licensing. Legault has been looking into his independent software vendor list to discover what each will charge to run on the emulator.
"I think we are too late in the year to get the hardware needed," Legault told us today. "We may get the software, though." Since Cognos software runs at Boeing, Legault has contacted them about a transfer fee. Cognos, now a division of IBM, said "they wanted to know how many cores we will use," Legault added.
Cognos -- where the director of sales is Charlie Maloney -- might care about is how many HP 3000 CPUs are being emulated. The PowerHouse user license is totally independent of the machine it's running on. Maloney has offered to help out any user who is having problems getting pricing from their local [IBM] reps. There are supposed to be relatively new licensing options, which not all IBM reps might know about.
While one other vendor has already hit the highest mark for transfer fee demands, Legault added that Robelle and RAC Consulting (makers of ESPUL) "will charge zero, for being a long time customer." Maintaining relations with reasonable companies -- which might involve keeping up support contracts -- will earn a customer that kind of consideration.
November 05, 2013
3000 transfers receive special HP treatment
Customers who are making a transfer of their HP 3000-MPE licenses get special treatment from HP when moving to the virtualized server product from Stromasys. Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative said he had to rely on Stromasys to help him find the right person -- and explain things -- during a recent license transfer.
"Unfortunately, the transfer experience was not as smooth as I would have hoped," Elmer said. "Ultimately, it's not a big deal to do the transfer, but you do need to find the right person to talk to. I filled out forms and exchanged e-mail with Erick. The best advice I would give anyone would be to ask Stromasys for help."
By the time a customer is ready to transfer a license to an emulator, of course, Stromasys will be a familiar contact. The company recently added HP 3000 consultant Doug Smith to its staff, bringing even more MPE familiarity to the operation. Paul Taffel, who's been blazing the 3000 trails since 2011 for Stromasys, sent us a note about the same exception to transfer rules we'd found in our October, 2012 story about software licensing.
About our story yesterday, Taffel said, "You missed one important thing, which we've put into our new User Guide. The last paragraph might be [most] important:
Emulator MPE/iX software transfer licenses are available from HP for (at the time of writing) $400. For more information, email the appropriate HP Software License Transfer department:
Specify that you wish to obtain an HP3000 Emulator Transfer License, and that your request is for an internal company transfer. HP has agreed to create an exception for HP3000 Emulator Transfer Licenses, as their license transfer process normally only applies to transfers between different companies.
Indeed, the $400 figure is current on the HP webpages we referenced yesterday. It's more crucial to get someone who knows about the 3000's special exception in the AMS Software License Transfer unit of the Hewlett-Packard Development Company. HPDC is the owner of Hewlett-Packard's intellectual property, which includes MPE/iX licenses.
The exception is that a customer gets to sign both the originating and receiving lines of the transfer document. Usually, those are two different signatures, for seller and then for buyer. As of this year, it takes some explaining to receive permission to do this. There's at least one person in HP Americas SLT, Erick, who's done this by now -- for Elmer. But you might not be able to ask for him by name.
"I'm hoping that Erick will spread the word about emulator transfers within HP," Elmer said.
November 04, 2013
HP 3000 software license transfer: still $400
Earlier this month, a famous manufacturer of aircraft had its HP 3000 director checking up on software license transfer processes. This SLT is not the one that a system manager cuts for rebuilding your MPE/iX directories, but the fee HP charges to move your MPE to another system. Well, the fee and the required documentation. In this case, licenses for an A-Class server and a Series 979 4-way are in the on-deck circle, wating to go to bat on the Stromasys virtual HP 3000, CHARON HPA/3000.
Just as the 3000's Transition Era was getting underway in earnest, this was being called an Emulator License. HP's Mike Paivinen and others at the vendor arranged for such a license, with a suggested cost of $500. In 2004, nobody knew what an emulator would look like once it emerged. Strobe Data sells an HP 1000 emulator that includes a hardware board plugged into a desktop server. Strobe couldn't move forward with a 3000 version of that product, and by 2012 CHARON was finally into the marketplace.
HP's process for putting MPE legally onto CHARON follows the same steps as if a customer purchased a newer or more powerful Hewlett-Packard brand of iron. There are five parts to a software right-to-use license transfer: the Request, the Proof, the Transfer Fee, the Software License Terms and the Authorization. Each of these five parts must be in place before HP will grant a right-to-use license, taking MPE/iX off HP's 3000 servers in a way that will satisfy any auditor.
HP's Jennie Hou told us last fall that emulator-based license transfers within a customer's site present no problem for the current process. We looked into the license transfer process when the personal 1-user freeware version of the Stromasys emulator was rolling out -- and the download included an instance of MPE/iX.Last year's information included the word immediate in our headline, but that's no report on the speed of any process inside HP (or at a customer site, for that matter; budget approvals can take time.) Hou was telling us last year that HP expected any freeware user to be making a transfer once they started to use that 1-person emulator to test CHARON.
Stop snickering. You know how much HP loves its MPE/iX licenses. Just because de-licensing a production 3000 seems hasty, when you're still checking out CHARON, doesn't mean you can't do it. Most emulator customers, however, are taking a more prudent route while replacing their older HP iron. Older is a relative term: the Series 979 hardware was built at least a decade ago, as was the A-Class machine. If an MPE/iX application is to have another five years or more of service, operating on something newer seems safer. It depends on how well that HP iron has been maintained, especially disk drives, power supplies, and CPU boards.
The phone number to HP's SLT operation in the Americas is 408-447-4418. (In Europe, it's +48 22 3060152.) If you haven't been to HP's webpage for SLT in the Americas, it's listed under an HP-UX name. To better understand the process, and get more detailed contact information and specifics for a transfer, visit hp.com/softwarereleases/releases-media2/slt/americas/sltprocesshpux.html
That's right -- the MPE/iX license transfer operations are holed up with HP's Unix system adminstrator information. That's a connection that might be appropriate several years from now, if an HP Integrity emulator is ever needed, or built for HP's Unix customers.
October 31, 2013
Looking Forward from a Peaceful Wake
Ten years ago today, scores of HP 3000 users, managers, vendors and devotees gathered in pubs, cafes, back yards and offices to celebrate the end of something: HP's finale to creating new HP 3000 servers.
On our separate photo gallery page, we've collected some images of that day. But the people in those pictures were holding a wake for Hewlett-Packard's 3000s (and a few for MPE/iX). Even today, it's hard to make a case that the server actually died on Halloween of 2003. What ended was the belief that HP would build any more 3000s.
The gatherings ranged from "The Ship" in Wokingham in the UK, to Vernazza, Italy, to Texada Island off British Columbia, to Melbourne, to the Carribbean's Anguilla, and to a backyard BBQ in Austin -- where a decommissioned 3000 system printer and put-aside tape drives sat beside the grill. At a typically warm end of October, the offices of The Support Group gave us a way to gather and mourn a death -- the official passing of any hope of ever seeing a new HP 3000 for sale from Hewlett-Packard.
Company employees chatted with several MANMAN customers under those Austin oaks, along with a few visitors from the local 3000 community. Winston Krieger, whose experience with the 3000 goes back to the system’s roots and even further, into its HP 2100 predecessor, brought several thick notebook binders with vintage brochures, documentation, technical papers and news clippings.
HP, as well as the full complement of those October customers continued to use the server during November. And while the creator of the Wake concept Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said, "the date does sort of mark a point of no return, and it will be sad," Birket Foster had his own view of what just happened.
“The patient’s not dead yet," he said at the time, "but we did pass a milestone.”
One software vendor announced new products at the gathering. Steve Quinn of eXegySys said that "We will not be mourning the death of the HP3000 as much as celebrating the birth of two new products." Both ran on Windows but had deep roots in MPE. Almost 40 people signed in at the company's HQ in Salt Lake City.
The Wake drew the interest of mainstream media in the US and the UK, including some of the first notice from the business press in several years. But no outlets devoted mainline coverage to the impressive array of parties and commemorations; instead, Web-based reports of the Wake appeared from print publishers and ABC News. The Wall Street Journal, Computerworld and the website The Register also reported on HP’s end of sales.
On the website where Yeo first hosted the photos, Gary Stead of the UK reported in a note he was "looking for a job 1st Nov!"
But Duane Percox, Doug Perry, Steve Cooper, Rick Ehrhart, Ric Goldman, Mark Slater, John Korondy, Tom McNeal, and Stan Sieler joined HP’s Cathlene Mcrae, Mike Paivinen, Peggy Ruse, Jeff Vance and Dave Wilde to raise glasses in salute at the pub The Dukes, just down the street from HP’s MPE labs. Everybody went back to work on 3000s the next day.
Quinn of eXegySys said his company's new products, while running on non-3000 servers, "both extend far beyond the capabilities of their forefathers." The same can be said of everyone who attended a wake for an HP Way business and an ideal. Moving onward is natural in a lifecycle. The Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings."
October 30, 2013
Marking Moments on Wake Anniversary Eve
In about six hours or so, the HP 3000 community might pause to commemorate one of its last collective acts. Ten years ago the World Wide Wake, organized by event ringleader Alan Yeo, invited members in dozens of locations throughout the world to lift a glass and salute the end of HP's manufacturing of the HP 3000 computer. MPE/iX would be recrafted and revised for another five years, but Oct. 31, 2003 was the last day customers could order a new HP-badged 3000.
At the time we invited a director of the Interex User Group, Denys Beauchemin, to offer a confirmation about the success of the system and record the aftermath of HP's departure. He did so in our Open Mike column in the November printed issue of the NewsWire. (It would be almost two years before we'd start up this blog.) It's fun to track the predictions in that column. Beauchemin, heading up a group that itself would remain open just another 20 months, collected sentiments from community notables including the late, great Wirt Atmar, who would pass away a little more than five years later.
Wirt outlived HP's 3000 business, right down to the closing of its MPE labs at the end of 2008. Unless you're reading this from the blazing-fast Google Fiber of the afterlife, you've also outlived the end of HP's 3000 saga. For HP computer users whose systems are facing an end of manufacture, the following is educational. It's memorable for migrators to revisit that time of reflection, too, and see if anything resonates in today's platform ownership.
Please leave a comment below to share your own story of the 10 years that have followed this anniversary. Or email one to me to tell your tale of what has followed the Wake.
By Denys Beauchemin
On All Hallows Eve of the year 2003, an historic event took place without fanfare and virtually ignored by the vast population at large. Only the cognoscenti will mourn the passing into computer history of the HP e3000, née HP 3000. This magnificent machine, which would be marking its thirty-first year of existence next month, is instead disappearing from the list of HP computer products. End of Sales for the HP 3000 is now upon us.
I was first introduced to the HP 3000 in 1977 somewhere in New Hampshire. At that time I was working in Montreal on an HP 21MX designing and programming applications in a timesharing bureau. I immediately took a liking to the HP 3000, transitioned jobs to be able to work on one and joined the users group for the first time. Over the years wherever I worked, there was always an HP 3000 in my environment. The HP 3000 has been part of my career almost from the beginning. Its passing fills me with melancholy, and whilst I had not been doing as much with it these last several years, I could always count on it being there, adding new capabilities along the way. This is true no more.
I asked a few luminaries of this long-lived computing environment to reflect on the machine, its passing and perhaps to shed some light on this event and what its effect might be.
“A great IT platform: reliable, affordable, flexible, easy to operate, and easy to program. And every release compatible with the previous for over 30 years. Perhaps some future OS team will adopt these same goals.” — Bob Green, Robelle
“The HP 3000 has been one of very few computers with a very important property: it lets people get things done. Because of that, it’s been my primary professional focus for the last 24 years, and hopefully for many years to come. Its cancellation was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my regard for, and trust in, HP as a company.” — Stan Sieler, Executive Vice President, Allegro Consultants. [Ed. note: Sieler marked his 30th anniversary at Allegro this month.]
“One of the worst things a hardware company (which subsequently develops some excellent software) can do to that software is to support it as if it were hardware. The 3000 was a victim of such treatment. RIP.” — Fred White, Co-creator of IMAGE
“My association with Hewlett-Packard began in 1963, when I was first introduced to extraordinary quality of HP instruments. Our official association with MPE began in 1976, and it too represented to me the very highest ideals of quality engineering. MPE was a magnificent operating system, simple, stable and extraordinarily efficient. The death of MPE concerns me greatly about the future of HP itself, not because MPE was ever a substantial contributor to HP’s bottom line, but because its death is indicative of the kind of company that HP is now casting itself as: a manufacturer of commodity products, having wedged itself in between Dell and IBM, a virtually unsustainable niche. I have come to believe that the most likely scenario now for the future of HP is for HP to be bought by Dell in three to seven years, just for the printer division, with the remainder of the organization either sold off or disposed of. If true, that’s a sad end for a company with which I’ve proudly had a life-long association.” — Wirt Atmar, AICS Research, Inc.
“When HP announced that it was no longer in HP’s best interest to continue with the HP 3000, my reaction was one of joy. I believed that — once HP was out of the HP 3000’s way — MPE-IMAGE would be able to prosper ‘under new management’. HP, unfortunately, had other ideas. Be it as it may, I feel a tremendous amount of loyalty towards MPE-IMAGE users and, as HP’s MPE-savvy people dwindle, I keep adding more and more items to my to-do list. I love IMAGE and I continue to work, on a full-time basis, searching for ways to make the lives of TurboIMAGE users as rewarding as possible.” — F. Alfredo Rego, Adager.
“The HP 3000 has been my business companion for 26 years, providing continuity for my COBOL application development. It enabled my company to become an international solution provider and its tragic demise is a reminder of my own mortality on this earth. May the spirit of MPE live on forever in the user community it leaves behind. I believe that inside every HP 9000 there is an HP 3000 waiting to be released after October 2003.” — Jeanette Nutsford, Computometric Systems Ltd, New Zealand/UK/USA
“I came from an IBM mainframe background and then started working on the HP 3000 at HP as a Systems Engineer on the Series II in 1976. I knew I had gone to heaven when I could use a terminal to do compiles and queries in a very short time and on-line with a very user friendly operating system, MPE. Times were good then in the user community because everyone was in a learning mode and helped each other. Times have changed and we must now move on to new challenges. I really miss the good old days but am glad to have met a great circle of friends along the way!” — Paul Edwards, Paul Edwards & Associates.
October 29, 2013
CAMUS schedules manufacturing meeting on epic date for 3000 managers
Just about everyone left tending to an HP 3000 knows the day their plans for career and computing changed. Next month, the CAMUS manufacturing user group will have a call-in conference held on a significant 12th anniversary.
The regional meeting for managers who control ERP, MRP and manufacturing systems of any kind takes place on November 14. Ever since HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans in 2001, there have been many CAMUS meetings where representatives of companies such as Kenandy or Infor (software suppliers, cloud ERP and traditional) have presented to CAMUS users. This year's free meet will give the users the floor to talk about their best practices.
It's a free meeting, but you must register to get call-in information. The date and time, as well as the agenda, are out in the open as of this week. The conference calls starts at 10:30 Central Time (11:30 EST, 8:30 PST). It lasts 90 minutes on that Thursday.
A user group, in its classic and more useful format, gives members the means to better the practices of each other. After 12 years of life after HP's death of its 3000 business desire, the community will be teaching itself how to better manage manufacturing servers. All through those years, we've taken the bitter with some better.
Registration closes two weeks from today, on November 12. Sign up at the Sign Me Up Genius webpage.The organizer Terri Glendon Lanza said that questions and comments are welcome on many topics.
• Managing Multiple Organizations, Centralization, Consolidation, Differentiation
• Radio Frequency / Barcoding / Data Collection
• Reporting Tools / Business Intelligence / Big Data / Data Warehousing
• Electronic Forms Handling
• eCommerce / Web Interface / Cloud
• Connecting to other software packages (aka Surround Strategy)
• Accounting / Finance (Costing, Month-End-Close, SOX, Consolidated GL)
• Document Control - Master Data Management (Items, Boms, Routers, ECOs)
• Planning (RRP / MPS / MRP / CRP, Centralized for multiple organizations)
• Purchasing / Receiving / Centralized Purchasing
• Materials Handling (Inventory, Shipping & Logistics, Distribution Centers)
• Production Control (Work Order job shop or Repetitive (kanban) flow)
• Process Manufacturing and traceability
• Standard Operating Procedures
October 28, 2013
Vladimir resolves a 3000 jobs question
More than one kind of jobs question is on the landscape this year. The most obvious question is how to keep your job as the head coach of a vital 3000 server in your organization. The other question, which has been on the table since 2002, is how to manage jobs on the server where your applications will run, after your organization makes its transition.
There are too many answers to the first question to list them all here. I invite you to send us helpful answers. Based on your responses, we can pay them forward. On Friday Oct. 25, I wrote about one answer: Be an entrepreneur for the first time in your life, even while you're older than 55. It's the biggest age group of entrepreneurs. Another answer might be to master a more nouveau environment for apps. Your value on MPE/iX is kept vital, but mostly because you've acquired new skills for an environment that runs alongside MPE/iX. Be ready, in that case, to embrace more change, plus adopt respect for much younger colleagues.
The second jobs question has not had good answers for Windows -- the migrator's favorite platform -- until 2011. Then MB Foster released a scheduler that replicates the power of MPE/iX scheduling and jobstream management. MBF-Scheduler was built by developers who were masters of MPE/iX jobs.
But the third aspect of a jobs question emerged in the past week from a longtime, advanced MPE manager, Tracy Johnson. Working at Measurement Specialties -- one of the strongest and most devoted users of MPE/iX servers, running 10 factories around the world -- Johnson posed a question about job numbers.
'What's the highest job number allowed before it rolls back to #J1?"
VEsoft's founder Vladmir Volokh gave Johnson an answer, according to the manager. It resolves an everyday need, even though other answers came from experts with decades of MPE/iX experience. Vladimir's name isn't invoked a lot on the 3000 newsgroup where the question emerged. Johnson tagged the answer as one of the best. But that's because he talked with the creator of MPEX.
"I'm using MPEX in a night job that cleans up old spool files after midnight," Johnson told me this afternoon.
I really care how to set the job number, using MPEX:
%deletespoolfile @.@.@(spool.readydate < today-7)
... several hundred spool files later...
-----Deleting #O315330, $STDLIST, #J1225, MMAUDJAS,MANAGER.MMV090 (704 sectors)
The above $STDLIST was created the same day, (not > seven days before)
I have noticed this symptom occurs after JOB numbers have rolled over from #J16383 back to #J1, so I there must be a counter when using spool filesets. In other words, it happily deletes spool files it finds using the date criteria, (working sequentially). But when the job number rolls back to one, it assumes the next spool file with a lower job number encountered is "earlier" than the one before it. (#J1 must be 'earlier' than #J16383, yes?)
Via a phone conversation -- how fundamental, that old-school contact -- Johnson learned this about 3000 jobs:
Before the fix:
%deletespoolfile @.@.@(spool.readydate < today-7)
After the fix:
%purge @.OUT.HPSPOOL(CREDATE < TODAY - 7 AND NOT OPENED)
October 25, 2013
Age vs. Youth, and Rebooting Your Value
HP 3000 pros usually count several decades of experience or more in IT, but that almost always makes them on the leeward side of age 50. That's a deterrent to getting hired in the next phase of a work life, if you're forced to move away from what you've done well for most of your career.
It doesn't have to read that way, if you believe some of the sharper knives in the modern computing drawer. There is an age bias out there. Younger turks believe the elders are holding them back. Pros who took their first jobs before Reagan was President see a lot of shrugs over an interview desk when a Gen-X or Millennial is looking at their history.
Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia when he was 35, but here he is about 12 years later saying that youth doesn't trump experience every time. There's a balance. Out on the readwrite.com website, a story says, Jimmy Wales To Silicon Valley: Grow Up And Get Over Your Age Bias. "Silicon Valley frowns on age, yet several of its most successful entrepreneurs argue experience tends to trump youthful exuberance."
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show an overall median age of 42.3 for American workers, tech workers skew much, much younger. Only six of the tech companies reviewed by Payscale had a median age (equal number of people above and below a number) above 35.
And only one—HP—came in above 40.
In the article, Wales says it's a mistake to believe tech entrepreneurs are past their prime if they aren't worth a billion dollars by the age of 35, or even 25. "Wales and other successful tech entrepreneurs say this thinking is as wrong as it is dangerous."The article cites the same study we reported on this summer about older programmers being more productive. Wales is quoted in the article, "A better question might be: How can we in the tech community make sure that unusual success at a very early age is not mistakenly thought to be the norm?"
And for the HP 3000 pro moving into the next phase, being an entrepreneur is sometimes the only likely way to keep working. Join the movement and you'll find lots of people your age.
According to data from the Kauffman Foundation, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34. Indeed, Kauffman highlights that the 20-34 age bracket has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial activity.
October 21, 2013
Cars and cigars continue to rely on 3000
MacLean-Fogg is a corporation of almost a billion dollars with operations on five continents. But on one of those, North America, an HP 3000 continues to serve the company. We recently heard from Mark Mojonnier there, whose job title reads, IT Director, Legacy Systems.
The headquarters operation in Mundelein, IL is Mojonnier's charge. This is a manufacturer, one whose corporate message is that if you've been inside a car, the company's parts have been important to the drive. "We form things and we make things," and the processes and expertise at its plants includes hot and cold forming of aluminum and steel, molding of silicon and carbon fiber, secondary injection and insert molding, CNC machining, plus product assembly. The organization even uses what it calls “exotic fastener materials” in something called warm forming.
HP 3000s once broke the ground for Computer Integrated Manufacturing in plants like Mundelein, a village in Lake County with about 30,000 residents. Manufacturing computers usually work in small villages and cities, in part to capitalize on lowered costs of resources. The company just opened a hot forming plant in Savanna, IL this year.
"May our HP 3000 live forever," Mojonnier said as he tended to keeping his subscription with us on target. There's not much reason the system running his application won't, considering that it now has a virtualization future when the company is ready to part ways with HP-built iron, if needed. As for 3000's MPE heart, that is still lighting a fire at the Thompson Cigar Company, too.Managers Steve Osborne and Russ Anderson oversee and manage the HP 3000 at the maker of fine smokes in Tampa. Long ago, the Ecometry User Group conference provided hand-rolled cigars to all attendees at a late '90s-era gathering. At Thompson, the tradition to tobacco goes back even further. It's the oldest mail order cigar company in the US. Originally opening in Key West, the company will celebrate its centennial in just a couple of years.
Bought in a bundle of 40, its Churchill-sized Victor Sinclair Sampler is just $39.95. Companies using HP 3000s for commerce, either through the stately old-school of catalog shopping or the speed of the Web, can keep costs down on their IT operations using HP 3000s. Like the surround code that's custom-crafted around off-the-shelf applications like Ecometry, Thompson's products -- another manufactured good -- are hand rolled.
Whether it's at MacLean-Fogg Component Solutions -- building items like automotive wheel fasteners and locknuts -- or stocking up the storage humidors of Thompson, some manufacturing companies continue to find good value in their 3000 applications.
October 18, 2013
Dairy co-op skims cream of MPE off 3000s
More than three decades of HP 3000 servers have booted and remained online at Dairylea Cooperative. Now the collective of New York dairy farmers will put its next generation of MPE apps onto Intel iron, running the Stromasys Charon emulator.
Jeff Elmer, the IT director for the co-op, said the HP 3000 has a long history, even longer than his tenure there -- and that's work for him that stretches back to 1985 for the organization. It's a modest operation, and the collective is on its way to using SAP for the long term. In the meantime, though, a virtualized MPE/iX server is going to handle the information flow for these milk producers.
"The company has a long term commitment to switch to SAP," he said, "but MPE will be powering our producer payroll and milk laboratory systems for at least a couple more years in the comfort and safety of the emulator on new hardware, to say nothing of enjoying the various advantages of virtualization. After SAP, the emulator still has a future as an historical repository."
So while HP's 3000 hardware is headed for a shutdown at Dairylea, it's MPE that becomes the cream to be skimmed off Hewlett-Packard computers that stretch back to the early 1980s.HP forestalled a purchase of the ultimate generation of 3000 iron when it announced it was ending its MPE operations, Elmer said.
I was doing the legwork for an upgrade to an N Class the day I heard that HP had abandoned the 3000; as a result of that announcement, we abandoned that upgrade. As for our current HP 3000, it's a venerable 969 KS/100 that we bought when 969s were new and yes, it is still running like a champ. There was a Series 68, a Series 70, a 925, and a 935 before there was a 969. The company has a long history with HP. They were using HP 3000s before I started here and I am in my 29th year as of October.
Co-op executives are not confident about the lifespan of drives in those 3000s, however, and so the Charon emulator makes its debut there in the months to come. Elmer also paid the various upgrade/transfer fees for third-party software, as well as submitting paperwork to HP for a license transfer from the physical box to the emulator.
"Our company has always tried to keep our licensing straight, and our maintenance and support up-to-date with all of our business partners," he said. "That policy will continue with the emulator. All that, and we even got a physical DLT8000 tape drive to work with the emulator! Now I know for sure that if there is a legal reason to restore from an old backup tape, I can do it. What more could you want?"
October 17, 2013
How to Rebuild a System Better, Faster
I'm looking at how to save as much time as possible in rebuilding an HP 3000's software and directories. My options seem to be using STORE, versus the sysgen tape command "tape store=@.@.@". What's the best way to go here?
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies
Unless your system is small (like a 918 with 8-12GB of disc), you don't want to try to do a full backup via sysgen. If you really do a full backup then I prefer this syntax “store /;...” as it is self-documenting and you know that the Posix files will be backed up as well. (On older releases of MPE, @.@.@ did not back up Posix files <eek>)
You want to make sure that you run 'buldacct' periodically (and routinely). You also want to make sure that you are somehow backing up your directory (store /;*t;directory, for example). Between the two, you have belts and suspenders (for recovering your accounting structure).
On older releases of MPE, you want to make sure that the network is shut down prior to making your SLT tape. And it's still a good idea to have the system quiesced when making an SLT, since everything in the sys account (and .pub.sys in particular) will be locked while the tape is being made. Nothing quite like grumpy users to make your day...Hofmeister added that one of her own CI scripts, sysinfo, has morphed into "topaz, and is available to Allegro's customers. Getting this job is worth the cost of support!"
Jack Connor of Abtech adds
Just as a matter of preference, I normally do a BULDACCT @ at the beginning of the weekly full backup, then the DIRECTORY option along with ;ONVS=MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET, PRODUCTION_SET, etc as a belt and suspenders approach for that day we all hope never comes.
Mark Ranft of Pro 3K outlined the use of sysgen
Here are instructions for a complete backup of basic MPE/iX system via SYSGEN's TAPE option. It is best if everything fits on a single DDS (or DDS-2 or DDS-3 or DDS-4) tape cartridge, but it will ask for a second (additional) tape(s) as needed.
Note: I included a 'second_volume_set' which can be changed or removed
Note 2: The line below is >80 characters, so you have to know how to create a file so that this does not wrap (or make other adjustments.)
Step One - Create an indirect file containing the following as a single line...
Step Two - Create this job
:tellop END OF JSLTALL -------------- EOJ
Feel free to add a BULDACCT to this.
October 15, 2013
What Posix Delivered, and Didn't, for 3000s
The arrival of the POSIX.1 software standards in MPE was a compatibility milestone. I remember the call I got from HP's Glenn Osaka, then a product manager at the 3000 division, asking what I'd think about a renaming of MPE. In the fall of 1991 the 3000's OS was called MPE/XL. In just a few weeks, HP wanted to start calling it MPE/iX. Those last two letters were the same as Unix, but the OS didn't ever produce commercial apps from that OS. HP was hawking its Unix hard by that time. Starting in 1992, the 3000 was being portrayed as open.
But a decade of HP effort to win applications from the Unix environment came to an end in the fall of 2001. What was left over from the grafting of POSIX onto the 3000's OS? To this very day, you can use open source software that's been ported to MPE. Or port some yourself, if this will solve a compatibility problem.
HP wasn't shy about telling 1991's customers how much difference that iX was going to make. Unix benefits that the 3000 were supposed to gain included app portability, a Unix development environment, and multivendor connectivity. HP called it the Open 3000.
"Customers now have access to a wide breadth of industry-leading applications," said 3000 GM Rich Sevcik. "It should be viewed as a very exciting incremental set of functionality for the MPE owner, and it's just another example of the smooth evolution of the HP 3000."
While the arrival of Micro Focus, Oracle's apps, Lawson Software ERP or SAP never materialized, some key non-commercial software made its way to the 3000. Lots of it has become essential at connecting the servers to non-3000s, especially through networking. One of the first and most prominent results of Posix was the file-sharing tool Samba.
One HP lab engineer of that time said the goal of the POSIX.1 effort was "to increase the availability of some types of applications on the 3000, and to provide for modernization and connectivity with other 'open' platforms. POSIX.1 allowed the Apache Web server, Samba, and many other open source tools to be ported at low cost to the 3000."
The cost was so low that a then-essential Web Server, Apache, was ported by a non-HP engineer who needed the software for his community college's datacenter. Mark Bixby was later hired by the lab and became crucial to what was called Internet & Interoperability.
Posix also brought industry-standard administration interfaces to the OS. The ideal there was to be able to take Unix-trained IT staffers and put them to work managing HP 3000s. Or to make the 3000 no different than Unix management, so the MPE server wouldn't stick out too much. Unix was claiming to be an open choice -- that engineer was correct in putting quotes around open -- ever since the late 1980s.
But Posix was never going to future-proof the 3000's environment, in spite of the promises made about its prospects at HP. It was never engineered enough to provide binary compatibility. By the middle '90s, the Newswire was covering "Proposition 3000" to make the 3000's FTP GET, its tar -xzf, its make and make install work like HP's Unix counterparts. No vendor would ever certify code for every Unix, or even Linux distros in existence today.
But a majority of open source code has a good track record for just working.
The promise of "open" was always on the other side of serious engineering costs. Until Intel processors ruled the planet, you'd have to worry about hardware support and low-level incompatibilities. Things like page sizes, sector sizes, supported devices, ioctl() codes, incompatible drivers and so on.
Eventually even architectural differences between MPE and the Unix world made Web services a non-starter. A Unix standby called the "fork() of death" that made production web services on the 3000 an impossibility. One legendary MPE expert, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said the fork simply wouldn't go into the meatiest part of the OS.
"fork() is such an alien and invasive concept to the MPE mindset, yet a laissez-faire operation on *ux," he said. "It would have required some really heavy lifting, perhaps beyond the fork() conversion folks' abilities or resource scope." Plainly put, more engineering time might have brought MPE into line with Unix, but it might have been too great a difference in design, too.
When you can apply Perl, or other open source resources like the ones found at www.mpe-opensource.org, to a 3000's mission, you see the benefit of changing that XL to an iX. Posix was HP’s first effort at making MPE more standards-friendly. The engineering led to the potential for open source programs such as Samba, Apache and more to make it across the porting divide — and give the 3000 its first genuine cross-platform tools. The Posix work in MPE made GNU C for the 3000 a possibility, back in the nascent era of the open source movement. And without GNU C, nothing else would be available from the open source library today.
October 14, 2013
Support paywall can seem to hide manuals
We're investigating another point of confusion between HP's MPE/iX and 3000 manuals and the 3000 community. Donna Hofmeister, one of the former OpenMPE directors who heard HP's promise to keep these manuals available to the general public, emailed us this report.
It appears that HP has cut off public access to the MPE manuals. If you use HP's link through its Business Support Center, and go thru a couple of clicks... you'll eventually be asked for support credentials.
In my opinion, this shouldn't be the case for MPE manuals (since, after all, who has HP's MPE support anyhow?). HP agreed to continue to allow access to the MPE things (including patches) when they vendor was negotiating with OpenMPE.
Hofmeister noted that the patches are still available for free. The good news is that the 3000 community has been compiling the manuals outside HP's servers, just to ensure the vendor kept its promise of open access to 3000 documentation. And there is a more concealed path into the manuals today. Just not through the front door Hofmeister was using.
Straight to the point, things are changing in the HP support operations and its access for users. A support contract might be required, in HP's confusion over the 3000's place on the website, if you head in through the wrong address. Or read a recent HP email.Last week the HP enterprise computer users received an email that proclaimed the patches and other support materials for servers like the Integrity line and its operating environments would only be available to users who had a current support contract with HP. Hewlett-Packard doesn't support the 3000 or MPE anymore -- a fact the vendor reminded users about constantly in the months leading to the end of support in December, 2010.
So there's no way to pay for support that would deliver access to MPE materials. Which is why HP told OpenMPE and the 3000 community the access would be free.
Independent support companies, third parties and adept managers have been squirreling away the manuals for years by now. In addition to a core set of manuals at yet another HP website address, linked to by Applied Technologies via a direct link off mpe-opensource.org, MM Support has a wide array of these manuals for download. MM Support, a group of 3000 veterans who created the MM/3000 ERP software, says it's hosting these documents, organized by function as well as alphabetically, because of "the great love we have for the HP 3000."
The following list is a beginning. We have laid the HP 3000 MPE Manuals out in a manner that is friendly to use. We will try and have both HTML and PDF format for the HP3000 Manuals.
As we've noted, MPE patches seem to be available without support credentials. Hofmeister says you need a lot of patience. You're likely to get asked about the HP 3000 latex printer a few times.
I'm still sending people to HP to get patches. Last one was maybe a month ago. The process seems to work, although I always caution them to be prepared to be patient. Getting through the front-line call handlers can be difficult :-(
I suspect many people downloaded all the patches while the FTP site was still available. But in my opinion, they'd be well advised to at least be very careful about who they give these patches to, since HP seems to be in a litigious mood.
October 11, 2013
The Comment-y Stylings of Tim O'Neill
Comment sections of blogs are usually tar pits of abusive and misdirected retorts. I feel lucky that comments on the Newswire's blog have been otherwise, for the most part. On many tech blogs the comments that follow a story devolve at lightning pace into rants about the NSA, partisan politics, the insulting disappointments of Windows/Apple/Google, or the zen koan of climate change.
Tim O'Neill has lifted up the reputation of commenting to an enabling art. The manager of a 3000 system in Maryland, he's become prolific in his messages that echo or take a counterpoint to the stories we run here. His comment count is running at 15 over just the past five months. For our unique but modest-sized outpost of 3000 lore and learning, that's a lot. He's got a comment for almost one in every five stories.
HP's actions of 12 years ago are still a sore point with some 3000 managers. Count O'Neill among them. We ran a story yesterday about HP's best case scenario for 2014: it will lose sales more slowly than this year. Some new products will get R&D focus. Pockets of sales growth will pop up. Overall, less revenue, for yet another year.
O'Neill shot off a comment within an hour of our story.
This does not sound too hopeful, if the best they can promise is slowing the rate of revenue decline while at the same time spending $3B on R&D. At the same time, they have essentially no cutting-edge mobile products (and no WebOS,) a stagnant flagship OS (HP-UX, no new releases in about a decade) a second flagship OS sentenced to death (OpenVMS -- HP finally kills the last of the DEC that they hated for decades) and shuttered sales and support offices (relying on VARs and the Web for sales, instead of interpersonal interaction.)
O'Neill never fails to note that a retained 3000 business would be helping HP, even today. "Meanwhile, the long-ago-jilted MPE lives on, ancient LaserJets continue to crank out print jobs and make money for toner refillers (I still have LJ 2000 and 4000 series printer in service,) and digital signal generators (HP, not Agilent) still generate signals. They do still make nice new printers. Maybe they should buy Blackberry to get into the smartphone business."
It's great to have a chorus behind you when reporting on one 3000 news item after another. It's even better when there's a consistently different-sounding voice on webpages. If there was an Andy Rooney position on the 3000 Newswire's stable of contributors, O'Neill could fill that post.When my story this week noted that a few N-Class servers, to be mothballed at HP's datacenter next week, would be available for purchase, O'Neill took another tack.
Customers should not be buying cast-off 3000s if they can help it. Instead, they should be ramping up for the future and buying Stromasys-ready hardware.
O'Neill has left fat pitches for other readers to comment upon. "I wonder if anybody still has an HP 150?" Or "Does anybody remember the name of the company that was marketing a wireless 3000 terminal in the late 1980s?" Then there are these comments below, in response to articles about the HP Computer Museum needing older computers, or a new iPad app that gives the 3000 user a wireless terminal for apps or console work.
Well I think the Terminal-on-a-Tablet is a great idea, and gosh we could have really used that and a wireless link 10 years ago when we needed to constantly interact with MPE. I can see great usefulness for people who are using MPE actively, e.g for inventory. It gives one more reason to stay with MPE and one more reason to buy Stromasys boxes on which to run MPE.
Gosh, I wonder if anyone still has a HP 150? It was coolest thing! But people here only used it for a terminal!
O'Neill can also find a silver lining in a report about two 3000 experts replacing themselves (due to age) and moving off an app built long ago.
This article amply demonstrates that: 1) MPE is extremely good at OLTP and business management processes, and is not easily replaced 2) MPE is very cost-effective (e.g. this company had to increase staff after MPE, and 3) "Migration" is incorrect terminology, and vendors made a lot of money, once, by doing it. Now, "if only" a consortium such as a modern-day OpenMPE or OSF could be created, to take command!
Not too many readers remember, or can put into context, the aims of the OSF (the Open Software Foundation) as they related to the HP 3000. OSF was about putting common software platforms in place across Unix servers from many vendors. HP did hope that Posix on MPE would help port some software to the 3000. Both projects fell short of such hopes. O'Neill is hopeful in a way I've rarely seen about the prospects for a rebound of MPE.
I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.
He has observations on the differences in vendors serving his company, sparked by news that HP's taken a dive out of the Dow 30.
"Dive" is being kind. They were thrown out. As an example of their inablity to market themselves, the following is illustrative. Next week Dell Computer will host a technical day at our facility. This will be the second such day in the past six months. Customers go and hear the latest. HP has equal opportunity to rent the space, purvey the lunch, and pitch their wares to willing listeners. HP does not do it. Too few sales people spread too thin?
It's been nice to be noticed, but as you can see from the comment string off our front page, not all of it has been complimentary. Recent reporting on OpenMPE got rapped by a pair of principals who were onstage at the end of the organization's activity. But the rarest of things, outright praise for memories, appeared after I wrote about what we all miss from the August HP conferences of our past years.
It is poignant and evocative, meaning if I were an emotional person, it would have brought me to tears. I actually attended the [August] 1996 show in Anaheim! There I had the privilege of speaking with Fred White, who predicted the demise of MPE while on the sidewalk outside the convention center, as well as the subsequent demise of HP-UX. (When was the last new release of HP-UX? Years ago, right?) You wrote that Interex (later HP World) always left people "invigorated, rededicated or just stirred up." True. "Rededicated" rhymes with "medicated" which, nowadays, we HP 3000 people feel as though we need to be! It will be interesting to see how Stromasys emulation will work with VMWare, of which we are heavy users.
I invite you to write a comment for your own pleasure and our information. Whether you shoot this messenger or toss kudos, it will make its way into our shared story.
October 07, 2013
Patches remain a revenue producer at HP
HP issued a reminder for the HP 3000 users today that the computer remains special in a significant, cost-saving way. Several years ago, the customers using HP's enterprise computers found that free patches had ceased to be a goodwill item. You had to pay to patch, HP said. But since the MPE/iX patches were written for a discontinued line, HP had no support mechanism to charge for them.
HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 (Digital's Unix) customers are not so fortunate. In an email from today:
HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers. We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with proprietary tools, HP trained engineers, and genuine certified HP parts. Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.
It's not the first time HP has told its enterprise customers that vendor support is not an optional part of their ownership budget. Hewlett-Packard's labs are still turning out patches for it Unix and VMS systems. Patches are free for many other computer systems, but enterprise servers are becoming an exception.
Beginning October 2013, Hewlett-Packard Company will change the way operating system patches on HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 are accessed. Patches for these operating systems will only be accessible on HP Support Center to customers with an active support agreement linked to their HP Support Center User ID and for the specific products being updated. We encourage you to review your current support coverage to ensure you have the appropriate coverage to maintain uninterrupted patch access for these operating systems.
The support agreement must have a relevant software product number belonging to one of the following product series:
HP-UX Operating Systems
HP OpenVMS Operating Systems
Tru64 UNIX Operating Systems
In addition, the support agreement must have one of the following Software Update or Previous Version Support offers:
HP Software Updates Service
HP License Subscription Service
HP SW Media and Documentation Updates Service
PVS with sustaining engineering
PVS without sustaining engineering
MPS with sustaining engineering
MPS without sustaining engineering
However, IT managers for 3000s might consider themselves lucky to have a guide from an independent support provider, one to be able to locate the MPE/iX patches that remain a free service for 3000 sites. Plenty has moved around on HP's support servers, from manuals to so much more.
October 04, 2013
HP's documents for 3000s are in the open
Yesterday we bemoaned the lack of working, sensible links for 3000 documents at Hewlett-Packard websites. Links go rotten all the time on the Web. But you'd hope that an enterprise computer vendor might put a better face out there about products it still controls. Well, at least the control of the intellectual property rights.
Give thanks for your independent community, because that's where the elusive information has washed up, like a survivor from a vendor's shipwreck. Brian Edminster updated us on where those 3000 and MPE documents can be found. It's not an HP website. Yesterday I wrote, "The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment." Edminster replied
Edminster goes on to offer " a direct link for the menu challenged among us"
I can help with this. www.MPE-OpenSource.org has the current links to the HP MPE/iX manuals.
Navigation via the menus/pulldowns is: (from the site's homepage at MPE-OpenSource.org:)
[Manuals & Other] Documentation Materials
[MPE/iX Core Manual Sets] - which has individual links to the 6.x and 7.x manual sets, and which when clicked will open in a new window.
And when they do finally fall to the dreaded 'link-rot' (either due to lack of link forwarding, or just plain being taken offline), I have mirrored both v6.x and v7.x manual pages and content, and can make them available directly, if necessary.
There's also the HP MM Support site's copy of HP Manuals (www.hpmmsupport.com/information_links/default.aspx). Plus I'm pretty sure there's a copy at the 'Internet Archives' (www.archive.org) and/or at bitsavers (www.bitsavers.org). Of course, there's copies that individuals have in PDF format in their own archives -- or heaven forbid, in the original printed-on-paper format.
So no need to panic. There are still organizations and individuals working to make sure MPE and 3000 documentation is available, for as long as necessary.
October 03, 2013
HP's missing notes as Jazz plays on for 3000
Information that HP licensed for its Jazz support server lives on at two North American HP 3000 vendor sites. While items like white papers and instructions remain intact at Freshe Legacy (formerly Speedware) and Client Systems, the links at Hewlett-Packard references for the 3000 are playing like they're off-key notes.
Jazz is the accepted name for a collection of papers, downloads and software instructions first created by Jerri Ann Smith in the HP 3000 labs. Nicknamed after her initials JAS, Jazz grew full of free help during the 1990s as the vendor worked to sustain its MPE business and service its customers.
When HP closed down the labs that maintained Jazz, it licensed the use of these materials to Fresche and to Client Systems. Much of the material remains useful for the 3000 manager who's sustaining a server in homesteading or pre-migration missions. But a click on many links to HP drives users to a Hewlett-Packard technical documentation website where the 3000 knowledge is buried deeper than all but the most patient or seasoned owners can uncover.
Even a request to establish an HP Passport account, which might yield more information, generates an Internal Server Error from Hewlett-Packard today. Everybody's website can have this kind of problem from time to time, but standards for the maker and caretaker of an operating system should be higher than nearly everybody.At the Fresche Legacy site -- known as hpmigrations.com -- a white paper on a Posix scanner is among the software listed.
A Posix scanner? It's a toolkit "that is useful to analyze an application you may want to port to the HP3000. In two steps, external functions called by the code are collected and then reduced into a report showing which functions are or are not available on MPE/iX."
Perhaps of more use to those who aren't porting to MPE is the VT3K software, which links a 3000 with a server HP was calling an HP 9000. That 9000 should be running HP-UX 10.20, a genuinely antique release of HP's Unix.
VT3K allows you to establish a Virtual Terminal connection from a HP9000 to a HP3000. This version of VT3K is being made available to those HP3000 users that are planning on using HP OpenView IT/Operations to manage their HP3000 systems. This version of VT3K is supported on HP-UX servers running 10.20. VT3K is required in order to install the IT/Operations MPE agent on the HP3000.
Fresche isn't responsible for the condition of the links to HP's documentation on the 3000 however, those listed under Jazz at its server. www.docs.hp.com/mpeix/all returns nothing but 404 Not Found connections. The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment.
But at the Jazz sites you can find SETDATE, which alters the date in a current session under MPE/iX. The sell-by date for HP's links is in such a state that a support company guide might be the only way to uncover what used to be open and hosted by the 3000's creator. Any link that can deliver a document from the licensed independent companies is operative. But a wall of inscrutable web links appears in any reference to HP's own websites.
October 02, 2013
Tablet terminal sale: Telnet now, NS/VT soon
HP 3000 managers who'd like to try out a tablet user interface for MPE software can get a half-off price on Turbosoft's TTerm Pro at the iTunes store "for a couple of weeks," according to vendor representative Art Haddad. The app's being run through its paces by numerous 3000 veterans and stamped as suitable for production. For one California IT manager, however, TTerm Pro is going to get better in the future. That's because the app runs via telnet today, but won't have NS/VT services until a later version "In the not-too-distant future."
In the world of iPad apps, these kinds of upgrades are often downloaded at no charge. Dave Evans, systems Security and Research Manager of the San Bernadino Schools, said that telnet would work for him now, but it would require the customary batch job needed to launch telnet on his 3000s. The 3000's config file for inetd must be edited to enable telnet services for users. According to HP's documentation, the services file must include the line telnet 23/tcp. A batch job starts inetd to launch the Telnet server.
But TTerm Pro's half-off price is getting more managers interested in trying the tablet interface in production use.
"The interface looks really nice on the iPad," Evans said, "and at $25 I don't mind spending that much." Evans, who added that he has a lot more to manage at the schools' IT department than just the 3000, acknowledged that no terminal emulator was ever sold for 3000 users for even as low as $49.95, the non-sale price for TTerm Pro.
Of course, those Windows-based emulators -- you could sometimes find them on sale under $200 a seat -- employed extensive scripting features, something that TTerm Pro won't embrace wholesale from any that are already written for the Reflection emulator, for example.
However, tablets are already in use by the IT support staff at the school district, Evans said. That access runs through Citrix, "because the Citrix receiver client on the iPad works really well. I do it all the time from home when I get an email which tells me there's a 3000 problem. Instead of running over to my computer and firing up Reflection, I just fire it up on the iPad and work on it from there."Evans and the staff don't need a telnet interface, or even the more ubiquitous NS/VT, to resolve those kinds of issues. A simple colon prompt access will do the job there, so the group doesn't even need an emulator, as it relies on Citrix.
"The screen and the keyboard obviously take a little adjustment on the iPad," Evans said, "but when you need to do something in a bind, it's really nice to have a tablet available." Support access doesn't require the NS/VT block mode data entry. For production use of the TTerm Pro emulator, Evans sees a target "for occasional access out on the road type of use."
Support vendors have looked over the app. "I purchased a copy, and it works quite nicely," said Gilles Schipper of GSA. "There's a minor problem with a persistent incorrect complaint of invalid host, one that is only satisfied by aborting the app and restarting. The so-called 'invalid host' is then connected to just fine. In general, this is a nice app for a reasonable price."
The set of early adopters of the app have been posting positive comments about the response from the Turbosoft R&D team, too. "I also purchased a copy," said Allegro's Stan Sieler. "The R&D team responded to some enhancement suggestions I had, including increasing the amount of terminal memory, pretty quickly."
October 01, 2013
Stromasys updates its rollout sales efforts
It's been close to five months since emulator vendor Stromasys announced its North American sales kickoff at a May Training Day event. In a Q&A interview with the company's senior VP of sales and services, Rich Pugh says the prospects still have interest and questions, but fewer of the queries are about technical capabilities. Pugh said he’s been pitching large companies this summer on 3000 replacements using the CHARON virtualization engine. CEO Ling Chang sat in on the interview, to introduce Pugh to us.
Second of two parts
Is there anything that seems to be in common among your prospects’ installations, regarding horsepower needs? I know that CHARON was going to get a 1.3 refresh for greater performance.
At one site, there’s 11 separate applications that run and one overnight batch job. The way we brainstormed doing their solution is not a like-for-like replacement, but considering breaking apart the application, and possibly stacking multiple processors. There’s Datapipe, a cloud company and hosting provider similar to Rackspace, and do our proof of concept from the cloud. The plan is to reduce the space to the point of eliminating the server from the DR site, and let the physical assets reside in the production environment.
This is the kind of dialogue of flexibility that we’re trying to position, instead of the traditional methodology of just buying a license in capital dollars.
So would that change the investment level for the customer?
Not really. The analogy that I would use is Microsoft Office 365: just another way of using what you might need permanently or temporarily, over the cloud. At Stromasys we’ve had a value prop that’s just been traditional. Buy a license. What Ling and I are suggesting is that this is clearly an area that makes sense, to use the cloud for proof of concept.
Have any of the major third party application suppliers — Ecometry, MANMAN, Amisys, or others — had their customers use CHARON as of today?
Direct access to that application-using community hasn’t been as robust as we’d like. I don’t have a specific response to that question yet; we may have an update soon.
Is that access important in any way? Is the first-year business going to come from customers who have their own application code?
We expect that the direct sales effort will give us more insight into that over the next 90 days.
How might you overcome the late start HP created for this product with MPE customers? This is a new situation for a Stromasys product.
CEO Ling Chang: That’s a good point. This is a market that remains undefined. It is our challenge to find those who are remaining, and still run their business-critical applications on the HP 3000. Right now, based on preliminary information we received from the service providers at our training day event, the numbers vary. But it’s in terms of the thousands. Not the hundreds of thousands, as in the old Digital product line.
Our challenge is to give those remaining 3000 customers a bridge to their next step — whether it’s to migrate, or stay on.
With the OS already off HP’s support list before the product became available, is there enough customer base remaining to succeed?
Chang: It’s something we have to balance, because Stromasys is still a very small company — and yet we’re going into the enterprise market, which requires resources. While we do that balance, we’re still early in the process. Our goal is to team with HP 3000 partners where we have mutual interests to help get the word out.
Pugh: When Gartner describes what’s going on in the emulation space — where we were named a Cool Vendor — they say that the operating system is just the personality. In the past operating systems were like a religion that you’d never breach. Put MPE against VMS? Give me a break, don’t go there. Now it really doesn’t mean a thing. These are just personalities of what we do, which is a hardware emulation.
A lot of the problem a customer has to solve is a business problem: risk management, not necessarily when the decision was made to choose a platform to run that application. I’m not minimizing any of the strengths of MPE. But it’s just not as technically important as it was back in the day when IT architectures — because of the proprietary nature of every element — mattered so much.
I can appreciate that Gartner’s personality conversation would resonate with today’s Millennials. A CFO at the company I’m selling to is in his 30s. They don’t know what MPE means to the business.
What’s the difference in length of project between going to CHARON vs. an application replacement onto a non-MPE platform, or a rewrite?
Chang: As you know, any time you’re looking at a rewrite you’re talking about multiple years. Those projects do not usually come in on time, or under budget for that matter. But even while a customer is doing that, we can be a solution to keep the application up and running. We can implement our solution in a matter of days.
Is there a structure or process in place to develop a network of resellers and consultants for CHARON in the 3000 market?
Chang: We would love to explore the opportunity for a company to become a reseller. We can do a sell-with model, to make it a win-win for a consultant.
Pugh: We’re refining our channel model. There are certainly companies that could offer presales, or sales and presales support. And then they could be a value added reseller. We’re going to be in the process of introducing a program that allows a company or an individual to get started and get their feet wet, and then become a full VAR. Just months ago we didn’t have that opportunity to give such partners a stair-step approach to building a business around this product.
September 30, 2013
Making Real Customers from Virtualization
Rich Pugh describes himself using a term that’s far from a virtualized IT pro. Pugh, who’s the new senior VP of worldwide sales and services at virtualization vendor Stromasys, says he’s “carried a bag” since the middle 1980s. The term refers to a salesman who’s working on a commission basis, someone who visits customers to close sales. That was not unusual at any size of IT customer in 1985, when Pugh started at Digital Equipment. Today these kinds of visits from such computer hardware vendors are reserved for large accounts. That’s what makes Pugh’s current job selling the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 emulator such a profound echo. His company is replacing the 3000 hardware which once required a sales call to spark an install.
Stromasys has been ramping up its executive and strategic team over the last 18 months, all while the company has rolled out and refined its server virtualization software for the MPE marketplace. Bill Driest was introduced to the community at this May’s Training Day as Stromasys GM in the Americas Region. Driest now works for Pugh, since the latter arrived this June. All was explained to us by CEO Ling Chang, who joined the company herself in 2012.
In the fall of that year, Chang was introduced to us by Stromasys founder Robert Boers in a joint Q&A — in much the same way she introduced Pugh to us this month. We wanted to check on the outlook for selling a virtualization engine which emulates a server that was cut loose by HP more than two years ago. Emulators often surface while system support is still in place but manufacturing has ended. In the case of HPA/3000, everything was dropped by HP before Stromasys could sell a single unit.
Of such challenges are heroic stories made. Vendors have given up on creations or developments that had much life remaining, and Pugh and Chang believe they’ve got a good shot at replacing some mission-critical HP 3000 systems. Driest said that the North American rollout of HPA/3000 began with that May Training Day. Three months later the prospects still have interest and questions, but fewer of the queries are about technical capabilities. Pugh said he’s been pitching large companies this summer on 3000 replacements using the CHARON virtualization engine.
We interviewed Pugh and Chang in August, a month when HP 3000 users often gathered at a North American conference. In the week we talked, Google’s founder was announcing a burger built in a lab using 20,000 cow stem cells. A product that puts MPE software on Intel chips might seem as much of a surprise. Pugh is working to give the 3000 community a taste for the CHARON novelty, one that wants to eliminate HP’s iron like Google wants to remove the cow, but with genuine flavor.
What industry experience since Y2K led you to Stromasys, Rich?
Wireless data sales team leadership for ATT. Then for the last eight years, I worked at Insight, a large global reseller. HP was Insight’s largest partner, and they ran the New York market.
North American GM Bill Driest said he considered your May event the rollout for the product. How does your sales organization work?
Our sales model is quite different in each of the worldwide regions. In America we have our direct sales organizations, led by Bill. I come from an enterprise background, where I sold as a global account manager. I’m very proud of the fact that I carried a bag, with the recognition is that you have to drive revenue to the company. It’s something that I take very personally and seriously.
But with that said, I’m very familiar with the channel model. For example, Insight was a $5 billion dollar company that didn’t engineer a thing, but the intellectual power of our people there was really the value we provided to the market. However, with the experience that I left Digital with, I wanted to get my arms around direct client interface with the larger companies that we want to sell CHARON to.
What can you say about the large prospects you’ve been visiting?
I think they’d rather not have their names used, but one provides tax returns for the financial services industry. They’ve got two of the largest 3000s that were ever built. They have a production site and a DR site in separate states. They’re very interested in using us as an alternative to their platform given a catastrophic failure in their production environment.
The conversation we had with them was on the basis of risk management. Not competing on refurb system pricing or technical problems. When I asked him what compelled him to assemble his staff for our meeting, he said, “It took us a week to get our production system back up. We can’t afford that given the obligation we have to our clients.” Their application has to be supported until 2035.
The choices were a COBOL converter, a full migration, or our virtualization platform. He said he could not afford to use anything from the old  hardware architecture. Even if he got the most stable box in the world, it was all the peripherals that would be unstable.
That’s one prospect. How about a different industry?
There’s a large insurance claims processing firm. They’ve already put it through the proof of concept and now it’s just a matter of addressing the short term and long term implementation of the CHARON solution. Then there’s a cooperative of farmers who run their billing system through an HP 3000. The business reason they’re looking at us is to get off their older hardware platform, out of the maintenance costs. Our contact there is convinced we’re the right solution, and it’s a matter of getting the budget in place so they can move on it.
There’s also a company that runs Software as a Service for the financial services industry. On their own, they’ve used the freeware version of our product, and they’re convinced that it’s the right move for them to make. Again, it’s sold on a business-level conversation. It’s refreshing to take our sales strategy to this level, which I believe will shorten our sales cycle and drive an earlier adoption.
September 26, 2013
Terminals on tablets open new screen doors
Review by Jon Diercks
TTerm Pro is a $49.95 terminal emulator for iPad from Turbosoft, one with support for multiple IBM and HP terminal emulations. I recently had the opportunity to test TTerm with the CHARON Freeware HP 3000 emulator. I selected TTerm’s HP 700/92 emulation mode, pointed it at the CHARON emulator’s IP address, and got right in — the opening screen for the iPad app is shown below.
As you can see, TTerm provides an expanded on-screen keyboard. In portrait orientation, the keys presented are pretty standard, with the addition of block-mode enter. But when rotated to landscape view, additional HP-specific keys appear (as shown below).
Block mode works as expected, as shown in the iPad screen shot just below.
TTerm supports both Telnet and SSH, but since there is no SSH server for HP3000, TTerm cannot speak SSH to MPE directly. However, TTerm can tunnel a Telnet session through SSH — so I set up a tunnel through my home router, and then ran TTerm’s telnet connection through the SSH tunnel. With this setup, I can access my CHARON MPE system securely from my iPad, anywhere with internet access.
Overall, I didn’t encounter any problems in TTerm configuration. It’s pretty straightforward; there are a fair number of tweakable options in there if I needed them, but the default settings seemed to work fine. I missed the tunneling configuration in the version that I reviewed, at first. The only suggestion I have for the developer would be that there should be a more-obvious option to tunnel telnet through SSH.
Jordan Foneska of Turbosoft replied in a note from me, “It may be that we need to look at our user interface and find a more logical, obvious home for the SSH tunneling settings. At present the user is required to select Telnet and edit the security settings section to enable communications with either SSL or SSH.”
In my test drive, TTerm appears to do exactly what it’s designed to do. It has a clean user interface, and performs well. In my limited testing, there were no crashes or unexpected errors. I would recommend TTerm for anyone who needs to use an iPad to talk to an MPE system.
Jon Diercks consults on HP 3000 projects and is the author of the only book about MPE/iX management, The MPE/iX Administration Handbook (available in online versions at the Safari bookstore.) Diercks can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 24, 2013
Expert Healing after a Bump on the Head
It all started simply enough for me. My bride Abby and I hosted our granddaughters for a weekend. At ages three and one, there was a lot of grandpa picking up one little girl or another. After two days, grandpa's back was hurting. Then came the Monday morning bike ride in the Texas heat. Not enough hydration, not enough stretching, and soon I've got a muscle pull to manage. Way inside, steady pain.
This is new to me. Maybe new like an HP 3000 problem you never saw in your 20 years of working with MPE. Way inside, something like a console Network Interface Card dying. "Do these things have a habit of dying," you might ask, even after dozens of 3000s you've seen or serviced.
So you reach out for service help, like I did. A sports massage, deep like the muscle problem. Seems like the right solution, but as I leave the studio I put weight on the left leg. Wow, no muscle control there at all, and down goes your Newswire editor. Hmm, maybe something to do with a nerve. Then there's the visit to a chiropractic doctor with nerve experience and then trigger point treatment, and therapy exercises. Let the healing begin. Until the middle of the night, when the leg goes out in the kitchen, while I'm getting water to hydrate.
You might know the rest: The fall in the kitchen, against a cabinet and a big cut on the head. It's all new territory for me, even at 56. It ends up in the office of my trusted GP doctor, where he does an exam. Elliott Trester is older than most of the 3000 managers I know. He beams with calm and believes in doing the least invasive things first. If you're lucky, you have a doctor like that for your 3000. It's called first-line support. No matter if you've been as lucky as I've been about injuries. When your 3000 breaks, you want somebody to tell you it's going to be okay, and how that'll happen. Without costing money you need to spend on something else.
You've got someone like that, right? The expert who knows the 3000 better than you -- because if not, there's always a much more expensive way to heal up your IT problem. Maybe as costly as getting something else to run your company.Doc Elliott is examing me after the cut on the head had already closed up, checking for the effects of a concussion. Has me close my eyes, hold out my arms. Hold up one leg with eyes closed. Taps each knee for a reflex check. Then he turns out the lights and flips on his GP's light, the otoscope.
"Here's where you get the $75 MRI," he says with a chuckle. He tests my tracking of the light amid the dark of the room. "People order all these tests like an MRI because they don't know how to do an exam."
And he says it in a way that triggers relief. There won't be a $500 MRI in my future. There won't be an appointment with "one of the few doctors in Austin that treats concussions," as the chiropractic trigger point fellow suggested. Abby and I giggle on the way back. A doctor who specializes in concussions. The Concussion Doctor? Maybe a chain, or a trade-name?
The cut's taken care of itself, healed over without stitches up on the crown of my head. The exam costs that $75 and I feel better. Not that I'm healed just yet, but I'm under the influence of someone with experience enough that I trust in the healing.
We know of people like this in your community, pros who work for support companies who charge the equivalent of the $75 MRI. Look at your blog pages here and spot the ads where there's support in the name, or a full service shop like Pivital. HP 3000 owners are, for the most part, the equivalent of a middle-50s, kinda-jocks like me. Lucky, up to now, not to need service for a system injury. It happens to everybody, though, if you push that old system hard enough for long enough. That makes a relationship with a simple healer an essential, if you want to sustain your HP 3000 service.
September 20, 2013
UK 3000 vet gears up for European reunion
Dave Wiseman, the founder of HP 3000 vendor Millware and an MPE veteran since the system's most nascent days, is floating the idea of a "3000 Revival" to be held in Europe later this year. Wiseman was the chairman of SIG BAR, he told us in explaining what the Revival might amount to. Today he's calling the event this year's HP3000 SIG BAR meeting.
Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars….
Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretence of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bringing a booth!)
If you know anyone who worked in the HP3000 vendor community or user groups please could you ask them to contact me (email@example.com or +44 777 555 7017) and I'll find a suitable venue and date (maybe beginning of December in London?)
"It's around 36 years since I went to my first HP 3000 meeting at the London School of Economics in Regents park," Wiseman said in his opening salvo for this year's event. "That trade show was two piles of duplicated (yes folks, pre-photocopier) sheets of paper on the LARC editor and SCRIBE formatter."
So how about a European trade show again folks? As far as I recall, the fact that there aren't many users won't make a lot of difference. The truth was we never saw that many at our shows anyway. I recall spending most of my time talking amongst ourselves anyway, and I just thought that it was about time we had a reunion. My list of our old compatriots is woefully thin, but I'm happy to co-ordinate a venue.
PS. No need top bring your stands or literature!
September 18, 2013
Three years later, OpenMPE triggers pains
Hewlett-Packard canceled its 3000 plans in 2001, which launched an open source effort for MPE less than six weeks later. Like a satellite boosted into orbit, the voyage of OpenMPE seems to have momentum even today, more than three years after a lawsuit marred a volunteer group.
Look up "OpenMPE suit" in our search engine and you'll find no fewer than 15 stories I wrote about a civil suit between board member Matt Perdue and the OpenMPE board. Some members were named individually as well as et al in the lawsuit in Bexar County, Texas. The suit was filed there because that's where Purdue lives and works.
Yesterday I updated the OpenMPE saga by tracking the location of that satellite today. It's split into more than one trajectory. There's a website to serve archival data on the 3000. There's the remains of the suit, made up of hard feelings and legal fees. Then there's the domain of this group of volunteers, the web address where it existed in its most tangible public incarnation: openmpe.org. I noted yesterday that Perdue renewed the domain this month, even after he'd been removed from the board in 2010.
OpenMPE triggers some pain for nearly everyone, but that's the way an overstressed muscle can behave. HP wasn't happy about having seasoned community members asking a lot of questions that had gone unconsidered about migrations. Volunteers got disappointed and left, or sacrificed plenty of time and some money while they stayed. Community members kept asking what the group achieved, even while HP tilted the table with its confidentiality demands over conference calls. Finally, during the nine months of all-out battle in lawyers' letters and in court, the very essence of assets, monies and right to operate were challenged.
We're always glad to get comments on the stories in the Newswire's blog. The ones I'm compelled to reply to are those where fairness and accuracy get questioned. Keith Wadsworth, a former board member and defendant in that suit, took the time to note my shining prejudice about the legal actions in those nine months. At the end of matter, the board where he served as co-chairman decided it wouldn't comment further beyond what anybody who'd drive to Bexar County could discover.More than 11 and a half years has elapsed since a single volunteer, Jon Backus, met with HP's Dave Wilde over breakfast about OpenMPE. Just like the OpenVMS customers of today, 3000 users wanted to gain access to the OS source code. Open source was white-hot in 2002, with Linux swelling in popularity. Taking technology built inside a vendor and making it open seemed possible -- and just like in the VMS world, maybe a way to ensure MPE could be sustained.
Roll forward to 2008, and those six-plus years have seen HP close its MPE labs and end the CDA talks with the OpenMPE volunteers. Then-chairman Birket Foster believes there's still a chance to advocate at HP, in talks with what MPE interests remain at the Support organization. HP Support has no desire to talk with anybody but support customers, and certainly not on the record.
But one stray probe of the OpenMPE satellite remained on course: a way to license MPE for support use. The licenses don't get issued until 2010, and OpenMPE is the last company to receive its source license. Source is an asset to a support company solving problems, but it also looks meddlesome to other companies. Modifying MPE might create extra development work for anyone who sells MPE software. Customers might use workarounds that would force a vendor to support multiple versions of a utility or application.
It's a long shot, but it was possible. Nobody knew if source could have that impact. OpenMPE was the only license recipient without clients or customers. A source code license was near the top of the group's desires for its final three years of talk with HP. By that time Interex was out of business and Encompass and Connect had no link to such 3000 advocacy.
There was an election of OpenMPE board members once a year, without little opposition by the end. Volunteer work for customers using a computer cut off by the vendor -- well, that's a hard assignment. Move on, people said. Be a real company and get customers, others urged. Some said people wouldn't really be using MPE and the 3000 that much longer anyway.
In 2007 Wadsworth was asking, while running for the OpenMPE board, if any more 3000 use was even reasonable.
At this stage in the game, what is homesteading? Do you really think anyone will stay in production on the 3000 for many years to come? Stay status quo? Do you really think there are users that have given no consideration to a migration plan? Does it not make sense that everyone on the 3000 today is in some form of a migration status?
I defined homesteading because I invented the term, sitting in a London Internet cafe on the night after HP made its announcement. I wanted those who could stay on the server to understand they were more than luddites, avoiding new technology. Without the vendor's future support, they'd be on their own many times. Dugout houses on the winter prairies came to mind. Anybody who didn't already run 3000 apps on Unix or Windows or Linux could be a homesteader.
As for "many years to come," I didn't know that I'd still be writing about MPE in 2013, or reporting on a company that is saving the OS from the fate of running only on aging HP gear. The CHARON virtualized server may be stop-gap at these companies. Others have no plans to shift anything, in spite of what experienced vendors are advising.
It all looked suspicious to Wadsworth in 2007, in the months before he took his first run at joining the volunteer board. "There are real questions about what and who is OpenMPE -- and what are their real intentions. And why have HP representatives attended closed executive sessions?" he wrote to me.
By 2010, Wadsworth had made it onto the board and started to ask other questions. OpenMPE had to prove itself as a business, he told me, or it should disband. The group had been granted a license for MPE source, but it had little else as an asset. It also didn't have staff to use that asset -- or more accurately, developers who'd polish it toward productive use among 3000 customers. That source was like a drill press without any metal stock on hand to shape, or even an operator. Staff time was always an issue.
As I wrote in my reply to Wadsworth's comments, all those assets had landed in the offices of Perdue, and that was unfortunate. That's a single point of control. A dispute over using servers escalated in the face of questions from Wadsworth like, "Where are our assets and revenues, and what are they? How come we don't have accurate corporate records? What's our business plan? Shouldn't we have insurance for us board members?" Interesting questions for a group of volunteers who'd had plenty of impact on expanding HP's end-game for the 3000. The changes of HP's end-game could elude the vision of customers. Just like asking why HP was attending closed executive sessions. Because the vendor insisted the sessions be CDA-covered. OpenMPE had no leverage to say no. The discussions would be over.
OpenMPE's impact was back in the days when HP would hold conference calls. Those ended in 2008. About two elections later, the lawsuit and demands began. 28 people have served on the OpenMPE board. Of the final three to volunteer, Wadsworth was the only one to ask the board to consider if OpenMPE should even exist. His questions of 2007 about the group's motives finally had a place to be asked.
In our hindsight from 2013, we know that HP was going to cling to its MPE intellectual property even while it ended its business plans for the 3000. Just like the OpenVMS users are saying this month, there was a chance it would end otherwise. Sharing code with cut-off customers. Stoking good will, instead of believing 75 percent of 3000 sites would choose Unix servers. OpenMPE didn't get what it wanted in 2002. But it had a good reason to exist while HP would talk to it, whatever the conditions. Hewlett-Packard didn't want to continue that dialog, once its 3000 labs closed down.
A group that finds a director suing it is well, unprecedented in your community's history. Just like HP held on to an MPE it could no longer use, Perdue is retaining his use of openmpe.org. I studied tens of thousands of words of battle between a board and a member who would resign after he filed his suit. Legal stories are complex and filled with chances to misunderstand intentions. This was no different. The resolution of the lawsuit was just as much under wraps, with Wadsworth's participation, as any conference call HP held with the boards before he arrived.
In 2010 that lawsuit was filed naming Wadsworth and another board member as individuals, as well as the OpenMPE board as a whole. A Dec. 20 email from Wadsworth to the board outlining the situation: "It seems we all are being sued by Perdue. Myself and Jack as individuals, and the Board as a whole."
So at least I've got the portion correct where Perdue files suit against Wadsworth, He did so at the same time Perdue named the board as defendants. In another email from Wadsworth, he reasons, "Perdue singled out the two new guys [on the board] for ego purpose."
By the finale of the suit, I was told by Keith that "It is public record that Wadsworth/OpenMPE have a claim for moneys taken and the standard attorney costs." He's right about one thing. I can see now how that OpenMPE claim did not arise out of a countersuit. (My paper records are archived pretty deeply on this subject but I've researched what I've got stored online.)
About the lawsuit's hearing -- a two-hour trip each way by car to a courtroom that isn't near my office, unless you compare it to a trip to California -- it was postponed twice. On May 10 there finally was a meeting to decide if the matter was going forward to trial, or would be settled. I didn't take a full day to travel to the court and attend that hearing -- which it now seems tilted the matter toward a settlement. The resolution was not crafted out in the open.
The lesson in all of these words might be simple but useless: there's no understanding some people. Or it might be trite, like, "no good deed goes unpunished," or "of fledgling aspirations come mighty deeds." We've learned one thing about MPE, though: nearly 12 years after HP said it had no more future or utility, the environment still triggers business transactions, as well as painful memories of any volunteer's attempt to make it pay its way into the future.
September 17, 2013
OpenMPE.org domain remains redacted
A milestone recently passed for the web domain name openmpe.org. For more than eight years this was the address for the volunteer group that made HP think through migration details, as well as extend homesteading prospects. The .org seemed to fit a rotating collective of 3000 community members, all giving their time and effort to try to make the 3000's future clearer and brighter.
But in 2010, amid the rancor and countersuits filed between two then-boardmembers, openmpe.org went dark, was taken hostage. Matt Perdue, the consultant and board member who was by then in charge of checkbook, source code license, web servers as well as domain, found himself fingered as the man who'd take a website offline to prove ownership. To resolve the problem, Allegro Consultants gave openmpe.com to the group. It wasn't much longer afterward that Perdue and his combating director Keith Wadsworth both left the organization.
It's been more than two years, and the openmpe.org domain was up for renewal. Brian Edminster, who's got his own .org website (www.mpe-opensource.org) that serves the community with open source software, was watching to see if OpenMPE's domain would be released. Edminster checked in to report Perdue's ownership of the domain remains in force, for another several years.It's not as if the domain is worth anything, like some addresses are. There's a market to bid on such things that are already owned, even estimates of what a domain might be worth. The renewal of the openmpe.org ownership represents a point that's still being made, apparently. Edminster reports
I had a reminder on my calendar to check today:
Do WHOIS lookup on OPENMPE.ORG to see if Matt's renewed the domain registration
if not - get it to turn back over to OpenMPE.
Looks like on Sept. 8 Matt renewed it for another year. I know it's cheap to do — but is he that petty, or do you think he has more grandiose plans? I've been around long enough to know better, but I guess there's just no understanding some people.
I've written before about the stasis that has set in surrounding OpenMPE, a group that was very important during the years HP was willing to discuss its own end-game for exiting that marketplace. Grandiose plans don't seem to be in line with a volunteer organization no longer having meetings, or elections, or regular contact with HP. Everything has its time and place, and great service was done on behalf of the customers.
Near the end, a conflict arose over the scope of change MPE source code licenses could trigger. Nothing could be done to impede the plans of the seven corporations that bought a license. But a dust-up arose over the OpenMPE ownership, as well as legal conflicts between Perdue and Wadsworth. The standoff helped bring the group to a standstill. And renewing a domain looks like it's not time for an end to the hard feelings about the future of software: MPE.
September 16, 2013
Prospects for Hot-Plugging HP 3000 Disks
I've had many A-Class and N-Class systems. I've always used them with fiber-attached disk. I am wondering about the internal disk drives. Are they hot-pluggable?
My objective here is to find a better alternative to DLT and DDS tapes for offsite storage. I've had suggestions of DS2100 and Jamaica drives. But a few 300GB Ultra SCSI drives would hold a lot more data with less points of failure. I intend to set up a BACKUP_VOLUME_SET and use the internal disks to do store-to-disk backups of the system.
Jim Hawkins, formerly the IO maven for HP 3000 systems at HP, replied with details.
There are multiple layers of changes for actual hot plugs or swaps to work.
- You need the disk HDD to handle this electrically.
- You need HDD physical carrier and physical interface to comply.
- You need the system physical interface and receptacle to comply.
- You need your Host System Bus Adapter (HBA) to electrically support this.
- You need the OS to be aware enough of the HBA to not get flustered by absence of the device and deal with any notifications from the HBA of the activity.
Given that the N-Class disk cage has a screw-based cover and the HDD carriers have no quick release levers (as compared with HASS/Jamaica or VA7400) I would state definitively that there is no hot-plug intention. At the same time, the SCSI bus is pretty low power and low voltage, so it would be generally not too unsafe to experiment. But you're also close to AC inputs and they are not low power.
Hawkins took the time to answer the question with some theoretical possibilities.
Might you be able to pull/push a drive where you've closed the volume? Likely it would work, but there may be all kinds of noise and stress on the SCSI bus which may not be well handled. However, I think each disk is on its own HBA channel which isn't shared with anything else, and so unlikely to abort someone else's IO.
This takes us to the last issue: mechanical wear.
These connectors were likely intended for more or less permanent mating of two components. Very likely they have a limited number of cycles that they are specified to hold-up. I've seen connectors that are specified for fewer than 25 cycles before you lose gold contact material. This is okay for normal HDD where one might replace one or two per slot in a system lifetime, but not sufficient if you're doing nightly back-ups and swaps. Connectors, where there is an expectation of a high number of pull/replace cycles, have special designs.
Now a little good news here is that the N-Class was still pretty much old-school HP design, so likely they didn't pick up something cheap that saved them .2 cents per unit on gold plating. No idea though if the HDD connector is a 10-, 100-, 1000-cycle part. Your system, your risk.
Mark Ranft, who posed the pluggable question, pointed out that the HP design choices for 3000s seemed to make the servers and their components good candidates for exceptional wear.
It is especially helpful to understand the concept of mechanical wear on the connectors. HP always had excellent and innovative hardware engineering on their HP 3000 (and HP-UX) servers. Remember, you can drop them off a building and still self-test them.
I've been doing some digging and I found the following link to the HP-UX forum. The Unix N-Class appears to allow hot-pluggable drives.
The actual power supply and the fans are in the front of the N-Class. The power receptacles in the back have internal cords that lead to the front.
September 13, 2013
Personality resides in hardware, not MPE
It’s easy to think of technology like MPE as something that can be changed, like a personality. The Gartner Group calls operating environments like MPE and Unix personalities these days. Not as important as it once was in IT planning, that personality — this is what we’re told.
A personality is certainly more readily changed, like an address in a new neighborhood, or the paint on the curb at my son Nick’s new house. Fans of Louisiana State lived there, so there’s a purple rectangle on the curb with LSU next to the house number. It will probably become a rectangle of Cowboys blue before football season ends.
Your MPE, your computing soul, is getting a new address this year and for the years to come. That soul will live in a new address, at the curb of the hardware house of Intel. Nothing will be the same in this virtualized computer’s world except its soul. People have come to call this server of yours an HP 3000, but it’s really an MPE system. Memory, CPUs, motherboards, storage, power supplies, networking — every part of it has changed over the 29 years I’ve observed. Except that soul.
MPE has been that constant observer of the family of applications, making a company buzz like grandparents in a summertime pool, both of us catching a boy who leaps into their arms. That boy was Nick, two decades ago. Now it’s his son we catch. The act of catching, cradling accomplishments over decades — that’s the soul of a family.
It’s tempting to believe that the richness in that accomplishment is something you’d retain while changing a computing personality. Like gifts of wiring database-handling into filesystem commands — an old soul trait in computing — might be enjoyed with less-integrated choices. I believe the 3000’s soul is important, just like I believe its hardware is the personality and body that changes all the time. People cherish MPE servers. Being cherished means going beyond reason to revere all that brought you together.
The sun poured through the many windows at Nick’s new house this afternoon as we built a dining room table and chairs, then hung an IKEA silver-framed mirror on the wall alongside that table. Outside, there was a screech owl house tacked up on the big oak, a tree nestled in a patch of jasmine. All so different than his box of an apartment where I helped him move a futon up three flights as a young man.
A family makes a home, while an address just makes a house. MPE made a 3000, while hardware makes a computer.
I was missing my own house before too long tonight, but I was really missing the soul makes it my home — my wife Abby, the G’ma to go with my own role as G’pa. A user who chooses an emulator seeks a virtual home to cherish their very real, very unbreakable MPE soul.
The natural state of every computer system is virtualization. Being cherished, that’s something you cannot virtualize like you change hardware personality. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, only the love of an owner can make software like MPE that becomes Real. The Skin Horse said about the soul of that becoming Real, “it takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”
September 12, 2013
Addresses, personalities change, not souls
I’m back in front of my keyboard tonight, sweaty and a little sore, but happy. I've been helping my son and his family move into a new house, hefting the boxes that must be toted through our Texas heat. We bolted together IKEA furniture in his dining room that's covered with hand-scraped hardwood floors, underneath high vaulted ceilings, cooled by booming AC.
But amid all of that change — a closer address to us, a vast backyard on a hill, the mysteries of 5.1 built-in stereo wiring and the charm of a private deck right off their master suite — I looked at him and saw something that didn’t change. His address, his personality, his body, they all changed. But there’s one part of any of us that remains the same. It’s our soul, the true self and the part of us that witnesses all the changes.
In order to have an awareness of a soul, there must be change for it to observe. My son’s new house for his family. The length of his hair, along with the banking he does for a career. The happy chatter of his little 4-year-old, the humming buzz of his wife’s family all come to visit and help with the moving. None of that was the same seven years ago, and especially not seven years earlier. Once you have a life that builds its legacy of changes, you lay claim to a soul.
Personality does change, but a soul keeps you grounded. Like the 3000 user, the IT pro who’s had a dozen chances to change in their career by now. They have a machine with an old soul — a quality that I’d aspire to in my youth, the old hinting at meaning, gravity and certainty.Over the past year we're learning that it’s not HP’s hardware that created that old soul. It’s MPE, the one constant over 40 years of models, revisions, changes to the hardware. HP called it MPE V when I began this chronicle of coverage, 29 years ago. Then it became MPE/XL, then MPE/iX. But it’s always had IMAGE and MPE at its heart. These are the elements that make up the awareness which is the 3000’s soul.
If it’s possible to connect with that soul, we do it by listening to the sound of our spirit. Was it really so different to back a van down Nick’s new driveway, my Caravan loaded up with his boxes, than when he was 19 and moving into his first apartment? Was it so different to help him help himself this time, with a wife and two small boys back at his old house, packing up to follow him a short drive away?
I felt the same spirit in me as I did 19 summers ago, leading him along on a nine-state baseball tour, doing all I could to kindle my hope that he was happy. It was the final summer before the NewsWire started to tell the stories of 3000 users, tracing the outlines of MPE's soul. This summer, helping Nick, it was easier to see his happiness. I heard a voice within me, observing the happiness on his face. It was the look of accomplishment I probably saw. His, and maybe mine, too.
The community of 3000 users already has accomplished so much. Nearly all of them have worked with MPE for more than 20 years. No matter what else they choose next in their career, it’s MPE that remains in their soul.
September 10, 2013
Emulator's open sourcers prod at booting
Yesterday I mentioned news about a fresh emulator effort, one that's based in open source resources. Piotr Głowacz and some volunteer developers have been trying to create software that lets Intel servers boot up MPE/iX. The early going via open source has had its roadblocks, springing up in unexpected places. After the three articles we've written about the attempts, Głowacz emailed us that the exposure has helped.
We've got many responses from people willing to help us in our effort. The most important advance we've achieved is to get the MPE/iX 6.0 up and running. Of course, it's not at a solid state -- we're experiencing unexpected system crashes, for example, but at least the OS is recognizing all of our emulated devices.
There's a pretty good reason why an open source emulator is going to take a while to get stable. Dr. Robert Boers, whose company Stromasys invented and polished the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator, has an understanding of the shortfalls that are still ahead for the open source effort -- as well as an admiration for trying to open-source create an emulator.
Their booting problem they will no doubt find, if they ever get that far, will be due to not having a working Processor Dependent Code (PDC) implementation, which makes all the difference between booting a general PA-RISC system and an HP 3000. As we found out, even understanding the HP 3000 PDC requires a PhD (and access to source code), let alone implementing it.
Apart from the PDC, there is of course the detail of implementing a virtual PA-RISC CPU -- one that not just interprets code in a very slow manner, but dynamically translates the PA-RISC binary instructions.
Boers also noted that "even HP did not have all the [booting] information, and we had to step through MPE/iX instruction-by-instruction (including its internal 16-bit code emulator) to make sense of it." More than two years ago his company, using HP-supplied tech documentation, clawed through the barriers to make MPE/iX booting stable in CHARON. "It was a tough one to write," he said of the effort. Compared to the CHARON emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."
It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator.
"Apart from the PDC," Boers added, "there is of course the detail of implementing a virtual PA-RISC CPU that not just interprets code in a very slow manner, but dynamically translates the PA-RISC binary instructions." In other words, booting is a very early success. Simulating the processes of the HP 3000 via software -- even at an unstable state -- is a good start, but it's a great distance away from being able to replicate 3000-grade performance. Even Stromasys is working on getting versions of CHARON that can match N-Class top-end systems.
Głowacz said during the past week that "for now, we're working with the HPSUSAN number taken from the rp7400 we own (it's stored in our PDC/NVRAM)." That's a PA-RISC system built for HP-UX, not MPE -- and so missing the essential PDC requirement. "I'm just not sure if it'd be enough when we'll test third-party software," Głowacz said. "As for our costs [to build this], it's a 100 percent free-time project, so we're working in our spare time. That's why it took so long to bring our simulator to the current state."
Głowacz hasn't said how long his volunteers have been working on their simulator. But Boers said this kind of work just underscores the ideal that virtualization is the future for legacy environments like MPE.
I appreciate people who try to simulate legacy systems. I believe it is the only way in the future to capture the knowledge embedded in business critical legacy applications, instead of ripping everything up and repeating the mistakes of the past in a new build. Piotr might get more appreciation if he would build an HP 9000 out of it that can run HP-UX. That is somewhat simpler, as it does not have the obstacle of an embedded licensing mechanism. Before we implemented the HP 3000 PDC, we effectively had virtualized an HP 9000, running Linux.
The open source goal "for now is to have 6.5 MPE/iX up and running for at least a week," Głowacz wrote today. "After the base system beta testing, we'd like to go for a more complex verification -- IMAGE maybe?"
September 09, 2013
Community needs story, regardless of media
Just as I was closing out our latest printed issue, our 139th in paper, we got word about a new entry into the HP 3000 emulation derby. It's software that wishes it could enable Intel PCs to boot MPE/iX. It's a long way from ready for prime time. Most of the problem lies in the fact that the effort is open-sourced. There's no open source for the MPE boot routines inside PA-RISC.
You might not even call this one a market entry, largely because it’s open sourced. It would not ever really be for sale, not any more than Linux was ever sold in the first 15 years of its lifespan. Open source relies on the volunteer time of brilliant minds. Some day, marketing and sales might be handled over the Web as well as Git stores program code repositories. However, for putting software into production that will be running a company, there’s nothing like an old-school visit in person, in a meeting room, with customer technicians on hand. That's sales today. And probably sales tomorrow, too.
We might be headed toward a day when some old-school standards seem just old, rather than classic and proven. This momentum is gathering quickly in my world of words for publication. This summer we saw the departure of InformationWeek from the ranks of printed publications. The weekly that covered the HP departure from the 3000 world, as well as HP’s e3000 rebranding of the box, is now a weekly publication of about five articles per issue. That’s around 20 a month, or the same number we put onto the Web in our blog.
Web-based publication can do some things that print struggles to do these days. Some publishers remain devoted to the printed look, but can provide on a laptop screen, or in the case of the picture at left, on a 27-inch desktop. (Go ahead, click on it to see how close that Esquire page can be reproduced on the screen.) Online publications can be searched in a way print won't provide. (Go ahead, click on the link off our front page banner where it says Download our latest print issue. You get a PDF file that can be searched.) What's more, such online information reaches readers nobody knows, people who care about the subject but have escaped the commonplace radar. Anybody hear of Innovest as a 3000 site? We just did this month.
In 18 years of collecting and curating customer names, this one from New York escaped us. But then so did Turbosoft, the Australian firm that started to market its $49.95 iPad app up on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn. A rollout, on a localized website.
The Web provides ways to change the formula for information industries. Some companies never climb on the back of this tiger, while others work to make their paper versions look and behave just like print. Three years ago a company called Zinio was ready to take advantage of the juggernaut of tablets launched by the iPad. Right out of the box at the tablet's debut. This summer they’ve got scores of magazines online, readable through an app, or displayed in glorious 27-inch color on a desktop screen.
I read Esquire and love the online version — which I pay for— better than the print. I still keep print copies around for reference, but they’re not easy to dig into. There’s that index and searching thing that’s tough to offer on paper.
The same sort of quantum leap beckons from the edge of the cloud revolution. We’ve heard of a project to offer proof of concept installations for the Stromasys emulator — that’s the tested emulator, proven at sites and fully licensed for MPE — via the cloud. A company called Datapipe is working with Stromasys to offer these proofs. Some 3000 customers don’t want the hardware in their shop anymore. Just MPE, IMAGE and a proven set of applications.
The Web takes away old-school habits whenever it can improve, and then prove. What will never go away is our need for stories. How we deliver them can always evolve.
September 06, 2013
History tells us to mind the futures gap
Hewlett-Packard's Millenial Version (2001.0) kicked out the 3000 a dozen summers ago. But your community still talks about that breakup, something like the girlfriend a fellow lost after she was so close that she knew your team's football players. (There's an allusion that might play on both sides of the Atlantic, now that our sports called football are both apace this weekend.) It's a worthy subject. A gap between futures talks and vendor reality must always be considered. This is the season of 2014's planning, after all.
The latest discussion about 2001 came out of a corner of the community's online outposts. Over in an exclusive sector, people talked about whether HP 2001.0 had ever violated regulations when it went to that summer's HP World show, talking up 3000 futures to anybody within the sound of the HP voices of Dave Snow and Winston Prather.
Timeline: Chicago hosts that summer's show in late August. All seems well on the slides and futures talks. Two and a half months later, the big Acme safe (Warner Brothers cartoon-style) gets dropped on the heads of users, managers and vendors everywhere. Was Carly Fionia's HP-Invent fibbing about the 3000's futures?
This week the chatter amounts to just speculations, unless an HP manager (that might be former GM Prather, or someone higher up) wants to reveal the internals. Yup, Winston's still at HP.
But I may as well concoct a scenario that might permit HP to make its presentations that summer and not break the rules. In this tale, HP hopes there's a lot of revenue growth coming soon for the 3000. Either that, or it's gonna go away. Fiorina was well-known for cracking the whip on revenue growth.
So after July meetings with big customers, here comes that August HP World conference. At the time, there's no lack of verbal assurances about 3000 futures from HP. Things in writing, or on a slide, are a lot more fuzzy. There's no date-certain about Itanium for MPE at that meeting in Chicago, either. One VAR I interviewed about the meeting said, "That's when we knew the writing was on the wall" about MPE. It wasn't going forward, he said.
So perhaps HP was hoping against hope they'd get a balloon-full of orders, or something to lift revenue growth. Mind you, the year's sales that led up to the 2001 meeting were plenty encouraging and on the rise -- this despite having nothing to sell but a behind-schedule refresh of the 3000 lineup. The refresh yielded A-Class and N-Class servers, but shipping only at mid-2001. Yeah, right around that crucial summer.
Y2K had held the customer base in place. Something shipping right away as an upgrade, a computer which used a more modern PCI bus and had a nice performance boost -- well, it might have netted sales to satisfy the "it's growing or it's going" execs inside HP. I leave it an exercise to the reader to remember which HP manager was driving 3000 R&D when N-Class systems were being developed. (Hint: I've mentioned the name more than once already.)
As I said, it's conjecture until someone who was inside those planning meetings, responding to CEO-level directives, opens up. I will probably live to see the tale told. But I'm only 56, and it's only been 12 years this summer since those meetings.
Some vendors believe that a shift away from HP-crafted environments could be regarded as inevitable. Considering how the rest of the OS-centric HP enterprise business has fared since then, it's possible that for Hewlett-Packard, the company's misreading of 3000 durability was the only thing that made MPE the canary in HP's mineshaft of enterprise server business.
[Ref: Canary in the mineshaft: a caged bird carried down to warn miners of a leak of dangerous gas. If the bird keeled over, the miners left the tunnels immediately. Gas = new go-go growth demands from HP business. See: Merger with Compaq.]
Some of the veterans in our community believe that those 3000 futures decisions were being made on the basis of personal growth. Career growth, that is. Rather than keep the faith in futures of the 3000, some were giving their HP career more priority. Alas, at last count, HP has released-retired-fired more than 80,000 employees since that summer. So much for making HP careerism a priority.
The veterans acknowledge there's no graceful way to pre-announce that a product is going away. Many people got 30 days' warning, pre-November. I don't know about SEC regulations, but the 3000 business was never called out in any quarterlies. You could hardly find the Business Critical Systems numbers in statements circa 2001. There was a lot less public information, and certainly no webcast analyst presentations, as there are today.
Internally to HP, CSY was a line of business. I am imagining that the public trading rules regarding reports are executed this way: SEC regulations would not be disturbed if HP said something different in Chicago, 2001 besides, "the future looks great." It's been HP's habit, however, to say everything's great in public, until they make an announcement like the one in Las Vegas this June about OpenVMS.
The difference: HP had the stones to talk about OpenVMS going away during its annual conference this year. And now, during this month that's just begun, HP will face the music from the installed base at VMS Boot Camp. I recall the timing with the 3000 was quite different. First, announce the 3000 shutdown just before a big holiday period, when IT budgets for 2002 were already set. Then, not face a big customer conference for another 10 months. HP World LA was rowdy, but by then the customers had time to cool off. Nobody was migrating, however. Not in September of 2002.
September 05, 2013
The cloud lifts 3000 app vendor into revival
While HP 3000s were still for sale from Hewlett-Packard, American Data Industries sold $50 million in HP servers and related hardware. Ken Roberts is the president of the wholesale and retail software vendor, and he was once on HP's Advisory Board for 3000 vendors. His application was written using Basic 3000, and he reports he's now aiming at new business using the 3000 from the cloud.
"My company was a major player in the HP 3000 market," Roberts said. "We dropped out when an HP salesman told my audience how great Unix was, implemented on the HP 9000."
In spite of our closing our doors we continued to support our clients for another 20 years. We, of course, couldn't talk any of our prospects into purchasing an HP3000 but our existing clients refused to drop out.
Nine years ago HP was considering a new channel of 3000 hardware sales, even though manufacturing had ceased the year earlier. At that time Roberts told us that any extension of MPE would help his customers homestead. Instead, he's moving to an application rental model.
In 2004, Roberts was responding to a letter from HP that said the vendor might authorize its resellers or third parties to change HP 9000s’ personalities, or do the changes itself, to allow MPE/iX to boot on refurbished HP 9000s.
“I have renewed hope that if MPE is extended into the future, it might include support of the Basic 3000 language,” Roberts said at the time. "I still have clients running on my system and I support them. I would have many more clients if I had suspected that the HP 3000 would last this long and longer. I am anxious to hear if the future will be extended, and for how long."
Nine years later, the system's stubborn durability has provided hope for a new future for the ADI software. His customers haven't let the application die off, Roberts said.
"After several years of watching The 3000 NewsWire, it would appear that the HP 3000 also refuses to die. "So I have begun another approach to selling my Wholesale and Retail system, and that is renting it over the cloud."
"It still runs on the HP 3000, but no client would ever be aware of that, or care."
September 03, 2013
iPad emulation shows off app's fine-tuning
An IT director whose 3000 application runs on fine-tuned screens has sparked an upgrade in the iPad terminal emulator TTerm Pro. Jeff Elmer reports that his specially-coded VPlus fields have made the transition to the iPad application. All it took was an enhancement request, he says.
At Dairylea Cooperative, a group of milk producers based in New York State, the company has employed HP 3000s for more than three decades. The application uses the ability to map colors to fields -- a feature of WRQ's Reflection -- to guide users through inquiries, deletes, changes and adds.
Color-coding fields is a classic HP 3000 nuance, one that permits data entry workers to keep pace with the efficiency and speed of the HP 3000. Elmer's story reminds me of a report from the IT manager for the Oakland A's baseball team. When asked in the 1990s if his staff was ready to switch to a Windows-based interface instead of traditional VPlus forms, he said, "If I did switch them, they'd have me hanging from the flagpole in centerfield." User practices -- okay, habits -- have a way of producing efficiency. If the iPads at the Cooperative were going to replace some terminals, they'd have to stop blinking, even if the colors won't map across.
Historically we used the enhancement characteristics of the fields in our VPlus screens in conjunction with Reflection’s color configuration to color code our program screens. That is, in “Inquiry” mode the fields were a light purple. In “Add” mode the fields were white. In “Change” mode the fields were yellow. In “Delete” mode the fields were red.
These visual cues were very effective in helping our users know exactly what they were doing to the record without having to think (and we all know that thinking is not popular). However, when it came time to test HP 3000 access via TTerm Pro on company iPads, we quickly discovered that several of those fields were constantly blinking and made an otherwise perfect solution unpopular.
In fairness to TTerm, of course those fields should be blinking, since the blink attribute was on in the forms file and TTerm doesn’t map to colors in the same way as Reflection. I sent an e-mail to Turbosoft's support asking if anything could be done. They responded quickly.
"Clearly Turbosoft understands customer service," Elmer reports. "They told me how to capture the information they needed to investigate further, and in short order rolled out a new version to the App Store with an On/Off control for blinking. They followed up with me immediately to see if the change met our needs. The screens are now perfectly readable with no 'end-user annoying' blink."
The $49.95 app is working to capture other 3000 specifics, too.
A very nice feature of TTerm Pro is HotSpots. This enabled us to put a softkey on-screen for the enter key and allowed us to set up automatic logins for specific users. The “enter key” looks like a function key label in the bottom center of the screen (between the other function keys) and the automatic login is an on-screen button labeled “Login” which appears instead of the MPE i/X prompt. Touch it and you log in. For our application on an iPad, this is probably as close to perfect as we’re going to get.
September 02, 2013
Laboring Toward Support of SQL
Here in the US we're celebrating Labor Day. It's a Monday of a three-day weekend for a lot of laborers, although the day has turned into quite the commercial bonanza. It seems everyone wants to sell us mattresses and bedding sets this weekend. Perhaps sleeping season starts anew, with the end of the official summer vacation season.
While we ponder how much we owe to the historic labor organizations of the 20th Century -- things like national holidays, group benefits for health, the concepts of overtime and regulated reviews -- it's also a day to dig into the records for some 3000 history, too. I was tracking down technical papers for a 3000 consultant, one who'd asked the community to help him find his writing from the 1980s. I happened upon a paper from 25 years ago, offered at an Interex conference by HP's Orly Larson (at left). The genial advocate for databases was promoting the ideal of SQL for data storage and retrieval.
That might sound like advocating the benefits of sunshine or drinking water, but SQL was a long way from being essential to HP's 3000 success. It would take another five years, until 1993, for SQL to make its way into TurboIMAGE database architecture. In the meantime HP offered up three SQL products for 3000 DP managers. It was an era when the HP CISC processors, driving MPE V, were still in production use in the customer base. PA-RISC was laboring through its infancy among customer sites in 1988.
Larson sums up what was on the HP price list in 1988, and notes that Oracle was on the way for a late '88 release for MPE/XL, in a paper hosted on the OpenMPE website. The table (above) from that paper notes the first array of SQL solutions for HP's business computing customers. I've never encountered a 3000 customer who ever reported of using HP SQL. Allbase became a tick-box product for Hewlett-Packard while discussing 3000 options with new prospects. (Tick-box: yeah, we've got that. But nobody orders it.) Those customers who came in looking for SQL support on the 3000 were often convinced that the built-in IMAGE was a better choice, once you considered all the third-party software that was built to use that ubiquitous database.
There has been a lot of labor, across countless platforms, to elevate SQL selection to the equivalent of turning on a spigot for a drink of fresh water. Other technologies that seem new today, and have pending impact on MPE use like cloud computing and virtualization, will experience those years of laboring to become de-facto standards. The labor comes from the integration aspirations of IT managers, working overtime on long weekends like this one, to deploy something lauded but not fully proven. SQL was once a laborer in that state.
August 30, 2013
A 3000 emulator needs HP's IP to boot
Last week we reported a couple of stories' worth of information about a new emulator effort for the HP 3000. This one couldn't be more different than the Stromasys Charon product that's now winning customers. We've gotten a heads-up that another Charon site will be going online to replace large HP 3000s, this one in the northeast at a financial services company.
Meanwhile, Piotr Głowacz in Poland is fronting a band of developers who are taking an open source approach -- using publically-available documents.
We did our simulator based 100 percent on publicity-available docs (which is typical for FOSS projects). We've reached the point where the simulator is running, going through the install process for MPE/iX and crashes at the very unspecified moments. As we can't provide an HPSUSAN number for testing, we're just hoping our simulator will do (and we're closer to our goal each day).
We’re still checking to see if Głowacz’ team means that they're getting closer to a non-crash startup for MPE/iX every day. It’s not clear why if they had an HPSUSAN number, it would that help in the testing.
What your community learned in 2003 was HP's help would be required to emulate PA-RISC processors capable of booting MPE/iX. There's a Processor Dependent Code routine or module that halted the Stromasys work for years. HP's intellectual property lawyers wouldn't cooperate, and the Stromasys development had to get shelved. Until 2008, when HP changed its mind.
Open source has its unique advantages. One of them is finding things available in public domain and modifying that source code to solve a problem. However, PDC has been considered a trade secret by HP. Getting documentation about PDC from a public source is going to be a tough assignment. Stromasys got the information by arranging for a top-down, official relationship with HP. That's led to an HP Worldwide Reseller agreement.
Not even the licensees of the source code for MPE/iX have those internal HP docs about PDC in PA-RISC.
In a commercial arrangement, HP's lawyers might be convinced that it's a good idea to make that data available. It's a leap of faith to imagine that arrangement taking place for an open source project. This project would be the first open source re-engineering of a processor for the HP enterprise user base.People have ported open source tools. But to open-source an simulator of a proprietary chip, booting a proprietary enterprise OS, has never been done. That distinction of emulator and simulator is important.
If the open source team has a chance getting what it needs from Hewlett-Packard, it might start with Jennie Hou at HP. She ran the 3000 business group at the end, until there was no more group.
We don't know several other things yet. Are any of these developers experienced with MPE? Charon got release-ready when some MPE veterans joined the effort. And I also asked Głowacz "why do this, for a slice of the computer community that's so small?" It's clearly not a simple effort, as an volunteer open source project for a community the size of the 3000’s. The answer sounded like a line from a political speech or a play. “As for your question why, I'd like to answer as simplest as I can — if we're not for money, why not?” Glowacz said.
The line attributed to US Senator Robert F. Kennedy goes, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” In truth, the line comes from playwright George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah. It was spoken by the Serpent in that play.
“Why not” is noble and laudable. But there are expenses in most of the simulator/emulator projects -- if nothing else, there's the time of the developers and testers. Those are some reasons why not. Perhaps the nature of an open source project simply absorbs these real costs of labor and systems.
There are worse places for the 3000 community to find itself, than to be the subject of an open source simulator. Whether it’s suitable for commercial use must still be proven — once the effort gets a version which can boot. The hobbyist part of the 3000 community -- most likely to sieze on a free tool -- is already served by a free limited user and horsepower version of the Stromasys Charon software.
August 28, 2013
How to Restore Posix on a New 3000
Everything is peachy after my new install of MPE/iX (6.0; yes, I know it's very old) on my Series 918 -- except I haven't been able to get Telnet working. It errors every time when I put in the INETDCNF.NET file. In my attempts, it appears that I have missing links to the Posix shell. When I execute SH.HPBIN.SYS -L, I get a $ prompt which suggests that my /etc/profile isn't being executed. How can I fix this to get things working?
Donna Hofmeister replies
You're probably missing all/most of your Posix stuff. You can easily check by doing ":listfile /etc/,2" (you have to use listfile for this). If you see nothing...yeah, well... A quick repair for jinetd would be to do the following:
NEWLINK /etc/services, SERVICES.NET.SYS
NEWLINK /etc/protocols, PROTOCOL.NET.SYS
NEWLINK /etc/inetd.conf, INETDCNF.NET.SYS
On my system, I see the following files with links back to .net.sys:bootpd
You might want to go ahead and make those as well....
For restoring your missing files... you're on a bit of a quest.You can check your tapes (do a vstore) to see if any of them have slash-lowercase files. Maybe you'll get lucky! If so, do
"restore *t ; / - @.@.@; keep"
If you're not so lucky, try this...
1. Restore the following from the FOS tape:
2. :STREAM I0036431.USL.SYS
3. After I0036431 finishes,
Barry Lake at Allegro Consultants also suggested a look at the "Plug & Play Posix" paper on Allegro's website. "It's a little dated," he said, "but then, so is MPE/iX 6.0."
August 27, 2013
The Things We've Missed, This August
This week the VMware annual conference is holding court in San Francisco. Three HP 3000 faces are at the conference. Stromasys has its booth up and running, because the company's specialty is virtualization. Scott Hirsh (at right), former chairman of the SIGSYSMAN group in the '90s, is on hand as a member of his new company, virtual storage startup Actifio. Meanwhile, Doug Smith is on the scene, taking a few days away from his HP 3000 consultancy in the Dallas area.
It all reminds me of the way August usually buzzed for your community. This was the month when the printed publications that covered the 3000 swelled in page count. Today there's only one of us left, but August used to promise hefty issues of HP World, or Interact, or HP Professional. Even HP Omni, based in the UK, had a lift from the annual Interex conference, held as a moveable feast around North America.
We are mailing out our usual August issue this week. But it doesn't have a special shipment ahead of the postal service, to arrive at a show hall. The sweet frenzy of booth setup was one of my partner Abby's favorite times, when the vendors and leaders of your community could talk before showtime. This was when we'd usually bring around a small present, often made of leather, as our way of showing thanks for those sponsors. I'm even more grateful this August for our sponsors, fewer in number but just as devoted.
By the time our blog began, the annual conference was gone, a victim of the Interex bankruptcy. We could only report on what was no longer there, and why, what it cost everybody. It was the last time than an August had a conference scheduled with an HP in the title. Now HP Discover is entrenched in Vegas and happens every June.
We're also missing the parade of t-shirts that floated through August. A t-shirt offered at an HP conference had to be clever, if it was going to be picked up from a booth worker. Even the Newswire had t-shirts. The ones that HP's handing out this week are a bit threadbare on clever, or even inspiring. You don't often want your marketing message, something as unwieldy as "Proven software-defined innovations from HP," on the front of a shirt. It's another place where HP "needs to do better," as its CEO said while explaining the latest financial results last week. We once designed a shirt, for a vendor out of this market, with a wraparound rocket screen-printed on front and side.
Another thing we've missed this August is the annual HP Management Roundtable. Veterans of the conference trail might remember one of the last roundtables, this one focused on the 3000. On cue, 11 HP executives and managers rose up as one, removing their sportscoats and suit jackets. It was a powerful moment that was supposed to signal that the managers were rolling up their sleeves to do work answering questions. Harry Sterling, the best GM the 3000 division ever had, choreographed that move. He was the only GM ever to appear onstage for a talk wearing a tuxedo.
We miss the stunts and the amiable suffering too. The former included The World's Largest Poster project, where an HP 3000 drove an HP large-format printer, for weeks before the show, creating the poster in strips. The Newswire provided lunch while Wirt Atmar did all the organizing and produced the poster in rolls of paper. It all had to be loaded in a van and driven to Anaheim. Atmar called that toting of the rolls "the corporate fitness program" at his software company.
We're missing those kinds of people we'd see only once a year, the ones who we'd interview or check in with via phone every month. By the time we published our first Newswire during an August, the show called Interex had been renamed HP World. It was an outreach that the user group performed to retain HP's cooperation. For close to two decades by that time, the group had brought the smartest and most ardent users within HP's reach. I had my own moments of joy at those meetings, walking the halls and being hailed with hellos. A conference conversation rarely lasted five minutes and could be interrupted at any time by another attendee, especially a customer. Meeting in person was the best way to close a prospect, or understand a problem.
We also miss the System Improvement Ballot, a way to petition HP for improvements to MPE. The results of these requests were often unveiled at an August conference. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present for some customers, or finding a lump of coal in the stocking for others.
August used to leave your community invigorated, rededicated or just stirred up. But it always brought us closer together. We'll always have August in our memories, our cabinets of memorabilia, and the archives of the printed 3000 Newswire. I'm happy to be replicating one of the elements this year, by shipping out our 139th issue. If you'd like a copy in the US Mail, send me your address. As far back as 16 years ago, we were getting ready for daily coverage like you read in our blog. I'd stay up late each night producing stories for our website overnight. At least the drumbeat of a daily deadline hasn't changed.
August 26, 2013
Buy wee HP discs? Small payoff, big price
It's probably a habit you could break easier than you think. If you're keeping a 3000 online, either in homesteading or pre-migration mode, you could quit buying something as antique as 18GB disk drives. Taking a minute to consider the payoff might help adjust this habit.
We spoke to an IT manager at a California school district who was heading for a Linux replacement, somewhere down the road, for his HP 3000. One reason for the migration was the price of hardware. Yes, even in the year when HP hasn't built a 3000 for 10 years, original equipment disc is selling. Our IT manager reported his 18GB device had doubled in price.
That's original HP-branded disc, certified to run on an HP 3000. Sounds good, but it doesn't mean much in 2013. If that disk doesn't boot a 3000, or it becomes lost in the 3000 IO configuration -- LDEVs fall off -- who will you complain to? The seller of the disk, perhaps. But there's no HP anymore that knows or cares about the HP 3000 and its discs. So much for vendor warranty or certification.
Your third-party indie support company will do the certification -- let's just call it a check -- on the suitability of a model of drive. Seriously, we can't see why managers would buy system discs that have less storage than a USB flash drive crafted to look like a Despicable Me minion. Buying these is a habit, and one you can break with many SCSI discs out there, selling for under $100.Let's not call this habit silly or unwise. Let's call it unaware, the raise our awareness. Not long ago, 3K Ranger owner Keven Miller shared his research on replacement discs for 3000s.
From what I've experienced, any SCSI disk should work. I got an IBM 4GB drive from someplace, and it wouldn’t work. I put it onto a Unix box (HP-UX, Linux I don't recall) then found that the low level format was a 514 block size, not 512. I had to learn about using "setblock" to reformat the drive. Then, I could install MPE onto it as an LDEV 1.
I have these disks laying around
4GB Seagate ST14207W FastWide SCSI-2 68F
2GB Western Digital WDE2170-007 Ultra Fast Wide 68F
18GB IBM Ultrastar IC35L018UCD210-0 SCSI-LVD/SE U160 80pin
18GB IBM DNES-318350 SCSI-LVD/SE U160 80pin
36GB IBM Ultrastar DDYS-T36950 U160 80pin
36GB Maxstor ATLAS 10K IV U160 80pin
36GB Maxstor ATLAS 10K III U160 80pin
There was a time, perhaps 25 years ago, when 18GB discs not only seemed vast, but they were just a dream. Now the collection of USB sticks shown in the picture above sells for $28 at WalMart and holds 6GB more than that costly HP-branded disc.
If you can move beyond the HP PA-RISC hardware, and onto a virtualized server, you'll tap into the vast universe of such cheap storage. One minion can hold more than an LDEV 1, circa 1993. Back up. If one minion stops working, plug in another on that virtualized, PC-based MPE/iX system.
August 22, 2013
Other emulator: no sales, some commerce
The developer team that's working on a second HP 3000 emulator opened its horizons today with a message sent to the 3000-L mailing list. Piotr Glowacz was on the hunt for a copy of MPE/iX, as we noted yesterday. He'd really like copies of 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5.
One reader on the mailing list suggested this software was available from Client Systems. That company sells HP 3000s, as it has for more than five years by itself, and another 10 before that as the only North American distributor for HP's 3000 business.
The scope of this project led by Glowacz -- the group has yet to boot up a 3000 under any conditions, emulated or not -- clearly falls outside the range of sales. Today Glowacz said that there will no sales of the software once they finish. It's open source, after all. Noting that the project is not like the 3000 emulator now selling from Stromasys, Glowacz calls it a simulator.
Our simulator isn't going to be a commercial software. We want free, BSD-licensed, fully functional simulator for 3k architecture, for both private and commercial use.
There's another non-commercial aspect to this Simulator project. The group doesn't have a company behind it or enough resources to buy a bottom-end HP 3000 -- and get a copy of MPE/iX in the process."I know there are plenty of cheap 3k systems available," Glowacz told me in an email. "But at this moment we don't have resources needed to buy it and move it in (we're just a group of programmers, dispersed worldwide, with no commercial support and no company behind). Also, we'd need a few of these machines, as we're trying to simulate not only N-Class and A-class, but also older systems, like 9xx."
Another option emerged as a suggestion, and we're following up on that, too. Jack Connor, a hardworking volunteer for the OpenMPE board in the past and a current tech wizard for Abtech, said he believes Client Systems could provide what Piotr needs, for a fee.
I know that you can get, I believe, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, and 7.5 from Client Systems. There's a fee, but for bare bones MPE/iX without any of the major add-ons, I'd think price would be minimal.
These are legitimate licensed copies of MPE/iX, so all's above board as concerns HP.
I've reached out to Dan Cossey at Client Systems to check on the above, and see if this is the way it works there this year. The front page of their website they say they distinguish themselves by being
the only company authorized by Hewlett Packard in North America; that is allowed and capable of creating and loading a custom FPT (factory Pre load Tape) the exact same way it has been done at the HP factory for 30 years.
If they can do that tape for Piotr and his band of developers, then why not do it for everybody? And if that's true, it would change the prospects for any emulator, or simulator. It's been a given, up to now, that the only emulator customers will be companies which already own a valid 3000 license.