March 10, 2014
Getting 3000 clocks up to speed, always
The US rolled its clocks forward by one hour this past weekend. There are usually questions in this season about keeping 3000 clocks in sync, for anyone who hasn't figured this out over the last several years. US law has altered our clock-changing weekends during that time, but the process to do so is proven.
Donna Hofmeister, whose firm Allegro Consultants hosts the free nettime utility, explains how time checks on a regular basis keep your clocks, well, regular.
This past Sunday, when using SETCLOCK to set the time ahead one hour, should the timezone be advanced one hour as well?
The cure is to run a clock setting job every Sunday and not go running about twice a year. You'll gain the benefit of regular scheduling and a mostly time-sync'd system.
In step a-1 of the job supplied below you'll find the following line:
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
Clearly, this needs to be changed.
If for some dreadful reason you're not running NTP, you might want to check out 'nettime'. And while you're there, pick up a copy of 'bigdirs' and run it -- please!
Also, this job depends on the variable TZ being set -- which is easily done in your system logon udc:
SETVAR TZ "PST8PDT"
Adapt as needed. And don't forget -- if your tztab file is out of date, just grab a copy from another system. It's just a file.
This job below was adapted from logic developed by Paul Christidis:
!TELLOP ALL MPE SYSTEMS
!TELLOP ==SETTIME -- SYNCs SYSTEM CLOCK W/ TIME SERVER !
!# from the help text for setclock....
!# Results of the Time Zone Form
!# If the change in time zone is to a later time (a change to Daylight
!# Savings Time or an "Eastern" geographic movement), both local time
!# and the time zone offset are changed immediately.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see an immediate
!# jump forward to the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see no change.
!# If the change in time zone is to an earlier time (a change from
!# Daylight Savings to Standard Time or a "Western" geographic
!# movement), the time zone offset is changed immediately. Then the
!# local time slows down until the system time corresponds to the
!# time in the new time zone.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see a gradual
!# slowdown to match the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see an immediate forward jump, then a slowdown until the
!# system time again matches "real" Universal Time.
!# This method of changing time zones ensures that no out-of-sequence
!# time stamps will occur either in local time or in Universal Time.
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME A-1
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
!if hpcierr <> 0
! echo hpcierr !hpcierr (!hpcierrmsg)
! tellop NTPDATE problem
!tellop SETTIME -- Pausing for time adjustment to complete....
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME B-1
!setvar FallPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 10 AND hpdate > 24)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 11 AND hpdate < 8))
!setvar SpringPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 4 AND hpdate< 8)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 3 AND (hpdate > 7 AND hpdate < 15)))
!# TZ should always be found
! if hpday = 1
! if SpringPoint
!# switch to daylight savings time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]-1
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
! elseif FallPoint
!# switch to standard time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME C-1
Mark Ranft of 3k Pro added some experience with international clocks on the 3000.
If international time conversion is important to you, there are two additional things to do.
1) Set a system-wide UDC to set the TZ variable. (And perhaps account UDCs if accounts are for different locations)
TZ = CST6CDT
2) There is also a tztab.lib.sys that needs to be updated when countries change when or if they do DST.
ACCOUNT= SYS GROUP= LIB
FILENAME CODE ------------LOGICAL RECORD----------- ----SPACE----
SIZE TYP EOF LIMIT R/B SECTORS #X MX
TZTAB 1276B VA 681 681 1 96 1 8
# @(#) HP C/iX Library A.75.03 2008-02-26
# Mitteleuropaeische Zeit, Mitteleuropaeische Sommerzeit
0 3 25-31 3 1983-2038 0 MESZ-2
0 2 24-30 9 1983-1995 0 MEZ-1
0 2 25-31 10 1996-2038 0 MEZ-1
# Middle European Time, Middle European Time Daylight Savings Time
<< snipped >>
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March 07, 2014
Clouds, Google and the HP 3000 in print
The above items really shouldn't go together, if you follow conventional wisdom. Yes, the HP 3000 has been in the clouds, so long as you consider timesharing as the cloud. I first began to cover the 3000 at a publishing company that was using cloud computing. Once a month in 1984, we logged on for timesharing at Futura Press, where an HP 3000 connected to a PC with a 3000 terminal emulator. Our operator Janine set type using an MPE program on that 3000.
But today the cloud usually means something like a server farm from Google, Apple, HP or elsewhere. These vendors make it attractive to give up hardware and let an outside provider supply what's needed. However, we all still seem to like working with paper in our offices. Cue the 3000 manager who wants cloud printing from his MPE application.
Has anyone ever tried to use Google Cloud Printing using HP 3000, via NPConfig?
Even though the answer might be no as of today, it's possible to make Google's Cloud Print serve a 3000. The magic must leap over lots of 3000 traditional wisdom. Allegro's Stan Sieler explained, to the manager, that "depending on what you mean, I don't think it's even remotely possible."
Sieler outlined some other possibilities, always examining the full range of prospects.
If you meant, "print from HP 3000 to a printer via Google Cloud," then no.
Oh, it's possible someone could investigate the Google Cloud Print API and write some software for the HP 3000 that would intercept output sent to a "local" printer and redirect it to the Google Cloud API. But, it's not likely to happen.
If you meant, "print from an iOS or Android app (or a Safari/Chrome web browser) to a network printer a 3000 also prints on," then yes -- but the 3000 will be unaware it's sharing the printer with Google Cloud (or with other users, for that matter).
If you meant, “print from an iOS or Android app (or a Safari/Chrome web browser) to a printer locally attached (e.g., HP-IB) to printer on a 3000," then no. This would be hard, and (most likely) undesirable.
There's a pair of software solutions from RAC Consulting, Rich Corn's company that has connected the 3000 and other servers to the widest possible range of printers. Corn wasn't certain he could provide a connection as described, but he noted that the basic tools are on hand to try to create such a Google Cloud Printing solution.
I have quite a bit of experience with the Google Cloud Print API and 3000-based printing. In general, Stan is correct -- that the effort to connect GCP and the 3000 is too large to make sense to undertake. But there might be some scenarios that would work if you used our two products: ESPUL and Cloud Print for Windows together -- and your content is suitable. If you'd care to be more specific on what you want to do, then there might be a solution.
To create Cloud Print for Windows, Corn's used his expertise and decades of attaching print devices to HP business servers, to help create software that helps Windows systems employ the Google Cloud Print virtual printer service. So long as your printer's host can connect to the Web, Cloud Printing can be accessed from other desktops online.
Cloud Print for Windows then monitors these virtual printers and prints jobs submitted to a virtual printer on the corresponding local PC printer. In addition, Cloud Print for Windows supports printing from your PC to Google Cloud Print virtual printers. All without any need for the Chrome browser.
People expect Windows to be a more affordable platform per desktop, but the costs can add up. Employing cloud services can keep things more manageable in a budget. Cloud Print for Windows costs just $19 a seat.
March 06, 2014
Reducing the Costs in a Major MS Migration
Look all around your world, anywhere, and you'll see XP. Windows XP, of course, an operating system that Microsoft is serious about obsoleting in a month. That doesn't seem to deter the world from continuing to use it, though. XP is like MPE. Where it's installed, it's working. And getting it out of service, replacing it with the next generation, has serious costs. It will remind a system manager of replacing a 3000, in the aggregate. Not as much per PC. But together, a significant migration cost.
The real challenge lies in needed upgrades to all the other software installed on the Windows PCs.
There's a way to keep down the costs related to this switch. MB Foster reminded us that they've got a means to improve the connection to the 3000 updated via Windows PCs.
Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. MB Foster has noticed companies moving to Windows 7/8 with an eye toward leveraging 64-bit architectures, reducing risks and standardizing on a currently supported operating system.
As an authorized reseller of Attachmate's Reflection terminal emulation software, we advise you that now is the time to seize the opportunity and minimize risks -- and get the most out of your IT investments.
The key to keeping down these costs is something called a Volume Purchase Agreement. It's an ownership license that HP 3000 shops may not have employed up to now, but its terms have improved. MB Foster's been selling and supporting Reflection ever since the product was called PC2622, and ran from the DOS prompt. Over those three decades, the company estimates it's been responsible for a million or more desktops during the PC boom, when 3000 owners were heavy into another kind of migration: replacement of HP2392 hardwired terminals. "Today, we are responsible for the management and maintenance of approximately 50,000 desktops," Foster's Accounts Manager Chris Whitehead said.
Upgrading Reflection is a natural step in the migration away from Windows XP. "We recommend upgrading terminal emulation software to Windows 7/8 compatible versions," said Whitehead. "As your partner we can make it easy and convenient to administrate licenses, reduce year over year costs, secure a lower price per unit and for your company to gain some amazing efficiencies."
For a site that has individual licenses of Reflection or a competing product, there's an opportunity to move into a Volume Purchase Agreement (VPA). The minimum entry is now only 10 units, Whitehead explains.
Years ago, when the product was sold by WRQ, the minimum for a Reflection limited site license was 25. Then it went to a point system. But as a follow-on, a minimum 10 units is just required for a Volume Purchase Agreement. The VPA provides a mechanism for maintaining licenses on an annual basis -- meaning free upgrades and support. It also provides price protection, typically giving a client a lower price per unit when compared to a single-unit purchase. The VPA also allows you to transition from one flavor of Reflection to another, i.e. going from Reflection for HP to Reflection for Unix, and at a lower cost.
If a site is already a Volume Purchase Agreement (VPA) customer and it’s not maintained, Whitehead suggest a customer consider reactivating it. During the reactivation process you can
• Consolidate and upgrade licenses into one or more standardized solutions
• Surrender / retire licenses no longer needed or required
• Trade in competing products
• Only maintain the licenses needed
Details are available from Whitehead at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 05, 2014
What does a performance index represent?
I know this may be a tough question to answer, but thought I'd at least give it a try.
I'm doing an analysis to possibly upgrade our production 959KS/100 system to a 979KS/200, and I see the Hewlett-Packard performance metric chart that tells me we go from a 4.6 to 14.6. What does that increase represent? For instance, does each whole number (like 4.0 to 5.0) represent a general percentage increase in performance? I know it varies from one shop to another, so I'm just looking for a general guideline or personal experience -- like a job that used to take 10 hours to run now only takes 7 hours. The "personal experience" part of this may not even be appropriate, in that the upgrades may not be close to the metrics I am looking at.
Peter Eggers offers this reply, still worthy after several years
Those performance numbers are multiples of a popular system way back when, based on an average application mix as determined by HP after monitoring some systems and probably some system logs of loads on customer systems. No information here as to where you are on the many performance bell curves. The idea is to balance your system resources to match your application load, with enough of a margin to get you through to the next hardware upgrade.
People mention system and application tuning. You have to weigh time spent tuning and expected resource savings against the cost of an upgrade with the system and applications as is. Sometimes you can gain amazing savings with minor changes and little time spent. Don't forget to add in time to test, QA, and admin time for change management.
There are a many things to consider: CPU speed and any on chip caching; memory cache(s) size and speed; main memory size and speed; number of I/O channels and bandwidth; online communication topography, bandwidth, and strategy; online vs. batch priorities, and respective time slices; database and file design, access, locking, and cache hit strategies; application efficiency, tightening loops to fit memory caches, and compiler optimizations; and system load leveling.
Since you didn't understand the performance numbers, you might hire a good performance consultant that knows the HP 3000. Of course, look for the "low hanging fruit" fruit first for the biggest bang for the buck, and continue "up the tree" until you lose a net positive return on time invested.
You'll also hear it mentioned that adding memory won't help if the system is IO-bound. That is typically not the case, as more memory means more caching which can help eliminate IOs by retrieving data from cache, sometimes with dramatic improvements. This highlights the need for a good performance guru -- as it is easy to get lost in the details, or not be able to see "the big picture" and how it all fits together.
Aside from Eggers' advice, we take note of the last time HP rated its 3000 line.
At HP World in 2002, it announced the final new 3000 systems, all based upon the PA-8700 processors. At the high end, HP announced a new N-Class system based upon the 750 MHz PA-8700 processor. The new N4000-400-750 was the first HP e3000 to achieve an MPE/iX Relative Performance Units (MRPU) rating of 100; the Series 918 has an MRPU of 1.
HP contends that the MRPU is the only valid way to measure the relative performance of MPE systems. In particular, they maintain that the MHz rating is not a valid measure of relative performance, though they continue to use virtual MHz numbers for systems with software-crippled processors. For example, there are no 380 MHz or 500 MHz PA-RISC processors. Unfortunately, the MRPU does not allow for the comparison of the HP e3000 with other systems, even the HP 9000.
HP has changed the way it rates systems three times over the life of the HP 3000. During the middle years, the Series 918 was the standard with a rating of 1. In 1998, HP devised a new measurement standard for the systems it was introducing that no longer had the Series 918 at 1. It is under this new system that the N4000-400-750 is rated at 100. Applying a correction factor, AICS Research has rated the N4000-400-750 at 76.8 relative to the Series 918’s rating of 1.
March 04, 2014
Experts show how to use shell from MPE
I am attempting to convert a string into a number for use in timing computations inside an MPEiX job stream. In the Posix shell I can do this:
/SYS/PUB $ echo "21 + 21" | bc
But from the MPE command line this returns blank:
run sh.hpbin.sys;info='-c echo "21 + 21" | bc'
But why? I would like to calculate a formula with containing factors of arbitrary decimal precision and assign the integer result to a variable. Inside the shell I can do this:
shell/iX> x=$(echo "31.1 * 4.7" | bc)
shell/iX> echo $x
shell/iX> x=$(echo "31.1 * 4.7 + 2" | bc)
shell/iX> echo $x
shell/iX> x=$(echo "31.1 * 4.70 + 2" | bc)
shell/iX> echo $x
What I would like to do is the same thing albeit at the MPE : prompt instead, and assign the result to an MPE variable.
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies
CI numeric variables only handle integers (whole numbers). If your answer needs to be expressed with a decimal value (like 148.17 as shown above) you might be able to do something to express it as a string to the CI (setvar string_x "!x").
This is really sounding like something that's best handled by another solution -- like a compiled program or maybe a perl script.
For what it’s worth, the perl bundle that's available from Allegro has the MPE extensions included. This means you could do take advantage of perl's 'getoptions' as well as 'hpcicmds' (if you really need to get your result available at the CI level.Barry Lake of Allegro adds
The answer to your question of why, for the record, is that the first token is what's passed to the shell as the command to execute. In this case, the first token is simply "echo", and the rest of the command is either eaten or ignored.
To fix it, the entire command needs to be a single string passed to the shell, as in:
:run sh.hpbin.sys; info='-c "echo 21 + 21 | bc"' 42 END OF PROGRAM :
And if you want to clean that up a bit you can use XEQ instead of RUN:
:xeq sh.hpbin.sys '-c "echo 21 + 21 | bc"' 42
Or, you can do it with, for example, Vesoft's MPEX:
: mpex MPEX/3000 34N60120 (c) VESOFT Inc, 1980 7.5 04:07407 For help type 'HELP' % setvar pi 3.14159 % setvar r 4.5 % calc !pi * !r * !r 63.617191 % setvar Area !pi * !r * !r % showvar Area AREA = 63.617191 % exit END OF PROGRAM :
But the only thing I want is to be able to use a complied program which handles arbitrary precision variables from inside a job stream — such that I can return the integer part of the result to an MPE/iX variable.
Barry Lake replies
If you're happy with truncating your arithmetic result — that is, lopping off everything to the right of the decimal point, including the decimal point — then here's one way to do it:
/SYS/PUB $ echo "31.1 * 4.7" | bc 146.1 /SYS/PUB $ echo "31.1 * 4.7" | bc | cut -f1 -d. 146 /SYS/PUB $ callci setvar result $(echo "31.1 * 4.7" | bc | cut -f1 -d.) /SYS/PUB $ callci showvar result RESULT = 146 /SYS/PUB $ exit END OF PROGRAM : showvar result RESULT = 146 :
Perfect! Thank you. And this construct accepts CI VAR values as I require.
:SETVAR V1 "31.1" :SETVAR v2 "4.7" :XEQ SH.HPBIN.SYS;INFO='-c "callci setvar result $(echo ""!V1 * !V2"" | bc | cut -f1 -d.)"' :SHOWVAR RESULT RESULT = 146
March 03, 2014
Cloudy night shows that it's Magic Time
Server drives churn, routers flash, and time machines transport us through the power of stories. In our own community we are connected by wires and circuits and pulses of power. We always were, from days of black arts datacomm pushing data on cards of punched paper. We’ve lived through a glorious explosion of ideas and inspiration and instruction. It’s the movie that always has another story in waiting, this Internet. So ubiquitous we’ve stopped calling it by that name. In 2014, 40 years after MPE became viable and alive, the World Wide Web is named after an element common throughout the physical world: The Cloud.
And through the magic of these clouds come stories that lead us forward and allow us to look back at solved challenges. My partner Abby and I sit on the sofa these days and play with paper together, crossword puzzles, especially on weekends with the New York Times and LA Times puzzles. We look up answers from that cloud, and it delivers us stories. The Kingston Trio’s hit BMT leads us to The Smothers Brothers, starting out as a comic folksinger act. After video came alive for the HP 3000 in HP strategy TV broadcasts via satellite, there were webinars. Today, YouTube holds stories of the 3000’s shiniest moment, the debut of the ultimate model of that server.
Last night we sat on another couch in the house and watched the splashiest celebration of stories in our connected world, the Academy Awards. Despite racking up a fistful and more of them, Gravity didn’t take the Best Picture prize. You can have many elements of success, parts of being the best, and not end up named the winner of the final balloting. The 3000 saw a similar tally, a raft of successes, but the light began to fade. In the movies they call the last light of the day magic time, because it casts the sweetest shades on the players and settings.
It’s magic time for many of the 3000’s stalwart members of its special academy. The 3000’s remaining a time machine in your reaches of space. Data is like gravity, a force to unify and propel. MPE systems contain ample gravity: importance to users, plus the grounding of data. It becomes information, then stories, and finally wisdom.
And in our magic time, we are blessed with the time machine of the Web, the cloud. You can look up earlier wisdom of this community online, written in stories, illustrated in video, told via audio. Find it in the cloud at the following resources:
Plus, the companies that have kept websites stocked with stories about how to keep the magic lantern light of your system flashing onto screens. I’m grateful to have been part of that set of producers, directors and writers for the screen. It’s an exciting time to be able to move paper, as well as move beyond it with the speed of electrons. We’ve all grasped the tool of the Web with our whole hearts — even while we remember how to gather in a room like all those moviemakers did, to remember. There are many ways to honor the art of our story.
February 26, 2014
Comparing Historic 3000 Horsepower Costs
Over the last few weeks we've checked in with Jeff Kell, the system manager at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The university powered off its last two HP 3000s not long ago, and along the way has mounted dozens of Unix and Linux CPUs and virtual servers to replace that pair of MPE machines. We asked him what he believed the school's IT group had spent on MPE over 37 years -- and limited the question to the capital costs of systems. (Ownership cost is much harder to calculate across four decades.)
Kell, who founded the HP 3000 listserve and newsgroup, as well as chaired the SIGSYSMAN group for Interex over the years, said "We have had comparable expenses with each iteration of the 3000's life-cycle." Across those decades, the university owned Classic HP 3000s based on CISC technology, then early PA-RISC servers -- new enough in that generation to be considered "Spectrum" 3000s -- then later-model PA-RISC units, and finally the ultimate generation of HP 3000 hardware.
"In short, it was an expenditure in the low six figures, once every decade," Kell said.
We ran Series II, then Series IIIs, and the tags were low six-figures in the 1970s. We then got some 950s in the late 1980s (we had some early Series 950 deliveries) at about the same price point. Then the 969 in the 1990s, again about the same. And finally, the A/N-Class during this century.
Comparisons to two points seem worthy. The pricing for the value of high-end 3000 computing remained constant; at the time of the late 1980s, for example, a Series 950 was the most powerful 3000 available. Then there's the comparison to the expenditure of acquiring the hardware to support dozens of servers, virtual and otherwise. The low six figures won't buy much toward the high end of business critical computing gear over a decade, using today's commodity pricing. The newest servers might seem cheaper, but they don't give durable service for 10 years per installation, like the ones at Kell's shop did.It was not all smooth sailing on value for expenditures, Kell added. The A-Class server line was performance-challenged, even though it was rated a bit faster than the previous, K-Class 3000 hardware known as the Series 900 line.
"We had some performance issues with the A500 after we started offering our "online" applications: self-service, and we tried web-based apps, too -- but that was early on and challenged," Kell reported in his 3000 debriefing. Even at that moment in time, there was belief expressed for the ability of HP 3000 hardware to rise to the need, so long as it was more powerful 3000 hardware. Given the performance issues with the A-Class, he explained, "there was some political incentive to address the problem when we got the N-Class, which was a dominating force until the end of our 3000 days. It never blinked."
In short, the longest lifespan for any server still available with a Hewlett-Packard 3000 badge belongs to the N-Class. This is illustrated by the drive to match the horsepower of the top three models in that lineup, an effort which kept Stromasys CHARON engineers well-engaged during 2013.
February 25, 2014
Electronic forms: saving the planet?
Several vendors who are well-known to the 3000 community are in the electronic forms business. Hillary Software's suite of products, headed with byRequest (click for details below in the graphic), runs across multiple platforms. Working a different angle in the same sector, Minisoft has been selling its eFORMz designer since 2000. That was a year when the HP 3000's Java was current enough to host the 1.2 version of the program that designed forms and delivered data to them.
More than 13 years later, eFORMz is up to Version 9 and requires a 1.4.2 version of Java, which absolutely puts hosting the product out of the HP 3000's league. But it can and often does run on PCs, as well as Linux servers. With enough imagination and networking, those hosts can tap into the data on HP 3000s for distribution.
Minisoft just announced a new wrinkle to its eFORMz solution, the ability to employ DuplexPackSlip labels. This Ward/Kraft product combines a Shipping/Return Label with a Packing Slip/Invoice on the front and back sides of the same label. Minisoft sent out a message to say they may be "saving the planet one label at a time," when a customer is using these labels. The label, which was obviously not invented by Minisoft, can replace a shipping label, packing slip, plastic pouch and the extra toner required.
The Minisoft label generation tool brings data streams together and formats them for printing onto the new DuplexPackSlip label. eFORMz package generates forms on Windows 8 and earlier, as well as Mac Mountain Lion clients, using data from servers including an HP 3000.
A Director module in 9.0 consolidates all eFORMz toolkits and print monitors into a centralized service, one which uses a new Web App for management and configuration. Minisoft says the the Director "can execute and manage multiple print monitor configurations. Processes can be selectively paused, reconfigured and resumed without affecting other output processes."
February 24, 2014
Expanding that Posix Shell on the 3000
Way back in the middle 1990s, HP added the Posix shell to the HP 3000, so customers who had Unix and MPE running in the same shop could train operators and managers with a single set of commands. Posix was a plus, making the 3000 appear more Unix-like (which seemed important at the time).
It's been said that Posix was a promise only partly fulfilled for the 3000. There was a move to make the system more inclusive, to make it possible to port Unix software onto MPE/iX. Alas, a tech roadblock called the Fork of Death stood in the way of more widespread porting.
Over the years, however, Posix has been a feature to be discovered for most 3000 managers and operators. HP intended it to be essential; the computer's operating system was renamed from MPE/XL to MPE/iX just to call attention to these added Posix, Unix-like capabilities.
MPE failed in the Posix world primarily because of the unix "fork()" concept, so critical to the very nature of all that is Unix. It is a totally alien concept to MPE. MPE was designed to easily add additional new users to an executing process, and maintain the security/integrity of each individual user. It was not designed to duplicate a current process's environment, including the local data and state, because there was no point.
As one sage developer said of the deathly fork, "Yes, MPE would fork(), but very reluctantly, and very slowly. So nothing that depended on it worked very well."
But enough history; Posix is still on the 3000 and remains a powerful interface tool, an alternative to the CI interface that HP created for the system. You can even call Posix commands from the CI, a nifty piece of engineering when it can be done. That's not always possible, though. A customer wanted to know how to "expand wildcard shells" using Posix. He tried from the CI and had this story to relate.
ls: File or directory “/BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*” is not found
So how do I do this? I need to be able to tell tar to archive all of the reels of a STD STORE set via a regexp. It does not work in tar, and it apparently does not in ls, so I speculate that there is something special about the innovation of Posix utilities from the CI that I am not aware of. What is it?
Jeff Vance, the 3000 CI guru while at HP, who's gone on to work in open system and open source development, said this in reply:
Wildcards on most (all) Unix systems, including Posix implementations, are done by the shell, not the individual programs or in-lined shell commands, like ls in your example. A solution is to run the shell and execute ll from within.
Greg Stigers then supplied the magic Posix shell command to do the expansion:
SH.HPBIN.SYS '-c "/bin/ls -l /BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*"'
In a note of thanks, the customer said that getting the answer by working with the HP 3000 community's newsgroup "is like having an entire IT department right outside my door."
An interesting footnote if you've read this far: The Posix shell for the 3000 is one part of the operating system not built by HP. The shell was licensed by HP from MKS, and Hewlett-Packard pays royalties to MKS so Posix can work inside of MPE/iX.
For now, enjoy using Posix as a way to get familiar with the commands in Unix systems. In the great majority of instances, these commands are the same.
February 21, 2014
Just how fast is that A-Class, anyway?
By Brian Edminster
Earlier this week, there was a report of an A-Class HP 3000 going wanting on eBay. It was being offered for $2,000 with no takers. The system at hand was an A400-100-110, the genuine bottom of the A-Class line.
While I'd argue that a $2,000 A400 with a transferable MPE/iX licence is a steal, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for the wide variance in speeds in what is considered a A-Class' system.
I believe the system that was being offered as a bare bones A400, as indicated by its system number "A400-100-110." The first character (A) is the class; the next three numbers (400) are the family; the next three are the number of CPUs (100, meaning one); and the last three are the HP rated speed in MHz of the PA-RISC CPU chip. (In this case, it's a PA-8500) This system on eBay also happened to be missing a tape for creating/booting from a CSLT, so if your boot drive failed -- or you needed to make configuration changes that required booting from tape -- you would be out of luck without buying a little more hardware.
This particular A400 system, according to the AICS Relative Performance chart mentioned in the article, runs at a 17. That's about 1.7 times faster (CPU-wise) than the original 917/918 systems. In IO-intensive applications, I have found it felt closer to 2 times faster. I have also worked on an A400-100-150, which CPU speed-wise is a 37. (That system also happens to allow installation of 2GB RAM vs. the 1GB limit on an A400-100-110).
So in short, we can have a greater than 2:1 performance potential between two servers that are both ostensibly A400 A-Class systems. And that's not even taking into account the advantages of multiple CPUs for performance in complex multi-user environments.A400s and A500s have been available in both 1-way and 2-way models, while the N4000s are available in 1-way, 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way configurations. Prior generations of PA-RISC systems could be configured with as many as 4, 6, or even 12 processors. [Ed. note: I recall that several of those higher numbers were available only to HP-UX users.]
Performance benefits aside, multiple CPU systems have been, in my experience, more resilient to CPU failures. This is by virtue of having multiple CPUs. I've had multi-CPU systems where a single CPU failed, and if I had not noticed a minor difference in batch throughput, my online users wouldn't even have noticed. I simply scheduled a service call for the next day -- after warning my users of a previously unplanned service outage, and making sure the backups ran for the night.
It took longer for the hardware to self-test and MPE/iX to reboot than it took the service engineer to replace the bad CPU. Total un-planned down-time was about an hour. Not bad.
It was not quite hot-swap easy, like many modern RAID disk arrays. But that HP 3000 was plenty resilient enough to "Take a licking, and keep on ticking" -- as they once said of Timex watches.
Brian Edminster is the curator of the MPE Open Source repository and website www.MPE-opensource.org, as well as founder of an independent consultantancy.
February 19, 2014
Finding Value in An Exiting MPE Box
A few weeks ago, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga asked around to see if anybody wanted his decommissioned N-Class server. It's way above the power range of the A-Class servers, and even includes some storage options not usually found in a decommissioned 3000.
But the interest hasn't been strong, according to our last update from Kell. He put out his offer -- basically trying to keep the system from becoming more than spare parts, he said -- on the mailing list that he founded two decades ago. We refer that resource as the HP 3000 newsgroup, but it's a LISTSERVE mailing list of about 500 members.
We've heard several reports like this for HP 3000s being turned off, but none of them involved an N-Class system. There's a Series 969 on offer for free -- yes, take it away is all that Roger Perkins of the City of Long Beach asks. While that 969 is more powerful than an A-Class, it's still leagues behind an ultimate-generation N-Class 3000.
This begs the question of what value your community would assign to any used system, regardless of size. Horsetrading on hardware is an IT manager's pastime, when searching for newer for more powerful systems. But it's becoming clear there's a reset going on in the market.
Kell's offer on the newsgroup was straight to the point.
Kell also mentioned his own A-Class onsite, an A500, DATs, two DLTs, a few internal drives, and a dual connect VA fiber channel array. "It has an external SCSI rack that had some issues we never quite resolved; it won't boot today since the mirrored disks have issues). But the VA array was healthy. Assuming the software transfers these days, both these systems have MPE/iX 7.5, Mirror/iX, ToolSet, and TurboStore/7x24."
We have tentative arrangements to have our last two 3000s decommissioned, but was curious if there was any interest in the hardware/systems. Hate to sound like a sales pitch, but we're basically happy with shipping, plus a certification the drives are wiped.
We have an HP 3000-N4000 4-way, DATs, 2 DLTs, a few internal drives, and a VA fiber channel array (dual connect). It's perfectly fine.
That's a very suitable datacenter keystone to build a homesteading practice around. In fact, that's what the university had in mind when it bought those servers.
We tried our first "migration" in 1997 off the 3000 to Banner software, which was a gigantic Oracle monster, one that the UT system had essentially licensed for all campuses. But compared to our legacy application's customizations -- we did just about anything we were asked -- Banner was too restrictive. There was a revolt, and we ended up only implementing Financial Aid and student Account Receivables. So knowing that we had to stick on the 3000, we got that N-Class as our "homestead" machine. The A-Class was just a warm standby. We ran periodic snapshot backups and popped them over to the A-Class for restore, and did a full sync on weekends.
We ran that way for another decade, when we had Round 2 of the Banner conversion. We had roughly four generations worth of HP 3000s, maybe even actually five. After our delays for the Series 950 we purchased, HP provided us with a temporary Series 52/58 (development/production) systems to tide us over until the delivery -- our Series IIIs were beyond maxed out.
February 18, 2014
No takers for a $2,000 HP 3000 on eBay
It might have been the most valuable part that was missing from a $2,000 eBay listing for an A-Class 3000. There's no mention of a transferrable MPE/iX license for this rock-bottom system. But perhaps it was the horsepower, too. It's hard to understate how many HP 3000s run faster than a 1-CPU, 110Mhz A-Class.
Jesse Dougherty at Cypress Technology, a reliable HP 3000 reseller, reminded readers on the 3000 newsgroup about the offer.
I really thought that these would sell like hotcakes. I threw one up on eBay for 2k with a basic config. If any one is interested in a cheap back-up running MPE/iX 7.5, check out our link.
Other resellers have reported, several years ago, that you couldn't sell any N-Class system, the next level up in HP's ultimate generation of 3000s, for even $4,000. But an N-Class is 10 times more powerful than such an A-Class at the bottom of the HP lineup. Using the Relative Performance chart devised by AICS Research, there's a spread of 121 HP 3000 Performance Units between a single-CPU A-Class and the 440Mhz N-Class running one processor. The official HP relative performance chart (click for detail) doesn't use as many decimals to compare server speeds, but the spread is the same nevertheless.That's an 8:1 speed advantage, and if anybody was comparing the A-Class servers being offered to the older 3000s out there, almost all of the prior generation runs faster. Any 9x9 will outpace that A-Class, even the seldom-seen Series 929/020. You have to go back to a Series 928 to find a 9x8 that can be beaten by the entry-level A-Class.
There's more, of course. Dougherty said the machine was outfitted with a "basic config," meaning that it came with 1GB or RAM (out of a total of a possible 2 GB), a 9 GB LDEV1 boot disk, and and 18GB disk for storage. There's also a 100Base-TX LAN adapter.
Lots of 3000 gear is in the position of not being able to be given away. Roger Perkins of the City of Long Beach is still looking for someone who'd pick up his decommissioned Series 969, which is twice as fast as that A-Class server. The 9x9s draw a lot more power and have more IO device restrictions, of course.
If a 3000 built at least 15 years ago can't be given away easily, and one that was first released 13 years ago is going unsold at $2,000, there's a possibility we're seeing a marker in the value of a 3000 configured at the rock bottom of the ultimate generation. The cost of hotcakes appears to be falling this year.
February 17, 2014
Durable advice speeds up HP 3000s
Our editor Gilles Schipper posted a fine article on improving CPU performance on 3000s "in a heartbeat." One of our readers asked a question which prompted Gilles to clarify part of the process to speed up a 3000, for free.
Gilles, who offers HP 3000 and HP 9000 support through his firm GSA, Inc., has also replied to a recent question about how to make a DLT backup device return to its speedy performance, after slowing to about a third of its performance.
The Heartbeat article focused on needless CPU overhead that could be caused by a networking heartbeat on 3000s. Gilles points out:
Fortunately, there is a very simple way to recognize whether the problem exists, and also a simple cure. If your DTCs are connected without transceivers, you will not be subject to this problem. Otherwise, to determine if you have the problem, simply type the command
In the report that is produced, you will notice OPEN files (ones with an associated asterisk ending the file name); these are 1W in size.
There are two such files associated with each configured DTC, file name starting with the letter H, followed by six characters that represent the last six characters of the DTC MAC address, followed by the letter A or B. The EOF for these files should be 0 and 5 for the respective "A" and "B" files.
Otherwise, your CPU is being subjected to high-volume, unnecessary IO, requiring CPU attention. The solution is to simply enable SQL heartbeat for each transceiver attached to each DTC. This is done via a small white jumper switch that you should see at the side of each transceiver. Voila, you've just achieved a significant no-cost CPU upgrade.
Compete details are in Gilles' original article. On speeding up backup time, he pointed out that adding an option to the STORE command will help you track IO retries.
We have a DLT tape drive. Lately it wants to take 6-7 hours to do backup instead of its usual two or less. But not every night, and not on the same night every week. I have been putting in new tapes now, but it still occurs randomly. I have cleaned it. I can restore from the tapes no problem. It doesn’t appear to be fighting some nightly process for CPU cycles. Any ideas on what gives?
Something that may be causing extended backup time is excessive IO retries, as the result of deteriorating tapes or tape drive.
One way to know is to add the ;STATISTICS option to your STORE command. This will show you the number of IO retries as well as the actual IO rate and actual volume of data output.
Another possibilty is that your machine is experiencing other physical problems resulting in excessive logging activity and abnormal CPU interrupt activity — which is depleting your system resources resulting in extended backup times.
Check out the following files in the following Posix directories:
If they are very large, you indeed may have a hardware problem — one that is not "breaking" your machine, but simply "bending" it.
February 14, 2014
Even a classic 3000 game can get LinkedIn
LinkedIn, the Facebook for business relationships, is now the home a new group related to the HP 3000. Veterans of the system know Empire as a stragegy game that was first hosted under MPE in the 1980s. Now these game players have their own LinkedIn Group.
Johnson, who's helped to administer 3000s for Measurement Specialties (a cross-global manufacturer) as well as OpenMPE, moved the group of users off Yahoo, he reported.
Johnson noted that LinkedIn "has some features for discussions that seem interesting. While LinkedIn seems focused to connecting with associates and ostensibly job hunting, features designed for purposes can be purloined for other purposes, such as:
Since February of 2000 I've kept a Yahoo Group dedicated to the text game of Empire on the HP 3000, mainly to announce regenerations of new games and enhancements. Empire is piggy-backed as an account on the INVENT3K server, which is still running in DR mode. Games are free -- and unlike most Internet games today, it doesn't track your whereabouts, place cookies, install hidden apps, or seek your mother's maiden name.
The game still goes on, but since Yahoo went to NEO format last year, I've been looking for something easier to manage (and more socially viable). Without plunging into the supra-popular mediums like Twitter and Facebook, I have decided to close the Yahoo Group and put a new one for Empire on LinkedIn.
- Regular Discussions and comments.
- Permanent announcements can be posted using the "Promotions" type of discussion. Will probably use that to announce new games.
- Temporary announcements (two weeks) can be posed using the "Jobs" type of discussion.
He added that LinkedIn hasn't got much bad press. Of late, Yahoo and its groups have had "near half a million passwords hacked, and total shutdown in some areas of the world," Johnson said.
Empire has a domain name, and you can put empire.openmpe.com into your Reflection, Minisoft, or QCTerm configuration. Porting the game and website was rather easy. The original site used Orbit+/iX disk to disk backups (courtesy of Orbit), and it was simply FTP'd to the new machine and then restored. Additional assistance was provided by Keven Miller at 3kRanger to make the website fit in with the regular INVENT3K website. INVENT3K's website now has a button that links to Empire. Both sites are hosted on the same machine where the games are running.
Empire, one of the original role-playing games for computers, gained a home on the HP 3000 during the era of text-based interactive gaming. Reed College in Portland hosted the first board-game version of Empire (at left), giving the game a Pacific Northwest home that would lead it to the HP 3000.
In 1971 Empire first emerged from Unix systems, created by Peter Langsdon at Harvard. It resurfaced under the name Civilization on an HP 2000 minicomputer at Evergreen State College, where an HP 3000 would soon arrive. When that HP 2000 was retired, the source code to Civilization was lost -- but Ben Norton wrote a new version of the game for MPE, Empire Classic, in 1984. Built in BASIC/3000, Empire became the 3000's best-known game, in part because it was included in the 3000's Contributed Software Library.
While Civilization began to have a graphical life on personal computers like the Amiga, Empire on the 3000 is text-only, using prompts and replies designed to build economic and political entities, with military actions included. That's right, we mean present-day: the game remains in use today, 30 years after it was first launched for MPE.
February 11, 2014
Making a few more comparisons of code
It's always a good thing for the community to read about a tool they need and use, because it usually brings up some notes about allied solutions. When we wrote about replacing code comparison tools for developers who work on the 3000, we got several notes about other solutions. One can't be purchased any longer. Come to think of it, the other one cannot either -- but both of these tools can be obtained and be used in a development environment for HP 3000s.
The first is the much-beloved Whisper Programmer Studio. Bruce Hobbs left us a comment to say that this PC-based dev environment, one built to talk to the HP 3000 and files on the server, "offers a Compare Files item from their Tools menu. It does a fine job in a GUI environment."
Whisper came up in a note that our contributing editor Brian Edminster sent after the story emerged. "I still use it daily at my primary client," Edminster said, while giving us a heads-up he's still looking into how to make Notepad ++ a better player in the MPE development world. 3000 access is a problem to be solved, but Edminster specializes in open source solutions, so we'll stay in touch to see what he discovers.
In the meantime, you can enjoy his rundown on Programmer Studio versus Qedit for Windows.
The other solution for comparing files lies inside MPE/iX itself. That OS is also a product that, like the beloved Whisper, is no longer being sold. (It's being re-sold, however, each time a used 3000 changes hands.) Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh called to remind us of the hidden value inside MPE.
The HP 3000's File Copier, FCOPY, includes a COMPARE option. Vladimir called to remind us (after he mentioned celebrating his 75th birthday last week) that FCOPY COMPARE will only work on a single file at a time. "But with MPEX, you can use it on a file set," he said.
If you're able to log onto a 3000 you can find FCOPY and COMPARE with it. MPEX is for sale, so that makes a complete solution set. Alas for Whisper, it dropped out of the market. The company that built the Studio ended an 18-year run in 2009, according to company founder Graham Wooley. The UK's Whisper built and promoted the Programmer Studio PC-based toolset, selling it as a development environment which engineered exchanges with the 3000 but could be used to create programs under Windows. Robelle responded promptly with a Windows version of Qedit, and the 3000 ecosystem had a lively competition for programming tools for more than five years.
Programmer Studio seems to be available as 1. A free download, or 2. A $299 product, also downloadable. Sources include Download A to Z, and another location is googooster.blogspot.com. But with commerical products on hand, we'd urge some caution about downloading free versions of formerly commercial software. Heaven only knows what might come down into a Windows hard drive while looking for something with so much value -- but now being offered for nothing.
February 10, 2014
No need to look far to find a PDF 3000 utility
PDF is becoming the archival choice for so many companies. Documents that once moved about in formats specific to their environments, like HP 3000 reports, have been earmarked for PDF transformation. For some companies, they'll need storage of these documents outside of the 3000 disks and databases.
Ray Shahan mentioned such a project on the 3000 newsgroup recently.
We’re looking at storing all of our printable historical transaction docs on the HP 3000 as PDF docs in a SQL Server database. We’ve looked at winpcl2pdf that uses GhostPCL, but had some issues using it due to the CCTL from the 3000.
We also are looking at two products from OpenSeas, SpoolPDF (handles the CCTL) and OpenPDF (does the conversion of PCL to PDF). These two products seem to work fairly well (we’ve hit a snag or two with fonts, but have resolved those thus far).
It’d be ideal to have a freeware product, but that seems unlikely, so we’re just looking at other offerings to see the cost/benefits of each.
There's a 3000-friendly solution in plain sight, from a long-time provider, that handles both the PDF creation -- plus the movement onto the SQL Server database. Hillary Software supplies these utilities.The company sells byRequest for any PDF conversions that are needed. Plus, it's got software called onHand for the SQL Server storage requirement, according to Hillary's Chuck Nickerson.
Shahan makes a good point about the true value of freeware, which can be worth what you pay for it. The 3000's got those CCTL nuances, and then there's the font issues. Hillary describes onHand as a "virtual file cabinet."
onHand is a virtual file cabinet -- an integrated content management system. Classify, index, organize and store thousands of documents, reports, forms and data in their native file formats like PDF, Excel, HTML, Word and more.
Eliminate the clutter and clumsiness of Windows and FTP folder storage methods. E-file directly from byREQUEST into onHand. Control document security and document retention timeframes as you publish. Use the power of an SQL relational database with onHand for both short and long term archives.
Archiving is a mission in steep growth for HP 3000s, since the servers carry so much company history in their databases. Buying the most skilled tool can be a worthwhile investment. There are few out there that handle all reporting -- and know the world of MPE/iX and the 3000 -- as well as the Hillary products. PDF is one of the byRequest specialties.
While other products such as Sanface's txt2pdf have been bent to serve the HP 3000, byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application. Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest has been tuned up to support secure FTP as well, according to another 3000 manager.
Nickerson said the company's 3000 plans are set for the future. "If your 3000 is plugged in, we'll support it," he said. "If it's unplugged, we'll help you plug it in." Hillary will also help move byRequest to any migration platform after it's finished working on the HP 3000.
February 07, 2014
Code-cutter Comparing Solutions for 3000s
When a 3000 utility goes dark — because its creator has dropped MPE/iX operations, or the trail to the support business for the tool has grown faint — the 3000 community can serve up alternatives quickly. A mature operating system and experienced users offer options that are hard to beat.
One such example was Aldon Computing's SCOMPARE development tool, once a staple for 3000-based developers. It compared source files for more than 15 years in the HP 3000 world. Eventually Aldon left the MPE business. But there are a fistful of alternatives. Allegro Consultants offers a free MPE/iX solution in SCOM, located at
At that Web page, scroll down to SCOM. Other candidates included a compare UDC from Robelle, GNU Diff, diff in the HP 3000's Posix environment, and more. If you're willing to go off the MPE reservation -- and a lot of developers work on PCs by now -- there's even a free plug-in for Notepad++, that freeware source code editor which relaces Notepad in Windows. You can download that plug-in as an open source tool at SourceForge.net
When the subject first surfaced, Bruce Collins of Softvoyage offered details on using diff in the HP 3000's Posix.
run diff.hpbin.sys;info="FILE1 FILE2"
The file names use HFS syntax so they should be entered in upper case. If the files aren't in the current account or group, they should be entered as /ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILE
Donna Hofmeister offered a tip on using Robelle's compare UDC:
Regarding Robelle's compare. Being a scripting advocate, I strongly recommend adapting their UDC into a script.... and take a few seconds to add a wee bit of help text to the script, to make life more enjoyable for all (which is the reason for scripting, yes?)
Other environments that might be operating in the 3000 datacenter provide alternatives. Former HP engineer Lars Appel brought up a Linux option in the KDE development environment:
If using KDE, you might also find Kompare handy...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kompare (see screenshot)
On MPE, as others mentioned, there is still the Posix diff in two flavours: the HP-supplied in /bin and the GNU version that lives in /usr/local/bin. The former allows two output formats (diff and diff -c); the latter also allows “diff -u”.
Oh, regarding /bin/diff on MPE... I sometimes got “strange” errors (like “file too big”) from it when trying to compare MPE record oriented files. A workaround was to use tobyte (with -at options) to created bytestream files for diff’ing.
Appel has noted the problem of comparing numbered files, like COBOL source files, when one or both files have been renumbered.
With Posix tools, one might use cut(1) with -c option to “peel off” the line number columns before using diff(1) for comparing the “meat”. Something in the line of ... /bin/cut -c7-72 SourceFile1 > BodyText1.
February 06, 2014
PowerHouse's Unicom owner is an original
Anybody can make a mistake, and we've made one about the new owners of the Powerhouse and Axiant ADT development tools. The software that was once a part of Cognos, and then became a product of IBM's, is now owned by the original, founding company of Unicom's extensive enterprises. I identified the owning division as Unicom Engineering, Inc. Not true; that group is a manufacturer of appliances.
Chief Integration Officer Eric Vaughn sent us a note to set things straight. Unicom Systems is the proud owner of software that it sees as a good value with fine prospects. Part of the story which we like best is that the oldest, most accomplished part of Unicom is the owner of a tool with genuine legacy. "He's a real original" is something that can be said about both PowerHouse and the group that now owns it.
The ADT tools were acquired by UNICOM Systems, Inc., a separate division of UNICOM Global. UNICOM Systems was the original company founded in 1981 by Corry Hong, who continues to lead all of UNICOM today. UNICOM Systems develops and supports a large portfolio of enterprise level software across multiple platforms. The ADT suite, including PowerHouse 4GL Server, PowerHouse Web and Axiant for PowerHouse, are under the care of the UNICOM Systems development and support infrastructure. See our page at http://unicomsi.com/products/powerhouse.
Vaughn also took a moment to note that over more than three decades of software development, distribution and support, nothing has ever been sent off into the sunset. Considering how much Unicom develops and sells, that's great news for a PowerHouse community with keen interest in the new ownership.
"In UNICOM's 33-year history," Vaughn said, "there never has been a single product that has been discontinued, and UNICOM has continued to support every product through the years. PowerHouse users can expect the same dedication to these products."
A company with the foresight to see a future in such a classic product, as well as a track record of no sunsets, is a rare thing in our community. It will be interesting to hear more of the story to come. Members of the Cognos LinkedIn community are already talking about it.
February 03, 2014
Yours is a gathering group of users
Almost as soon as the June meeting of SIG-BAR was announced, others in your community wanted to join in. A meeting of ASK Computing manufacturing veterans and friends -- the IT managers running and developing the MANMAN app, still used in scores of companies -- want to gather in a reunion on June 14. It's just a few days after the June 12 SIG-BAR, a bit up the road in the UK.
SIG-BAR, for any who don't know, is the communal gathering of HP 3000 people lately being organized by Dave Wiseman. It's named SIG-BAR because such an event usually convened at the hotel bar of the main conference hotel of Interex shows. With a beverage at hand and cocktail nuts aplenty, the HP 3000 users and vendors solved the problems of the world informally. When last call rolled around, everybody knew and trusted one another better. If they were lucky, someone had done something silly that had just made everyone who worked with machines all day seem more personal. Like Wiseman (above) posing with the inflatable alligator that he toted through the aisles at an Interex show in Orlando. Wiseman notes that "we filled it with helium at Bradmark's stand -- they were giving away balloons -- so we had high squeaky voices all evening in the bar!"
Those were the days when the bar bets could not be settled with smartphones. When the bets were about commands in MPE or model features of HP 3000s, the community's experts flexed their memory muscles.
The reunion of ASK users is just being mounted in Milton Keynes, a manufacturing town just a couple of stops up from Euston Station in London. And London is the location for the June 12 meeting of SIG-BAR at Dirty Dick's. SIG-BAR on Thursday, ASK on Saturday, all in the gentle climate of and English summer. Why go? To stay in touch with people who know how to help your continued use of HP 3000. It's the one element that always made the HP 3000 users stand out from others that I chronicled from the 1980s onward. A very social species, you've been.Details on the ASK Reunion can be had from Sarah Tibble, formerly of ASK and one to cross the pond during those days of social travel. The networking is different by now for the Millennial generation, but Gen 3000 doesn't want to cease those days of gathering. "I was with ASK for 11 years and did about 15 US trips," she said.
Milton Keynes has some computing lure and lore of its own. The area of the UK was the site of Bletchley Park, where English cypto-wizards cracked German code in WW II using as much brain power as they could muster. The first wave of the Government Code and Cypher School moved to Bletchley Park in August, 1939. Now the buildings at Bletchley house the National Computing Museum of the UK, which includes a working reconstruction of a Colossus computer by a team headed by Tony Sale along with many important examples of British computing machinery.
As for examples of 3000 computing machinery users who have RSVP'd for SIG-BAR June 12 London, the current list, plus your host Mr. Wiseman, is
January 31, 2014
The Final 3000 Quarter at Hewlett-Packard
It's the final day of HP's Q1 for 2014, so in about three weeks we'll know how the company has fared in its turnaround. Analyst sites are rating the stock as a hold, or giving the company a C+ rating. It's instructive to see how much has changed from the final quarter when 3000 customers sent measurable revenues to Hewlett-Packard.
That would be the Q1 of 2009, including the final two months of HP's regular systems support sales of November-December of 2008. At the end of '08 HP closed its MPE/iX and 3000 lab. And without a lab, there was no way business critical support would offer much of an incentive to keep HP's support in a 3000 shop's IT budget.
The customers' shake-off of HP's support revenue didn't happen immediately, of course. People had signed multi-year contracts for support with the vendor. But during the start of this financial period of five years ago, there was no clear reason to expect HP to be improve for MPE/iX, even in dire circumstances. Vintage support was the only product left to buy for a 3000 through the end of 2010.
In Q1 of 2009, HP reported $28.2 billion in total sales. In its latest quarter, that number was $29.1 billion. Nearly five years have delivered only $900 million in extra sales per quarter, despite swallowing up EDS and its 140,000 consultants and billions in sales, or purchasing tens of billions of dollars worth of outside companies like Autonomy.
In January of 2009, HP 3000 revenues were even more invisible than the Business Critical Systems revenues of today. But BCS totals back then were still skidding by 15-20 percent per quarter, 20 quarters ago. And even in 2009, selling these alternatives to an HP 3000 was generating only 4 percent of the Enterprise Server group's sales. Yes, all of enterprise servers made up 2.5 percent of the 2009 HP Q1. But that hardware and networking is the short tail of the beast that was HP's server business, including the 3000. Support is the long tail, one that stretched to the end of 2008 for MPE, more than seven years HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans.
It's easy to say that the HP 3000 meant a lot to HP's fortunes. In a way it certainly did, because there was no significant business computing product line until MPE started to get stable in 1974. But the profits really didn't flow off the hardware using that 20th Century model. Support was the big earner, as the mob says of anybody who returns profits to the head of the organization. HP 3000 support was always a good earner, right up to the time HP closed down those labs and sent its wizards packing, or into other company divisions.
It had been a small business all along, this HP 3000. A billion dollars was a great quarter's worth, and the 3000 division never came close. But all of HP's business critical servers together only managed $700 million in sales -- five years ago. The profits from such customers were only significant because of support relationships. This is why those contracts were the last thing HP terminated.
This eventually became a good thing for the stalwart support companies that remained by the 3000 manager's side. At least there was no HP to quote against a company like Pivital Solutions that specializes in real MPE/iX support, for example. No vendor claims of "we can engineer a patch or software fix" that a system vendor uses to retain a customer. By January of '09, HP Support took on the remaining 3000 operations and briefed customers but offered no clue on how much contact the community might expect from support. HP's community liaison to the 3000, its business manager and lab experts departed.
The final months of 2008, which made up that very last HP 3000 quarter, capped a year with many months of no information whatsoever from the vendor. HP didn't appear eager to address much except the migration nuances still available to companies leaving the platform. To nobody's genuine suprise, Hewlett-Packard wasn't winning much migration business from 3000 customers making a transition.
We know that's true because of a report from Stromays during 2010. Sometime during 2008, HP re-established contact with the only company that made a concerted effort to emulate an HP 3000. According to Stromasys CTO Dr. Robert Boers, three out of every four departing 3000 sites chose a non-HP environment. And without MPE/iX to support, the only money a former 3000 owner would be sending -- if they were pragmatic, and not incensed -- would've been for HP's Intel-based Proliants, running Windows.
The quarters of 2009 and 2010 might have eked out a bit of revenue from 3000 owners. Some were determined to purchase the HP support that had no hope of fixing problems via new engineering. But HP was not encouraging this by the final months of Q1, 2009
HP strongly recommends that customers request all available PowerPatches and SW Media that they may need for the remainder of the life of their e3000 systems, before December 31, 2008. Customers under Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering (MPS w/o SE) can still request PowerPatches and SW Media during the remainder of the Limited Support Extension, through their local HP Representative or Contract Administrator; however, processing and delivery time may vary.
The one and only source of revenue today from the HP 3000 community to HP -- something that will comprise a scant trickle of cash -- is the $432 license transfers, still in place after five years to enable an emulator to replace a 3000.
The HP Software License Transfer process will continue to be used in the event an HP customer wishes to transfer an existing MPE/iX Right-To-Use (RTU) license from a valid e3000 system to an emulation platform of the customer’s choice that runs on other licensed HP products. It will be a system-to-system transfer, regardless of the number of CPUs on the destination platform.
Even in the situation of forcing companies off a server that was working, Hewlett-Packard attempted to keep them on hardware "that runs on other licensed HP products." Classy to the end. HP signed off in January of 2009 with a thanks for all the fish message, urging everybody to get to a lifeboat. But few of the boats would be flying an HP flag, despite these lyrical hopes.
Finally, we want to take this opportunity to thank OpenMPE, Interex, Encompass, and Connect for their dedication to customer advocacy over the years, our HP e3000 ISVs, tools, and support partners that have contributed a rich set of products and services on top of MPE/iX for our customers, and our migration service and tools partners for their invaluable services and products in assisting our customers with their migrations to other HP solutions. Most of all, our sincere thanks to our valued customers. HP looks forward to continuing to provide our customers the best-in-class services and the opportunity to serve you with other HP products.
January 30, 2014
Ensuring You Edit with the Right Quad
HP 3000 editors may be passe in many homesteading sites. Better tools for manipulating and tracking code are available on Linux, Unix, PC and Mac systems. But not many of them have the advantage of grabbing onto an MPE module during development. Robelle's Qedit has moved to PCs, but a 3000-native tool remains the free Quad.
You just have to be sure you're using the right version of this tool.
Walter Murray, who served in HP's Langauge Labs for many years, still likes using the MPE-centric Quad. He explained why, and noted an annoyance, too. One that another MPE veteran helped work around. Said Murray, "For editing, Quad has become my editor of choice. Among its bothersome limitations are that the search is case-sensitive (which leads us to avoid lower case in COBOL source code, except for comments)."
Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has pointed out that the version of Quad being used makes a significant difference. "All Quads are not equal," he said. (Quad can be downloaded from a link off the 3k Associates archival website, a terrific resource for MPE software.)Yeo explains about the many flavors of Quad, a tool which started in the labs of Quest Software several decades ago, but clearly has some utility left in it.
Whilst that case-sensitivity may be true of the HP version of Quad, it’s not true of other versions (of which there seem to be many).
For example, the HP version for LIST:
The List command lists a range of lines.
The format is
List Range [Offline] [Header] [Unnumbered] [Truncate]
Meanwhile, a Quest/SRN version has CASE NONLIT and WILDCARD options on LIST, FIND, CHANGE
The List command lists a range of lines.
The format is
List Range [Offline] [Header] [Unnumbered] [Truncate]
[Case] [Nonlit] [Wild]
So the Quest version given :L A I"mpe" will by default list any line containing the string in any case combination unless CASE is specified -- whereas the HP version can only show lines containing the exact match.
It is therefore wise to check what version of Quad you are using especially when logging on to a different HP 3000 than you do normally.
January 28, 2014
Cross-pond experts to meet in UK
Last month, Dave Wiseman organized the first SIG-BAR meeting in more than a decade in London. The turnout at what was an HP 3000 social and networking event was encouraging enough to put another meeting on the calendar. This one is going to have some HP 3000 experts on hand from across the pond, as we like to say about Transatlantic travels.
The next SIGBAR event is June 12, to be held at the same Dirty Dick's tavern and meeting room as the December 5 gathering. This time around, Brian Duncombe of Triolet Systems and Steve Cooper of Allegro are making the journey to be on hand. It's a long way from Canada, in Duncombe's case, or California for Cooper to re-connect with 3000 contacts. But yours is a world that was always founded in community.
And frankly, being in London in June is a brighter prospect than a December day. Literally. While traveling to London more than a decade ago in winter, the sun sets about 4 PM. To contrast, it comes up before 5 in the same month when Wimbeldon kicks off.
Duncombe, for the 3000 user who doesn't know him, created some high-caliber database shadowing and performance measurement software for MPE during the 1980s and into the '90s. He's planning a journey round-trip from Toronto that will literally span about 48 hours on the Canadian clock. That's how much he's engaged with the community and old friends. "I sleep well on planes," Duncombe said."I leave Toronto about 10pm on Wednesday June 11, arriving late morning on Thursday the 12th," Duncombe said. "It is about an hour train/tube to the gathering. I then leave Friday morning, arriving home Friday afternoon. While the flight times are each a couple of hours longer, I sleep well on planes, and the cost and total time away is about the same as going to California."
Cooper, one of Allegro's founders, didn't want California 3000 masters to be unrepresented -- so he's making the trip with his wife Suzanne. Alan Yeo, ScreenJet's founder and a fellow English 3000 expert, has also committed to being at the meeting.
Wiseman, who was well-known among 3000 customers as a live wire working for database companies before starting up Millware in the late 1990s, has been persistent in keeping the 3000 fellowship lamp lit in the UK. He presented details.
The feedback from the venue we had last time was pretty positive, so I have booked the upstairs of Dirty Dick’s again from 3PM onwards, and we have it for the evening
London EC2M 4NR
Tel : 020 7283 5888
Since I hear that we may have at least two participants from North America, to the rest of you, please do come over. (Why not have a weekend in London?) Closest hotels are the South Palace Hotel (approx £206/night) or the Liverpool Street Hyatt (approx £320/night advance booking)
It would be helpful if we can get approximate numbers for attendees, so that they set aside a large enough area for us. So please, could you confirm/reconfirm if you plan to attend? As always, please do pass this on to anyone who you think would be interested
+44 777 555 7017
January 23, 2014
Unicom sets new roadmap for Powerhouse
Nobody is certain what will happen to the Powerhouse ADT tools in 2014, but it's certain they're not going to remain the same as they've been since before 2009. For the first time in five years, the Powerhouse, Powerhouse Web and Axiant advanced development software will be getting new versions.
The new versions were announced on the LinkedIn Cognos Powerhouse section, a 320-member group that for the moment is closed and requires approval of a moderator to join. (The HP3000 Community section of LinkedIn, now at 618 members, is the same sort of group; but admission there only requires some experience with MPE/iX and the 3000 to become a member. I was approved in the Cognos Powerhouse group in less than 24 hours.)
Up on LinkedIn, Larry Lawler told the members of the group that "Unicom is an Enterprise Software company, and fully committed to the further development of the Cognos ADT suite." Lawler is Chief Technology Officer at Unicom Global. He mapped out the future for the software's 2014, calling the following list "New Version Release Considerations."
• PowerHouse 4GL Server - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• Axiant 4GL - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• PowerHouse Web - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• PowerHouse 4GL Server - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
• Axiant 4GL - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
• PowerHouse Web - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
There's a 90-day period of crossover as Unicom acquires these assets and arranges the integration into its development and support team."Due to the transition services agreement with IBM, please continue to follow the existing IBM Technical Support Procedures," Lawler said. "We value our relationships with our customers, and we assure each of you that great care will be taken to ensure this transition is a smooth one. Once the transition has completed, please contact 818-838-0606 for the Unicom technical support team."
Lawler added that after the 90-day period, which ends April 1, customers can contact Unicom about issues at email@example.com, in addition to the phone contact. Overseas customers will be able to call +1 973 526 3900. A list of UK and European office locations for Unicom is at www.macro4.com/en/about/contact-us.
"It will be nice to see some forward movement of the product," said Brian Stephens, Powerhouse Lead at transition services and application support firm Fresche Legacy. The company formerly known as Speedware had an arrangement to support Powerhouse customers in 2007, before the sale of Cognos to IBM. “And maybe some backwards movement... like putting Powerhouse back on the [IBM] iSeries.”
January 22, 2014
UDALink for MPE adds capability and speed
MB Foster is rolling out news of a refreshed UDALink for MPE, software that handles data access and delivery, reporting writing, client-server and analytic capabilites for HP 3000 customers. Those capabilities got a lift in the latest release, as well as speed improvements. UDALink is part of what the company calls its Universal Data Access (UDA) Series of products.
HP has been working to upgrade its PC-using customers to Windows 7 this year, using repeated attempts to wrench Windows XP servers out of enterprises. A recent webpage pointed to HP's equanimity about moving to 7 or 8. An article on a ZDNet website said that HP's never stopped selling Windows 7, really, even though the version has become hard to get in the consumer market. HP seems to understand that its customers might not be prepared for the "Tile World" of Windows 8. Windows 8.1 regained the venerable Start button that Microsoft lost in its 8.0 release. But choosing between either of these updates to PCs can lead a customer to upgrade its free, ODBCLink/SE bundle-ware in MPE/iX to UDALink, Foster said in a release.
UDALink is the logical upgrade path if the organization is considering:
• Upgrading desktops to Windows 7/8
• Deploying a DataWarehouse or Operational Data Stores
• Deploying generic or strategic DataMarts as part of your enterprise reporting strategy
• Required to extract, off-load or preserve legacy data on Microsoft SQL Server
• Upload data into a cloud application like Salesforce
New capabilities of the latest release of connectivty software include a 64-bit driver; QuickConnect and support for JDBC3 and JDBC4; support for the ultimate version of Powerhouse, 8.49F; along with the ability to run in the emulated Stromasys HPA Charon environment -- which expands the potential uses of UDALink.UDALink started its long lifespan in the late 1980s as DataExpress, then one of the seminal client-server access utilities for putting IMAGE/SQL data onto user desktop applications. It's evolved and grown to embrace the latest in software standards as well as new strategies such as cloud computing. Foster says that the software adheres to both Windows ODBC and Oracle/Sun Java standards. "It uniquely combines middleware technology with Microsoft Windows 7/8 desktop applications, and any Business Intelligence product, to help you get up and running fast."
MB Foster reports that it is offering a 30-day downloadable evaluation version of the software. The company's labs created the bedrock ODBC software that's installed on every HP 3000, ODBCLink/SE. It then took over for HP's ODBC labs in 2007. UDALink extends that rudimentary access capability. Not as many companies aim a new release at MPE/iX customers by now. There are hundreds of sites using UDALink today, according to the vendor.
January 21, 2014
Hewlett-Packard decays, not a 3000 killer
The Unicom acquisition of Powerhouse assets finally showed up in the news section of the Series i and AS/400 world. The website Four Hundred Stuff ran its report of the transaction which proposes to bring new ideas and leadership to one of the oldest tools in the 3000 community. It will be another 10 weeks or so before Unicom makes any announcements about the transaction's impacts. We're looking forward to talking to Russ Guzzo of the company once more, to get some reaction to the idea of transferring licenses for the Powerhouse ADT suite. Millions of dollars worth of tools are out there on 3000s that will go into the marketplace.
We're not eager to hear one of the more unfocused definitions of what happened to the HP 3000 more than 12 years ago. According to Four Hundred Stuff, Hewlett-Packard killed the HP 3000 more than a decade ago. Not even close to being accurate. HP did kill off the future for itself to particpate in the 3000 community. Eventually it killed off its own labs for MPE and PA-RISC hardware. Eventually it will kill off the support business it still offers for a handful of customers, relying on a handful of MPE experts still at HP.
The 3000's operating system lives on, in spots like the one the IBM newsletter pointed out. We find it interesting that within a month, the company that created the first virtualized HP 3000, Stromasys, and the company that created the most widely installed 4GL, both had assets purchased by deep-pocketed new owners. Powerhouse itself is entrenched in some places where IT managers would like to get rid of it. At UDA, a Canadian firm, a Powerhouse application is scheduled for removal. But it's complex, a living thing at this company. Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware, is reported to be maintaining that Powerhouse app for UDA while a transition comes together.
The IT manger realized, however, that it wouldn't be easy or inexpensive to replace the system, and that a thorough assessment and long-term plan was the best approach. The first step, however, was to ensure the viability of the aging system for the foreseeable future. A search for IBM PowerHouse experts quickly lead Mr. Masson to Fresche Legacy.
In these sorts of cases and more, the HP 3000 lives on. Not killed by by its creator vendor. If any definition of what happened can be applied, HP sent the 3000 into the afterlife. Its customer base is decaying with a half-life, but only at a different rate than the IT managers reading Four Hundred Stuff.
January 20, 2014
How to convert 3000 packed decimal data?
Independent consultant Dan Miller wrote us to hunt down the details on converting between data types on the HP 3000. He's written a utility to integrate VPlus, IMAGE/SQL and Query for updating and modifying records. We'll let Miller explain. He wants to expand his utility that he's written in SPL -- the root language of MPE -- to include packed decimal data.
Can you tell me how to transfer a packed decimal to ASCII for display, then convert ASCII characters to the corresponding packed decimal data item?
I wrote a utility that integrates VPlus, IMAGE/SQL and Query, one that I used in a Federal services contract for data entry and word processing. Basically, VIQ lets me design a VPlus screen with field names the same as IMAGE data items. From the formatted screen a function key drops you into Query. You select the records to be maintained, specify "LP" as output, and execute the "NUMBERS" command (a file equation for QSLIST is necessary before this). From there, you can scroll thru the records, modify any field, and update. I never marketed it commercially, but I have used it at consulting customer sites.
I recently had occasion to use it at a new customer's site and realized that I never programmed it to handle packed decimal format numbers; the customer has a few defined in their database. Typically, database designers use INTEGER or DOUBLE INTEGER formats for numeric data, which occupy even less space -- the goal of using packed decimal) employing ASCII/DASCII, or BINARY/DBINARY intrinsics.
I need to discover the proper intrinsics to transfer the packed decimal numbers to ASCII characters and back. I'm sure there's a way, as QUERY does it. In COBOL, I think the "MOVE" converts it automatically, but my utility is written in SPL.
HP's documentation on data types conversion includes some help on this challenge. But Miller hopes that the readers of the Newswire can offer some other suggestions, too. Email me with your suggestions and we'll share them with the readers.
In the Data Types Conversion Programmer's Guide (tip of the hat to HP MM Support), we read about techniques to convert to real data types when when working outside of the COBOL library and compiler. From HP's documentation:
To Packed Decimal
The compiler procedure HPACCVBD converts a signed binary integer to a packed decimal. The input number is considered to be in twos complement form, from 2 to 12 bytes long.
Packed-decimal procedures must be declared as intrinsics to be called from within high-level NM languages. In languages other than COBOL and RPG, follow these steps to convert from an input real to a packed decimal:
1. Multiply or divide the real number by an appropriate power of 10.
2. Convert the resulting value to an base-ten integer.
3. Convert that integer to a decimal.
The MOVE command is used to change one decimal to another within COBOL or RPG. But outside of COBOL or RPG, use the compiler library functions HPPACSRD and HPPACSLD to perform right and left shifts on packed decimals. You specify the amount of offset (the number of digits to be shifted).
To convert a packed decimal to a BASIC decimal, you should convert first to a twos complement integer or type ASCII, and then convert to decimal within BASIC with an assignment. For example, assign an integer value to a decimal with decval = intval * n0, where n00 is the appropriate power of 10. To convert between ASCII and decimal, use the VAL or VAL$ internal functions.
January 17, 2014
Licensing software means no resales, right?
Almost for a long as software's been sold, it has not really been purchased. There were the days when a company would pay for the actual source code to programs, software which was then theirs to modify and use as they pleased. Well, not as they pleased entirely. Even a sale of the vintage MRP software source for MANMAN had conditions. You couldn't resell it on the market as your own product, for example.
Ownership of software has been defined by licenses-to-use in your enterprise market. When a municipality in Southern California switched off its HP 3000 Series 969 -- 12 years after it began to migrate in-house programs to Windows .NET -- the software on the old system immediately lost all of its value. Not the programs written to serve departments like Building and Permits. Those apps belong to the city forever. But the tools used to build them -- specifically a high-dollar copy of Powerhouse -- become worthless once the city stops using them.
You can pass along the value of MPE/iX and its included software subsystems -- TurboStore for backups, IMAGE/SQL, even COBOL -- when you sell and transfer ownership of an HP 3000. But third-party software is controlled by a different sort of license. At least it has been up to now. Here in the HP 3000's afterlife, there's a potential for another sort of license transfer. In the case of Powerhouse, its new owners Unicom Systems get to define license terms. It's never been a matter of ownership, because that always remains with its vendor. A retired product manager of Powerhouse checked in to remind us of that.Bob Deskin was a constant voice in the Powerhouse community for more than 20 years, even passing out information about the 4GL after Cognos was sold to IBM. A decade after HP stopped building the 3000, Deskin retired from IBM, but he had a personal opinion to share about ongoing Powerhouse value.
"Keep in mind, as is the case with most software, the product was licensed to the buyer, not sold," he said. "And as such, the rights cannot be transferred without the permission of the owner, who is now Unicom."
When a computer becomes a vintage machine and has lost its original value -- like the Series 969 in Southern California -- a company is resigned to knowing it will never be worth the 70 grand originally paid for the product. Transferring rights is a process the vendor defines. Now Unicom has the opportunity to establish its own terms for that arrangement. So far, nobody from the Powerhouse community can recall a transfer of a license.
Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, a company deeply involved in development tools for the HP 3000, walked through the possibilities for considering a software license transfer of anything other than an operating system and subsystems on the 3000.
In general most software is sold as a "license to use" by an individual/organization. The terms of that license will determine if it is transferable and under what circumstances/terms. It is not unusual in a license agreement for a license to be transferable with the agreement of the licensor and that such approval should not be unreasonably withheld.
The reason for this is that Companies, Organizations and the like quite frequently buy/sell parts of themselves, or complete businesses, and systems normally come/go as part of the deal. Thus it is quite normal for software licenses to be transferred to the new owners.
Most software companies -- if the software remains under support -- are normally only too happy to agree. A nominal administrative fee may be charged (although I have never seen one) and there may be some adjustment in the support fees charged. (For example, if the seller had multiple of copies on a discounted basis, and the new owner has taken one out of the bunch).
I have seen Cognos products change hands in this manner without any fees many times, and even seen support period balances carried over. At times, even when a company has been into liquidation and bought out again ("liquidation/administration/bankruptcy" is quite often a specific clause that terminates a license agreement).
So unless Cognos just chose not to enforce specific terms of their license at these times (which may be possible to retain support revenues) I would suspect that their license does allow transfer. But you would have to ask someone who has one.
If it does allow transfer, then the case of that Series 969 is interesting. Even though I suspect that the license does exclude the resale of the license, if the hardware and software was transferred as part of a business sale (like if someone was selling the legacy applications part of their business) then I suspect that theoretically Cognos would have found it hard not to allow a license transfer. Of course, how easy they made that transfer would depend on if there was an existing support contract, and if the purchaser of the business was intending to take out support.
We're going to have a chat with Unicom about these Powerhouse prospects soon, and we'll report back on what we're told. Unicom's Russ Guzzo is monitoring the Powerhouse newsgroup mailing list, where we've started to ask about the terms and the experiences of licenses and licensees.
January 16, 2014
Replacing parts a part of the 3000 lifestyle
We'd like to hear from the community about 3000 parts: the ones that will push them away from MPE, as well as the parts that will keep decade-old servers running. Check in with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customers who continue to rely on HP 3000s place great store on parts. Spare parts, the kind that tend to wear out sooner than others like disk drives, or the ones which can force a company into disaster recovery like a CPU board. The veterans in the community know that there's no support without a source of parts. And the demise of 3000 installations, like a well-run junkyard, can be a source.
However, a dearth of spare parts forced one 3000 customer into entering the world of HP 3000 emulation. Warren Dawson had systems that were aging and no clear way to replace what might fail inside them. Dawson's in Australia, a more remote sector of the 3000 empire. But his need became the spark that moved HP's iron out and replaced it with Intel-based hardware. Commodity became the follow-on costume that Dawson's information now plays in.
While there are portions of the HP 3000's high-failure parts list that can be replaced with third party components -- drives come to mind -- a lot of the 3000's body is unique to Hewlett-Packard's manufacture. Another company in Mexico, a manufacturing site, moved its applications off MPE because it figured that replacing 15-year-old servers was a dicey proposition at best.
This leads us to our latest report of HP 3000 parts, coming from a switched-off site in California. Roger Perkins has a Series 969 that he's working to give away. Like everybody who paid more than $50,000 for a 3000, he'd like to believe that it has value remaining. But on the reseller market, he might be fortunate to get a broker to haul it off.
Those who do are likely to take the system for its parts. What's more, the HP 3000s that are going offline are not the only resource for replacement parts. Other HP servers can supply this market, too. Finding these parts is the skill that homesteading managers must master.One of our bedrock sponsors, Pivital Solutions, makes a point of ensuring that every support customer has a depot-based spare parts source. Whatever you'd need to get back online, they've got on hand. Not something to be hunted down, ordered and then shipped in a few days. Steve Suraci of Pivital asked questions back in 2012 that still need answers, if homesteading's risk is to be fully considered. And sometimes the parts aren't even inside a 3000. They just have a MPE version that's got to be hunted down, if a support provider doesn't depot-stock parts. Hostess Brands had a Series 969 back then, one which needed an fiber router.
How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? The provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.
The easy questions to answer for a client are "Can you supply me support 24x7?" or "What references will you give me from your customers?" Harder questions are "Where do you get your answers from for MPE questions?" Or even, "Do you have support experts in the 3000 who can be at my site in less than a day?"
But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions. "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware doesn't break down much in the 3000 world. But a fiber router is not a 3000-specific HP part. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of reasons, but one constant reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in the HP supply chain.
There are other support companies that guarantee parts availability. But many sources of support services to keep 3000s online wait to acquire customer parts as needed. Some of them pull components like power supplies out of the plentiful HP-UX servers from the early decade of this century. HP called those boxes K-Classes, servers that were both Series 800s as well as Series 900s.
A Series 969 server like the one turned off by Perkins and pushed to the curb serves a need for homesteaders. A reseller first has to take it out of a datacenter, clean up and test what's inside the cabinet, then do triage on what's worth keeping in the 3000 food chain. Not many places have enough storage to run the equivalent of an auto salvage yard. You know, the kind of place where a steering wheel bearing you need is deep inside a junked Dodge Dart.
Depending on the model of HP 3000, many have value in their spare parts. An owner who's getting rid of a 3000 shouldn't expect much compensation for a system they're selling off for parts. But the operators in the 3000 community who are both selling used systems as well as supporting these servers need a supply of components. How much they need depends on the limitations of available warehouse space.
Governments are beginning to insist on responsible recycling. Purchasing a computer in California now includes a recycling fee built into the sale at retail and consumer spots like Best Buy. But Goodwill Industries' Reconnect takes on many computers, regardless of their working status.
There's a lot to consider when keeping an HP 3000 running as a mission-critical component. MB Foster summed up the elements well in a Sustainability Plan document you can download from their website. Way back in 2010, Foster asked some good questions that a Sustainability Plan should answer.
Okay, so let’s look at the impact of a crash on Friday afternoon when the HP 3000 was backed up last Saturday (you do verify your backup tapes, right?) You have a full backup from last Saturday and daily backups from Monday through Thursday. The spare parts are not on site, and you have to contact your provider to get the parts and a skilled technician to the site, and then you can start restoring your hardware and application environments. How long will it take to restore all the data, applications and the whole system?
Way, way back in 2005 -- yes, more than eight years ago -- one of the bigger sources of HP hardware said the savvy customers were arranging for their own inventory of spare parts. Genisys' Robert Gordon said that customers who know the 3000 have their own spare parts options to rely upon.
"They're either going to go to third party maintenance, or they're going to self-maintain," Gordon said. "I think a lot of people are technically savvy on the 3000; they know it's not rocket science, and they're going to buy spare board kits. So we're going to see that business pick up. We'll see a lot 3000 sales in the year 2006." There are fewer 3000s to sell in the marketplace today. But that doesn't matter as much as locating the ones which are still around.
January 15, 2014
Foundation for the Emulator, 5 Years Later
This month five years ago, we reported that HP had revised its licensing to accomodate for a hardware emulator that could run MPE/iX. No such product existed, but the evidence started to surface that Hewlett-Packard wouldn't stand in the way of any software or hardware that'd step in for PA-RISC servers.
It would take another three years, but a working product was released into the customer base despite serious doubts voiced back in 2009. One customer, IT director James Byrne at Canadian shipping brokerage Harte Lyne, said HP was unlikely to allow anything like an emulator to run into the market.
It is more than seven years since the EOL announcement for the HP 3000. If an emulator was going to appear, then one reasonably expects that one would be produced by now. Also, HP has demonstrated an intractable institutional resistance to admitting that the HP 3000 was a viable platform, despite their own 2001 assessment to the contrary. This has had, and cannot but continue to have, a baleful influence on efforts at cooperation with HP by those producing and intending to use said (non-extant) emulators.
During that 2009, Stromasys got the HP cooperation required to eventually release a 1.0 version, and then a 1.3. After more engineering in 2013, a 1.5 version has just been rolled out. So has a new company ownership structure, according to its website. Changes remain the order of the day for the 3000 community, even among those who are homesteading or building DR systems with such virtualized 3000s.The privately-held Stromasys announced at its latest annual general meeting that it has a new major shareholder, as well as a new CEO. Australian George Koukis has become the chairman and majority shareholder of the company. He's the creator of the Temenos banking software solution, sold by the Temenos Group that is traded on the Swiss Stock Exchange and headquartered in Geneva. Stromasys began its operations in Switzerland, founded by Dr. Robert Boers after his career in the Digital Migration Assistance Center there.
Koukis founded Temenos in 1993, but his work in IT management goes back to the era of the HP 3000's birth. In 1973 Koukis began his career at the Australian air carrier QANTAS, and after computerizing the airline's accounting and management systems, moved on to Management Science America in Australia. He became Managing Director there. By 1986 he was introducing Ross Systems and the Digital VAX servers to Asian companies. Koukis took Temenos public in 2001 and retired in 2011. One website, Greek Rich List, whose mission is to "celebrate and document entrepreneurial stories, and to inspire young entrepreneurs and to promote Greek heritage and culture" placed Koukis on its list last year with a reported wealth of $320 million. The website noted that Temenos AG is worth $3 billion. Koukis remains on its board as Non-Executive Director.
At the same time, Koukis has brought in a new CEO, while Ling Chang has been retained to "build the new services business in North America first.
"This completes Dr. Robert Boers' retirement plan," she said, "and he serves as the Technology Adviser to the Board. For the HP 3000, we have a new employee, Doug Smith, to provide both sales and pre-sales functions. We are very excited about the strategic change, as this brings new investment and energy to the market we serve."
The new CEO is John Prot, who began his career at The Prudential in 1988 and has 25 years of experience in business development, operations, and finance. Before joining Stromasys, Prot managed the Hertz Greece car leasing business with a fleet portfolio of 15,000 vehicles, the company's release noted.
Prior positions include serving as restructuring CEO of two airport logistics companies with c. 1,000 staff, as an investment director at Global Finance, a leading private equity institutional investor in Southeast Europe, and as an equities analyst at ING Barings. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.
The 1.5 release of CHARON HPA/3000 was mentioned in a November press announcement. Details on its enhancements are being made available to VAR partners, but the goal for this release was to match the fastest three models of the HP 3000's N-Class servers, and to exceed them. Stromasys described the release as focusing on "improved performance of the HP 3000 guest machine," meaning the system that's emulated from the Linux "cradle" that steers this emulator.
Five years ago, Byrne had one other set of issues with the concept of a 3000 emulator. MPE/iX, he said, was far behind other environments in features such as file transfers, compatibility with leading-edge networking protocols, as well as price-performance valuations.
An MPE/iX emulator, given the OS’s dated capabilities, would be a hard sell for most company’s IT departments, even if it and the license transfer were free. Having to pay for either, and no doubt facing considerable third party fees to transfer licenses like [Powerhouse] and such, makes this path a non-starter in all but what can only be a very few extreme cases.
The relative value of MPE/iX capabilities is a matter for every user to consider, although it should be balanced against the risks of attempting to change application platforms. (For some companies, there are risks to stay as well, depending on who's doing hardware support. But an emulator running on Intel servers could resolve that risk.)
It ought to be noted, though, that Powerhouse has a new owner in nearly the same timeframe. If somehow the financially-boosted Stromasys of 2014 could work with a Powerhouse ownership that believes it has bought solid technology, it's up to the markets to decide what is a starter, and what is not. The emulator has gained a majority shareholder who founded a $3 billion software company, and it's added a CEO with degrees from Oxford.
The questions five years ago included, "Will any MPE/iX emulator be permitted by HP to run on an open source OS, and commodity hardware?" The answer in 2014 is yes to both, with the open source Linux cradle for CHARON sitting firmly on the foundation of Intel's x86 family. It's interesting to take note of the fresh limbs in this arm of the 3000's family tree, too.
January 14, 2014
PowerHouse licenses loom as used value
At the City of Long Beach, a Series 969 has been decommissioned and powered down. It's waiting for a buyer, a broker, or a recycler to take it to another location. But the most costly single piece of this HP 3000 might be rolling out the door unclaimed. It all depends on how the new owners of PowerHouse, and the other 4GL products from Cognos, treat license transfers.
Hewlett-Packard is glad to transfer its MPE/iX licenses from one customer to another. The software doesn't exist separately from the 3000 hardware, says HP. A simple $432 fee can carry MPE from one site to another, and even onto the Intel hardware where the CHARON emulator awaits. You've got to buy a 3000 to make this happen, but the 969 at Long Beach could be had at a very low price.
For the Powerhouse license, this sort of transfer is more complicated. An existing PowerHouse customer could transfer their license to another 3000 they owned. Cognos charged a fee for this. At the City of Long Beach, there's $100,000 of PowerHouse on the disk drives and the array that goes with that 3000. It's hard to believe that six figures of product will slide into a disk shredder. Some emulator prospects have seen that kind of quote just to move their PowerHouse to the emulator.
But the new owners of PowerHouse have said that everything is going to be considered in these earliest days of their asset acquisition. Right now, Unicom Systems owns the rights to licenses like the one at Long Beach. If the company could turn that $100,000 purchase in the 1980s into a living support contract -- with the chance to earn more revenue if PowerHouse ever got new engineering -- what would the risk be for Unicom?The obvious risk would be that PowerHouse might never gain another new customer. Used systems could be transferred instead of copies of the 8.49F release being sold. But let's get realistic for a moment. A new MPE/iX customer for PowerHouse, PowerHouse Web, or Axiant, on a computer no longer being sold or supported by HP, is not much of a genuine opportunity cost.
Instead, Unicom could be focusing on maintaining support revenues on such $100,000 licenses. The current Vintage Support fees are, according to a recent report, running in the $6,500 yearly range for a 9x9 server. You could make an argument that $6,500 yearly wouldn't be much to a Cognos running a much larger business objects product lineup. When all you're selling with a PowerHouse badge is the ADT software, however, the support money could well matter more to Unicom.
"That PowerHouse cost us $100,000 just to upgrade," said Roger Perkins at Long Beach. "But the license goes with the 3000's serial number, I think."
Could a used 3000, whose operating system license can be transferred for $432, be used for Powerhouse work by a new owner of the system? It's something for the executives at Unicom to consider, if they're serious about keeping PowerHouse alive and even growing.
January 09, 2014
Eloquence: Making a Bunny Run Elsewhere
An email poll over the last week asked 3000 owners and their suppliers what was in store for their systems this month. One reader in Long Beach, Roger Perkins, has a 3000 they've shut down at the City of Long Beach and wants to find "somebody who's interested in taking that out for us. I don't know if it's worth any money, but I was hoping we wouldn't have to pay anyone to take it out." Perkins left his number for a recommendation on recycling a 3000: 562-570-6054.
Our experience with this situation is that individuals -- fellow 3000 owners -- will be interested in the machine for parts, provided they don't have to bear too much freight costs. But there's something more unique than a collection of slower CPU boards and decade-plus-old discs on hand. The city has an MPE/iX license attached to its 3000. It's a system element that's not being sold any more, and essential to getting a virtualized 3000 online.
But little will change in that sort of transition transaction, except the location of a boot drive. In contrast, at Genisys Total Solutions, Bill Miller checked in to report that a change in databases has extended the reach of the application software for financials that has been sold by Genisys since the 1970s.
Though we have migrated all of our software to a Windows platform running Eloquence, we still have an HP 3000 that has been in operation for close to 13 years and has not failed at all during that time. We still support a handful of HP 3000 clients, who also seem to think the HP 3000 is the Energizer Bunny and see no reason to move from it.
Our main business is selling and supporting our applications on the PC platform. We have found Eloquence (as is IMAGE) to be a reliable and easy to maintain database.
January 08, 2014
Unicom sees PowerHouse as iconic estate
The new owners of the PowerHouse software products are talking about their Dec. 31 purchase in a way the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems is still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.
Real estate in the wine district of Temeulca, the Wright-inspired Wingsweep -- "a remarkable handcrafted residence that is Piranesian in scale" -- along with the iconic PickFair Mansion first built by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks comprise several early vertebrae in the backbone of a 32-company global conglomerate. VP of Sales and Marketing Russ Guzzo, who told us he was Employee 4 in an organization that now numbers thousands, said Unicom's real estate group was once a seedbed for acquisition capital.
In the days when Unicom was smaller, "we used to [mortgage] those properties, then buy another company and go from there. We used these real estate assets to fund some of our acquisitions in the early days." Operating with cash to acquire assets such as Powerhouse is a mantra for Unicom's Korean-American founder Corry Hong, said Guzzo. "Our CEO likes to pay cash, so he's in control that way."
Guzzo said he's been put in charge of organizing the plan for the latest acquired assets. The former Cognos 4GL is the first Advanced Development Tools (ADT) acquisition for a company that has more than 300 products, counts a longstanding partner relationship with IBM, and now owns assets for Powerhouse, Axiant, and Powerhouse Web.
The piece that remains to be established is how much of the IBM-Cognos staff and executives will be coming along as part of the acquisition. Longtime product manager Bob Deskin retired during 2013, but Christina Haase and Charlie Maloney were on hand when the cash purchase was finalized.
The company is spending the next 90 days talking to PowerHouse customers and partners to determine what the next step is for a software product which is, in some ways, as much of a legacy to the 3000 as PickFair is to Hollywood mansions. "We buy very solid technology, and then make it better," Guzzo said one week after the asset purchase was announced. It will be several months before an extensive FAQ on the new ownership is ready, he added. "Eventually, each and every customer will be visited," he said.
But he pointed out that Unicom "has never sunsetted a product. That's not our mindset. We find successful technology and say, 'We can make this better. This will be a nice fit for our customers.' There's going to be a lot of new enhancements. We got feedback from people that they've never really gotten a lot of new [PowerHouse] enhancements or releases. That's all going to change."Real estate mortgaging is no longer needed to fund the M&A at Unicom. PickFair is now the site of corporate social functions, while Wingsweep serves as a corporate training site and retreat. But few technology companies of Unicom's size can boast of a real estate operation with such legendary and evocative properties. Another 70-acre pedestrian gated master planned community, Roripaugh Ranch
is a 70 acre tract of land in Roripaugh Ranch, and Unicom is working with local authorities in the planning of a UNICOM IT Village. The IT Village will host a range of services, products and distribution facilities creating critical jobs in the US IT industry in one of the most attractive locations in the country.
Building out the future of PowerHouse may be a project that requires as much energy as jump-starting an idled front-end loader. Customers in the 3000 community and those in the VMS world have been vocal about seeing little that's new in the software. Cognos froze development on the 8.49F version of PowerHouse and PowerHouse Web, as well as Axiant 3.4F, before selling itself to IBM in 2009.
That purchase was focused on IBM taking hold of the Business Intelligence and Business Objects products and customers that Cognos developed. BI represented most of the company's revenues; the ADT unit was the equivalent of pocket change in the scope of the total Cognos picture, although the operation was profitable. Some measure of that success came from rigorous pursuit of upgrade licensing and renewal charges for PowerHouse. Moving applications built from the 4GL sometimes stood in the way of upgrading an MPE installation. The 4GL is still working at major manufacturers in both MPE and OpenVMS versions, more than three decades after its introduction.
"That's 30-year-old technology, but it's solid," Guzzo said. "It's been looked at [by us], and there's a lot of opportunity there. It's just that there was really nothing being put into it, not that we saw. Now the development team is doing their best to figure out what they want to do with that. With that comes a lot of interviews with the current customers."
Unicom intends to learn what customers are doing with PowerHouse, how they're implementing it, and what plans they've got to go forward with the 4GL. The last wholesale upgrade to the solution came when Axiant, a Windows development bench meant to interoperate like Visual Basic with the product, was introduced in the 1990s. That led to an 8.1 release of the 4GL. The ultimate version was 8.49, frozen some 10 years later.
The company's attempts to serve both the evolution needs of existing PowerHouse applications as well as Visual Basic-style PC development through Axiant didn't work. "It was in response to what people were asking for," said Robert Collins, director of Cognos 4GL product development in 1997. "In retrospect, that was not the right way to go about it. It's very hard to bring out a new product and accommodate 15 years of history at the same time."
But Cognos always believed that its PowerHouse apps would outlast the hardware where they've been hosted since the early 1980s. A director of customer operations in 2003, Bob Berry, said customers "may be choosing to maintain their environment as it exists today, and migrate in three to five years. Or they will keep those legacy apps on the 3000 box in the corner of the room and it will run forever, and they’ll take on some kind of high-falutin’ application company-wide. These legacy apps will always be there.”
Like other 3000 software providers, PowerHouse generated a good share of its MPE revenues from support contracts. These are among the assets that Unicom has purchased. One example is a $6,500 yearly fee for a a small A-Class server. Berry said in 2003 those support renewal dollars “have declined very gradually, and they have declined because of the change of the cost of the license. There was a rapid decline after Y2K, but it’s going down at a slower pace now."
Leaving the product in Vintage Support status "is all being re-evaluated," Guzzo said. "We're tickled pink with this, because the product fits in very well with Unicom's core technology. Our relationship with IBM is also 30 years old, a value added reseller as well as a development partner." Unicom started operations in the early 1980s by selling an artificial intelligence program for the CICS transaction server on IBM's mainframes. "That was a product that was ahead of its time," Guzzo said about the software developed by the CEO. Guzzo said that Hong still develops from time to time, when he's not directing an M&A of a publically-traded company that Unicom is taking private to place into its Global brand.
The Unicom Systems, Inc. division of the company was founded in 1981, the original part of an extensive Unicom enterprise which now even includes light manufacturing. Guzzo said that hardware systems integration has been part of the Unicom business practices. A set of white papers and road maps for PowerHouse "will be released as they are created," he added.
Some skilled developers at Unicom might even go back further than PowerHouse, Guzzo said. "We're big on holding onto our senior talent. While we have people here with 20 years experience, we also have some with 30 and 40 years."
January 07, 2014
Consumer drives: as robust as enterprise?
One of the components most likely to fail -- and the one which often fails first -- in an HP 3000 is its disk drive. Consider the average age of disks attached to HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard built the last HP 3000 and inserted onboard drives in that server one decade ago. Replacement and upgrade drives from HP, built after 2003, were for sale from HP for the 3000 through 2006. And there have always been drives purposed for one HP computer, but used for another. Those would be even newer devices.
All of the above devices are considered enterprise-grade. As the 3000 moves into its second decade of post-manufacture, owners will be looking for disk replacement strategies for the HP-branded servers. A virtualized unit, like the ones from Stromasys, have no such problems -- so long as their drives are of a high caliber.
But what is the caliber of a drive that is suitable for business enterprise use? A vendor of cloud-based computing argues that the failure rate of enterprise disks is actually a little worse than that measured for consumer-class drives. Through three years, one sort of drive might be replaced for another with little concern. It's possible, however, that years 4-10 are where the enterprise advantages emerge.
Jeff Kell, who's managed HP 3000s since the 1970s, as well as Linux and Unix servers more recently, said the promises of enterprise hardware for 3000s have never been guaranteed. That's especially true in an era where HP now won't warranty hardware of any sort attached to an HP 3000. But Kell added that pure math proves that drive failures will head upward as the size of the devices soar.
"I don't know overall if disks have gotten "better" or "worse" by themselves," he said. "But the sheer order of magnitude has certainly changed -- and simple math would show you the probability of error increases as the data density increases. Old disk drives only had to keep up with a few megabytes of data. Current ones may be a terabyte or more."An article written by Backblaze, an online backup provider, asserts that a study proves enterprise drives have about the same failure rate as consumer-grade disks. For three years, anyway. Brian Beach of the company looked at the 25,000 drives (consumer grade) used by the service.
It turns out that the consumer drive failure rate does go up after three years, but all three of the first three years are pretty good. We have no data concerning enterprise drives older than two years, so we don’t know if they will also have an increase in failure rate. It could be that the vaunted reliability of enterprise drives kicks in after two years, but because we haven’t seen any of that reliability in the first two years, I’m skeptical.
Data loss is unacceptable for many customers, but for those who maintain their own drive farms, the blame can cost someone their job while it costs the company real money. An online solution costs money for the loser of data. The rest of the fallout is hypothetical.
Kell said that in a world where the HP 3000s often mirrored their data through RAID or Mirror/3000, 3000s still had failures of enterprise-caliber drives.
Our original 3000s had drive failures, sure. Then we had the days of Mirror/iX and having redundant drives. Then you get into the disk arrays; we've had both Nike and the VA arrays. Our "retired" N4000 had a 32-drive VA array, dual fiber channels, the whole nine yards. I think we replaced 4 drives over its lifetime of about 8-10 years. The current philosophies revolve around "expecting" failure, and keep on trucking, at various levels.
January 06, 2014
IBM divests Powerhouse development tools
IBM has sold off the Application Development Tool operations from its Cognos acquisition, moving the Powerhouse, Axiant and Powerhouse Web customers and products to Unicom Systems, Inc. Financial details of the transaction were not reported as part of the news, which was broken to customers in the last few days of 2013.
The new owner of Cognos software, support operations and contracts, as well as customer accounts, is a division of Unicom Global, a 32-year-old company that's led by CEO Corry Hong. According to an IBM VP of mergers and acquisitions, Hong's business enterprise holds and manages more than 30 corporate entities in operations throughout the US, Germany France, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Unicom says on its websites that it acquires publicly-traded companies as a regular part of its expansion.
The parent company, which is a privately held concern, has strong ties to IBM's mainframe and midrange customer base. The latter is represented in Unicom's SoftLanding division, makers of program change management, automation and performance management on the i Series.
Hong said the scope of the PowerHouse tools' installed base impressed Unicom. "Application development tools play a key role in enterprise technology," he said in a release, "and PowerHouse is the most widely installed 4GL in the industry, with customers continuing to achieve substantial economies in reducing application development efforts.
“This is a strategic acquisition for [this division of] UNICOM Global. We appreciate IBM’s trust in selling us the Cognos Application Development Tools suite, and IBM’s confidence in our ability to effectuate such a complex global transaction. We will collaborate with IBM to ensure smooth transition for customers."
A letter to PowerHouse customers made a clear statement that as of Dec. 31, 2013, Unicom has full responsibility for customer support contracts as well as development plans, sales and license renewals.
That last element has been a classic point of negotiation and some contention for the PowerHouse customer. For example, one site discovered last fall that a license transfer from an A-Class to the CHARON emulator was going to cost the HP 3000 shop more than $100,000. IBM told its PowerHouse customers on the day of the sale that for any renewal quotes for Powerhouse software, "please take no action. A new quote will be issued to you by Unicom. Further instructions on how to process your renewal with [Unicom] will be provided to you shortly."Unicom is also the owner of the US Robotics product line, customers and technology, as well as a maker of products for the IBM Z Series and the i Series. The latter is the latest generation of IBM's AS/400 line, thought of as a complement to the highly-integrated structure of the HP 3000. Cognos had terminated development for the Series i version of its PowerHouse toolset and sent the product into Vintage Support in 2005. Five years later the MPE version of the product moved into the same category.
A few members of the Powerhouse community speculated on what the latest change of ownership might mean for the customer base. Consultant Ken Langendock said on the PowerHouse mailing list, "I would hope it means it will continue to improve. IBM has not wanted to do anything with the product since the takeover [from Cognos]. I have been trying to find out if they added a patch for Oracle 12c and nobody will answer me. If I had a wish, it would be that Powerhouse will work with MySQL."
PowerHouse was the most widely installed 4GL in the HP 3000 community as well, ranging from simple Quiz reporting included in MRP software like MANMAN all the way to complete suites. IBM bought Cognos in 2008. While some IBM operations have a stellar track record for customer service, Dave Vinnedge of Accuride reported in in 2012 that his Cognos experience didn't match that.
“I have not yet seen a lot of diligent customer service practices, at least on the Cognos side of IBM,” he said. “For example, my boss started receiving the 2010 PowerHouse support renewal notice every 15 minutes. It took over a day for my boss to be sure that IBM knew that there was a problem -- and two more days for IBM to fix it.”
IBM's VP of Mergers & Acquisitions Robert White said in a letter to customers the deal is "a move we believe will benefit our Cognos ADT customers by including it as part of the broader portfolio of UNICOM application offerings." White's letter described Unicom as "providing enterprise software, computing hardware, telecom platform, IT services, IT real estate, M&A and financing services for Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies, and federal, state and local government organizations."
The holding company also has an IT real estate arm. Unicom reports that its greatest asset for the entity is "expertise in storage, security, enterprise and carrier communications" and says it has the "largest portfolio of purpose-built turnkey platforms." Another group, Unicom Engineering, is a light-manufacturer of appliances, with primary facilities in Canton, Massachusetts; Plano, Texas, and Galway, Ireland.
The company also offers 30 standard products and a large selection of turnkey platforms and appliances. Offerings include solution design and system integration services, ways to deploy what the company calls "the best-fit, form and functional platform for their application," in a scope from robust enterprise security appliance to a highly integrated carrier-grade rack mount system.
The Unicom press release announcing the acquisition gave special mention to HP's Allbase database as among those supported by Powerhouse, but failed to describe the IMAGE/SQL databases that PowerHouse taps on HP 3000 servers. But it says that its Global Services unit "is a component of the company's strategy of providing IT infrastructure and business insight and solutions to clients."
January 03, 2014
Replacing 3000 meant dozens more servers
Tony Shepherd (left) and Jeff Kell switch off an A-Class and N-Class server at the December decommission of the UTC's HP 3000s. MPE drove the operations of the university for more than 30 years.
At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the HP 3000 was decommissioned last month. The university's operations had been managed under MPE and MPE/iX since 1976. After 37 years of service -- the last five as an archival system -- the servers went dark as the team of original 3000 experts executed a shutdown and a power-off.
By the time that legendary legacy system went offline for good, more than 43 servers had been powered up and maintained to replace its operations. Jeff Kell, who not only chaired the MPE Special Interest Group but also started the 3000 newsgroup on the Web, explained the replacement strategy that requires dozens of servers. Kell has gone into networking management for the university.
Every one of them are at the very least a virtual guest VM (and those are in the majority). Most of the database systems (Oracle) are standalone physical servers. There are a few dedicated blades left as well.
And yes, it makes me ill just looking at it, in contrast to the single 3000 we had running everything. Of course our new application Banner includes fancy report writers (Argos) and front-end web portals and Oracle management/monitoring -- but still, times change.
Networking inherited one of those blade chassis last year, and we run our own ESXi cluster on it. Our DHCP / DNS / etc infrastructure servers are all redundant. Typically we have a physical server in the main datacenter and a VM in our secondary datacenter for each, so you have "physical redundancy" for all of the core services that make things work.That includes physically redundant routers, network connections, and fiber as well.
There was a "whole lot" of my life poured into that beast. Not that specific model, but in the systems that it ran (we have had numerous chassis). It is something you don't see very often these days: "in-house code."
Kell pointed out, in an extensive report about the changes, that most computer owners only have web pages, by now, to represent in-house coding. At UTC there was so much more, including some programming that remained useful and vital for more than three decades. We'll have more on that next week.
December 30, 2013
2013 emboldened 3000 changes for both migration and homesteading practices
As a service to readers who crave summary and broad strokes, we hearby sketch what the year 2013 meant to the 3000 community. It's too much of a cliche to say that the previous 12 months were driven by change. That's been an essential element for the community since 2001. But a dozen years has now spread changes onto the migrating community member, as well as those who have made their mission one to homestead.
The HP 3000 CHARON emulator from Stromasys showed more promise this year, but some of its impact lay in the way it held migrations in check without even being deployed. Another factor came from the economy. By year's end the markets were flying at an all-time high, but the recovery has its blind spots, according to some 3000 users. Couple the proposed savings in keeping MPE apps virtual with with an uncertain future for HP's replacement solutions, and the movement away from the 3000 slowed.
Even with that evidence, some shutdowns of systems stood out. A major installation of 3000s that had been serving the airline industry saw their work moved to .NET replacements, as Open Skies became New Skies. We also saw Hewlett-Packard closing down its own internal HP 3000 operations at long last, powering off the final four systems, just 12 years after advising its customers to do the same.
The year also offered a chance to see what remained on the field a decade after the community marked the World Wide Wake of 2003. The server got its first iPad app when a terminal emulator emerged for iOS, even as other experts found other ways to get an MPE console onto a tablet. And the exit of expertise continued throughout our 3000 world, even as some stalwart resources remained online.HP set the pieces in place long ago for its 3000 strategy to evolve away from the need for physical hardware. The Apps on Tap strategy that led to the Open Skies offering -- where networked 3000s serve up apps to customers who don't have servers onsite -- is now being echoed in Software as a Service.
Sites that moved off HP 3000 installations for ecommerce software watched their vendor get acquired, then see the open version of their software slip into a 140-product lineup. It was an example of how migrations became a part of life at those 3000 sites that had already left MPE behind. Even among the sites where server migration hasn't occurred, data migration is already afoot. Customers are now looking at a migration off of Windows XP for their users, and some are facing the same reluctance and lack of budget they saw for 3000 diaspora.
Hewlett-Packard had its share of problems to overcome, from shuffling the pathways to MPE documentation online to keeping its enterprise mission critical business from evaporating. Each of the four quarters of revenues for its BCS group posted a 20 percent sales decline from the previous year's numbers. It was a continuation of a 2012 trend. The company's CEO and CFO called the Unix server business a formerly growing venture. Then there was the announcement of curtailing another HP business OS, OpenVMS, starting in 2015 when new Integrity systems won't run on the environment. Things got so critical for BCS and its bretheren that HP reorganized the whole enterprise server operation into a single unit, then removed its executive VP from the job.
Emulator news emerged from two fronts. Stromasys built out its management for the CHARON product and opened the doors on its North American rollout with a May Training Day event. The latter was the first 3000-specific event in almost two years. In the snows of February in Europe, a similar event for CHARON recalled HP's final organized event for the 3000, nine years earlier. Early in the fall, a group of freeware developers was trying to create a not-for-commerce version of what it called a simulator of HP 3000 hardware. Successful booting remained elusive.
In the meantime, the offering of an emulator had customers checking HP's rules and processes for license transfers, some three years after the company shut down all other 3000 operations. It helped to be able to ask for the right process, and ask the right person.
Another trend emerged in the longevity of the 3000 expert. Outlasting the 3000 server was a duel that some experts were giving up. One company in LA made a shift to Windows because its IT staff for the 3000 was aged 67 and 72. But among those who continued to keep the MPE lamp lit, techniques to continue 3000 operations still emerged. Replacing HP's disks with third party alternatives got detailed to swap in fresh hardware for decade-old drives. Moving store to disk files with attributes intact is possible with newer open source archiving software.
The year showed that change itself has changed for the community. The long run of the HP 3000 unreels into the dark of the as-yet-unlit future. There was even a careful examination of the costs of remaining on the 3000 for 5-10 years.
December 27, 2013
Expert's restore job INSTALLS, RELOADS
Mark Ranft, the IT manager who's been stewarding a farm of 3000s at Navitaire/Accenture for many years, recently sent what he calls a geek gift for the holidays. Ranft, who's also done service in the community under his Pro3k service company, offered a restore job for the 3000 console. The job's extra value is preserving error messages.
Here is a HP 3000 geek present for you! I used to do the first system restore interactively on the console, but would occasionally lose some important error messages as they scrolled by and I wasn't able to look back. So I came up with the following expert tip.
After I boot a system, set up disks, tapes and console access and set up the volumes for the MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET, I copy and paste the file below from a PC text file into the console. Once it's complete, the tellop commands simply spell DONE. I wanted it to show so I would notice it more than a single LOGOFF.
Note: I intentionally added the pause to ensure the tape in LDEV 7 reloads before the job starts.
Editor's Note: For those who might not know, the ">" indicates a redirect to a file; two in a row indicates an append to a temporary file. (Thanks to Vladimir Volokh for pointing this MPE fundamental out to us.) You can see a version of the job which you can cut and paste online at the 3000 newsgroup archive.
December 23, 2013
2013 makes a new migration definition
In our interview with Allegro's Stan Sieler, we asked the veteran developer what has changed about 3000 options for the future. His answer identified a significant shift in the definition of migration. He also spoke about Allegro's own season of considering an emulator project, the tech challenges that will be outside of the system's capability, and how his practice of magic has shaped his exemplary technical career. On the occasion of his 30th year with Allegro Consultants, we spoke via iPad in November, just as the US was switching to back off Daylight Saving Time.
In the first year after HP's 3000 announcement, there were a list of options of what could happen to the community over the decade to come. Is there anything new on that list?
There are the same options but with one difference. Migration means something different now. It's not migrating your app with a 3000 lookalike shell on a Unix machine. It's migrating to Stromasys. It's a variation of 3000 Forever.
We still see people coming out of the woodwork that we've never heard of, using 918s, 928s or newer machines. They have no intention of leaving because they have no funding to leave, and now they've encountered a problem and they're reaching out to the rest of the community. We see people who tend to be on bigger machines, who are either running into limitations, or they're worried about the continued maintainability of the hardware. They are looking at high-end Stromasys solutions.More than a decade ago, Allegro was considering the prospect of creating its own HP 3000 emulator. The issues involved HP's permission, the economics of creating a product, and more. What happened?
We were concerned that at the time, in addition to not yet having HP permission, that we'd face potential legal action if we did anything. We didn't want to open that door to HP. I kind of regret that now, because I would have approached an emulator a little differently than Stromasys, and I think that might have had some payoffs.
We've certainly reached out to Stromasys several times to help them with performance limitations that they're encountering with their implementation. I'm hoping that with some of the other 3000 vendors in the process, they may be able to put economic arguments in place that will help convince Stromasys to still pursue that help.
What do you think of the prospects for this emulator making a lot of difference for customers staying on the HP 3000?
I think if they can solve their high-end performance challenges, then they might be able to make some big sales to those kinds of customers. The problem: I don't know how many of those people there are.
It's true: managers are moving off the 3000, and so are moving away from IMAGE. Out of all the SQL databases you've seen, which one is the smoothest in replicating what IMAGE does for MPE apps?
Eloquence. I really like Eloquence. Michael [Marxmeier] has done amazing things with it. Tech support from him is immediate and reliable. He doesn't have problems with you publishing benchmarks. Eloquence has a lot of nice features in it. It has more features than any other SQL database — plus the IMAGE compatibility. It's a win-win situation, it seems to me.
Do you consider the 3000 has always had a tech boat anchor that made it obvious HP would leave it behind? Is it the equivalent of an unsupported system by now?
It's certainly true about CPU speed and amount of memory, stuff like that. That doesn't mean it won't run perfectly fine.
Are there a set of new tech challenges the 3000 is never going to meet, important challenges?
That would imply that this is going to be a new product you write, and nobody is ever going to write a new product for the HP 3000. If you are doing a new application, it's probably going to talk to a database. Almost anyone you hire will know how to do SQL stuff, not IMAGE stuff. It's just too far behind the times for a new application.
Of all the many projects you're worked on, which stand out at the most fun for you?
For projects, creating SPLash!. I worked with Jacques van Damme. In the very early days, Jason Goertz was helping out. But I remember sitting with Jacques in the HP Migration Center and there was a LaserJet sitting there between us. We had Post-It notes that said things like "tree building" or "generate code." Each was a name of the 20 modules that made up SPLash!. Our source code control system was that if you wanted to modify something, you took the Post-It note off the printer and put it on your terminal. It worked well because you had instant communication with the other developer.
There was that, and then our work with Alfredo Rego on repacking detail datasets. That was Steve and me working with Alfredo, and to some extent Fred White. That was something where data integrity was of absolute importance. Yet it still had a lot of opportunity for using interesting technology, doing things efficiently and fast.
How do you think practicing magic over the last 15 has had an impact on how you approach your day job?
I've always tried to think outside the box, and with magic it's easier to do. If you're developing a magic effect, you tend to look at the end result and work backwards. That the way I've done a lot of my 3000 stuff — like when I think I was the first person to propose intercepting disk IOs — I remember sitting down with Joerg Groessler and outlining how it could be done. And so basically giving him the idea for the online backup on the Classic HP 3000s. You could do it behind the operating system's back by intercepting disk IOs.
You don't start out by saying, "what can I do, and where will that lead?" You take the end result, intercepting disk IOs, and work backwards. Sometimes that's the same thing with magic. You say "I want you to be able to look at the card in your hand and see it's not the card you thought it was, but it's a different back, and a bigger card than you thought it was."
Sometimes a technique comes out for the 3000 and you think of what you can do with them. Like procedure exits came out, and you say, "What can I do with these things?"
If you could talk to the Stan of 30 years ago, what would you tell him to pay attention to?
[Laughing] Buying Apple stock. I would say pay more attention to the Internet and how to link computers together. About 20 years ago, my ophthalmologist asked me where the future of computers is going. I said the future is with computers working together. And I think that's still the answer. We're beginning to get there, but we're not there enough yet. I can't leave this iPad and walk over to my desktop, and resume this conversation yet, like nothing has changed.
December 20, 2013
Climbing a Tech Ladder to Newer Interests
When Allegro's Stan Sieler announced he'd completed 30 years of employment at the firm, it seemed to spark our curiousity about how things have changed over that period for the creator of so much MPE software -- and parts of IMAGE/SQL, for that matter.
He joined HP in 1977, after working on Burroughs systems. Over the years both with HP, and then later, he’s left many fingerprints on the 3000 identity. He proposed multithreading that HP finally implemented for DBPUTs and DELETEs. Wrote STORE on the Classic 3000s, plus can see various aspects of MPE/iX because of his work on the HPE operating system [the MPE/XL predecessor using an instruction set called Vision] before he left HP. A lot of the process management stuff that was his code is still running today. Sieler assisted on Large Files. IMAGE/3000 on the classic systems has intrinsic-level recovery he designed. A week after he left HP, they canceled the Vision project and ported 95 percent of his work to MPE/XL.
Then came the Allegro work during the era when the 3000 division called the company Cupertino East: Jumbo datasets in IMAGE/SQL. Master dataset expansion. B-trees. By that time he was already in the Interex User Group Hall of Fame. We interviewed him for the Q&A in our November printed issue, and spoke via Skype. Stan used his iPad for the chat.
Second of three parts
How are you coming to terms with being really well-versed with a work that fewer people not only know about, but even use?
Yes, that’s a hard question. I know the two places I’d go if I wasn’t doing Allegro anymore. In both places I think I’d be applying knowledge I’ve learned. It may not specifically be MPE, but it’s things like being careful about maintaining data structures of filesystem and the users’ data. These are lessons we’ve learned for 34 years on the HP machine. I think as we get older, we ought to be able to go up the technical ladder. The problem is that there isn’t enough of a ladder, in most places.
What makes the higher rungs of the corporate ladder hard to reach for someone who’s as experienced as you?
I have a friend who’s a fellow magician, and a senior scientist at Apple. I eat in their cafeteria and we talk magic, and I look around and they’re all young enough to be my kids, except for a smattering of people. He agrees that Apple needs more older people, because we’ll point to things and say, “See this? That shouldn’t have happened. We saw that kind of problem 20 years ago. We’d know better than to do that.” Apple is one place I think I’d want to work, except I don’t think I could stomach their policies. I could see going to Google, too.
My dream job? Being CTO of Tivo. They have the best DVR, and it’s crap. But everyone else’s is worse. It’s so easy to look at theirs and say they could do this and this better, and they haven’t. I’d like to improve it, so I could use it. It’s a lot like the 3000. A lot of the things I’ve helped push over the years are things that I wanted: The ability to properly handle bigger disk drives, and things like that. But sometimes you don’t get your way
What is the current mix of MPE work in your week, versus all other work?
It varies from day to day, and sometimes it’s hard to tell, because there are a few things that I do that run on MPE as well as HP-UX, three or four products plus a couple of internal tools that run on both platforms. There there are things like Rosetta — where all of the work is done off the 3000, but it’s supporting reading from STORE tapes, so it’s 3000-related. But definitely more than half of the work I do is off the 3000. We’ve got a proposal or two out to enhance our 3000 X-Over tape-copying product for them, and then we could use the enhancements ourselves. We’ve identified a relatively major new feature we could add.
People can see Apple seems to be losing its steam. Does it seem like an echo of what happened to HP and the 3000 in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s?
I remember when HP was first abandoning the 3000 in favor of Unix. To some extent, Apple’s doing the same thing with touch computing and changes for the interface on the Mac to be more tablet-like. Also, Apple is putting in more restrictions on what your apps can do if you buy through the App Store. In terms of hardware, Apple’s very quick to roll things over. At least with the 3000, things tended to be backward-compatible for a lot longer time. You didn’t really have a problem with a new version of an OS using more resources and rendering the older machines useless.
On the flip side, a lot like the 3000 came out with the A-Class machines and you’d ignore their crippling, that was pretty cool hardware. Apple’s doing the same kind of leap. I used to bring people into the office to see my Mac Pro, and I’d say, “this is technology aliens dropped down to Earth, it’s so advanced.” The Mac Pro black tower? That’s a more advanced race of aliens.
HP’s been through more than a decade now of no futures for the 3000. How much worse has that been for you than the decade leading up to the 2001 announcement? What have we really lost?
It’s a lot worse in terms of number of customers, income, the ability to fund doing interesting projects. That’s why we’ve branched out to do other things.
Do you handle Unix support calls, for example?
Allegro does. I tend to get pulled in when they’re hard problems. Same thing goes for the 3000, where I tend to not handle the frontline call.
For next time: redefining 3000 migration, Allegro's emulation considerations, and how practicing magic can impact a tech career.
December 19, 2013
Making More than 30 Years of MPE Magic
Stan Sieler is as close as our community might come to being source code for MPE and the HP 3000. He recently noted on his LinkedIn page he’s celebrating 30 years with Allegro, the company he co-founded with Steve Cooper. Three decades at a single company is a rare milestone, but Sieler goes back even farther with MPE and the 3000.
Few programmers have more people using their code. He’s the co-author of SPLash!, a compiler that brought the original SPL systems language from the Classic HP 3000s to PA-RISC systems. Then there’s his wide array of free software contributed to the community: things like RAMUSAGE, a tool that reports how HP 3000 RAM is being used. Sieler was honored as an outstanding contributor to the HP user group’s annual Contributed Software Library three times.
Sieler took up the practice of magic 15 years ago, which was evident as he gave a tour of the Computer History Museum at a 3000 software symposium held there in 2008.The patter of the tour was a seamless as our 90-minute talk for this interview. We spoke via his iPad, using the everday magic of Skype, just a few days before our November printed issue went to press.
Over the years you’ve been at Allegro, what’s changed for the industry?
Everything, and nothing. We’re still bitching about changes that manufacturers do to their software. I’m still trying to do new things. A lot of the things that have changed are simply bigger, faster, more memory and more disk. In terms of software development, the biggest change is the prevalence of more GUIs, of course. But even then, we were foreshadowing that with things like block mode apps, such as VPlus. We didn’t have a mouse, but we were still interacting with screens.
Some of the good guys are gone. I don’t know if we’ve identified the new good guys yet. Some of the new good guys have come and gone; Apple, for me, is in that category, with the restrictions on iOS and the restrictions they’re trying to put on the Mac. They’re removing the fun and the power.
What’s changed in your Allegro work?
It depends on what hour of the day you look at me. Yesterday I was doing work in SPLash! (the company’s SPL compiler for PA-RISC systems) on a product we introduced years ago. The day before that, I was putting an enhancement into X-Over, a product we released in the early ‘90s.
On the other hand, there’s work on things like iAdmin, our app for the iPad. I’m working on finalizing Windows support and MPE support for it. I’m testing the MPE support, but the Windows support is a little harder. Mostly because Windows, despite its power, is missing surprisingly simple concepts: give me a list of hooked up disk drives, so I can directory searches of them without hanging. On MPE, at least, if you do the equivalent of DSTAT ALL, you know what volume sets there are, and you don’t even have to know that to do a LISTF of everything.
You created SPLash!, but what other environments and languages do you develop in after all of these years?
SPLash! is a minor amount. A lot of my work is in C, and some is in HP’s Pascal — which I regret they didn’t port to Itanium, because it’s such a good Pascal.
Anything you wish you’d studied sooner, looking back?
I was at HP in 1979 learning about DS/3000. I said to myself I didn’t need to learn networking, that there were enough other things to learn. I skipped that area for development, although I’ve been a networking user since 1971 on the ARPANet. I’ve finally changed my mind and have to develop for it now.
We were about the 21st machine on the net at UC San Diego. As students, a friend and I were doing a project for DARPA, and we got early access to the net.
Wow. ARPANet more than 40 years ago. That’s some way-back-there experience. About the only story I’ve ever heard from a 3000 expert farther back was Fred White, who co-created IMAGE.
Well, I realized that Fred White was like my assistant scoutmaster. He[the assistant scoutmaster] worked for Burroughs, talked about the machine and I knew he was a major figure there. He had daily arguments with [mathematician and physicist] Edgar Dykstra, who was a scholar at the time working for Burroughs. My scoutmaster and Fred White were like peas in a pod. They were different and willing to go their own way and got very interesting things done — and outside small communities, people don’t really know who they are. Getting older, I occasionally think of that myself now: who knows who I am, and do I care?
For next time: The challenge of climbing the tech ladder, new interests, and how to consider being well-versed in work that's not well-known.
December 18, 2013
Store to Disk preserves backups' attributes
By Brian Edminster
Second of two parts
Yesterday I outlined some of the powers of the Posix program pax, as well as tar, to move MPE/iX backup files offsite. Here’s a warning. There are some file types that cannot be backed up by tar/pax while also storing their attributes: ;CIR (circular) and ;MSG (message) files (and possibly others. I haven’t tested all possible file types yet. Also, there is an issue with tar that is a fairly well known and has been discussed on the 3000 newsgroup. Occasionally it does not un-tar correctly. It is unclear if and when this was fixed, but I’d love to hear from anybody that might be in the know, or which specific situations to avoid.
Regardless of these limitations, I’ve found a simple way around this. Use store-to-disk to make your backup, then tar to wrap it, so as to preserve the store-to-disk files’ characteristics, before shipping the files off-system. Later, when you retrieve your tar backups and un-tar them, you’ll get your original store-to-disk files back without having to specify the proper ‘;REC= , CODE= , and DISC=’ options on an FTP ‘GET’. I’ve been doing this for several months now on several systems, and I have not had any failures.
If you have a version of STORE that has compression, use it to reduce the size of backup. If not, use the ‘z’ option in the tar/pax archive you create from your store-to-disk backup. Do not use both. They don’t play well together, and you may end up with a larger tar file.
But what about the tar archive size limit of 2GB? There’s an easy way around this as well, as this limit is common on early Unix and Linux systems. Just pipe the output through ‘split’ to create chunks of whatever size you want. Below, there's simple examples for both directions.
Below, Figure 2 is an example of a ‘cksum’ created of the files as they’re stored on the NAS.
As both the hashes and #bytes shown in each file are the same as on the MPE/iX server — we know the backups are transferred correctly. The same technique can be used ‘in reverse’ to verify that when FTP’d back to the FTP server, they’re still intact.
When un-taring this backup, ‘cat’ the pieces together and pipe it through tar. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Yes, there is a known issue with the MPE/iX Posix shell’s built-in cat command. But I’ve so far been unable to successfully use the external cat command to successfully cat either. Here’s how this should work for a 2-chunk tar backup:
sh>/bin/cat ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa ./CS1STD1.ustar.ab | tar -xfv - *
Unfortunately, for me at least, it always throws an error indicating bad format for the tar files.There is a work-around, however. Note that while ‘cat’ing the tar ‘chunks’ didn’t work using the internal or external cat command, untar with multi-file option does work. Even though it gives a minor error messages, files were returned to proper store-to-disk format, and the recovered store-to-disk backup is intact and has been used to recover the desired files. To do this, use tar like this:
sh>tar -xfv ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa *
Also note that when using tar in this way, it will ask for the name of the 2nd-nth component tar files, as it finishes reading each prior piece. You must give the filename and press return to continue for each. I believe that it should be possible to script this so that it’s fed the filenames, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.
Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies.
December 17, 2013
HP 3000 Backup Files, On the Move
By Brian Edminster
First of two parts
Once store-to-disk backups are regularly being processed, it’s highly desirable to move them offsite — for the same reasons that it’s desirable to rotate tape media to offsite storage. You want to protect against site-wide catastrophic failures. It could be something as simple as fire, flood, or a disgruntled employee, or as unusual as earthquake or act of war.
Regardless of the most pressing reason, it really is important to keep at least some of your backups offsite, so as to facilitate rebuilding / recovering from scratch, either at your own facility, or at a backup/recovery site.
The problem comes in that the MPE/iX file system is far more structured than Unix, Windows, or any other non-MPE/iX file system-based storage mechanisms. While transferring a file off MPE/iX is easy via FTP, sftp/scp, or rsync, retrieving it is problematic, at least if you wish the retrieved files and the original store-to-disk files to be identical (i.e., with the same file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type, and so forth).
What would be optimal is automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.For FTP transfers between late-model MPE/iX systems this retrieval is automatic, because the FTP client and server recognize themselves as MPE/iX systems. For retrieving files from other systems, HP has made that somewhat easier by making its FTP client able to specify ‘;REC= , CODE= , and ;DISC=’ on a ‘GET’:
If you do not specify the ‘buildparms’ for a file being retrieved, it will default to the file-type implied by the FTP transfer mode: ASCII (the default), binary, or byte-stream (often called ‘tenex’ on Unix systems). The respective defaults used are shown below:
What follows is an example of automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. And this is yet again where Posix comes to the rescue, via the venerable ‘tar’ (Tape ARchiver), or ‘pax’ archiving utilities.
‘pax’ is a newer backup tool, designed to be able to read/write with tar format archives, newer ‘ustar’ format (that includes Extended Attributes of files). At the same time it has a more ‘normal/consistent’ command syntax (as Unix/Posix stuff goes, anyway), plus a number of other improvements. Think of it as tar’s younger (and supposedly more handsome) brother.
A little known feature of most ‘late-model’ tar and all pax commands is the ability for it to recognize and utilize Extended Attributes. These will vary with the target implementation platform, but for the tar and pax commands included with releases after v5.5 of MPE/iX this capability is not only present — but contrary to the man command’s output and HP’s Posix Command Line manual, it’s the default! You use the -A switch to turn it off, returning tar to a bytestream-only tool.
While not externally documented, via a little experimentation I’ve determined that the following series of Extended Attributes value-pairs are in the MPE/iX Posix implementation of a tar or pax ‘file header’ for each non-Posix file archived:
MPE.RECORDSIZE= value in bytes
MPE.BLOCKFACTOR= integer value
MPE.RECORDFORMAT= integer value (0=unstructured?)
MPE.CCTL= integer value (0=nocctl)
MPE.ASCII= integer value (0=binary, 1=ascii)
MPE.FILECODE= integer value, absent for ‘0’
MPE.FILELIMIT= value in bytes
MPE.NUMEXTENTS= integer value, may be absent
MPE.NUMUSERLABELS= integer value (0=no user labels), and
MPE.USERLABELS=[binary content of user labels]
December 16, 2013
XP's exiles as reluctant as MPE's refugees
The drumbeat of Windows XP end of life got louder this month, sparked in part by the CDW PC hardware vendor. A tech talk from Spiceworks, the social network of the tech professional, focused on the practical needs of any company that plans to rely on Windows beyond Microsoft's end date. There's a deep set of forum questions being discussed on the Spiceworks site. The commentary echoed the situation that MPE/iX managers muddled through from 2006 to 2010, those grey years when HP seemed to want to exit the 3000 market, but changed its course a few times.
And it has some distinct similarities. Microsoft will sell Custom Support -- at about $200 per PC -- after XP's end of life. This recalls the two years of custom MPE vintage support sold by HP in 2009-10. So naturally, the XP-using community hopes this bodes well for an extension of Microsoft's XP life. From PC World:
Because Microsoft sells Custom Support agreements, it's obligated to come up with patches for critical and important vulnerabilities. And it may be required to do so for years: The company sells Custom Support for up to three years after it retires an operating system. Participants receive patches for vulnerabilities rated "critical" by Microsoft. Bugs ranked as "important," the next step down in Microsoft's four-level threat scoring system, are not automatically patched. Instead, Custom Support contract holders must pay extra for those. Flaws pegged as "moderate" or "low" are not patched at all.
Users are trading their lore and wishes on the Spiceworks site. One question that came up was "what happens on the day that Microsoft support ends?" The answer is similar to the one for the MPE world: XP will continue to operate beyond a vendor's "end of life," in this case, April, 2014.
I'm assuming no one knows for sure what will happen to XP machines that remain in use after the EOL, but I have my guesses. I'm thinking that a week or two after the EOL, a malware or virus will be released, and since there's no OS patch for it, it will easily spread in the wild. Windows XP machines will then be either useless or very hard to use.
The situation could be more dire for the millions of companies using Windows XP, because malware is aimed at these systems constantly. One theory, however, proposed that the XP community would shrink in size and become less of a target than more current Windows releases.
If the virtual desktops have no Internet access they'll be fine. The only real issue with XP after April will be the lack of patches. If your machines aren't exposed, I don't see why you should be concerned.
There's sometimes sensible logic that can be traced through the security-via-obscurity argument. It helps if your environment was never targeted to begin with. HP's own Unix continues to draw malware breeches every week, while the diminishing MPE installed base has had no new security problems. "Potential security vulnerabilities have been identified in Java Runtime Environment and Java Developer Kit running on HP-UX," HP reported this month. "These vulnerabilities could allow remote unauthorized access, disclosure of information, and other exploits."Most MPE/iX managers have some responsibility in the Windows world. There's a separate topic on the Spiceworks site that deals with the homesteading XP user's needs and concerns. Even as an operating environment loses its vendor protection, the IT managers in the field make the ultimate decision on when the risk outweighs the stability. One XP manager noted that the expense of making a change -- and that's what drives the interest of a company like reseller CDW -- would be hard to justify to top management. (Sound familiar?)
We're in no hurry at all and we have easily over 100 systems on XP.
Problem is, XP works just fine with all our contemporary apps (Office 365, various SQL clients, etc) so transitioning upward only translates to Accounting as a hardware cost without any obvious benefits. Somehow I am unable to sell the idea that email or Excel sheets will be created/sent or edited any faster with a fleet of shiny new PCs using the interface formerly known as Metro.
That said, we will be slowly leaving this low orbit, just without any panic. Maybe if the Microsoft-promised XP targeting malware surfaces on April 15th we'll speed it up. This is no Y2K, replace all your computers or die moment, not by any stretch of the imagination.
And as HP 3000 customers learned, not even Y2K was the calamity that some feared. Replacing computers wasn't necessary in that situation. On the other hand, putting Windows 7 or 8 on systems built 12 years ago will have its performance challenges.
And yes, HP still maintains a code for MPE's software products, included as part of the legend in its Security Bulletins.
December 13, 2013
Euro 3000 allies find a foothold in meeting
Yesterday we made reference to a 2001 Q&A interview with Stan Sieler, the Allegro co-founder interviewed in our latest print issue. Across the top of that page is a 2001 web ad for an entity called Millware Corporation. It was a company whose Dave Wiseman was pushing out a web-enabled dashboard, based inside a free terminal emulator. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo was one of the Millware partners, too. And Yeo has remained a vital force in meetings in 2007, 2009, and the HP3000 Reunion of 2011.
The truth about the HP 3000 community is that remains connected. Yours has always been a social group, long before there was such a concept as social networking via Twitter, Facebook, and the others. Last week the old-style networking was afoot, thanks for Millware's old founder taking a first step.
Dave Wiseman sent the word to more than 50 HP 3000 community members in Europe to gather on December 5, and despite serious storms about Europe on meeting day, he got 10 to make the trek to London. He reports:
I’ve included my invitation to as many of our overseas friends as I can, so that if they are even thinking of coming to Europe, this might form a focus time to come over.
A huge thank you to all who made the effort to get to London last week to meet. It was great to see all our old friends and everyone clearly enjoyed the meeting. Amazing to see that apart from going grey or bad, most of us were still recognisable. As far as I am aware, everyone made it safely home, although I had to stay in London, as all trains were cancelled due to storm damage on the line.
Despite the storms in Germany and what ended up as relatively short notice, we still had around 10 of us from as far afield as Berlin, Lyons, Wurzburg, Sheffield and various other places around the UK. With a large sprinkling of beer and a few bottles of wine after, we revived many fond memories of conferences past. Alas, none of us took any photos -- which shows that we’re just not the modern generation who would have all this posted on Twitter before they’d eaten!
Our thanks must also go out to Ian Kilpatrick who generously paid for the meal and the drinks so please visit his website at WickHill.
We all resolved to have another meeting in the not too distant future, and so I would ask you all to answer the following questions for me and I’ll happily organise another meeting.
Again, if you can think of anyone who might be interested in attending, let me have their details for future mailings. Especially I do not have many contacts form the other European vendors --- so if you are in touch with the vendors in your country, you know what to do.
1. Would you like to come if you can?
3. London/Outer London hotel/Amsterdam/somewhere in the sun? Suggestions?
4. Preferred day of the week?
I would probably try to organise the next one in a location that has meeting rooms, as well as a bar
December 12, 2013
Slow down, you early-adopting laggards
We could all stand to slow down just a little bit, even as the Web and the cloud and the Internet promise to hurtle us ever-faster into the future. As different as that tomorrow will be, many things will remain ever the same. What we need more of are laggards, but a new sort of that sort of pro who’s the very last to change.
One that that won’t change is testing, as un-sexy a subject as anything that ever unreeled off an episode of Lost in Space. Developers dislike it, designers hate it, users outwait it. Only the auditor loves testing, as it lets him assure his masters that all is as to be as it ever was. Testing must now embrace emulation, or virtualization, or whatever phrase you want to use for making one computer behave like it’s using another’s personality.
These doppelgangers of data delivery are now afoot in the world of the HP 3000. Some day they will be in the cloud, a concept we all hooted at from our 1990s office chairs sitting in early 2000s cubicles, hoping we’d be employed after the economy’s crash dust started to settle in the early Teens. The cloud: now it will save our budgets with computers that run anywhere, at least anyplace except the office space of our organization — real estate the corporation would like to reduce, if it could, along with headcounts.
However, the heads of 3000 managers has been wrapped around servers right down the hall or across the plaza or at least in the same city. Now these servers can be racked someplace in a hosting farm and the everyday province of another company. We can see the badge Dell, or Acer, or even IBM, and know that inside beats the heart of MPE. The Stromasys CHARON software makes that kind of magic happen, the sort that makes possible, as our Q&A subject Stan Sieler said in our November print issue, MPE Forever.
But not so fast; remember we are a community made of many laggards by today, even as oracles and wizards like Sieler work in our world.The last time we interviewed Stan Sieler the HP 3000 was on the cusp of its newest technology and primed for inclusion to the select world of Itanium. Skies were bright and a 3000 customer could be allowed to think they were in line for something nouveau in an N-Class, or avant in an A-Class, any day now.
Things changed, but testing did not. No one made a move onto either of those radically different (and better) servers without certifying things would be the same at month’s end closing. CHARON will require the same audit assurances to take over for HP-branded iron. Sensible managers will know this, but some will assure their owners everything will be the same. They’ll have become early adopting laggards. They’ll be preserving the value of MPE, even as they adopt virtualization for the first time. IO and CPU footprints will have to be examined. Scaling must be studied, although scaling of HP hardware choices is limited to installing more boxes.
CHARON is only going to get better. That’s the way it works with things that are needed and desired, at least the ones where a market appears ready. Your market is ready. Testing will make you slow down a little bit. It will only seem that way if you haven’t told the story of testing along with the sizzle of emulation. After adoption tests, yes, these will just be another 3000 for the proud laggards who maintain MPE value.
December 11, 2013
In a slowing market, things can shift quickly
Our November printed edition of The 3000 Newswire carried a headline about the success that the Stromasys CHARON emulator is experiencing in your community. However, one of the green lights we noted in that article turned red during the time between writing and delivery into postal mailboxes.
Ray Legault has checked in to report that the project to virtualize HP 3000s closing down in a soon-to-be-closed disaster recovery site has been called off. The close-out doesn't appear to reflect any shortfall in the value of the CHARON element. But carrying forward applications has proved to be complicated.
In particular, the costs for license upgrades of third-party software came in for special mention. This isn't standalone application software, like an Ecometry or MANMAN or even an Amisys. That sort of app isn't in wide use in 3000 customer sites, and to be honest, off the shelf solutions never were. The software license that needed a transfer wasn't from HP, either. MPE/iX has a ready, $432 transfer fee to move it to an industry-standard Intel system. No, this well-known development and reporting tool was going to cost more than $100,000 to move to a virtualized HP 3000.
"Our project was cancelled due to other reasons not related to the emulator," Legault said. "Maybe next year things will change. The apps not having a clear migration path seemed to be the issue."So file this blog report under a correction, or perhaps an update. But I wouldn't want to be the bearer of incorrect news, and there's something virtuous about filing a correction, anyway.
Where we made our mistake was in observing activity in license transfer inquiries, then getting information about a pending CHARON purchase, but not seeing a confirmed PO. That's a document we rarely see here at the Newswire. These days, it's a rare thing for anyone to share a number as specific as, say, $110,000 for a license fee.
For a company which has eight remaining applications to push into the year 2018, and needs to keep those apps hotsite-recoverable, an emulated 3000 with low hardware costs makes good sense. But there are license budgets to resolve in order to proceed with this sort of transition activity.
Most important, we haven't heard any reports yet of any vendor who flat-out refuses to license their MPE/iX software for CHARON. Perhaps when a vendor has to watch a $110,000 sale disappear, it could spark a different approach to the business proposition of serving a slowing marketplace. Maybe next year, things will change.
In the news business when there's a mistake, we were always taught to close the correction with "We regret the error." In this case, everybody regrets the shift in strategy.
December 10, 2013
Google's doodle touts COBOL's relevance
Yesterday was the 107th anniversary of the birth for Dr. Grace Hopper, inventor of the world's most widely distributed business language. That's COBOL, which might puzzle Millennials who manage the world's IT. COBOL's historic ranking won't surprise anyone who earned IT stripes in MPE, of course.
Hopper worked in the US military before her years developing what we call Common Business-Oriented Language. The US Department of Defense provided shelter for researching what we now call the Internet, another technology that's going to have a lifespan longer than its creators'. Dr. Hopper died on New Year's Day 1992, by which time 30 universities had presented her with honorary degrees. From 1959 to 1961, Hopper led the team that invented COBOL at Remington Rand, a company that swelled in size while it built 45-caliber pistols during WW II.
The last COBOL compiler ever developed for the HP 3000 didn't come from its system creator Hewlett-Packard and its language labs. Acucorp created a version of its AcuCOBOL in 2001 that understood MPE/iX and IMAGE nuances. Bad timing, of course, given the business-oriented decision HP made about the 3000 later that year. But while Acucorp eventually became a cog in the Micro Focus COBOL machine, there are still Acucorp voices out there in the IT market. And they speak a business argot that's being celebrated now in this holiday season.Micro Focus has been posting a 12 Days of COBOL feature on its website this month. One of the alerts to the information -- which points at new COBOL capabilities and features -- came from Jackie Anglin, the long-time media coordinator for Transoft. She joined Micro Focus several years ago after her service to migration-transformation supplier Transoft.
The 12 Days items on the Micro Focus blog were up to No. 9 as of yesterday.
Say 'hello' to 21st Century COBOL
COBOL hasn't lasted this long by standing still. As well as its rich OO extensions, take a look at the new XML, SQL and Unicode features in Visual COBOL. They’re there to help you bring apps bang up to date with industry standards.
Migration-bound IT directors might roll their eyes at any message that COBOL is keeping up with newer languages. But according to the online technical publisher Safari Books -- where the ultimate MPE/iX administrator's book is still for sale -- COBOL rules an overwhelming share of the world's information for business. "Applications managing about 85 percent of the world's business data are written in COBOL," it reports on a listing for COBOL for the 21st Century.
Micro Focus likes to say that 35 percent of all new business application development is written in COBOL. That fact may not be as objective as Gartner's 85-percent figure -- but even if it's close, Dr. Hopper should be toasted this week. Few inventions have retained their relevance for more than a half-century, especially ones that are based entirely on brainpower. Dr. Hopper dismantled seven clocks in her home before the age of seven. She also set a language to ticking that hasn't run out of time yet.
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.
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.