November 13, 2017

HP's shrinkage includes iconic HQ address

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 10, 2017

CAMUS Conference calls meeting on 2028

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 06, 2017

Flood drives off HP, even as 3000s churn on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 03, 2017

Dealing with PCL in modern printer networks

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

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

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

Finley says of the fundamentals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 01, 2017

CAMUS wants a deeper look at 2028

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2017

Advice on keys for 3000s, and KSAM files

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

Gilles Schipper says

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

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

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

Chuck Trites says

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

Francois Desrochers explains

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

Build a temporary output file with all the same attributes:


Copy the records from the original file to the temporary file


Purge the original file and rename the temporary file:


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

October 25, 2017

OpenSSL's gaps for 3000s surface again

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Byrne of Hart & Lyne said

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2017

Clouds? All the time, even Sunday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 20, 2017

Fine-tune: Database passwords, slow clocks

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

John Burke replied

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

Mike Church and Joseph Dolliver added

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

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

Bob J. replies

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

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

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

Tongue firmly in cheek, Wirt Atmar noted

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2017

Getting the Message Across for MPE/iX

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is 4083. Or, why testing counts.

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

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

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

October 13, 2017

Take the Training, A Young 3000 Jedi Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 11, 2017

Keeping Watch On Answers From Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 06, 2017

Staying Secure with MPE/iX Now and Then

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

October 04, 2017

Data on 3000s still needs to be synched

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 02, 2017

Way Out in MPE's World, Desert Sands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 29, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Libraries, Large Disks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Hidden Value editor emeritus John Burke:

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

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

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

September 27, 2017

Wayback Wed: HP green-lights emulators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 22, 2017

Importing CSV Text Into COBOL II

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

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

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

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

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

Olav Kappert offered a long but consistent process.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

September 20, 2017

Hardware broker posts reducing numbers

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2017

Stromasys demos its app futures at VMworld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 15, 2017

Friday Fine-tune: Disk and memory checks

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

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

cstm>select device 64

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

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

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

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

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

September 08, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: Moving systems quickly

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

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

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

• Buy a Seagate external disk drive.

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

• Connect the Seagate on the old system.

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

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

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

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

• Set up the XFER group on the new system.

:newgroup xfer.sys

:altgroup xfer.sys; homevs=XFER

• restore the data

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

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

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

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

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




John Lee reported doing the very thing Stan suggested:

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

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

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

September 01, 2017

Steps for a Final Shutdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5) Went into VOLUTIL and condensed my discs

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

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

8) Typed the command PURGEGROUP JUNK.SYS

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

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

11) Shut down the box.

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

August 28, 2017

VMware ties virtualization to Amazon's tail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 21, 2017

The Next Totality: Will it be our last?

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 18, 2017

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

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

Stan Sieler replies:

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

Keven Miller adds:

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

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

Steve Dirickson offers this primer:

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Emerson responded:

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

Denys Beauchemin added:

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

Tom Emerson reminisced:

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

Finally, Wayne Boyer said"

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

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


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

August 16, 2017

How Free Lunch Can Cost You The Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

August 14, 2017

Increasing Challenges of 3000 DIY Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 11, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: A Diagnostics Tour

Newswire Classic
From Stan Sieler

There are two kinds of diagnostics: online and offline.

The online come in two flavors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISL> clkutil
no password

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ODE) Modules on this boot media are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copy Utility (COPYUTIL) Help Menu

UTILINFO - Shows information on COPYUTIL including quick start info.

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

DISPMAP - Displays the devices found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ODE> dfdutil2

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

Didn't seem to want a password.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(No password requested up to that point.)

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

(from a friend:)

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

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

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

no password required

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

no password required

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

August 09, 2017

Parts become hair triggers for some sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 07, 2017

Support firms vet, curate online 3000 advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As of this moment, MPE manuals are still available at:

Here's a Tinyurl link:

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

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

August 04, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: HP 3000 DLT vs. DDS

Dlt Backing up enterprise-grade 3000s presents interesting choices. Back in the 1990s when the 3000 being built and sold by HP, DDS at first had only two generations, neither of which were reliable. A DDS tape used to be the common coin for OS updates and software upgrades. The media has advanced beyond a DDS-4 generation to DAT-360, but Digital Linear Tape (DLT) has a higher capacity and more reliability than DDS.

When a DDS tape backup runs slower than DLT, however, something is amiss. DLT is supposed to supply a native transfer rate of 15 MBps in the SureStore line of tape libraries. You can look at an HP PDF datasheet on the Ultrium SureStore devices certified by HP for MPE/iX at this link.

HP 3000 community partners such as Pivital Solutions offer these DLTs, At an estimated cost of about $1,300 or more per device, you'll expect them to beat the DDS-3 transfers of 5 MBps.

When Ray Shahan didn't see the speed he expected after moving to DLT and asked the 3000 newsgroup community what might be wrong. Advice ranged from TurboStore commands, to channels where the drives are installed, to the 3000's bandwidth and CPU power to deliver data to the DLT. Even the lifespan of the DLT tape can be a factor. HP's MPE/iX IO expert Jim Hawkins weighed in among the answers, while users and third-party support providers gave advice on how to get the speed which you pay extra for from DLT.

Dave Gale wrote in an answer that device configuration and CPU are potential problems:

If you are using a DLT it likes to get data in a timely manner. Otherwise it will do the old 'shoe shine'. This means that other devices on the line can affect the bandwidth on the channel and starve the DLT. If you are using something like RoadRunner, then the CPU can be a real factor in this equation (especially single-CPU machines). So, you may not only want to check the statistics portion of the report, but monitor your machine during backup with Glance or SOS.

Gilles Schipper of GSA said that a TurboStore command is essential. "If you're using HP TurboStore, are you using MAXTAPEBUF option on STORE command?" MAXTAPEBUF and INTER can make a major difference, cutting a backup to DLT  from 7 hours to under 2 by  adding the parms.

HP's Hawkins said channel configurations of backup devices are key to ensuring that DLT tops the DDS speed:

Generally this shouldn’t happen. It might happen if the DLT and disc are on the same channel while the DAT/DDS was on a separate one. Might also happen with large numbers of small files on semi-busy system as some DAT are better at start/stop than DLT. If you are running STORE the STATISTICS option can give a broad indication of throughput for A/B comparison.

One simple piece of advice is to try a new DLT tape, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:53 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 02, 2017

Long-term value rests in short-life servers

Buried-treasureIt's a summer afternoon in Virginia when a 3000 expert takes inventory. He's got a declining number of billable hours this month, enough of a problem to reach for resources to liquidate. His pair of big 9x9 systems in offsite storage have been offline for all of this year, and all of last year, too. There's gold in them there chassis, he figures. They've got to be worth something.

Then the expert has a look at last week's 3000-L newsgroup traffic. The messages have dwindled to a couple of dozen even in the good months, but one hardware reseller posts messages monthly. Old 3000s are for sale at an asking price that doesn't exceed $5,000 for even the biggest server. HP only built one N-Class bigger than the 4-way 550 N-Class that tops the list. The 9x9s in the message? About $1,000-$1,200 apiece, even for a 989. Selling servers like that to a broker might net maybe half that to our expert.

Even though the servers are in great shape, stored in temperature-controlled storage units, and sport some nice peripherals, the resale value of the boxes isn't surprising. They're short-life assets, because eventually they'll break down. There's something in them that might be more valuable than $500 per system, though. The MPE/iX licenses for these systems could be worth something, even if the hardware isn't exactly golden.

Series 989A historical note or two: The Series 989 models sold for as little as $175,617 when HP launched them 18 years ago. MPE/iX 6.0 was the first OS to power them. Like everything else HP built for MPE/iX, the servers stopped being sold in 2003

How much such licenses would fetch is an unknown this year. A low-cost server in the used market usually has MPE/iX loaded on its disks. A clear chain of ownership, though, might not be a part of that discount price. Who'd care about such a thing? Our expert thinks of the one company more devoted to the everlasting future of MPE/iX than anybody: Stromasys.

Any 3000 customer with enough dedication to using MPE/iX in an emulated environment may very well want good MPE/iX licenses. HP promised to deliver an emulator-only MPE/iX license to the community, but the vendor stopped issuing licenses before Stromasys Charon got into the market. A license for a 3000 is the one element of the MPE/iX environment in shortest supply. For now, nobody has started to list server licenses as a product that can be purchased.

It's going to kill our expert to just scrap all his hardware and software. But it's a buyer's market for HP's iron, since it's going to expire far sooner than later. Selling the licenses would be like trying to find someplace where at least those instances of MPE/iX could live on.

HP's 3000 boxes are stripped for parts every week, and for good reason. Part availability is still driving the ultra-long-term homesteaders into migrations. Stripping a 3000 for its license to be used in Charon has prospects that could last much longer. At a minimum, a license has a 10-year useful lifespan if Charon is involved.

Reseller systems on the market with explicit transfer paperwork aren't rare. The papers aren't automatic, though. Taking in HP's 3000 iron, but skipping the $432 fee to get HP's official transfer, complicates the value of the license. If any such hardware owner hasn't done the transfer, they'll have to deduct that expense from what the license will bring on the market. Anybody who wanted to get a Charon system set up, but doesn't have an eligible system from which to transfer a license, would find value in a license marketplace.

Charon customers I've interviewed so far don't need licenses for MPE/iX. Their old systems were still on hand when they made the jump to virtualized servers. User counts for licenses become important in the 9x9 family. One site that's looking at virtualization has utilities with support fees that will rise, they believe, when they make the jump. If there's a way that a license with a smaller user count could keep that from happening, then the licenses will be worth a lot more than the paper they're printed upon. And the shipping for this virtual 3000 component? So cheap, compared to moving HP's iron.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:47 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 31, 2017

Where 2028 fits in the homestead calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are the customers who will rely on the work, too. Now there's at least one who's putting near-term licensing in its appropriate rank: secondary to making sure there's a platform that can carry on. Keeping the dates working is like keeping the GPS satellites in orbit. We'd say keeping the street signs on the corners, but that's not the way we'll find our way in 2028. In lots of places, we won't need those signs in 2018.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:35 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 26, 2017

Wayback Wed: User groups, past and future

Connect logo partialTwelve years ago this week, the Interex user group became fully retired. Most of the community called the shutdown of the 31-year-old HP users group a bankruptcy, since millions of dollars of invoices went unpaid, while hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits and membership fees vanished. In its own way, though, Interex was stepping aside for user groups better built for IT of the 21st Century. The groups that have taken over during those years are better focused, streamlined, and understand their constituents better.

One of those groups is seeking directors this week. Connect, the latest generation of a group that was called Encompass on the day Interex retired, is searching for nominees to serve in three seats on its board. Members of a user group board have important duties, even while they're working for no pay. They oversee fiscal decisions, like the group on the Interex board was charged with doing at its demise. Directors propose advocacy, like the dozens of volunteers who served on the OpenMPE group in its eight years of existence. A board at its best looks forward toward how its organization should evolve. The ecosystem for IT is always changing.

That International Group for Hewlett-Packard Computer Users became Interex in 1984 and had mixed missions right from its beginnings. Built in an era without Internet or fax machines, Interex had to serve the needs of HP 3000, HP 9000, and even HP 1000 community members. The latter often didn't know they owned a 1000, since it was embedded deep in other devices. When I began covering HP in 1984, the HP 1000 group still was holding its own annual conference, even as it operated under the Interex banner.

Things got more complicated when PCs moved into datacenters and offices for good. By the time Interex locked its doors on Borregas Avenue in Sunnyvale, Calif., the HP 9000 members had overtaken the mission of the 3000, riding that pre-Internet wave of Unix passions. HP had announced its exit scheme for MPE/iX. Windows became the dominant environment for IT computing, a community too diverse for a vendor-centric group to impact.

The last executive director who left his job with the group still intact, Chuck Piercey asked repeatedly in the years before the bankruptcy what a user group built around one vendor might do in a homogenous landscape. Interex was built when the silos of vendors could stand distinct, and managers could run an all-HP shop and remain competitive within their industries.

Encompass was built upon the same model, but the group evolved to maintain a foothold and became Connect. Since 2016 the membership has been free. Interex membership added a free level in the years before the group folded, a facet that made the group's rolls swell but added little to the value proposition for membership.

At the end, HP said in 2004 it had enough of the strident Interex activists who fought for customers. It was a matter of tone, HP said, not so much content that sent HP out to establish its own conference. In just a few years the Technology Forum, which had a heavy HP corporate attendance, became HP Discover. A new breed of conference was born, something not steered by a user group.

In 2005, Encompass reached out to the stranded Interex members as Interex founder Doug Mecham said the group hadn't died off — it simply retired.

Rather than any negative or derogatory term used to describe the situation, perhaps we should just refer to the “change” as “retirement” of Interex, just as we would an old friend. This situation does open up possibilities – opportunities for new lives in different directions, each person taking the spirit and success knowledge elsewhere in the world.  Interex will not long be forgotten, for it represented an organization of professionals that made a mark in the computer world, second to none.

The bedrock of Connect, Encompass, saw its president Kristi Browder say the departure of Interex was no barometer of the user group concept.

As a former partner and colleague of Encompass in serving HP technology users, Interex has shared similar goals, passions and dedication to the HP user base. I want you as an Encompass community member to know this is no indication of the downturn in the value of Encompass or user groups in general.

The HP world was left with technical papers in 2005 that were undelivered, because the conference they were written for was cancelled. Later in the year HP mounted the first HP Technology Forum and Expo with significant help from Encompass and the Tandem users group, planning content. HP handled the expo duties as Interex had while running shows.

Browder could be excused for seeing the sunny side of the street where user groups lived. Few groups ever had such a bellwether conference like the Interex show. At the finish of the Interex run, the user group was riding on reserves all year that were banked off the commerce from its show floor booths. When the user group died, it left its shadow of red ink, because mid-summer was no time to feel cheery about the Interex balance sheet.

The 3000 community never duplicated networking which made such conference travel worthwhile. I still miss the face-to-face contact guaranteed each year by going to HP World and Interex before that conference. I was lucky to have 20 years of shows to attend. 3000 veterans, cut adrift from their annual meeting, put together a lunch of around 30 members who had nonrefundable tickets to San Francisco, and later there were reunions in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:17 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 24, 2017

Catch up tech can save legacy 3000s

Keep-calm-catch-upAbout a month ago we celebrated the 12-year anniversary of this blog. We scooped up three of the stories from that summer week of 2005, including notice of Taurus Software's Bridgeware. Quest Software was selling Bridgeware in a partnership with Taurus in 2005. Then we added that Bridgeware product continues to bridge data between 3000s and migration targets like Oracle.

This was catchup news to one HP 3000 manager among our readers. "I wish I had known about Taurus BridgeWare before my A500 crashed," he said. "Now I cannot get the data out of it."

This can be a fate that a site in deep-static mode can't escape. If spending has stopped, but the 3000's data carries on in a now-frozen app, that's an imbalance waiting to become something more serious. Good backup strategies can mitigate that kind of failure. Last week we chronicled the failover capabilities of Nike disk arrays. However, the best failover plan is the one that loses little to nothing because it's all being mirrored all the time.

Manufacturing sites have taken to sharing their data across multiple platforms for many years. The Support Group keeps up with information on the best-preserved tools to move data between manufacturing 3000s and SQL Server databases in real time. Playing catch up with tech is a better choice than wishing you knew about things like Bridgeware. We covered that bridging tech in detail you can find here on this blog. Here's a recap.

Bridgeware replicates IMAGE files in real time, as well as MPE files, Eloquence database and the usual suspects in the relational roster: Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, My SQL, or any ODBC database.

A good share of the Bridgeware work has been supporting customers who want to stay on the server. "We’ve been building a lot of operational data stores lately for customers who want to stay on the 3000," said Cailean Sherman. "These people want to have their production data available real time in a relational environment for reporting and analysis. The data can be ported to open systems once a migration is over, to replicate data between databases and files on open systems."

There have been other ways to capture HP 3000 data for mirroring in real time for a lower price point. Many, however, haven't survived into the current decade. The challenge in the homesteading community is keeping up with what's been acquired or pulled into the stable of a larger company (the fate of Powerhouse comes to mind in the latter category).

The best way a manager can get customized advice about this is to invest in consulting support from a company specializing in HP 3000 issues. We refer our readers to Pivital Solutions for this holistic support. It's a company that grew up in manufacturing application services.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:07 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 19, 2017

Pumped up pro, app teams serve 3000 shops

Inflatated-BalloonsThree years ago, the company that once called itself Speedware had 120 employees. A couple of years earlier, the provider of 3000 software and professional services renamed itself Fresche Legacy, taking a new tack into the winds of the IBM Series i business. The IBM successor to the AS400, Series i had much in common with the architecture of the 3000. Turnkey solutions, a consistent database offering, a wide array of independent software vendors. There was still 3000 business to be conducted at Fresche, though. In the past three years, Fresche has grown to 355 employees. Three times as many 3000 pros work on MPE support and services as did in 2015.

Fresche rebranded again this year, changing the Legacy part of its name to Solutions. Fresche Legacy calls what it does modernization more often than migration. That's a tactic that aims to win business from customers who don't consider their IT architecture a legacy.

Eric Mintz said the full Application Services division accounts for 69 employees. App services encompasses IBM i as well as HP skillsets, among others. It's known as HP skillsets, rather than 3000, because this is a company supporting HP-UX, too. One of the first migration success stories HP pushed was a Speedware-to-Speedware project, 3000 to 9000. The app services are separate from the Fresche Professional Services division. "They also have a variety of skills, associated to defined projects," Mintz said. "Although applications and professional employees are separate, resources can move between departments, depending on project or service needs."

Mintz said the company is always looking for 3000 experience. "Ninety percent of the project work is done remotely," he added. "That works out great for consultants who don't want to travel much."

Mintz has been with the firm for 17 years, and he adds that the company likes to say its client list is 100 percent referenceable—meaning a prospect might talk to any one of the clients to get a report on how things went. That doesn't go for publications, since that level of candor usually needs to be vetted at the clients' PR and legal level. But we'll have a report on a classic 3000 customer soon, one who has been moving away from HP 3000s since the earliest days of migrations.

One element that's key to modernization is Speedweb, first set in motion more than a decade ago to add browser-style connectivity to apps that sometimes look more like DOS. Speedweb is among the family of software products for 3000s, HP-UX, and Windows systems. Mintz said that since 2004 there have been 119 updates, revisions or fixes to Speedweb, 57 of which were enhancements. "Enhancements are primarily related to the addition of GUI controls," he said, "such as radio buttons, combo boxes, check boxes, textboxes and so on."

Back in 2004 we reported on a Speedweb success at Flint Industries, one of several Speedware customers that implemented Speedweb. The company was using it extensively until Flint was purchased by Aberici in 2013, a change that began to move the application slowly  into maintenance mode. Speedweb was a way of modernizing the Speedware V7 app, a service the Fresche continues to provide today. An Aberici app replaced the modernized Speedware, but that's a decade extra that he original HP 3000 code got to do its work.

An old rival to the Speedware 4GL is providing significant business for the services group. Powerhouse migrations flow through the Fresche shops. The hard spot that Powerhouse 3000 users find themselves in, facing a hungry new ownership intent on continuing legacy-era licensing, can be eased by moving off the former Cognos 4GL. It's never been simple task, but a 4GL company that wants to do the work might have a unique perspective on how to succeed at it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:27 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2017

Does 3000 migration mean modernization?

Powerlifting"Sooner or later, you'll need to do something," says the HP 3000 services manager at Fresche Legacy. 3000 owners probably know the company better as Speedware, but one thing hasn't changed at the Montreal software and services provider. The number of 3000 experts and consultants continues to grow there. Eric Mintz said the resources bench is three times bigger for MPE/iX apps than it was just a year a half ago. There's heavy lifting going on, even in 2017, to bring 3000 shops into compliance. Parts matter, too.

Mintz also considers this a good question: Do 3000 owners today look for help by searching for migration, or for modernization? A simple search for HP3000 modernization brings up one set of results, while "HP3000 migration" yields different ones. I was happy to see that we hit nearly at the top of "HP 3000 migration" searches. (Only an antique PDF from HP tops us.) It matters where a searcher puts the HP and "3000". Fresche has purchased a Google ad for "hp3000 migrations." Try several searches if you're seeking help via Google.

But what's the difference between a modernization and a migration anyway? It depends on your scope for "more modern."

If your idea is "get away from old HP iron, and onto something more modern, Stromasys can cover that without changes to anything else. Using Charon adds an extra layer of software to make modern hardware drive MPE/iX. Buying HP, from that point onward, will never be a requirement again, though. Some 3000 shops have vowed to keep HP Enterprise off their POs forever.

Modernization also can be performed for any application without making the serious changes migration requires. Access to modern databases like SQL Server and Oracle comes by way of Minisoft's ODBC. Hillary Software's byRequest delivers modern file formats like Excel and PDF to MPE/iX apps. However, if leaving your OS platform for something else is the primary goal, it's better to migrate first, and modernize later. Speedware and others always promoted this lift-and-shift strategy. In that scheme, you lift by migrating, then shift by modernizing.

We've written up lift and shift several times already, even capturing some video from eight years ago. but the years keep rolling by for sites relying on MPE/iX. We heard about one shop today that just finished a migration of a handful of key applications. The first MPE/iX apps at the shop were migrated in 2002. This latest set moved out in 2017. Customers migrate when they need to and sometimes when outside requirement force this migration.

The modernization can happen while apps remain in place. Speedware/Fresche have been doing MPE/iX app support for more than a decade. This service is one of the reasons the company needs a deep 3000 bench. The service also makes Fresche one of the place where a 3000 pro can inquire about working on MPE/iX. There are few of those positions in play here in 2017 — probably fewer than the number of 3000 apps that need to migrated. Modernizing with software is a larger field of prospects.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:57 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2017

Adminstrator to Architect, Aided by 3000s

Architect-bookLinkedIn reminded me today that Randy Stanfield has moved up in the IT management at Vertiv Corporation. The company in Carrolton, Texas is a Fortune 500 firm with 8,700 employees, $8.3 billion in revenue, a leading provider of packaging, print and paper, publishing, facility solutions and logistics. Stanfield has been there for 20 years, working with HP 3000s and going beyond the MPE/iX engines to broader fields.

Prior to that you can read in his LinkedIn profile other 3000 shop experience. Amfac, Wilson Business Products, places where MPE/iX and its resources made companies much smaller than Veritiv run smooth.

Managing HP 3000s can build a special kind of bedrock for a career. When you read the rest of the company description for Veritiv it sounds like the 3000's missions for the last 20 years. "To serve customers across virtually every industry – including more than half of our fellow Fortune 500 companies. We don’t just encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, we embody it."

The company also has an eye out for the future. Back in May, Stanfield said the company needed a plan that reached out farther than 2027. It's the kind of mission an architect takes on, a move away from the four high-end N-Class servers working at Veritiv. Ensuring value for money gets amplified while replacing HP's 3000 hardware for a long run. "We don't need to ignore the issue of hardware," Stanfield said while investigating migration partners. "We need to put together a better long term plan than staying on the HP 3000 for more than 10 years."

The decade to come might be the final one for the MPE/iX, although it's pretty certain some companies will keep 3000s in service beyond 2028. The issue isn't a CALENDAR workaround; we're pretty sure the market will see that emerge in 2027, or maybe sooner. The requirement that can move any company, no matter how devoted they're been to 3000-style computing, is application savvy. Whoever will be supporting MANMAN in 2028 is likely to have that market to themselves. By some accounts, MANMAN only has a handful of working experts left in the market.

Architects like Stanfield, who come from 3000 bedrock, will understand that moving away from such MPE/iX apps takes patience and detailed study. They'll benefit from application expertise while they migrate, too. Stanfield had a list of questions for the 3000 community architects who've already migrated, to help in re-architecting Veritiv's IT.

In May he had specific questions (and would appreciate an email in reply)

1. What system did you convert to (Unix/Windows/Linux)?
2. What system did you convert from(HP3000 A-class/N-class?) and how busy was the system? Number of users?
3. Are you still running that system?
4. Did you convert to using the Eloquence DB?
5. Performance after conversion: good or bad?
6. Any Do's or Don't's?
7. Primary Code base (Speedware/Powerhouse/Cobol/Fortran)? Amount of code converted?

The issue might look like needing to be off the system before MPE/iX stops date-keeping in 2028. But as another savvy veteran of application services said to me this week, "The experts will fix the date issue, but it will be too late—because the app always drives the ecosystem, not the hardware or OS."

One takeaway from that prediction is a homespun app suite stands a greater chance of remaining in service by 2028. The IT manager has long been told that applications can be peeled off into production like aces off a deck of cards. As much as software's commodity future has been promised, though, there's always been customization. Some IT pro must stay available to IT to tend to those modifications of commodity software. Those kind of mods are not the same kind of problem the MANMAN user faces, where source code mods will kick some systems offline on the day all of the MANMAN experts finally retire.

However, future-proofing IT goes beyond choosing a commodity solution. Most companies will want to be "shaping our systems and processes to support a successful and sustainable future," like Veritiv says in its mission statement. Systems and processes were at the heart of the 3000's initial business success. The experience is good bedrock to build a future upon.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:55 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 07, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: opening disk, adding HASS

I need contiguous file space for my XM log file. How do I get this?

Many operations on the HP 3000 require contiguous disk space. Other files also require contiguous space; for example, consider the contiguous disk space on LDEV 1 required for an OS update. If you do not have one of the several third-party products that will create contiguous disk space on a drive, you may still be able to get enough free space by using CONTIGVOL.

However, occasionally, CONTIGVOL will stop with a message of “*Warning: Contigvol - Inverse Extent Table Full, Internal resource limit.” What can you do? Run it again. HP’s Goetz Neumann reported the message "is a warning that an internal table has filled up. It appears CONTIGVOL only handles looking at 40,000 extents at a time. You can run CONTIGVOL multiple times if the first run does not condense the free space enough because of this limitation.

I am adding two drives to a HASS (Jamaica) enclosure that already has several drives. How do I do this?

Gilles Schipper, Lars Appel and Chris Bartram reply:

First, a note of caution. If you dynamically add disk drives to, say, your MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET, you could find yourself in a pickle if you subsequently perform a START RECOVERY by accident or design. So while you can add drives dynamically as a convenience, it is a good idea to schedule a SHUTDOWN, START NORECOVERY as soon as possible to “fix” the new drives in your base configuration.

You do not even have to take down the system to add the drives to an HASS enclosure. The following steps will do the job.

• Set proper SCSI IDs. Make sure the SCSI addresses of the HASS enclosures are what you believe them to be. Do not make any assumptions. You need to set the SCSI address dip switches properly and ensure they are unique for the controller they are attached to. You will probably need a little flashlight to check the settings.

• Plug in the new drives.

• Use IOCONFIG to add the appropriate paths and device IDs. Note that the ldevs cannot be in use by, for example, vt or telnet sessions. So, you may still need to do this “off hours.”

• Use VOLUTIL to NEWVOL or NEWSET. For example, 

>newvol mpexl_system_volume_set:member99 99 100 100 

(This example is for LDEV 99 — the “99” in member99 does not need to correspond to the LDEV number, it only needs to be unique for that volume set.)

It might be a good idea to first run the drives in a NEWSET for a while, exercising them a little. You could also use that extra volume set to exercise seldom used VOLUTIL commands or NEWACCT options like ONVS/HOMEVS. Finally, SCRATCHVOL them and add them to the desired volume set.

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

July 05, 2017

Heritage HP Jazz notes, preserved for all

Jazz-software-saxIt was a wistful July 4 here at the Newswire. For about a day it seemed that a piece of the 3000's legacy disappeared, knowledge hard-earned and sometimes proven useful. The address for HP's Jazz webserver archived content wasn't delivering. It seemed like a new 3000 icon had gone missing when a manager on the 3000-L newsgroup went looking for Jazz notes and programs.

HP called the web server Jazz when it began to stock the HP 3000 with utilities, whitepapers, tech reports, and useful scripts. It was named Jazz after Jeri Ann Smith, the lab expert from the 3000 division who was instrumental at getting a website rolling for 3000 managers. JAS became Jazz, and the server sounded off flashy opening notes.

This is the sort of resource the community has been gathering in multiple places. One example is 3k Ranger, where Keven Miller is "attempting to gather HP 3000 web content, much of it from the Wayback Machine. From the "links" page, under the Archive sites, there are lots of things that have been< disappearing." Miller's now got an HP manual set in HTML

What might have been lost, if Speedware (now Fresche Legacy) had not preserved the software and wisdom of Jazz during its website renovation early last month? Too much. HP licensed the Jazz papers and programs to Client Systems, its North American distributor at the time, as well as Speedware. Much has changed since 2009, though.

Client Systems is no longer on the web at all. The Jazz content is safe in the hands of Fresche, which licensed the material from HP. It was only the URL that changed, evolving at the same time Fresche shifted its domain address to The Jazz material was once at Now you must add an explicit page address,, where you'll find white papers include these Jazz gems, like the following papers.

Securing FTP/iX explores methods to increase FTP/iX security based on FTP/iX enhancements. Options for Managing a DTC Remotely covers issues and potential solutions for managing DTCs in networks. There's manual for HP's UPS Monitor Utility and configuring a CI script executed after a power failure; A report on using disk space beyond the first 4GB on LDEV 1; A feasibility paper about making TurboIMAGE thread-aware, as well as supporting the fork() call when a database is open.

But HP also wrote about using Java Servlets on the 3000, as well as showing how to employ CGI examples in C, Pascal and Perl to access data via a 3000 web server. There's Web Enabling Your HP 3000, a paper "describing various ways to webify your 3000 applications and includes descriptions of many third party tools."

Agreed, the white papers might've been lost without as much dismay. The programs from Jazz would've been more of a loss. All that follow include the working links available as of this week. Every access requires an "agree" to the user license for the freeware.

  • ABORTJ script - powerful and flexible script to abort multiple jobs and session. Can select by user account, job state, IP address, job queue, etc.

  • CATCHLOG - IMAGE log file formatter (store-to-disk format), tar version, and Readme file.

  • CDCOPY - CDROM copy utility (tar archive) and Readme file. Provided by Holger Wiemann, updated by Lars Appel.

  • CHRTRAN - file contents translation utility (tar format) and Readme file.

  • CIVARS - A zipped tarball containing two COBOL programs. One sets the variable MYSECOND to the number of seconds in the current time. The other sets a variable named YYYYMMDDHHMMSS. Thanks to Glenn Koster and Lars Appel. Note: in 6.0 it is easy to get current date and time using the HPDATETIME and the HPHHMMSSMMM predefined variables.

  • Command Files - and UDCs.

  • CRYPT - tarball containing the POSIX crypt utility. Usage: $crypt KEY <file1 >file2.

  • DBUTIL.PUB.SYS store-to-disk archive or tar archive - New version of DBUTIL to fix security related defect. Please read this security notice for more information.

  • dnscheck - a shell script to check your e3000's DNS configuration. Run this script, correct any problems that it detects, and then re-run until no more problems are found.

  • FWSCSI - NM program displays the revisons of the firmware for all NIO Fast/Wide SCSI interfaces in the system and avoids the need to use the xt diagnostic tool for each card on the system. Note that these interfaces may only be present in 900 series e3000 systems, not A/N-class systems. Recommended firmware 3728 or 3944.

  • HP-IB device checker - script that runs on early 5.0 and later, and reports all HP-IB and FL devices on your system.

  • NETTIME - time synchronization utility (compressed tar) and Readme file.

  • NEWACCT and NEWGROUP UDCs - UDCs and scripts make it easier to keep groups and files on user volumes. Readme file for Volume Management UDCs.
  • Porting Scanner - toolkit to analyze application before porting.

  • Porting Wrappers - additional functions and commands, both POSIX and UNIX, useful in porting applications.

  • PURGEACCT and PURGEGROUP UDCs - UDCs and scripts make it easier to keep groups and files on user volumes. Readme file for Volume Management UDCs.

  • Random name generator - script that produces a pseudo random name from "minlen" up to "maxlen" characters long.

  • Scripts - Command Files and UDCs.

  • SETDATE - A program to alter the date in the current session. Readme file.

  • Showconn & Abortcon Utilities - Utilities to show network sockets/connections on a system and abort TCP connections.

  • SHOWJOB script - powerful matching capabilities to select just the jobs/session you are interested in.

  • SIU migration/system mgmt tool - Utility to analyze various files on your system.

  • Socksified FTP - for MPE/iX 6.0 and 5.5

  • STREAM UDC - 6.0 version of STREAM UDC for User Defined job queues. A simple config file maps user.accounts to specific job queues. No need to add the ";JOBQ=" parameter to existing jobs or STREAM commands. Readme file describes features of the STREAM UDC.

  • TCPY - media copy utility (tar format) and Readme file.

  • UNPACKP - the latest UNPACKP script.

  • Toolset/iX migration program - utility that converts TSAM source to flat files. The tar file contains the NMPRG program file and the COBOL source code. Thanks to Sally Blackwell.

  • VERSION - tar archive of the program which supports up to 500 SOMs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:15 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 26, 2017

How to give Quiz good answers for email

HP 3000 manager John Sommers needs help with his Quiz reports. They used to work through the mails, but now they're not being delivered.

Greenbar-paper"I used to have Quiz send its output to users directly from the HP 3000," he said in a message to me. "I'm not sure how else to attach files to an electronic message in an automated fashion and distribute them. It might not have been pretty and fancy, but it was 110 percent functional and reliable."

Email and the HP 3000 don't have a close relationship by 2017. A few weeks ago we traced the options for emailing on the HP 3000 and saw that Netmail 3000 from 3k Associates is still supported and working in some datacenters. That's as good as HP 3000 email will get today. There's also Sendmail inside of the HP 3000 OS (plenty of configuration needed there) and a few other free options. Sommers' request is different, though. He didn't need his 3000 to distribute the mail. He needs email to distribute 3000 data -- in specific, Quiz reports.

Our newest sponsor Hillary Software has offered software for a long time that will do this. Well seasoned, byRequest is, and it works with enterprise servers across the Unix, Linux, and Windows worlds, as well as MPE/iX. Forms are another area where the 3000's data goes out to work, and Hillary's got forms software. Minisoft also has a forms solution it has customized and tailored for individual applications like QAD, SAP, Oracle, as well as strong links to the HP 3000 and application suites like MANMAN.

EFormz labeleFormz is in its 11th major release by now. A 3-minute YouTube video leads you through the reasons for revamping your ideas about using forms with data from enterprise servers like the HP 3000. You can market to the customer using a form that doubles as a shipping label, for example.

The HP 3000 will always have some link to the rest of the IT world, so long as it carries enterprise-grade data. Gateway programs like byRequest and eFormz make that data work. Quiz might seem like it's not pretty or fancy, but the reporting software was scattered across the 3000 world like apple seeds when ERP was called MRP and MANMAN was new. It has that 110 percent functional advantage, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:18 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 23, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: A 3000's Intrinsic Savvy

Homer-at-blackboardAs the clock counts down to the 10-year deadline for calendar services changes, our thoughts turn to HPCALENDAR. That's the intrinsic HP wrote for the 6.0 and 7.x releases of the 3000 OS, a new tool to solve an old problem. Alas, HPCALENDAR is fresher than the bedrock CALENDAR, but it's only callable in the 3000's Native Mode.

But poking into the online resources for MPE Intrinsics, I learned that once more HP's re-shelved its 3000 docs. Things have gotten better: everything now lives on the much-better-focused HP Enterprise website. You can, for the moment, locate the guidelines to intrinsics for MPE/iX at

The Intrinsics Manual for MPE/iX 7.x is also a PDF file at Team NA Consulting. Independents like Neil Armstrong help the community that's using HP's resources for 3000s these days. It used to be much simpler. In the 1990s, the Interex user group ran a collection of well-written white papers by George Stachnik. We're lucky enough to have them with us today, cut loose from ownership and firewalls. One is devoted to the system's intrinsics.

By the time The HP 3000--for Complete Novices, Part 17: Using Intrinsics was posted on the 3K Associates website, Stachnik was working in technical training in HP's Network Server Division. He'd first written these papers for Interact, the technical journal devoted to 3000 savvy for more than two decades. Even though Interact is long out of print, Stachnik's savvy is preserved in multiple web outposts.

Stachnik explains why intrinsics tap the inherent advantage of using an HP 3000.

When an application program calls an MPE/iX intrinsic, the intrinsic places itself in MPE/iX's "privileged mode." The concept of privileged mode is one of the key reasons for the HP 3000's legendary reputation for reliability. Experienced IT managers have learned to be very wary of application programs that access system internal data structures directly. They demand that MPE/iX place restrictions on HP 3000 applications, to prevent them from doing anything that could foul up the system. This is what led to the development of the intrinsics. Application programs running in user mode can interact with the operating system only by invoking intrinsics.

Even if your company has a migration in mind, or doesn't have an unlimited lifespan for the 3000, knowing how intrinsics work is an intrinsic part of learning 3000 fine-tuning that might be inside classic applications. Tools can help to hunt down intrinsics, but it helps to know what they do and what they're called. You can fine-tune your 3000 knowledge using Stachnik's papers and HP's Intrinsic documentation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 21, 2017

What must be waiting when a 3000 moves

File-typesTransfers have been in 3000 futures for many years. Until 2012, all of the transfers were to other environments. Unix, Windows, Linux. SAP, Oracle and its apps, Salesforce. All very different from the world of MPE/iX and IMAGE/SQL.

Then Charon arrived and companies could preserve their legacy environments inside new hardware. No more PA-RISC HP iron in this infrastructure. When a site decides to use the Stromasys software, though, the door comes open for new capabilities. Charon provides the MPE/iX bedrock, riding on top of a Linux base that's hosted on an Intel server. What else do you need?

There are other platforms to support and integrate into your IMAGE/SQL databases. These platforms run on many environments, crossing servers of all kinds, even those in the cloud. PDF files, Excel and Word documents. They're the specific carriers of information that started on the HP 3000. A well-known and up-to-date software package delivers those platforms to IMAGE/SQL data as well as reports.

Hillary Software's byRequest, as well as its other products, does this job. As it has for more than 20 years. The software runs under MPE/iX for maximum integration. Linux, Windows, the other operating environments that run on that Charon Intel server. A 3000 manager wanted to give his MPE/iX apps the power to appear as PDF providers.

Ray Shahan mentioned such a project on the 3000 newsgroup. 

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.

The 3000-friendly solution in plain sight handles both the PDF creation -- plus the movement onto the SQL Server database. Hillary supplies these utilities.

Shahan makes a good point about the 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.

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

June 19, 2017

3000 consulting returns not so costly

Work-and-retirementLast week a reader sent a request for resources to help him re-enter the HP 3000 marketplace. We'll just let his question speak for itself to explain why returning to MPE is an option.

I spent 26 years on HP 3000 systems and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, I have not touched one in the last six years. When the Charon emulator came out I never downloaded a copy for personal use; and now they don't offer that option. I am going to retire soon, and I am thinking about picking up some 3000 consulting work and get back to what I love. I was wondering if there is any type of online 3000 emulator that I could use to brush up with.

While the answer might seem to be no, HP 3000s can be much more available for a seasoned pro like this one who's taking on a retirement career. (That's a job that pays less than your life's work, but one you'd wait a lifetime to start again.) HP 3000s are in copious supply, if you're seeking HP's hardware, and they don't cost much anymore — if for personal training purposes, you're not particular about an MPE/iX license transfer. Earlier this month we saw notice of $500 Series 918 systems. Built in the 1990s, of course. But good enough for consulting refreshment.

Charon has a newer pedigree of hardware, but indeed, it's got no freeware personal-use download any longer. Professional and experienced installation of the PA-RISC emulator from Stromasys guarantees a stable replacement for HP's aging hardware.

OpenMPE set up a community HP 3000 that's become a managed asset operated by Tracy Johnson. One part of Johnson's server runs the classic HP 3000 game Empire, for example. The nature of 3000 consulting runs from operational to development. OpenMPE's server is open for $99 yearly accounts, including all HP SUBSYS programs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:39 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Cleaning Up Correctly

Classic 3000 Advice
By John Burke

Good intentions about maintenance sometimes stumble in their implementation. As an example, here’s a request for help on cleaning up.

Cleanup-tools“We have a 989/650 system. Every weekend we identify about 70,000 files to delete off the system. I build a jobstream that basically executes a file that has about 70 thousand lines. Each line says ‘PURGE’. This job has become a real hog. It launches at 6 AM on Sunday morning, but by 7 PM on Sunday night it has only purged about 20,000 files. While this job is running, logons take upwards of 30 seconds. What can I do?”

This reminds me of the old joke where the guy goes to the doctor and complains “Gee, doc, my arm hurts like hell when I move it like this. What can I do?” The doctor looks at him and says “Stop moving it like that.” But seriously, the user above is lucky the files are not all in the same group or he would be experiencing system failures like the poor user two years ago who was only trying to purge 40,000 files.

In either case, the advice is the same; purge the files in reverse alphabetic order. This will avoid a system failure if you already have too many files in a group or HFS directory, and it will dramatically improve system performance in all cases. However, several people on the 3000-L list have pointed out that if you find you need to purge 70,000 files per week, you should consider altering your procedures to use temporary files. Or if that will not work, purge the files as soon as you no longer need them rather than wait until it becomes a huge task.

If all the files are in one group and you want to purge only a subset of the files in the group, you have to purge the files in reverse alphabetical order to avoid the System Abort (probably SA2200). PURGEGROUP and PURGEACCT will be successful, but at the expense of having to recreate the accounting structure and restoring the files you want to keep. Note that if you log onto the group and then do PURGEGROUP you will not have to recreate the group.

Craig Fairchild, MPE/iX File System Architect explained what is going on. “Your system abort [or performance issues] stem from the fact that the system is trying desperately to make sure that all the changes to your directory are permanently recorded. To do this, MPE uses its Transaction Management (XM) facility on all directory operations.

“To make sure that the directories are not corrupted, XM takes a beginning image of the area of the directory being changed, and after the directory operation is complete, it takes an after image. In this way, should the system ever crash in the middle of a directory operation, XM can always recover the directory to a consistent state - either before or after the operation, but not in a corrupted in-between state.

“On MPE, directories are actually just special files with records for each other file or directory that is contained in them. They are stored in sorted alphabetical order, with the disk address of the file label for that file. Because we must keep this list of files in alphabetical order, if you add or delete a file, the remaining contents of the file need to be “shifted” to make room, or to compact the directory. So if you purge the first file alphabetically, XM must record the entire contents of the directory file as the before image, and the entire remaining file as the after image.

“So purging from the top of the directory causes us to log data equal to twice the size of the directory. Purging from the bottom of directory causes XM to log much less data, since most of the records stay in the same place and their contents don’t change. The system abort comes from the fact that more data is being logged to XM than it can reliably record. When its logs fill completely and it can no longer provide protection for the transactions that have been initiated, XM will crash the system to ensure data integrity.”

Goetz Neumann added, “PURGEGROUP (and PURGEACCT) do not cause a SA2200 risk, since they actually traverse the directory in reverse alphabetical order internally. This is useful to know for performance reasons. Since these commands cause much smaller XM transactions, it is faster to empty a group by logging into it and then PURGEGROUP it, instead of using PURGE @.

“There is a little-known tool to help prevent you from running into these situations in the first place: DIRLIMIT.MPEXL.TELESUP. A suggested (soft) limit for directory files would be 2MB. This would limit MPE to not have more than 50,000 files in one group, and (very much depending on the filenames) much less than 50,000 files per HFS directory. (These are XM protected just as well, and tens of thousands of files in an HFS directory is not a good idea from a performance standpoint, either.)

“Another way to reduce the risk of SA2200 in these situations would be to increase the size of the XM system log file (on the volume set that holds the group with the large number of files), which is available in a VOLUTIL command.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:59 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2017

Wayback Wed: Blog takes aim at 3000 news

SearchlightTwelve years ago this week we opened the 3000 NewsWire's blog, starting with coverage of a departed 3000 icon, a migration tool built by a 3000 vendor to assist database developers, as well as a split up of HP's two largest operations. The pages of this blog were devoted to these major areas: updates from the 3000 homesteading community, insights on how to move off the 3000, and the latest News Outta HP, as we continue to call it today. After 2,978 articles, we move into the 13th year of online 3000 news.

Bruce Toback died in the week we launched. He was a lively and witty developer who'd created the Formation utility software for managing 3000 forms printing. A heart attack felled him before age 50, one of those jolts that reminded me that we can't be certain how much time we're given to create. Bruce expanded the knowledge of the community with wit and flair.

Quest Software rolled out its first version of Toad, software that migrating 3000 sites could employ to simplify SQL queries. The initial version was all about accessing Oracle database, but the current release is aimed at open source SQL databases. Open source SQL was in its earliest days in 2005, part of what the world was calling LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and Python-PHP-Perl. Quest was also selling Bridgeware in a partnership with Taurus Software in 2005. That product continues to bridge data between 3000s and migration targets like Oracle.

HP was dividing its non-enterprise business to conquer the PC world in our first blog week. The company separated its Printer and PC-Imaging units, a return to the product-focused organization of HP's roots. Infamous CEO Carly Fiorina was gone and replacement Mark Hurd was still in his honeymoon days. Todd Bradley, who HP had hired away from mobile system maker Palm, got the PC unit reins and ran wild. Before he was cut loose in 2013, the PC business swelled to $13 billion a year and HP was Number 1. HP missed the mobile computing wave, a surprise considering Bradley came from Palm. You can't win them all.

That HP success in PCs, all driven by Windows, reflected the OS platform leader and wire-to-wire winner of migration choices for 3000 owners.

During that June we polled 3000 managers about their migration destinations for 2005. Windows had an early lead that it exploded in the years to come, but in the third year of what we called the Transition Era, HP-UX still accounted for almost one-third of migration targets. The raw totals were

Windows: 31 customers
HP-UX: 23 customers
Other Unixes, including Linux, Sun Solaris and IBM AIX: 15 customers

The IBM iSeries got mentioned twice, and one HP 3000 company has moved to Apple's Unix, which most of us know as OS X.

With 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments, HP-UX managed to poke above the 30 percent mark. Unix overall accounts for more than half of the targets.

The main information source at the time we launched the blog was the NewsWire's printed edition. During the summer of 2005 that would shift, so by the end of 2005 the print appeared quarterly and the blog articles flowed on workdays. In the print issue of that first blog month, the migration news read like this.

Larger 3000 sites make up the majority of early migration adopters, many of whom choose HP-UX to replace MPE/iX. Now the smaller sites are turning to a migration challenge they hope to meet on a familiar platform: Microsoft’s Windows.

While HP-UX has notched its victories among MPE/iX sites, the typical small-to-midsize 3000 customer is choosing a more popular platform.

“We have never learned Unix or Linux, only MPE and Windows, and it is a lot easier to hire and train Windows people,” said Dennis Boruck of CMC Software, makers of the Blackstone judicial application. Blackstone’s success in the Clark County, Nevada courts led HP to highlight the Blackstone MPE/iX application in a success story.

Some customers express a reluctance to put mission-critical computing onto Windows platforms. But Windows’ familiarity has won it many converts. “We are moving to a Windows 2003 Server environment because it is the easiest to manage compared to Unix or Linux,” said programmer supervisor E. Martin Gilliam of the Wise County, Va. data processing department.

Carter-Pertaine, makers of K-12 software, said Speedware’s migration path to HP-UX is guiding the first phase of its customer migration strategy. But Quintessential School Systems, which is the C-P parent, is working on a Linux option.

By now Linux is an establishment choice for on-premise datacenters and the bedrock of Amazon Web Services where most computing clouds gather. The platforms of 2017 have evolved to consider databases and infrastructures as their keystones, rather than operating systems. Bridgeware, jointly developed by Quest and Taurus Software, still moves data between 3000s and the rest of the database world. Today's Bridgeware datasheet language acknowledges there's still 3000 IMAGE data at work in the world.

BridgeWare Change Detection permits delta change captures in IMAGE, KSAM and other MPE data structures.

For years, IT managers have been faced with the difficult task of making data from IMAGE and other MPE-based files available. With the retirement of the HP 3000, this has become an even greater need. Taurus’ BridgeWare ETL software solution greatly simplifies the task of moving data between databases and files on MPE, Windows, UNIX and Linux systems, allowing you to easily migrate, or replicate your data to extend the life or phase out your HP 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:47 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 12, 2017

Emulation proposes to fix 3000 antiquation

Antique serversA few weeks back, an ardent reader of the Newswire asked about our HP 3000 Memoirs Project. I shared a link to the History section of the Newswire, a subject we never featured in our printed editions. I figured I was chatting with a fan of the server until I asked, "What are you doing with your HP 3000 these days?"

"Dying, that's what. I cannot believe that my place of business still uses this antiquated platform as their system of record."

There's no reason to take this personally if you disagree. Webster's tells us that antiquated means "outmoded or discredited by reason of age; old and no longer useful, popular, or accepted." Some of this is true of the computing we still call HP 3000. (Some just call the server "the HP," which I take as a sign of less-ardent interest.)

However, the antiquated object in management cross-hairs begins with the 3000 hardware. HP's gear is a growing liability, unless you're smart enough to have independent support for the Hewlett-Packard systems. If not, there's a way to eliminate antiquated from the capital equipment list of problems.

Stromasys has made its mark on the IT industry with an emulation mantra. It brings MPE/iX onto new hardware. Not long ago the company wrote a whitepaper on the five reasons businesses wait to emulate legacy systems.
  1. Nothing is broken
  2. It's not a priority
  3. Sounds expensive
  4. It's a temporary fix
  5. What's emulation?

The whitepaper does a fine job of illuminating each of these reasons' shortcomings. The No. 1 reason for waiting to emulate fits neatly with my reader's opinion of their HP 3000.

"I do believe the 3000 has a place in history," she said. "But I do mean history. Not a current system that cannot even be cross-walked to anything current."

For the record, the hardware that drives MPE/iX can be cross-walked to current servers, networks, software infrastructure, and storage. That's what the Stromasys emulator does: brings the hardware up to date. Of late, there's an outreach to put MPE/iX servers into the cloud. The Stromasys Charon HPA technology is in place to make that a reality.

MPE/iX itself could be considered antiquated. The OS was last updated by its maker in 2008. Only the laws of logic, though, and not those of physics will wear down this 3000-computing component. Drives, processor boards, fans, batteries — they'll all fail someday because physics remain predictable. Parts wear down, burn out, become unpredictable.

Logic, though, remains as constant as its makers intended. The thing that wears out first is always the hardware. Software advances eventually cripple original hardware. iPhone owners learned last week that the iOS 11 release will not run on iPhones from 5C and earlier. MPE/iX has left lots of hardware behind: the systems that failed to start one day, or run as slowly as an iPhone 5C. You can hunker down on old software with an iPhone, but it works poorly in just a little time. Not a decade and counting, like MPE/iX.

And speaking of 5s, if Reason No. 5 is standing in the way, then you can resolve that emulation ignorance with a search of this blog for emulation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:30 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 07, 2017

CSL image shimmers today on open website

MirageThe era of the Contributed Software Library ended officially when Interex ended its lifespan. The CSL was an asset that never made it into the bankruptcy report about the user group. In a lot of ways it was the most tangible thing Interex ever did. CSL tapes -- yes, DDS cartridges -- still flutter about the 3000 community. Programs are on disks. Finding the whole shebang has been tricky. This week, it's less so.

Knowing what's inside the CSL is less difficult to discern. Tracy Johnson operates a 3000 called Empire under the auspices of OpenMPE. Empire knows what's in the CSL. The Empire program list is just that, though: an index to programs that don't reside on the Empire server. Managers can match the index with a downloadable CSL image referenced on the Facebook group HP 3000 Appreciation Society. What is available has a good pedigree, although recent achievements are murky.

When a manager wanted to track down something called HPMAIL, the 3000-L readers learned a lot, as is often the case. One of the most interesting revelations was the location of a CSL release that can be downloaded. The short answer is a link from Frank McConnell at the HP 3000 Appreciation Society. "It's a copy of the CSL tape," reported Ian Warner on the 3000-L list. "It’s not exactly straightforward, but for now there is a CSL ISO image on the Web."

CSL software once drove attendance at Interex user conferences. Not entirely, but a manager could get the latest of the 80s-90s era freeware by contributing a program. All the contributions would be copied onto a swap tape -- something you could only get at the conference (an attending friend could pick up yours for you, if memory serves).

For example, one program called Whitman Mail was award winning. A 1989 Robelle contest for best new CSL program named the Whitman Electronic Mail System as the winner during that year PA-RISC was only first arriving for most of the community. Yes, that long ago. Neil Armstrong of Robelle forwarded the citation that MAIL received.

This electronic mail system provided the most user value. Many sites have been put off from E-mail by the cost and complexity -- now they can try E-mail at virtually no cost, and with a system that is extremely accessible.  Whitman mail is a great way to get started.  Later, if you need a multi-CPU network, file transfer or other specific features, you can purchase a supported product.

It's quaint to think of datacenters where a multi-CPU net was an option instead of a fundamental. File transfer is an essential benefit a 3000 mail program delivers by today, and it looks like Whitman Mail might still be lacking in that department -- hence, Robelle's nod toward supported software. These are different days in some ways. And not so different.

Unsupported software, or community-supported shareware, can be essential to a datacenter. WordPress, which drives untold corporate websites, is still free and open source. Support options for this stuff are everywhere as indie companies (like Pivital Solutions for the 3000) fix and integrate software. The CSL had this, too. It was called Interex volunteers, or support companies. Everyone knew about CSL and a surprising amount of the software was wired into production shops.

To be complete about searching the CSL (if you've already downloaded that disk image) here's Johnson's instructions on how to do an index search of that 1995 CSL set.

Using NSVT protocol (Reflection, Secure92, WS92) connect to the Empire machine (

Logon as {username},USER.CSLXL
Select option 5 "CSL Index"
Enter command "FIND"

Select 2 (Name), or 3 (Keyword), or 6 (Search Abstract), then enter "MAIL"

 There's no telling how long the disk image of the CSL will stay online. The software will live in the hearts and minds of those who love it, though.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:49 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 05, 2017

Where to Take Receipt of Mail for the 3000

Return to SenderSome HP 3000 sites have little remaining budget for purchasing software for their systems. This state of affairs can change quickly. Company management can discover a hard-working and little-known application, one that will work even harder with a bit of software tied into it. (Minisoft's ODBC middleware comes to mind, as it did when it rose up at See's Candies just a year ago.)

Email, though, is harder. That application hosted from a 3000 never had a strong hold on corporate computing unless companies were good at looking at the future (3k Associates' NetMail saw the future and led MPE/iX shops to it) or deeply rooted in the past. HP Deskmanager was from a past where it ran Hewlett-Packard for more than a decade. HP Desk came into the world in the 3000's heyday of the 1980s. Tim O'Neill's 3000 shops held onto it through the Unix version of HP Desk. By his account, they came away from Deskmanager muttering.

There are bona fide motivations for making the 3000's data accessible to email transport, though. Mission critical information still needs to bolt from person to person as fast as lightning. ByRequest from Hillary Software sends 3000 reports around a company using email. The mail engine itself is nearly always running on a non-3000 server.

The most classic integration is to have a mail server on the 3000 itself. This was the wheelhouse for NetMail, which remains a current, supported choice for the site that can invest in mission-critical updates to their 3000s. Mail isn't often in that category for spending on MPE/iX. The community has managers who want to install nothing but shareware and open source and Contributed Software Library tools. So manager John Sommer reached out to the 3000-L mailing list to find a CSL email program. Everybody learned a lot, as is often the case. One of the most interesting revelations was the location of a CSL release that can be downloaded.

The short answer is a link from Frank McConnell at Facebook's HP 3000 Appreciation Society. "It's a copy of the CSL tape," reported Ian Warner on the list. "It’s not exactly straightforward, but for now there is a CSL ISO image on the Web."

At that Web address, a raft of contributed software containing the string "MAIL" resides inside the disk image. Tracy Johnson, keeper of CSL tape indexes at his Empire web server, located the names of 65 CSL programs either containing MAIL in the program names or with "mail" in their descriptions. Johnson's list was printed from a 1995 CSL release. During that year, Compuserve ruled the emailing world, along with a Unix shareware program elm.

The 3000 had its shareware, too. Sendmail was on the rise and remains the latest open-source ported mailing tool for the 3000. Mark Bixby did the Sendmail port, along with Syslog/iX, which Sendmail requires. NetMail/3000 was out, growing its feature set, making commercial email a reality. There was also MAILNM (the last two letters signify Native Mode, a clue about how old that code is). Time-machine riders can get the final version of MAILNM from 3k Ranger, who's also hosting that Sendmail version.

One freeware mail program first written at Whitman College is called MAIL. This MAIL seems to be what John Sommer was seeking. It's a part of the CSL disk image. Sommer's search for MAIL turned up the downloadable CSL image. Nobody can be sure of the legal status of CSL software today, but if you're downloading 15-year-old software for production use, legal issues probably are not your biggest concern.

One wag quipped that finding and using the CSL software required "getting the Delorean up to 88 MPH." (Back to the Future fans know this reference.) Managers of today don't need a wayback engine to get supported 3000 email running on MPE/iX. NetMail is there for that and its creator Chris Bartram still knows his way around MPE and mail protocols better than anyone else I know.

Patrick Santucci, who supported 3000s at Cornerstone Brands until that corporation, took everybody down memory lane with a HP Deskmanager recap.

I remember HPDesk. Kind of had a love/hate relationship with it. I loved the hierarchical way it was organized and the excellent use of the function keys. But I hated that pretty much anything and everything in HPDesk was only accessible from HPDesk. It did not play well with Novell or Lotus Notes, which is what I believe we used at the time. I think we finally did get it integrated, though it was just a PITA. But yes, I have fond memories of writing daily updates in HPDesk!

Quiz is at the heart of why Sommer wants 1990s shareware on his 3000. He said he loaded HPMAIL up on a 3000 in the past. Some have described HPMAIL as the precursor to HP Desk. Finding HPMAIL requires a very fast DeLorean.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:04 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)