August 24, 2016

Some 3000 magic is beyond SAP's powers

MagicwandSAP has taken the place of HP 3000 apps in the last 15 years. Not easily and not completely, in some cases. SAP is known for its switches—choices in configurations that sometimes shape the way a company does business. Some enterprises have to bend their practices to fit SAP, instead of the other way around.

At General Mills, SAP replaced just about everything. As it did, the IT manager there thought "If everyone buys and runs the same generic SAP software, how do you get a competitive advantage over your customers?  We had spent years creating custom solutions and with SAP, we transformed the business to be...  just like everyone else's."

Success stories are out there, too. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the SAP migration that he's helped with "went brilliantly."

"It's because the implementation was driven by the user departments who knew exactly what they wanted," he said. "They were given responsibility for doing it, so they used about zero external consultancy. All we had to do was extract the data from the HP 3000. Shame that we lost a good customer."

In another instance that Yeo is aware of, the company began replacing their financials and purchasing systems, went on to billing, inventory and sales. "Then they got to the clever stuff that the HP 3000 was doing and failed. 16 years later they are still running an HP 3000 doing the clever stuff."

In public, datacenters like that second example are labeled an SAP success story. Every few years someone in IT looks and finds the HP 3000 magic. There is then an idea to replace the magic. Then there is the giving up, and the carrying on.

"Places like that will go off MPE at some point," Yeo said. But it won't be because they make SAP do what the HP 3000 does.

SAP has been called imanagement by golf course or management by magazine, at some 3000 shops. At one building component manufacturer,  "senior executives wanted to play with the big boys, and since the big boys were all running SAP, we also had to run SAP. The implementation budget exploded. The initial promoters of the move to SAP—the ones who gloated when HP pulled the plug on the HP 3000—ultimately lost their jobs because of the huge cost and time overruns."



Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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August 22, 2016

Replacements can trigger re-licensing, fees

Arrow-1238788_1920HP's 3000 hardware is built well, but aging like any other server manufactured in 2003. Or even longer ago. The boxes are at least 13 years old. Hardware includes storage devices that can be newer. But eventually an MPE/iX server will need to be replaced. No iron lasts forever, even if the 3000 comes closest to feeling that way.

When a 3000 wears out or breaks down, something else that resembles the server takes its place. It could be a system just like what stopped working, delivered right to the datacenter. A new 3000 box will require some license transfers, operations beyond what HP expects for MPE/iX.

Third party software that checks for an HPSUSAN number will find a new one on HP's replacement hardware. This means a call to the software vendor for help in getting the application or tool to fire up again. Some software doesn't do this check. The call won't be required then.

The term re-license can include a couple of things. One of those things is a re-negotiation of fees for use. A few software companies in the MPE world have strict accounting for the size of a server. Only a straight-up replacement box will forestall an extra fee for these vendors.

If somehow you could replace an old 3000 with something much newer, while retaining the HPSUSAN number to skip all this administration, would you do it? What you might choose could have a much newer pedigree, too, iron that was built in our current decade. You might see where this is going.

You'll be well served to get some expertise on this matter from your support provider. The one we talked to said replacing a 3000 with HP's iron can come with some administration. In the worst cases, it can be knotty.

"It all depends on how the software does its license check," the support company said. "If the software is HPSUSAN-sensitive and your HPSUSAN changed, you probably have an issue."

Support providers who still work in the community can do magic. If a software vendor has gone out of business — and there's no way to get a copy of software to integrate with the new HPSUSAN — you'll be looking outside of your datacenter for help anyway. One source would be checking on HP3000-L if there's no indie support company for you to call. It's a thought, although it's worth noting that the August traffic on the 3000-L is at 24 messages for this month.

3000-L can be a good resource in part because of its lurk factor. Of those two dozen posts in total this month, 10 of them were about installing an SSD in a PC. But some MPE veterans read it, and the 3000 network might be able to suggest help when a vendor has disappeared.

That newer, same as the old 3000 solution? It looks like it's could be the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. Stromasys doesn't promise any re-license process will go without a hitch. Nobody can promise what other vendors will do. But when MPE/iX software reboots and the HPSUSAN is the same as it was—well, that could eliminate the need for administration on a server the same power as its HP predecessor.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:20 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 17, 2016

Crashed IT Versus Staying On MPE's Course

Delta tickets downEarlier this month Delta suffered an IT meltdown that made Southwest Airlines' disaster of DR look puny. Three thousand canceled or delayed flights went idle in a single day. A hasty DR mashup was using dot matrix printers at one airport. Delta was never a 3000 user. It's an easy retort to say, "Of course not. Nobody in the modern world of commerce would be staying in the 3000 business."

Mobile ACHowever. You exit a flight and go into the concourse this month, and there's a See's Candy kiosk. Oh yes, the clerk says, we sell right here and it goes straight back to the main office. And you just know, if you keep track of who's staying the MPE course, that the new point of sale terminal is tapping a TurboIMAGE database somewhere in California. Because See's stayed the course while Southwest veered away.

The largest candy shop company in the US was founded in 1921. See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.

In another state, one of the biggest manufacturers of mobile air conditioning units manages their ERP with MPE. They're moving away from 3000 hardware, in a way. These days you don't need the HP badge on aged hardware to stay the course with MPE applications. You can virtualize and emulate Hewlett-Packard's iron. Yes, MANMAN is still an everyday tool at a company whose name is synonymous with cooled air.

A leading AC maker. America's top candy retailer with a footprint that now goes beyond stores and into airport kiosks. The food in those airports' restaurants, some of it cooled in transit by the AC units. The 3000 usually was under the radar of analysts, mainstream press, and CIOs. That situation contributed to HP's business decision. But the business of running corporations is still entrusted to MPE in some places — transit locations where it's been easy to see when other IT can't get off the ground.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:01 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2016

Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns

OC Register Poster

The biggest statement 3000 users made worked its way onto a front page. 847,000 OC Register readers took note.

Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community staged its most prominent protest. The stunt landed the server on the front page of a metro daily paper's news section for the only time in the 3000's history. It also produced sunburns and filled a football field. The lasting impact was memories, like so many computer stories. But a world record was set that remained unbroken longer than HP's product futures were intact for the server and MPE.

1996 Poster ChildrenIt was August of 1996 when a team of 3000 users, vendors, and developers gathered on the football field of Anaheim's Loara High School to build the world's largest poster. The stunt was also a message aimed at HP's executives of the time: Glenn Osaka, Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon and especially CEO Lew Platt. "Pay attention to the 3000's potential and its pedigree," the poster shouted. Acres of it, mounted under the Southern California sun of summer. Computerworld (above) was skeptical.

Wirt on the fieldSummed up, the organizers led by Wirt Atmar unfurled 2,650 3-foot x 4.5-foot panels needed to say "MPE Users Kick Butt." Atmar was one of the most ardent advocates for the power of MPE and the 3000. He printed those thousands of sheets off a 3000 Micro XE, a Classic 3000 because why would you need a PA-RISC system? It drove an HP755CM DesignJet printer for two weeks, printing the required 463 billion pixels. Atmar said, after he and his employees loaded and drove the 687 pounds of sheets in a U-Haul truck from his New Mexico offices to California, that "moving the paper into the vehicle was our company's corporate fitness program."

Poster and housesThey all had to be numbered and sorted and placed on the field. That was a spot where the winds arrived by lunchtime or so. It would be a race against the clock to build it, but the 3000 was always racing against an HP clock. The statement made for the server moved the needle for existing customers. General Manager Harry Sterling was just taking his job that summer and pushed for funding and lab time to bring the 3000 into parity with Unix and Windows NT servers HP sold. Often, it sold them against the 3000.

The image of the poster made it onto the Metro front page of the Orange County Register. The NewsWire provided lunch and recorded the event for our newsletter just celebrating its first birthday that month. We supplied sub sandwiches and pizzas, recording every request for things like a vegetarian kosher option. It was easier to get media attention than get a kosher veggie delivered to the Loara sidelines, it turned out.

There was so much white paper on the ground that the rising sun began to give the volunteers tans —and then sunburns. The project had to be assembled and taken down in less than eight hours, because football practice started at 4 PM. The field turns on its Friday Night Lights once again in about two weeks.

Poster Aerial ShotComputerworld noted that test assemblies extrapolated from a field trial showed that it would take four days to assemble, not four hours. The wind arrived as promised. A hasty trip to a local hardware store delivered 97 pounds of gutter nails to tack down the sheets. Each nail was gathered up at the end of the stunt, using the precision that only software engineers can supply for a computer they love.

More than 100 volunteers were organized and recruited using the HP3000-L mailing list. That nexus of noteworthy 3000 news had been our inspiration and font to unfurl the NewsWire at the previous year's Interex conference. Robelle reported on the show in its "What's Up Doc" newsletter, another staple of that era's news.

Dilbert"According to Interex, 6,000 attended in addition to the over 2,000 vendor show staff. The Monday night keynote speaker was Scott Adams, the cartoonist of the now-famous The Dilbert Zone cartoon strip. The HP World '96 Daily wrote, "Never has the 22-year-old [sic] HP World '96 (Interex) conference opened with so much laughter and good feelings. Everyone left the room smiling and ready to buy an autographed copy of Adams' book Still Pumped from Using the Mouse."

Multiple sources of coverage, front page notice, a world record, a new general manager and fresh budget. What could go wrong?

The sunburns faded while the profile of MPE rose for awhile. HP later tried to usurp the record with a stunt inside a high school gym, but that was a different category—and challenge met—than the one the 3000 mastered. Grassroots efforts on high school grass kept the 3000 in the Guinness Book for years until then. Even today the largest poster, built in India, isn't so much larger than the one that was created by a community instead of a corporation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:46 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 12, 2016

How to purge UDCs on the HP 3000 safely

Cheshire_catThe software vendors most likely to sell products for a flat rate -- with no license upgrade fees -- have been the system utility and administration providers. Products such as VEsoft's MPEX, Robelle's Suprtool, Adager's product of the same name -- came in one, or perhaps two versions, at most. The software was sold as the start of a relationship, and so the relationship focused on the understanding the product provided for people responsible for HP 3000s.

That kind of understanding might reveal a Lewis Carroll Cheshire Cat's smile inside many an HP 3000. The smile is possible if the 3000 uses UDC files and the manager uses only MPE to do a file PURGE. Of course, PURGE ships on all MPE systems. Using that means you'll have to rebuild the UDC catalog. But even that's not enough.

Stan Sieler of Allegro shared a story about this recently. "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 delete-able." Then there's the rebuilding of the catalog. Keven Miller has contributed a program that sorts and reorganizes UDC files.

There is a more complete way to remove such things from a 3000's storage. You're careful about this because eliminating UDCs with only MPE might leave a user unable to use the server. That grin that lingers is the UDC's filename. 

User Defined Commands are a powerful timesaver for 3000 users, but they have administrative overhead that can become foolproof using the right tools. These UDCs need to be maintained, and as users drop off and come on the 3000, their UDCs come and go. There's always a chance that a UDC file could be deleted, but that file's name could remain in the filesystem's UDC master catalog. When that happens, any other UDCs associated with the user will fail, too. It might include some crucial commands; you can put a wide range of operations into a UDC.

When you add a third party tool to your administrator's box, you can make a purge of such files foolproof. You can erase the Cheshire Cat's grin as well as the cat. It's important because that grin of a filename, noted above, can keep valid users from getting work done on the server with UDCs. This is not the reputation anybody expects from a 3000.

First you have to find all of your UDCs on a system, and MPE doesn't make that as straightforward as you might think. Using SHOWCATALOG is the standard, included tool for this. But it has its limitations. It can display the system-level UDC files of all users in all accounts. But that's not all the UDCs on a 3000.

MPE, after all, cannot select to show a complete set files by attributes such as program capability. Or for that matter, by last accessed time, or file size, or file security. It's a long list of things that MPE makes an administrator do on their own. Missing something might be the path to looking foolish.

Employing a couple of third party tools from VEsoft, VEAudit and MPEX, lets you root out UDCs and do a foolproof purge, including file names. VEAudit will list all of the UDCs on a server, regardless of user -- not just the ones associated with the user who's logged in and looking for UDCs. The list VEAudit creates can be inverted so the filename is the first item on each line. Then MPEX will go to work to do a PURGE. Not MPE's, but a user-defined purge that looks for attributes, then warns you about which ones you want to delete, or would rather not.

By using MPEX -- the X stands for extended functionality -- you can groom your own PURGE command to look out for files that have been recently used, not just recently created. MPE doesn't check if a purged file is a UDC file. 

Such 3000 utilities provided the server and its managers with abilities that went far beyond what HP had built into MPE and its IMAGE database. Now that MPE is moving on, beyond HP's hardware, knowing these third party tools will transfer without extra upgrade fees is like ensuring that a foolproof MPE will be running on any virtualized HP 3000.

They're an extra-cost item, but how much they're worth depends on a manager's desire to maintain a good reputation.

In the earliest days of the sale of these tools, vendors were known for selling them for the price of the support contract alone. That's usually about 20 percent annually of the purchase price. If a $4,000 package got sold that way, the vendor billed for just $800 at first. It made the purchases easier to pass through a budget, since support at the manager-tool level was an easier sell. Think about it. Such third parties passed up $3,200 per sale in revenues in the earliest days. They also established relationships that were ongoing and growing. They were selling understanding of MPE, not just software.

This kind of practice would be useful for the community's remaining software vendors. This is not the time to be raising prices to sustain MPE computing, simply because there's a way to extend the life of the hardware that runs MPE. As the number of MPE experts declines, vendors will be expected to fill in the gaps in understanding. Those who can do this via support fees stand the best chance of moving into the virtualized future of 3000 computing.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:17 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2016

Measure 3000 performance for datacenters

Hp-1715a-oscilloscopeMeasuring the performance of an HP 3000 used to be a leverage point for increasing investments. By now the numbers help justify continuing to use the server in a datacenter with newer boxes. "We think of our HP 3000s as stable, and even reducing in usage over time," says one systems manager, "though actually as the company grows, the data requirements and load on the 3000s increases."

One way to measure a 3000's footprint is the amount of memory it requires. Memory upgrades cost nothing like what they did even 15 years ago. But any spending at all makes that 15-year-old server suspect. HP's Steve Macsisak recommended sessions x 4, plus jobs x 16, plus 64 MB as the criteria for memory usage.

An HP 3000 uses as much of its memory as possible to make processing efficient. The design of the PA-RISC architecture makes memory the most important element of performance, after IO speed. It's not that unusual to see a 3000 using 100 percent of its memory, according to field reports. There's also CPU usage to measure. 

CPU percentages can come via the REPORT command. Count up the CPU seconds used in the week, and divide by the total number of seconds available (604,800). But for all of this, it doesn't feel like a graphic report the rest of the datacenter gets from its Unix and Linux systems using SAR. There may be a program inside a 3000 that can help, even if the company never purchased performance tools from Lund. HP's Glance gives away its reporting power in its name, one manager has joked.

PloticusThere's freeware available to create handsome graphs like the one at left, suitable for showing in a meeting about datacenter resources. Ploticus/iX was written by Andreas Schmidt. It uses data from SCOPE.SYS. Ploticus even works with SAR's data.

Since there's no port of SAR for MPE/iX, something else must stand in. Some systems have HP Scope, the software that dives in deep enough to produce report-ready numbers. It's not the smooth path a 3000 gets from Lund's Clearview Performance Manager. Scope is the HP Performance Collection Software sold by the vendor while it still had an active 3000 business.

Scope includes a program, EXTRACT.SCOPE.SYS, that permits the software to EXPORT its results to a text file. The manual for the software says it has three components.

SCOPEXL, if you are using an MPE/iX system), UTILITY, and EXTRACT. SCOPEXL is the performance data collector for MPE Systems. It continuously collects and summarizes performance data. UTILITY and EXTRACT are the host programs that let you interact with SCOPEXL and manage the data that it collects.

HP's Scope documentation describes how to use the collection and management software: how the host components interact; detailed command descriptions for each program; and suggestions on how to use the programs to analyze and archive data efficiently.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:45 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2016

August Throwback: Java and VPlus get cozy

Legacy ContinuesTwenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community was discovering windows into the World Wide Web. At the Interex conference held that month we heard the first about Javelin, a new Java-based terminal emulator that required nothing but a browser to connect a PC to an HP 3000. It was the first MPE terminal to run inside a browser, a technology that was searching for a commercial market in 1996. You requested a session and Javelin delivered one out of a pile of user licenses. At the 25- and 50-user tiers, Javelin got cheaper than Minisoft's MS 92 terminal.

That August was the first one with the NewsWire on hand in the community. Java was sexy and hot and Javelin provided a way to care about it while you managed an MPE/iX system. We reported with a hopeful eye that "Java is maturing as a platform for HP 3000 applications."

The Minisoft product is effectively a Java-based version of the MS92 terminal emulator, and it allows users to connect to HP 3000s without a client-based emulation program installed on their local desktops. Instead, Javelin downloads a Java applet in five to 20 seconds into a Web browser on the desktop. The resulting thin client handles HP 3000 terminal emulation tasks.

But customers won't have to modify existing HP 3000 VPlus application forms to deliver them over browser-based connections using Javelin. It reproduces function keys and special keys as well as performs Windows-grade slave printing. Minisoft's Doug Greenup said the product had been tested against MM/II and MANMAN on the 3000, as well as many custom VPlus applications, Qedit, Speededit, Powerhouse and Quiz.

"It's a little slower than our Windows product right now," Greenup said, "at least with character-mode applications. Block mode screens are faster." He said the product would be a good fit for inquiry and modest data entry applications, as well as public access to HP 3000 databases in government and university settings or for remote sales staff.

The point was to reduce the cost of connectivity and give casual users a simple link to HP 3000s. Java was in vogue at HP's MPE labs at a time when the goal was to give the 3000 an equal set of Web tools. HP-UX and Windows NT were claiming to have all of the momentum at the time.

Minisoft still sells Javelin, which can do so much more now than when its first release emerged in that summer of the Anaheim Interex conference. The show was the first of 10 to be called HP World before the user group folded in 2005.

Another bit of news from that conference was the publication of a new book about the HP 3000, co-written by the engineer who led the way in Java adoption for MPE/iX. Mike Yawn wrote The Legacy Continues along with HP's George Stachnik, a book engineered to show the world that "Despite claims from both the UNIX and Windows NT communities that their respective operating systems will be 'taking over the world,' the reality is that enterprise data centers are increasingly multi-platform."

You can still buy a copy of The Legacy Continues on Amazon. The book marked the last time HP invested in any publishing designed to serve only the 3000 market. Unless you count the many advertising dollars sent to the NewsWire, support for which we remain grateful. Our current sponsors make it possible to remember the many beginnings of the HP 3000, so homesteaders can point at the way their servers were designed to take advantage of forthcoming technology.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:59 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 05, 2016

Whatever you know best becomes a platform

Railway-717852_1280An HP 3000 software vendor called this week to report they put four new installations of their product into customer sites this year. Those aren't new HP 3000s, but they're new customers. In 2016 that's notable. There's a reason there are four new spots for this utility software.

"We turn these HP 3000s into Excel machines," the vendor's founder said. "These new IT managers don't know the HP 3000. But they know what they have used. For these companies, it was important to make these 3000s ready to work with Excel."

There are several ways to do this, and Excel doesn't seem like technology as powerful as IMAGE databases and the deep enterprise-grade applications on MPE/iX. The power doesn't matter. It's the connection to the rest of the IT world, and the familiarity of the staff with the driving technology. "You can't get young guys into these companies who know the HP 3000," the vendor said.

While it's not true everywhere, younger IT pros comprise the workforce for enterprise software management. The HP 3000 can seem like grandpa's server to the CIO who wasn't out of elementary school when the 3000 base was growing strong. (That seems young for a C-level job, but such a CIO could be as old as 45. Think the '80s.) Connecting its data with a newer tool like Excel gives the 3000 a tighter bond to mission-critical work.

What's more, oversimplifying the 3000 as a data resource isn't too far away from its original intent. Wirt Atmar of AICS sold QueryCalc software for reporting and new HP 3000s to companies "who were replacing steel filing cabinets" to access information. Excel is a platform in the same way that those filing cabinets were data repositories. It's easier to integrate a system that at least behaves like the rest of the enterprise. If a utility could attach new value to your older server, for a younger manager, there could be room in the budget for that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:56 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 01, 2016

1,000-plus sessions propel $1 billion in sales

As HP 3000s and MPE hold on, homesteading managers need to justify their use of the solid server. Big-company users sometimes seal the deal. 

Coins-1523383_1280Here's a recent number: One company supports a firm that does over $1 billion in revenue a year — and it has at any given time over 1,300 sessions logged on, up to 2,000 during its busy season. It's not the only 3000 site of that size, either.

None of us have any hard data on how many 3000s are doing work, or how many work that hard. The data is scattered, so anecdotal reports revolve around the experiences from each vendor's 3000 support customers. One software vendor said there are more than 800 active licenses of his product, still paying support. These are hard numbers to verify.

Support for a 3000 comes from places like Pivital Solutions (an all-3000 support shop). There's no magic number of customers by today, although if you wanted our estimate we'd say more than 1,500 servers are running. Support was always a good way to take the 3000 census. But that was fractured, too: HP never had more than two out of every three 3000s under support.

By now the third party support is working at the very large companies using the HP 3000. If nothing but vendor support will do, then a 3000 is on the bubble — but realistically, that kind of support can't be found for Windows or Linux (although support from RedHat is available for its distro). There's independent support all over the business world. You're usually better off with support you've contracted with on your own, anyway. It's tuned up to know when your busy season is — and how to keep hundreds to thousands of sessions online.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:56 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2016

Even archival 3000s are keeping things aloft

Stromasys makes MPE/iX applications last forever, a mission that some manufacturing suppliers are taking to heart. Doug Smith of the vendor tells a story about a supplier to aircraft manufacturers which puts data from archival 3000s back into production, from time to time.

Doug SmithThese suppliers have moved their production IT to platforms such as SAP, he says. But they haven't retired their HP 3000 data. One reason is the amount of work needed to bring processes onto complex platforms like SAP. Rather than move everything into a new application suite, many companies only move open items. They might need others later. That's where an archival MPE system goes to work.

"SAP is so limited," Smith says. "It’s a structure you must fit into. You have to fit your business to work within SAP, more than SAP working to fit the business. You have to meet the software’s criteria just to move on to the next process, and that’s why it’s so much easier just to move the items that are open. Otherwise, you have re-create all of the substructure you had on the 3000 software. A 10-year project could become a one-year project if you only move the open items. You’re talking about saving millions of dollars."

For example, one aircraft supplier has been building parts for 40 years, work that started when the HP 3000 was brand-new. They didn’t bring all those parts over to their SAP replacement for the MPE/iX applications. "But they can get a call at any time that they need the landing gear for a certain type of aircraft, for example—and they don’t have the part on SAP," Smith says. "So they have to go back to the archive machine to get it processed. It’s not only for regulatory purposes. It’s for serving-the-customer purposes."

"If they haven’t sold a part in a certain number of years," Smith explains, "they say they don’t think they’ll sell it again. But when a customer comes back and wants that part, they’ll be charged a premium because they’re pulling up those components to build the part again. The aircraft can still fly. If they don’t have that information, though, they can’t service their customer."

Archival 3000s with a complete bill of materials can be production assets. It’s a way to keep replacement items open. "You can imagine what an aircraft bill of materials looks like," Smith says. "The list can be 10 parts, or 200,000 parts. Along with that you have assembly instructions, routings, and more, to tell you how to build this part. They call a Stromasys server an archive machine. That's due to the fact that the personnel are changing. The IT staff who are coming in are SAP guys."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:38 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2016

Samba-3000 sync and Formspec data tips

Samba sharing on our 3000 using Windows Explorer is slow, but it gets the job done. However, if I take down networking on the 3000 and bring it back up, Windows Explorer tells me the 3000 is inaccessible. Ping works, Reflection connections work and Internet Explorer has no trouble connecting to our Apache/iX web site. What's happening to the 3000's networking?

Frank Gribbin resolves and explains:

Samba-on-3000After rebooting the PC, everything works again until networking on the 3000 is refreshed. Your solution should address the fact that Windows is maintaining a table of connections that needs to be refreshed in DOS. From the DOS command line, issue the command nbtstat -R or nbtstat -RR.

James Byrne also points out:

You can get into trouble with cached credentials with Windows Active Directory as well. You can clear them from the command line with:

net session \\samba.server.ip.address /delete

Or you can do it through the Credentials Manager on the workstation's Control Panel. However you clear the cache, you still need to restart the workstation with the problem cache — because the credentials are still in memory.

It's been a long time since I worked with FORMSPEC. I have a screen that is used to enter data.  I want the data to remain on the screen after the enter key is pressed. Is that done using FORMSPEC, or is it done in some sort of a COBOL statement?

Alan Yeo says:

VPLUSThat is the default behavior. When you press enter, the host program is triggered to read the data (if it chooses) and then to either update, clear, etc. By default VPLUS won't clear the data from the screen when you press enter (in fact it does virtually nothing when you press enter) — either the host program (or Entry?) is doing it explicitly, or one of the clear/ repeat/ append settings for the form in FORMSPEC has been set to instruct VPLUS to clear the form.

Gilles Schipper points out:

You can do it in FORMSPEC or programmatically. When creating or modifying the form in FORMSPEC, simply specify "R" in the repeat option for the form you wish to repeat.

Programmatically, you can set the appropriate parameter prior to issuing the appropriate series of VPLUS intrinsic calls.

Generally, the specifications of your form design can be dynamically overridden programmatically — unless you use ENTRY.PUB.SYS to enter your data into a data file.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:09 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2016

How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free

KiteThe 3000 community has been receiving updates for simulator project this year. This isn't the software that virtualizes the PA-RISC servers which were the ultimate boxes in HP's 3000 line. This simulator software is strictly shareware, strictly free, and strictly built to emulate a previous generation's HP 3000s. The SIMH project can turn a PC into a Classic HP 3000, the sort that used MPE III, IV, or V as its operating system.

This is also a project that points to the lifecycle of HP's operating system products in the public domain. A hobbyist -- or a company that could get along with a 3000 with circa 1991 power and OS -- needs a copy of MPE V to make this freeware simulation work. Where you get this software is up to you. But it's not a secret, either. The process to free involves the passage of time, the end of commercial sales, and perhaps HP's tacit approval.

The creators of SIMH are assuming HP won't be reining in the 20-year-old OS built for the previous MPE generation. Dave Bryan, who posted a note about a new version of the SIMH simulator for the 3000, said that the HP Computer Museum in Australia has helped to make MPE V available for simulator use via a website.

I assembled the kit from the tape image in that directory, which was supplied to me by Al Kossow of Bitsavers. Al then posted the kit and tape on his site.

Before undertaking the 3000 simulator project, I verified with Al in 2011 that he would be able to post an MPE image, and he confirmed that he could.

This year marks a milestone in the 3000's Classic generation: a moment to download the needed MPE V OS without a license concern. If Kossow's upload is legal, this version of MPE V has become freeware.

This kind of open source status is what the 3000 community pursued for MPE/iX for the better part of a decade. As the ultimate 3000 OS, MPE/iX hasn't moved into the state of a GPL license (for sharing). Not yet. But there was a time when HP's MPE V was closely guarded and licensed, too. Nowadays, not so much. The transfer to open access for an OS requires time. HP hasn't sold an MPE/iX system in almost 13 years. The company stopped selling MPE V servers 21 years ago. The clock might be running toward an unfettered MPE/iX.

The release of a 3000 OS into the skies of sharing is based on other HP operating system lifespans. More than a decade ago, HP issued a free hobbyist license for OpenVMS. This was possible because the product started its life in DEC. Later on, though, the release of the HP 1000's RTE into the open skies showed how HP could set an older OS free. The HP 1000 was off the HP corporate price list for less than 15 years by the time its OS went native.

Bryan explained how MPE V came to be available as a download from a site called Bitsavers. Al Kosslow's help was important.

Al is also the software curator of the Computer History Museum. I know that the CHM obtained licensing from HP for the HP 1000 Software Collection that Bitsavers hosts, and I know that Al and the CHM were in discussions some time ago with HP regarding their 3000 software. I don't know the content or extent of those discussions.

A visit to the Bitsavers link shows what's available for MPE V. The simulator's software help file reports the following.

A preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image containing the Fundamental   Operating Software (FOS), selected SUBSYS language processors (BASIC, BASICOMP, COBOL, COBOL II, FORTRAN, PASCAL, RPG, and SPL), and example programs is available from Bitsavers. The archive contains instructions and simulator command files that  allow ready-to-run operation.

The disc image is contained in "". The directory also contains "", which is the MPE-V/R FOS  tape, if you prefer to generate everything yourself. The software kit includes the console logs from the RELOAD that used the above tape image to produce the disc image.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:42 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2016

Is there something you desire in MPE/iX?

The 3000 homesteader probably misses the System Improvement Ballot, a way to petition HP for improvements to MPE. The results of these requests were often unveiled at an August user conference. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present for some customers, or finding a lump of coal in the stocking for others who sadly watched their requests bypassed.

But there’s still a way to meet desires for MPE/iX functionality. The answer lies in open source. Brian Edminster explained.

Unless a miracle occurs - we've probably seen the last of a 'Systems Improvement' survey/ballot.  That's a real shame - because there's still quite a lot of life left in the system - and there'd be more if we could teach her some new tricks.

Perhaps, though, we could find an equivalent:

Seems to me, because much open source software is of a subsystem or utility variety - perhaps it would be worthwhile to poll the community for what packages they need but can't get (i.e. not ported yet?), or need — but the existing ports aren't current enough and need updating.

If nothing else, it would provide those of us that tinker in this area with a bit more direction than just what we might currently need.

The community of 3000 customers could offer requests and help through the 3000-L mailing list, or leave a note here. Open source software was a breakthough for the 3000 in the late 90s. It's not too late to let a port change things.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:51 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 04, 2016

Celebrate Your Independence Today

As this is the Fourth of July in the United States, we're taking time away from the news desk to celebrate Independence Day, as we call it. If you think about it, your choice to remain on an HP 3000 -- even if it's on a long journey toward migration -- is a celebration of independence.

As examples of what that means in practice, have a look at the following articles:

On support for 3000s: HP's 3000 support clears away for indies

On MPE licenses, and the need for them in the post-HP era:Customers debate definition of a licensed HP 3000

On how respecting an HPSUSAN supports independent software vendors: 3000's IDs protect independent SW vendors

UK BuntingEmbrace your independence as an HP 3000 partner or customer, whenever that new course suits you. If you're migrating, your company's internal schedule will determine your new platform and when you will move. It's obviously not based on HP's support deadline, which is just as expired as George Washington. This is a holiday we celebrate to mark the country's trip down a new path independent of its founding authority figure, Great Britain. I am told the British celebrate today as "the anniversary of the time we got rid of those pesky colonists."

Which goes to show how anything can be viewed from more than one point of view, so long as you have an independent mind.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:56 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 01, 2016

Celebrate independence this weekend

Fireworks-74689_1920Over this weekend in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day by vacationing from work, driving cars on some of least expensive gasoline in the world, and reflecting, between fireworks' starbursts, how lucky we are to choose. For a lot of people, this time around it's a four-day holiday, more largesse we enjoy if we're fortunate.

Although July 4th is a distinctly US holiday, a British friend of mine says it's the UK's independence day, too — as in, "We're rid of that dysfunctional colony once and for all." Think for a moment, if you're reading this on the holiday or the days that follow, the items you can celebrate leaving behind while you continue your use of the HP 3000.

You are independent from inflexible pricing on 3000 support (what non-HP entities could compete when HP was in the market in a serious way?), as well as the need for HP-branded storage. Now there's the Stromasys solution to replace aging hardware, if you have concerns about disks that are dozens of years old. Or use newer ones. Plenty of SCSI disks will work with 3000s without bearing the HP badge. The SCSI pass-through driver will embrace even more, once the software is applied to the task by the community's experts.

Then you can celebrate the long-gone uncertainty about HP's plans for the system. For each year we published The 3000 NewsWire up to 2001, the community worried that Hewlett-Packard was locking MPE/iX and the 3000 in the enterprise ghetto. Being turned out onto the streets of independence eliminates that wild card from your relationship with the system.

But perhaps most of all, the independence of the 3000's Transition Era gives any user of the system The Power of Now. That's the title of the Oprah-discovered classic book by Eckhart Tolle. He says that the true pleasure of Now is that it removes the pain in life. We're drawn to the future, as well as the past, by our ego. The ego makes us crazy and our lives miserable.

The future is something our mind creates, while the past is where we believe our identity grew up. In truth, our self is something inside us, rooted as deep as your company's business mission. Now this community is liberating its self to enjoy the stability of a system still working as promised, without the vexation of Vista, or the stagnation of Unix, the dizzy puzzle of database elements, or being tethered to Microsoft's free-falling business strategy. Embracing this self should feel like independence.

Years ago, your company chose an integrated solution in the 3000. Although nothing lasts forever, this system will continue to serve until the Internet runs out of addresses (IPv6 is coming) or Microsoft tosses a data access curve you can't work around. Until then, you can live in the Now. If you don't want to create any more pain in your life, don't create any more time than is necessary to keep your IT resources doing their job. Futures, pasts, roadmaps, none of these exist in reality. Ask a 3000 community member about roadmap reality.

"Don't create any more time than is necessary to deal with the practical aspects of life," Tolle advises. Celebrate independence from the future (now that HP is departing) as well as the past. Always say yes to the present moment, something you can define on your own. HP has left this choice to you.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:02 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 29, 2016

Date format variable help for MPE/iX

What would be the easiest way to get a variable date in the format "06/29/16" on a HP3000 OS version 7.0 and 7.5?

Michael Anderson replies

First echo:

echo ![str("!hpyyyymmdd",5,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",7,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",3,2)]

Then setvar:

setvar mydate '![str("!hpyyyymmdd",5,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",7,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",3,2)]'

(Note the usage of single-quote and double-quote in the setvar command.)

Allegro's Barry Lake adds

Please note that the HPYYYYMMDD variable is already a string variable:

Frodo: calc typeof(HPYYYYMMDD)
2, $2, %2

So you don't have to dereference it with ! inside double quotes. In other words, the following works just as well, is easier to read, and might even execute a bit faster:

Frodo: echo ![str(hpyyyymmdd,5,2)]/![str(hpyyyymmdd,7,2)]/![str(hpyyyymmdd,3,2)]

Also note that since you're asking for the value of HPYYYYMMDD three different times, there's the tiniest chance that if you executed this right at last part of the second at 23:59:59, then the value could roll over to a new date in the 2nd or 3rd call, and you could possibly get the wrong date, or even year. Unlikely, I know. But to avoid that, you'd want to capture the current date once, then operate on that, as in:

Frodo: setvar my_date hpyyyymmdd
Frodo: echo ![str(my_date,5,2)]/![str(my_date,7,2)]/![str(my_date,3,2)]

Stan Sieler adds

Kudos to Barry and Michael for apparently correctly guessing that our manager was interested in a CI-based solution. Next time, you might want to make that clear. I was thinking along the lines of SPL/Pascal/COBOL and the CALENDAR intrinsic, as well as whether I should ask the obvious questions or not. Of course, the easiest method is: ECHO 06/29/16

Following on Barry’s answer … any code that wants a coherent date and time using separate sources (e.g., CLOCK and CALENDAR intrinsics, or HPTIMEF (#1)) needs to be aware of midnight crossing. Thus, I use a helper function in Pascal like:

  procedure get_date_time (var cal : calendar_type; val clk : clock_type);
        cal := calendar;
        clk := clock;
     until cal = calendar;    {avoid problems if ’clock’ called just after midnight}

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:11 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2016

Refitting Migration to Look Like Emulation

Stromasys White Paper ArtIn a webinar about emulation solutions last week, MB Foster offered a new take on some old tools. The subject was an exam of what 3000 sites could do if their budgets didn't let them take on a full migration on their own. Viewers heard about Stromasys Charon, of course, a software tool that has always proposed the OS in charge will remain the same: MPE/iX. The hardware gets emulated. 

The webinar took note of some Charon considerations, but none that haven't already surfaced. Software must be licensed to the new Charon emulated hardware. The greatest percentage of vendors are making that transfer a formality. Many don't even charge a fee to move from HP's PA-RISC iron to the emulated hardware. Of those who do, the fee can be nominal. Issues about revising hardcoded IP addresses were mentioned. Issues about historic data procedures and archival come up for any solution that changes things.

The other solutions in the webinar didn't have any of their issues examined.

Marx200_300On the subject of those other emulation solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established products received a new label. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, got its seven minutes of fame. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users on the call testified to the strong value of Eloquence.

Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in the webinar and a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.

"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."

"MBFA used the term emulation to capture the interest HP 3000 group," Whitehead said about the webinar. "I would put down the items discussed as emulation solutions. eZ-MPE mimics the HP 3000," he said of the software suite that MB Foster first announced in 2013. 

A hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier, eZ-MPE aims 3000 sites at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for MPE/iX sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications. At the time, the company said

It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term. You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.

"We call it a hybrid," Whitehead said this week. "It allows an HP 3000 client to migrate, protect their investment in code developed for the HP — while leveraging the native database environment as part of your long range plans to go in that direction."

Emulation is a long-pursued goal for the 3000 customer who's needed to stay with MPE/iX. The word was charged with hope and potential from the very start of the period where HP wanted its 3000 users to turn off MPE/iX servers. 3000 users believe the definition of emulation is a tool or service that makes an environment pretend that it's something they already use.

"You might use the word ‘pretend’," Whitehead said in a follow-up after the webinar. "I might say mimic, but for the most part you are emulating. Wouldn’t you agree that ‘emulate is the better word?"

No matter what's chosen among the four solutions discussed in the webinar, users need services to do a transition well. Stromasys now sells its emulator in no other way except with installation services and proof of concepts. MB Foster said in its bulk email about the webinar that some 3000 sites cannot afford to migrate. Each of its solutions that were framed as emulation "needs to be investigated, and a path can be chosen that best suits the companies' long range plans, risk, corporate hardware architecture and databases, plus the cost of getting there."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:33 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 24, 2016

A Hybrid Solution to Staying and Going

Editor's note: we ran the following story about eZ-MPE on the product's announcement three years ago. The software suite came up for mention during this week's MB Foster webinar, and since it's offered as a modern solution, it seems useful to revisit the original release story.

HybridMB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.

Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead. 

“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.” 

For example, the database environment mimics the IMAGE database, Whitehead said. A command line utility manages other functions and data types.

The eZ-MPE solution evolved during the migrating of custom code for customers into a Windows environment, the target environment for eZ-MPE migrations. For example, MBF Scheduler has been replacing the features and comprehensive functionality of HP 3000 batch scheduler and job control software including independently managed queues and a “job fence”, mimicking a module which is embedded in MPE/iX.

The company’s familiarity with the HP 3000 way of computing management is designed to set eZ-MPE apart from prior efforts to bring across 3000 customers. AMXW, built by Neartek at the start of this century, as well as Ordina’s MPUX, don’t deliver the full range of the MB Foster product, said Whitehead. Lock-in with those other solutions is automatic. There’s no easy way to embrace the best of Windows or Unix.

The biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.

“It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term,” Whitehead said. “You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.” He said in the company’s engagements with enterprise clients, the sites want to leverage benefits of the new native environment, not just migrate quickly.

Portions of the eZ-MPE package which Whitehead mentioned included a target database for Windows, VPlus screens converted and modernized, a file system library similar to the 3000’s “but one that specifically handles nuances and translations between KSAM and itself.” Utilities include other aspects of handling implementations of items like sorting, merging, log-ins including UDCs, the job control language. “All of those things are necessary within a 3000 environment — but as you transition, they’re also necessary in the Windows world.” 

MB Foster is already working with a customer using eZ-MPE, and that customer has implemented the environment, Whitehead said. “It’s been thoroughly tested. It was the original thought we had for this customer, and eZ-MPE is more effective for them than re-writing to a native port.”

Software for migrating data, entire databases, scripts and more has been in the MB Foster stable for several years. Some of the solutions, like the data migration products, have been working in production environments since the late 1980s. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software — previously used only for services engagements — to sites for their internal IT use.

More recently, UDAExpress has been developed to take the place of the 3000’s scripting ability. The other product which has had a standalone lifecycle and has become a part of eZ-MPE is MBF Scheduler. Both of those products work exclusively in the Windows environment to replace MPE capabilities. More recently, the UDALink tool including reporting, JDBC and ODBC access was migrated to work with HP’s Itanium servers in the Unix environment. 

The vendor has no announced plans to deploy eZ-MPE to any Unix or Linux environments, including HP-UX. They say most 3000 customers who are still on the move want Windows.

“On most days, our clients are looking for a Windows-type of solution,” Whitehead said.” They feel the Windows environment is now stable enough and scalable enough. They’ve had enough exposure to that environment and the Microsoft suite of products. ” Even within any Unix environment, Windows servers will be part of the solution.

eZ-MPE has a menuing system as a native part of its environment; this handles the operations of UDCs running on HP 3000s, as well as “VEsoft MPEX environments,” Whitehead said. A system layer capability handles all system calls and translations. 

eZ-MPE manages the nuances of VPlus screens, controls access to applications, and uses its own file system library for call management and translation between KSAM and relational databases. Its IMAGE library converts TurboIMAGE calls to ODBC calls, and facilitates a move to a native environment as part of a site’s long-range plans.

The value of MBF eZ-MPE is more encompassing than simply screen handling, file systems, and databases. A typical in-house developed business application includes scripting, sorting, merging, logins, job control (JCL), FTP services, and scheduling requirements. MBF eZ-MPE includes solutions for all of these as well.

It’s also aimed at 3000 sites which are not using packaged applications. By process of elimination, that is still most of the HP 3000 customers who continue to use the platform. 

“Its real target is for organizations that have custom code, and want to preserve it,” Whitehead said, “and also want to transition to a supportable platform.”

The MB Foster software, which is also tied to services such as an assessment of existing environment, offers more range than emulated solutions, according to Whitehead. “We’re not locking anybody into an environment,” he said. “We’re allowing the 3000 customers to modernize, change and grow and prosper — not only with the eZ-MPE environment, but slowly over time, to move away from it, to a native Windows environment too.”


Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2016

What's MPE got to do with emulators?

Thoroughbred-horsesCompanies that want to use their MPE/iX applications a long time might count their timelines with two eras: Before Emulator, and After Emulator. The B.E. period left the MPE/iX user locked to Hewlett-Packard hardware and waiting for upgrades to HP boxes. The A.E. era uses virtualization via Charon to permit many beefy Intel boxes do the MPE/iX work. But what does MPE/iX code have to do with the magic of Charon? Not much, which is a good thing.

There's a stubborn story we hear about how the gem of MPE's source code is at the heart of what Charon does. What a virtualization engine like the Stromasys product delivers is a new capability for Intel hardware. An Intel box can pretend to be a PA-RISC processor, thanks to the software engineered by the creators of similar products for the Digital market.

But Charon doesn't rely on MPE/iX secrets to do this magic. It's like thinking a jockey is the being who's running a 2-mile racetrack course. He's the rider, and the horse in this metaphor is Charon. The basic design of Charon products, like the ones that virtualize the Sun Sparc systems and the PDP systems of DEC, creates the expertise for booting up Intels like they're 3000s. Nobody expects the ancestry of the jockey to play a role in making the horse faster. We don't sit in the grandstands to watch jockeys hoof it around the track.

Source code for MPE/iX was a big part of the push for emulation that started in 2002. The thought at the time, though, was that MPE itself could be taken on as a third party tool. That somehow something could pretend to be MPE, instead of pretending to be the PA-RISC hardware. Emulation is a broad term. Virtualization is more accurate, and these days, almost as well known thanks to titans like VMware.

OpenMPE fought the good battle to get HP to release source code for MPE/iX. It won, but the group never got a copy of the source for itself. The reasons run to finances and organization of the board of directors, struggles we've documented starting six years ago. Then 2011 dawned as one of the dimmest years for the 3000, just dumped off HP's support and with no apparent future for fresher hardware. The only advocacy group was reeling from lawsuits among its leaders. For the last two elections of its board, the number of nominees was the same as the number of directors. Few people could volunteer with gusto. Some of the best were already there, or had already done their bit.

It's a good thing indeed that MPE/iX source code plays no role in the technology of Charon. The code is not open source, as OpenMPE wanted. (That's the whole reason it's called OpenMPE, instead of FreePA-RISC.) What the community got was a license from HP, not freeware. If Charon needed MPE/iX gems, it would mean HP retains control over a product that will let newer hardware take over when the battleship-grade HP iron hits the scrapyard. Nobody wants Hewlett-Packard to have a say in MPE/iX host hardware futures. The vendor's had enough impact on those. In the days of A.E. the virtualization miracle needs nothing from MPE/iX but a stable copy of the OS to carry in its saddle. The horsepower comes from an independent company, the kind that's kept the MPE/iX journey on course.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:58 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 15, 2016

Throwback of mid-June marks much change

Amid the midpoint of June, we have reported a lot of change in that month of the 3000 community's calendar. In the blog's first year of 2005, this report said HP's Unix was named in about a third of migrations.

HP-UX gains in later results (2005)

These revised percentage totals keep Windows in the lead. But with 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments to us, HP-UX has managed to poke above the 30 percent mark, to just about one-third of the target platform choices.

And there remains in the community a vibrant devotion to migrating to Windows. Linux was less than 10 percent back then. How enterprise tastes have changed.

New, independent training begins (2006) becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.

Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith revitalized HP's 3000 training materials and put the education experience online at $1,750 a seat. The market didn't materialize for the noble, useful service.

So much to see, so far to go (2007)

RibbonsOn a rack in one of the Mandalay Bay's wide lobbies at the Encompass show — lobbies so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. The array of ribbons stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect.

To no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. This is a conference which looks toward a new future with HP, instead of the past, or MPE's ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP—or hear from vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.

The new Las Vegas digs for the annual user group show "improved its curb appeal," said the user group president. A sprawling show in a Vegas casino resort still showed off HP-UX training. "Windows on HP" suggested the vendor was scrabbling to keep customers on its platform.

HP to release more 3000 patches (2008)

"We did a lot of work in that area," said HP's Jim Hawkins at the Tech Forum. "For a lot of patches that have been languishing in beta test status, we've been able to move them into General Release status so they can be downloaded from the HP ITRC, which makes them freely available."

Indeed, those patches remain free if a 3000 customer knows how to ask for them. Help from an independent support vendor remains a good way to stay in touch with what HP might've forgotten—or which of those patches you ought to avoid.

Retired HP lab leaves issues behind (2009)

But while a 3000 issues list logs many HP decisions, some key items remain unresolved.The issue with the broadest potential impact on homesteading customers appears to be resources for the HP 3000 hardware emulator project.

HP didn't release test suites it used to develop MPE/iX, for example. It would be three more years until Stromasys released the Charon emulator. This was the year HP started to change its mind about helping out.

Red-blooded sites shape new scheduler (2010)

The new Windows-based MBF Scheduler grew up in MB Foster’s labs, nourished by the experience of engagements with several sites migrating from the 3000.The 3000’s depth of scheduling was integrated into the environment from the early days of system delivery. The cloned feature set reminds migrators of what they’ve learned to rely upon. 

MBF Scheduler is still the Windows job scheduler that accommodates MPE procedures best. Experience from "true, red-blooded sites" gave the software its feature set.

N-Class price points at value (2011)

At one end there's a 20-year-old 927 server still working in a production setting. At the other end, the most powerful 3000s built by HP are now less than $10,000, at least in a spare-parts or hot DR offering with your own licenses. 

Prices for N-Class servers have been quoted below $4,000 this year. That 927 may still be working. That's what the indie support companies make possible.

Is HP porting HP-UX to Xeon, or not? (2012)

In a Wall Street Journal interview, new CEO Meg Whitman tossed off a message that HP-UX is on its way to the Intel Xeon processor line.

To answer the question: not. The heir apparent to the MPE enterprise-class datacenter will be on Itanium chips for the forseeable future.

Emulator: how far it goes, and what's next (2013)

Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. In a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.

This remains a misunderstood point among 3000 customers with very old hardware. The MPE/iX operating system runs the same on Charon as it does on HP's iron.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:19 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 13, 2016

2016 Advice: Emulate Your 3000 System

No kidding, the above strategy is bona fide. It will be online, with time for your questions, next Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern.

Emulation-3000-berryMB Foster has a novel webinar scheduled next week, and no, that's not an hour about writing a bestseller. The Web meeting on June 22 will walk through four different HP 3000 emulation options. All of them will mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce year over year costs. In the end, every one of them should use MPE/iX apps, if they are bona fide emulations. Why else would you be emulating? The webinar promises a tour of how to replace the 3000 hardware, it seems.

As hardware emulation goes — and that's the most popular agent of change — there's only one supplier that we know about. Over the last three years Stromasys has enlisted HP 3000 advocates and experts and customers to embrace the Charon software. We're told that each new customer seems to draw out another.

There are other ways to consider emulation, however. Some of them have been around a long time, if preservation of in-house MPE/iX apps is the goal. AMXW was a sort of emulator: Automated Migration to UniX and Windows. It's a shell that runs atop those two platforms, plus Linux and IBM's Unix, connecting to commodity databases and surround-code tools while preserving the 3000's app code.

"MPE specifics, such as JCL batch jobs, file equations, JCW, UDCs, command files and variables are all supported — allowing the MPE environment to run as is on the new platform." Okay, this is probably a migration solution. You're not supposed to need to change your apps, though. HP's 3000 hardware gets dropped, too.

The two other options? We'll be online to see what they are. Registration is online at the MB Foster website, as always.

You can't say that emulation is the right choice for everybody who needs to change things. Cloud-based ERP and manufacturing is on the horizon from Kenandy, for example, a company with ASK MANMAN roots. Terry Floyd of the The Support Group says Kenandy is MANMAN done better, because the software seems simpler. He's developed and managed MANMAN installs since the 3000 was very new. Floyd goes to work migrating Disston Tools off MANMAN starting next month.

We agree that any range of emulation options must mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce costs. Risk is in the eye of the manager; we've said that since 2002, when the Transition Era started. Foster says moving away is too risky and costly for customers who have data on HP 3000s.

"Hewlett Packard said it was obsolete 10 years ago," today's teaser email began, "so why are people still running production environments on the HP 3000? We asked the same question. Much of the time, it is too risky and too costly for them to move."

Emulation has its costs, too. The Stromasys option starts at $9,000 for a permanent license — the kind nearly all of the Charon customers buy, says Doug Smith — and then there's efficient and powerful Intel hardware to buy. Although Charon has been demoed many times on a laptop, a computer with a lid which closes is not the sort to run your commercial computing.

But compared to the expense of hiring out for advice on replacement software (you oughta do that) and implementing a package on locally-hosted servers that behaves differently than employees expect (identical functionality is rare unless Charon HPA's installed) and retraining everybody (IT and users) about the new environment — Charon can be very effective as an emulation. Less costly, probably, than anything but staying on the HP hardware that's at least 13 years old today. At least.

The other elements in the equation are investment protection. That's actually what an independent support company does today (yup, Pivital Solutions) to keep hardware that's in place running. Plus all of the company's experience keeping MPE/iX on its toes.

Companies emulate because they recognize value in the original investment. The unmistakeable value lies in the data. Every kind of emulation protects that asset. Foster says the apps are crucial too.

An emulator retains the value of the application long term, while removing the risk of running on old hardware. Being in an emulation environment also stabilizes the development of surround code, reduces disruption to the business, and avoids the need to re-train employees.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:52 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 10, 2016

What A Newer MPE/iX Could Bring

What would HP 3000 owners do with a new MPE/iX release, anyway? On some IT planning books, the frozen status of the operating system counts as a demerit in 2016. Even still, enterprise system managers in other HP-sold environments face a nearly-glacial pace of OS upgrades today. Even while paying for HP’s support, the VMS system managers are looking at a lull.

Click for details on roadmapHP says it still cares about OpenVMS, but that OS has been moving to a third party. Support from a system maker still looks newer and shiny to some companies than the independent support managers available from third parties like Pivital. As it turns out, though, it’s that frozen-as-stable nature of MPE/iX which makes third party support just as good as HP’s—back when you could get support from HP.

“MPE's so solid,” Doug Smith said in a recent interview, “and these applications have been out there forever. There’s not a huge concern out there in the community about needing to have a new release of MPE.” Smith leads the way for Charon emulator installs at 3000 sites.

OpenVMS roadmaps were updated this week. The map shows how slow OS updating can proceed. 

HP’s more current Poulson Itanium-based Integrity servers now can run OpenVMS, thanks to a springtime release of OpenVMS 8.4.2. There will still be Kittson-based Integrity servers outside the OpenVMS reach, though. These incremental VMS releases are proving that a third party can assume engineering duty for an OS. Linux showed the way for such duty long ago. That OS, however, was never a trade secret inside a system vendor’s labs.

The most cautious 3000 manager didn’t take updates of MPE/iX, in the years HP released them, unless there were essentials inside the new release. That decision point is no longer an issue with 3000 sites. Instead, MPE/iX is getting its newer-gen speed engineering through the Charon solution. Whenever there is a new Intel chipset that can run Linux, the speed of MPE/iX gets a boost.

A third-party OS lab won’t be the crucial element in driving MPE/iX faster. Charon emulates hardware that is not going to change: PA-RISC and the classic 3000 peripherals. VMS Software Inc. is revising an operating system. There’s much more testing needed to do this revision. It’s the cost of those new OS releases.

The newest OpenVMS will arrive in August, according to the VMS Software roadmap. One major advantage the new release brings will be a modern OpenSSL protocol version. It took awhile, and ultimately a third party, to make it so. Until VMS Software got its hands on VMS, the enterprise OS was working with the 0.9.8 SSL release. After more than seven extra years of HP labs support than MPE/iX had received, VMS was just two minor increments newer than the SSL the 3000s can still run: 0.9.6.

If vendor support for an OS is supposed to be so important, we asked up at the beginning, then why is an enterprise HP system so far behind current protocols as OpenVMS? Rethinking the impact of vendor support led many 3000 sites to independent support arrangements for MPE/iX. With the indie MPE/iX support and static OS status proven as a stable combo, it’s the hardware performance that can make strides. The MPE/iX community doesn’t need an OS lab to boost performance. Support for SSL security needs to be moved along, yes. The 3000 community, however, long ago learned to lean on environments like Unix and Linux for highly-secured functions.

Meanwhile, faster hardware support for OpenVMS turns out to be a feature that MPE/iX gained first. VMS Software says it's now working on an Intel-based release of the OS, with a target shipment sometime in 2018. By that date, the virtualized hardware for MPE/iX will have had two additional years of speed upgrades from Intel. MPE/iX already runs on the x86 family in virtualized mode. Integrity is tied to a chip that's now in maintenance mode at Intel. With the 3000 virtualized hardware speeding up, and the OS hosted in a Linux cradle which sports the latest in security protocol support—remind me again what MPE/iX 8.0 would've brought us?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:13 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 06, 2016

SLEEPER, Awakened for the Masses

Sleep-1389978_1280The contributed program SLEEPER is probably the software cited most often as proof of the riches of the Contributed Software Library. First created outside of the IT shops of Boeing (according to its first writer Ray Legault) the program was among the most classic of solutions for straightforward jobsteam management. You wouldn't mistake SLEEPER for something professional like Maestro, or even the free MasterOp. But SLEEPER was contributed to the 3000 community, not cast into the free wilds like MasterOp was after its commercial career ended. It was meant to be shared.

The trouble was, SLEEPER disappeared from the community's shelves when Interex died. The CSL tapes (and eventually CDs) went off the grid, another skid-mark left when the user group careened into the void in 2005. It's been 11 years, though, and it's finally time to at least make SLEEPER ready for a wake-up call. We've got the two simple source files to share.

Nobody has liability anymore for HP 3000 contributed software. SLEEPER was never released with support or a license; it was simply part of being an Interex member at a certain level. And let us take a minute to recall that Interex folded owing millions of dollars to members and vendors. After 11 years, it's time to make this software a community resource once more. "Hey, I know a guy who can get you that" has been the means to share the utility over the last decade.

Surprisingly, it's just a well-packed 184K of SPL and FORTRAN code. MPE magic never took up much space. That's one of the reasons it was magic. SLEEPER is also a fine example of how 3000 managers helped one another.

We've thrown caution to the winds (not exactly a new event here) and loaded those two files onto our website servers for distribution. It comes with no warranty, of course. Like always with the CSL gems, using it carries the same risk that any contributed utility or application did.

The FORTRAN file is available. And the SPL code is at hand, too. One well-honored MPE/iX engineer looked over the software programs and said they were extraordinary.

The SPL is some of the better looking old-style SPL that I've seen. The FORTRAN is very nice looking.

The SPL program runs in the batch job. The FORTRAN program maintains a configuration file that is presumably used by the SPL program.

So let the jobs of MPE/iX, including those running on standard HP hardware as well as those on virtualized 3000s, be managed a bit more easily. I await your comments on rousing the talents of this classic tool.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:06 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 01, 2016

Recovering Your Lost Logins

BWManIn the world of 2016, losing a password can be a time-bending experience. Apple's ID logins for its iCloud services, iTunes, and App Store only bear five attempts at most before they close out access to the phone. From there, you're on to a lengthy call to Apple. The smartphone is a tiny computer. The larger ones are not as strident about refusing repeated attempts, including the HP 3000.

They are secure, though. In these times when the servers can go dark for awhile as cold-start archive systems, though, a login can get misplaced. We're not supposed to write these things down, after all. What do you do when you have a question like the one below?

I restarted a 3000 9x7 after a few years in mothballs to run an old in-house app. I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS, but cannot remember or find the password for MANAGER.SYS. Is there anyway to reset, clear, or overwrite the password file? I know the old machine is a very secure one, but now I am hoping there is a way around it.

What follows are a couple of suggestions to get back into the manager's driver's seat. However, you'll need to at least have a ticket to ride in OPERATOR.SYS.

Gilles Schipper shares what he knows.

There's not an easy way around the security. But since you can log on as OPERATOR.SYS, you should be able to store off the system directory to tape, as follows:

:file t;dev=tape

Now that you have the directory on tape, you should be able to move around with FCOPY (and its ;char;hex options) to find the password for MANAGER.SYS. And that's all assuming you haven't implemented the directory encryption feature available with HP's security product Security Monitor/iX.

There's one other way. It's a good thing, because the alternatives do not include a rescue call to HP. There's nothing like Apple's password recovery support left for the HP 3000, as the vendor has long ago left the field. However, a good support contract for an MPE/iX server can be just the thing, and we know where you can get one.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:11 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2016

A Weekend Memorial to the Future's Past

Here in the US we start our Memorial Day holiday weekend today. Plenty of IT experts are taking a few days off. I reported the start of the HP 3000 emulation era over a Memorial Day weekend, five years ago. We'll take our long weekend to celebrate grandkids and a cookout, and see you back here next week.

In the meantime, here's that first report, a three-parter, showing that Stromasys set and met its development schedule, one that gave the 3000 homesteaders a future beyond the lifespan of HP's MPE/iX hardware. One year later, the software, called Zelus at the time, had a formal debut at a Training Day. Now as Charon it's preserving MPE/iX applications.


During that 2011 springtime, Stromasys offered screen shots of the PA-RISC emulator as evidence the software could serve as a virtual platform for the 3000’s OS. The screen above shows the beginning of the boot sequence (click for detailed view). HP provided internals boot-up documentation to assist in the software's design.

A product journey toward a 3000 hardware emulator took another significant step this spring, as the Zelus cross-platform software booted MPE/iX on an Intel server.

CTO Dr. Robert Boers of Stromasys reported that the OS has come up on a version of the emulator that will managed, eventually, by Linux. Although the test screens that Boers sent were hosted by Windows, the "fairly preliminary version" will be released on an open source OS. "Windows is a little passé," Boers said. "But we now have a first prototype."

Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

The accomplishment means that Zelus can do enough to create an MPE/iX image in memory and log to the files. For MPE that was complex, Boers said, while examining and transferring bits and pieces of 32-bit and 64-bit code. Linking to the Processor Dependent Code (PDC) calls that check for 3000 hardware held the project up. One decimal in a table — which turned out to be 666 — "kept us from booting for three months," Boers said. "It's an infamous number that turned out to be a coincidence when we found it."

The pilot milestone comes about one quarter later than the company estimated last year. Pilot versions of the emulator were scheduled to be in beta test by now, with a full release available by mid-year. Boers said the complexity and construction of HP's MPE boot code taxed the tech skills of a company which has built thriving DEC Alpha and VAX and hardware emulators.

"It was a tough one to write," he said of the 3000 effort that began in earnest last year but reaches through HP's licensing delays back to 2004. "It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator."

Hewlett-Packard said in the 1990s that MPE/iX was going to get its full 64-bit version when HP revised it for the Itanium processors. When the vendor cancelled its product futures, the OS remained in emulation mode.

Zelus product delivery to a limited number of sites will take some time, "because it's been such a long project and it's a matter of pride. This has been just a proof of concept. We started trying to build a 918, but then we decided to build something really good, so it now is [software that emulates] an A400."

Making a market for an emulator

HP won't resell an emulator to help the market

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:34 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2016

Moving off a 3000, or just some MPE/iX app?

Wednesday afternoon MB Foster leads another of its webinars about migration advice. The company is the community leader in data migration, data migration projects, data migration service. You're moving, they're the folks to contact. On Wednesday at 2 PM EST they're reaching out to explain the methodology the company uses to process departures from the 3000 world.

Moving VanThe options on exits "have not changed much over the last decade," the company's email teaser says. "They include; Stay, Rehost, Replace/Buy, Rebuild. The best choice for you depends on growth expectations, corporate standards, risk and cost." The other determining aspect is how much exiting a migration prospect must do immediately. Several of the current generation of migrators have gone to the app-by-app model.

The largest single migration of educational 3000s, 36 of them at the SBCTC, was pulled off in some pieces. This usually follows a methodology of getting a key app onto another platform in a lift and shift. Rewrites have become rare. Later on the lifted app can be replaced. Sometimes, as is the case at SBCTC, the whole migration platform shifts. Eloquence database to Oracle was the shift there. Another higher-ed site, at Idaho State University, moved its apps a few at a time over several years.

It's always worth mentioning the choice that MB Foster notes: a choice to stay on the HP 3000. But you won't even have to do that if all you need to accomplish is an update of hardware. Choosing Stromasys and the Charon emulator is also a move off the HP 3000: the Hewlett-Packard servers and disks get left behind. New PC hardware and a Linux control center take the place of the HP iron.

The pressure to move an app depends on the need to bring it forward with new technology and more wide-ranging interfaces. When Secure FTP was a crucial transfer mechanism for data, the 3000 was often a special-needs case. HP never finished FTP for MPE/iX so it worked fully to industry standards. By now, though, FTP is yesterday's transfer technology. Managed File Transfer came of age several years ago. A 3000 app that was moved to embrace SFTP was hitting a target that moved already.

The point to remember is that the instincts that got a 3000 IT manager to their current post are still sound. Change only what brings needed value and business-competitive features. Foster's strategy says that "In 2006 there was no pressing need to migrate the [MPE/iX] application. A decade later, the pressure to ‘get off’ the HP 3000 has surely increased."

Where the pressure has become higher, the most crucial play involves moving data. More than 20 years ago, IBM was making a play to migrate 3000 systems to AS/400s. Computerworld called me to ask how I believed that'd go. "Not so good," I said at the time, "because there's all that IMAGE data that's essential to a 3000 customer. A tough move today." Migrations are easier now thanks to all the tech advances. It's business choices, though, not technology promises, that propel any migration.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:42 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2016

Tape drive changer a powerhouse for MPE

Autochanging HensAutochanging tape drives used to be the stuff of science fiction among 3000 managers, but those days passed by before HP cut off making Classic 3000 MPE V systems. Just because an autochanger is a 3000 storage option does not make it automatic to program, however.

A question posed to the community by Ideal Computer Services Ryan Melander reached for help on programmatically controlling such autochangers -- to select a slot, and load the tape and come to ready. "I am trying to configure an old DDS3 auto-changer, one that I don't believe will unload and load the next tape," he said.

Gilles Schipper noted that the command ad ldevno id=hpc1557a path=?? Mode=autoreply configures the device, and to advance tape after use, employ the command (from Devctrl.mpexl.telesup) ldev eject=enable load=online 

DAT tapesDenys Beauchemin mentioned HP's pass-through SCSI driver as a tool to drive the device's robot. The software was built by HP's labs and labeled as "not for the faint of heart" by engineers, but can assert a programmatic control over autochangers. Some third party programs such as Orbit's Software Backup+/iX can also do this work.

If ever there was a theme song for an autochanger at work, it would be a tune called Powerhouse. Children of the Fifties and Sixties will know it as soon as they hear it, if they've ever watched a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Some programming ideas came from Beauchemin, the engineer who developed at HiComp for the HiBack 3000 solution. "For the next tape to be brought online automatically, I seem to remember there had to be a special setting with the dip switches."

As for being able to control the robot itself, you definitely need to have the [HP] SCSI pass-through driver configured and loaded, and then you need a program to actually issue the IOCTL calls to the robot with the properly formatted SCSI commands. There was such a program a long time ago from a vendor, but that's all gone now.

Perhaps the high-test flutes and heavy octane horns of Powerhouse -- used in Duck Dodgers and the 24th and a Half Century -- can be put up on the MP3 player while fitting the driver to MPE. ("Oh drat these computers -- they're so naughty and so complex," says Marvin the Martian in one installment. "I could just pinch them.")

From our archives we found this advice from the late Jack Connor of Abtech, pointing to similar complex answers about controlling DDS changers.

Typically, there's a second SCSI port/address assigned for the transport control which allows the selection of specific tape. For MPE, stacker mode is typically selected, which tells the drive to just mount the next tape in line when requested. I don't know if the DDS autoloaders have a network connection available like the C7145NA DLT autoloaders do; with that device's web interface you can reload any tape, bypass a bad tape, and so on.

Back in 2011, John Pitman checked in to report that a much simpler solution to his changer's control needs popped up. "On re-examining my code for HPDEVCONTROL, I found I had catered for 1- and 2-digit device numbers in the string passed, but I had configured the drive as dev 777. This produced a string dev number of 77, which doesn't exist as a tape drive. Once I fixed this, it works like a treat."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:16 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2016

A Spring When The Web Was New to You

May 1996 Front PageTwenty years ago this month we were paying special attention to the Web. We called it the World Wide Web in May 1996, the www that does not precede Internet addresses anymore. But on the pages of the 3000 NewsWire released in this week of May, a notable integration of IMAGE and the Internet got its spotlight. We've put that issue online for the first time. The Web was so new to us that our first 10 issues were never coded into HTML. Now you can read and download the issue, and it's even searchable within the limits of Adobe's OCR.

As an application for higher education, IRIS was serving colleges in 1996 using MPE/iX. The colleges wanted this new Web thing, popular among its professors and students, to work with the 3000 applications. Thus was born IRISLink.

IRISLink is not a product that Software Research Northwest will sell to the general market. But SRN's Wayne Holt suspects that a generic version of something like it is probably being built in the basement of more than one third-party vendor for rollout at this summer's HP World meeting.

"The message traffic on the HP 3000-L Internet list shows that a lot of sites prefer the COBOL lI/IMAGE model over writing piles of new code in a nonbusiness oriented language," Holt said. "But people are telling them that won't fly in the world of the Web and - take a deep breath here - the time has come to dump their existing well-developed COBOL lI/IMAGE infrastructure on the HP 3000. Not so."

The integrators on this project made themselves big names in the next few years. David Greer convinced Holt at a face-to-face meeting at a Texas user conference where "I listened to him share his vision of what the Web would someday be in terms of a standard for access to resources and information." Chris Bartram was providing a freeware version of email software that used Internet open systems standards. Take that, DeskManager.

It was far from accepted wisdom in 1996 that the WWW would become useful to corporate and business-related organizations. Even in that year, though, the drag of COBOL II's age could be felt pulling away 3000 users from the server. An HP survey we noted on the FlashPaper pages of that issue "asks customers to give HP a 1-5 rating (5 as most important) on enhancements to COBOL II that might keep you from moving to another language." There wasn't another language to move toward, other than the 4GLs and C, and those languages represented a scant portion of 3000 programs. Without the language improvements, some 3000 customers would have to move on. 

Linking compilers with the Internet for the HP 3000 was not among the requested enhancements. The 4GL vendors were already moving to adopt this Web thing. The 3000 was still without a Web server, something that seemed important while Sun and the Windows NT bases had plenty to choose from.

HP was struggling to find enough engineers to do everything that was being proposed in a wild time of Internet growth and innovation. We complained of this in an editorial. HP would tell a customer who needed something new in 1996, "Help me build a business case for that." As in, let's be sure you'd buy it before we build it. Puh-leeze, I wrote.

One business case - a need for a product - doesn't eliminate another. Some customers need COBOL 97 support, the speed of the Merced chip and the ability to run Java native on their HP 3000s. Maybe they need the COBOL support first, Java after that, and the Merced by decade's end. There are others who need the same things but in a different priority. If CSY draws its input only from customers, they pit one set of priorities against another. I doubt this is the intent of being Customer Focused - but it's what happens when every development needs a Business Case.

HP itself was still pulling away from legacy technology: systems running corporate IT that didn't even have an HP badge on them.

For many years mainframes from IBM and Amdahl have been among the most business-critical servers in the company, and on May 17 HP will replace those systems with its own. According to reports from the Reuters news service. HP 3000 systems as well as HP's Unix systems will take the place of those mainframes. That comment came from HP's CEO Lew Platt, interviewed while on business in Asia. The mention of the HP 3000 by the company's CEO begins to fulfill at least one Proposition 3000 proposal - a higher profile for the computer system within HP's own operations.

Proposition 3000, of course, was the advocacy push launched to put the 3000 in a frame like the propositions on the California ballots of that era. Changes in the infrastructure, voted in by the constituency. Computerworld "asserted that HP had been "put on notice" during the SIGMPE meeting at San Jose in late March where the Proposition was first presented to HP management."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 06, 2016

Options for STORE You May Not Know

StorehouseSTORE is the default backup tool for every HP 3000, but this bedrock of backup has options which might exceed expectations for a subsystem utility. Gilles Schipper, the support guru of three-plus decades on the 3000, told us about a few STORE sweet spots.

To start, using the :MAXTAPEBUF option can cut a four-hour backup to three hours or less. Schipper says that increasing the buffer size default to 32K, from the usual 16K, speeds up the backup when STORE sees MAXTAPEBUF. "That's a pretty good payback for one option."

Backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete. "People should really be using the forward slash," he says, "because it's easy to accidentally omit the Posix file structure if you're not careful constructing your fileset backup." The slash is so much better that a backup specified by HP's TurboStore will replace any @.@.@ operation with "./" Combining @.@.@ with exclusions can lead to omitting files which should have been in a backup.

Schipper says that including a directory on a backup is smart, but private volumes in use on a 3000 need more than :directory as an option.

"If you're using private volumes and the directory option, you'll only get the system volume directory — and you will not get the private volume directories," he says. The backup must explicitly specify the volumes through the ONVS= command, using the long name of the private volume.

The partdb option on a STORE command ensure that any 3000 databases which are incomplete will get backed up. Without partdb, if a root file "doesn't have its corresponding data sets, the root file won't get stored. It's silly, but partdb ensures they get stored." A privileged file can also look like a partial database, so partdb brings those files into a STORE backup.

A 3000 with HP's TurboStore, rather than just the default STORE, can take advantage of the :online command. "It will give you zero downtime, if you have that version from HP," Schipper says. But that begins to drift away from the no-cost STORE options available to any HP 3000 administrator or owner.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2016

CPR for a Non-Responsive Console

On my HP 3000, after a short power blip, the console is now non-responsive. I can connect to the system's GSP port and the session is connected, but nothing is displayed. Neither <ctrl> A or <ctrl> B works. I type away, but get no response. I can then connect via VT-MGR and take the console :console !hpldevin and I receive all the console messages.

So, the messages are being sent (since I see them on the VT connection), but neither the physical console or the GSP gets any console messages. What can I try?

Gilles Schipper says

I believe a START NORECOVERY reboot is in order here. Since <ctrl> A <ctrl> B do not work, you will need to power-recycle the machine to effect a reboot. Presumably you would want to do this after gracefully stopping all jobs and asking online users to log off, if possible.

Depending upon which patch level your level of MPE is on, the :SHUTDOWN RESTART MPE command may also work from a logged-on session with at least OP capability.

Mark Ranft adds

If you haven't rebooted, I've seen similar issues. From the VT console can you try to do 'abortio 20' until it says no I/O to abort. A WHILE loop may make this easier. I've had luck with this in the past. But since Ctrl-B doesn't work, you may be out of luck.

Robert Thwaites notes

These are the simplest things to try first

<ctrl>Q (x-on)


Among the commonest issues: forgetting to do an x-on after a <ctrl>S (x-off) to stop output, so you can look at the line you are interested in. One time I saw another issue where someone had pressed <space> on the console and hadn't pressed <return>.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:37 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2016

New encrypted hardware solves aged issues

Tinned-disk-encryptionSecurity standards have advanced in IT, while HP's 3000 hardware has not. Encryption resolves a key need for data security that's a part of the HIPAA regulations. The 3000 components won't allow for full disk encryption. There's another approach. A replacement hardware solution for MPE/iX -- which is still being used in the insurance industry -- has been on the market for more than four years. In fact, the hardware is all around us.

Encryption solutions for an older 3000 hardware's data are available. FluentEdge Technologies has sold a PCI-ready solution for Ecometry sites for more than five years. A built-in full-disk approach is only an option with a fresher OS, though. We don't mean the environment powering the application; that's still MPE/iX. The control of the hardware is where such new hardware can be put into play.

Virtualizing with the Charon HPA software offers several advantages over relying on HP's hardware. Component failures are a matter of when, not if, in 15-year-old hardware. If the 3000 isn't an A- or N-Class, it's even older. Shrink-wrapping replacement drives won't look as good to security auditors as a full disk encryption of recent-model components. Newer drives include broader options.

The virtualization of the MPE/iX hardware can become an encryption strategy. Alternative methods that rely on legal defenses don't exist like they once did. A security expert friend of mine tells a story about using lawyers instead of encryption. It's a story from a different time: the era when 3000 hardware was not so old.

The certified CISSP Steve Hardwick was once involved in a HIPAA audit. After the presenting the audit results to the CIO, the next question to be resolved was remediation -- bringing the systems into compliance. The CIO’s response, Hardwick said, took advantage of an older version of HIPAA instead of newer hardware.

The CIO said that "after consulting with legal counsel, we are taking no action to mitigate the deficiencies found in the audit. They have informed us it will be cheaper to litigate than spend funds on security changes.”

That was in the early days of HIPAA. In those days, that regulation lacked teeth. To rectify this, the US government passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act for enforcement. It defines what's a breach of information. plus the responses that organizations must take after a breach. Very quickly, the cost of not putting security controls in place changed, especially due to the enforcement defined by the act.

Bringing 3000 applications into line with regulations like HIPAA and HITECH usually includes securing the healthcare data. Full disk encryption is an option if the drives are controlled at the host level by an OS other than MPE/iX. At the host level, Linux is the controlling environment in a virtualized environment. Drives in Charon, for example, are disk images in OS instances such as RedHat. Choosing virtualization can supply something to pass an audit. It's not exactly brand-new hardware, but it can be generations newer and leave the old and reliable app software in place.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:34 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2016

The Remains of Any Need for CPUNAMEing

Dress FormsEarlier this week a reseller in the 3000 market offered an N-Class 3000 with an upgraded CPU. The server's HPCPUNAME, however, reflects a slower model of the system. These names of systems are actually a part of the 3000 process that Hewlett-Packard regards as ongoing business. There are oh-so-many names of 3000 systems. In some cases, what your software sees in the name is not what you get. 

HP's support for the 3000 terminated at the end of 2010, but there are a few HP services that continue today. Name changing is among them. Steve Suraci of Pivital, which sold 3000s as an official reseller until HP stopped that sort of business, says it's a lock that HP didn't do an N-Class upgrade that doesn't have a corresponding HPCPUNAME change. "For sure HP didn’t do the upgrade," he said. Outside the lines upgrades can be a way to skip software upgrade fees.

The only thing pertinent to the current 3000 community is HP's CPU rename service. When HP did this with support engineers at a time plus materials engagement, a software-to-hardware blessing changed the HPCPUNAME and HPSUSUAN numbers for replacement 3000s. When a CPU board dies, or a system needs to be updated at a fundamental level, Hewlett-Packard still owns the only software that can transform replacement hardware into your hardware — complete with reinstated numbers that allow third-party programs to run unfettered.

This service is still available, if you insist, from HP. A server that reports it's a 550 MHz N-Class, while it's actually a 750 MHz system, could use this kind of correction. What's important, though, is whether an N-Class will be fast enough. Reporting a different HPCPUNAME can keep third party software from running. That issue can be corrected by calling the software vendor, who'd probably be glad to hear from an MPE customer.

Of course, there's always the possibility the caller is a former customer, running software which is legal but not on support. Getting an HPCPUNAME change to make the software match the hardware then becomes a courtesy—or a service extended in exchange for renewing support. "You will know me by my commitments," says one sage, and keeping a support commitment seems like a good idea if you're using third party software products for MPE/iX in 2016.

Modern budgets for homesteaders, however, sometimes don't have room to pay for application and toolset support. HP can't hold a hostage anymore by waiting for MPE/iX support ransom. It ended all support business in 2011, business the independents picked up nicely. They don't have the use of SS_CONFIG (for the system up to 900 Series vintage) or SS_UPDATE (for the ultimate models of 3000s) can cost a customer on a time and materials basis, and HP's last stated plan said it would offer these reconfigurations of stable storage for an undetermined period.

HP long ago considered its customer communication to the post-2010 community complete. "We at HP believe we have responded to and addressed all of the HP e3000 end-of-life requests our customers and partners have made in recent years," one document stated while there was a e3000 webpage at HP. Such pages are long gone now, farmed away to the archives of 404-land and the Internet Wayback Machine.

The portion of HP which continues to touch the 3000 community in perpetuity is licensing operations. Software License Transfers between HP's 3000 systems sold on the used market are still being offered through HP’s SLT organization. This SLT operation serves all of HP’s licensed products, not just the HP 3000. Transferring a license officially is still an essential step to some customers, even when they're buying a used 3000 like an N-Class. That makes full disclosure of the HPCPUNAME important.

In 2008 while those webpages were still alive, HP was candid enough to admit that only a portion of its customers would make the effort to have 3000 MPE/iX software licenses transferred. There was no support eligibility that HP could offer after 2011 in exchange for this compliance with license requirements. Customers now need to supply their own reasons to do things by the book.

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

April 25, 2016

Proving concepts leads to hardware exits

Exit-graphicThey've been called straw men, and more lately proof of concept projects. These assessment steps have often represented significant change at HP 3000 sites. Few migrations got the green light to proceed with the raw change and full-on expense without demos of replacement apps. Even when the change was limited to applications only, with no platform replacement, testing with production data was the most secure choice.

That's why the strategy sounded familiar when Stromasys hosted its first webinar in years. The company calls its assessment engagement to test Charon a proof of concept. Led by Global Accounts Manager Ray LeBrun and system engineer Darrell Wright, the talk included a note on how essential the PoC step has been to success with the Charon virtualized system.

"We're pretty confidant that if we engage in a PoC with you, then we're 99-plus percent sure Charon will work for you," LeBrun said. "We will not engage if we're not confident this is the right solution for you."

Stromasys works with a site's production data to prove the concept of giving HP's 3000 hardware an exit date. MPE/iX and the applications, and of course the data, stay in place. However, LeBrun said Charon has also been "a bridge to allow you to get to a migration. We have folks who say, "I'm only going to use that [3000] application for another two years. Well, two more years oftentimes becomes three, four, and five years."

The technology concept behind virtualization is well known by now. People are so familiar with it that LeBrun said the vendor gets asked regularly when HP-UX Integrity server virtualization via Charon is coming. The question came up in the webinar, too.

"It's not in our roadmap anywhere," LeBrun said of a Charon built to give HP's Unix hardware an exit date. "Even if it was, I probably couldn't say anything about it, but it'd certainly be viable if there was a business case for it."

A business case for migrations — either off HP's hardware, or away from an operating environment — usually gets built at a customer site only after the technology has been given an all-clear. Stromays Proof of Concepts are paid engagements, because they include vendor staff hours spent onsite, services to transfer data to the Intel-based Charon system, and training a customer's IT staff to use the software.

A five-day onsite engagement, followed by a 30-day test period, makes up a PoC. "We basically do a live install of your application [on Charon] in your environment," LeBrun said. "You're not testing for look and feel. You're testing your application with your data."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 18, 2016

A Parts Supply Non-Problem for HP's 3000

CR2032One part of Hewlett-Packard's end-game fantasy about the 3000 pointed to parts. This was a server the vendor wouldn't build after 2003, HP warned. You could not be sure your server and its essentials could be serviced -- where would the parts come from? For the last decade and more, HP's 3000 parts have come from everywhere. About the only hardware services supplier constricted by the halt in HP manufacturing of parts was -- wait for it -- HP.

While practicing the careful shrink-wrapping of HP-built replacement motherboards, disks, IO buses and power supplies, the market has shared and sold ample hardware to replace 3000 systems. One reseller reported on the 3000-L he has hundreds of HP 3000 terminals on hand and was ready to send them to the scrapper. There might be sites where HP's tubes are essential for production operations, but I hope not. The scrap heap looks like the next stop for those 700/92s.

On the other hand, there are a few consumable items that make HP's hardware hum. One is essential to smooth operation of a service processor. You can get a replacement part for this processor at your grocery store.

Craig Lalley reported this week that a customer needed their Guardian Service Processor looked after inside the HP 3000 hardware. The GSP is mighty useful for an A-Class or N-Class customer. However, it carries a battery inside that dies, like all batteries do.

14B-1989(I still have an HP 14B calculator here, given to me as a 1989 HP 50th anniversary memento, which fires up each time I press the On key. I used to think it was solar-powered. How could any batteries last 27 years? Ah, the HP of old. Perhaps those batteries came by way of a NASA supplier.) 14B Leatherette

And the GSP's battery? Lalley says it's a CR2032, a part HP installed in a commercial server that once sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Or to put it another way, without ever owning an HP 3000, I've got a replacement part for an essential 3000 subassembly sitting right here in my hutch. Right next to that 14B with its 1989 batteries.

There are good reasons why HP's hardware for MPE/iX may not be a wise very-long-term component for production computing. But a lack of parts never was a good reason back in 2002 -- and it's just a tall tale today, even if the parts are aged like fine wine.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2016

Use GSP and More for 3000 ID, control

GSP boardThere's been plenty of change in the 3000 manager's life over the last 15 years. Some of the change is a little easier by exploring the use of the Guardian Service Processor. It can help in changing the location of HP 3000 consoles from one part of a shop to another. There's even a story out there that says the identity of the HP A- and N-Class hardware resides in the GSP.

Kent Wallace, while a 3000 manager for Idaho-Oregon healthcare delivery system Primary Health, needed to move his 3000 console.

I must move the 3000 console another 10 feet farther from the rack (it's an N-Class HP 3000/N4000-100-22). What are the 3-pin positions on the wire that I need to extend its RS-232 cable?

Our blog contributing editor Gilles Schipper chipped in with a solution offering even farther movement:

If you want to extend the range of the console to anywhere on the planet (at least where there’s Internet access) you could consider the HP Secure Web Console to replace the physical console. Depending upon the condition of your physical console, this solution may also save a bit of wear and tear on your eyeballs, instead of adjusting those pins.

Schipper wrote us a great article on setting up such a web console. The GSP is quite the tool.

Former HP support engineer Lars Appel offered another take on Schipper's strategy:

While Gilles is right about the possibility of using the web console, it would probably be easier to use the already built-in dedicated LAN port of the N-Class systems that gives access to the GSP by telnet.

I prefer the “telnet console” over the “web console” because it gives more freedom in the choice of terminal emulator — whereas the web console typically lacks features like “easy cut and paste” or special key mappings (e.g. German language ;-) or something similar.

This prompted Schipper to clarify his suggestion:

Lars is absolutely right about the built-in “secure-web-console” that comes with all N-Class and all but the earliest A-Class e3000s.

And, yes, the built-in is definitely more functional, allowing cut-and-paste as well as telnet access, whereas the external variety has only Java access to it via a web browser and no cut-and-paste.

So, if one has a choice, the built-in is definitely superior and available with only proper configuration. However, the external secure web console is available for all HP 3000s, and would still be most useful where is internal secure web console is not an option.

The GSP is a powerful part of an HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. It's the maintenance control console commanding the ultimate class of the server to reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the 3000. Consultant Craig Lalley has noted the GSP has one fewer feature than its Unix counterpart, though.

"On HP-UX it is possible to reset the GSP from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."

From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services on A-Class and N-Class servers. If your 3000 gets loving care from a consultant or service provider outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep up service levels.

The GSP can also reveal the 3000's speedometer, as profiled near the bottom of an Allegro webpage.

The gap between controlling the 3000 and HP's HP-UX Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some of the administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That lack of Unix can sometimes be a good thing, however, when a security breach opens up in the Unix world.)

But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a telnet command doesn't work. You can telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset. But you can also get someone to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. It's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a magic paper clip bent just-so.

Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.

The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.

It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.

It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, this reset can be done during business hours.


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

April 13, 2016

Stromasys returns to webinar lineup April 19

The NaturalEmulation and virtualization vendor Stromasys returns to the web airwaves next week with an event that examines the return on investment for its Charon family of software products, including its HP 3000 model HPA. The event begins at 11 AM EST for US viewers, 5 PM CEST for Euro IT managers. 

The company last did a webinar for the 3000 market in 2012. At the time, Charon HPA was still a nascent product, without the portfolio of success stories and case studies it's built in the 3000 market. The previous show explained the concepts and demonstrated administration and management of the software. The April 19 event will reach for more strategic perspectives, but will include a technical angle, too.

Worldwide Strategic and Global Accounts manager Ray LeBrun will be joined by Systems Engineer Darrell Wright on the one-hour webinar. Doug Smith is the HP 3000 product manager for the company. Smith is managing a limited-time discount offer on Stromasys services for Proof of Concept and full integration of Charon HPA.

The company promises the webinar will offer

An overview of legacy system pain points and the difficulties businesses like yours may encounter as they determine how to move forward with their legacy systems. Learn how your organization can improve the ROI of your legacy systems while also minimizing risks of unplanned downtime.

Stromasys says that space is limited for the webinar. The event includes information for Digital and Sun systems as well as the 3000. Registration is online, which yields a confirming email that provides login instructions for the GoToWebinar event.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:48 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 11, 2016

Yes, Virginia, there is MPE at the Terminal

VIT logoOne of the first HP 3000 migration success locations might have hung on to an MPE/iX app since its story was introduced by the vendor. A lively discussion popped up last week when Don Seay asked on the 3000-L mailing list about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualizer software. The chatter included updates on the work to cross the 2027 hurdle for MPE/iX use, as well as reports on the speediest settings for Charon.
VIT photo

Seay was emailing from an address at, the legacy location of Virginia International Terminals. It's the port authority for all shipping in Norfolk, Newport News and environs. A shiny website handles just about all of the data requests at But there's still data being fed to, and Seay's request seems to hint that an application continues to work there. We're checking in with him.

Taking a full-on approach to a migration is a typical opening strategy, but there are sometimes good technical reasons why apps remain on 3000 hardware. This didn't seem likely when we first heard about the 3000 and VIT in 2002. HP was promoting the practices and concept of retiring 3000s during that time, the first full year after Hewlett-Packard's announcement it would leave the 3000 marketplace.

VIT’s assistant IT director at the time, Clark Farabaugh, said at HP World 2002's migration roundtable the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.” That summer, IT began to migrate at VIT. The organization took delivery of a HP 9000 rp8400 server to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” We took note of the report of 13 years ago.

The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The IT director said the migration project will take 12 to 18 months to complete using the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.

Even though Farabaugh described TurboIMAGE as “the fastest database I’ve ever seen,” it was moving toward using Oracle on its migrated system. Three IT staffers — VIT said it was doing all the work in-house — were trained in database admin for Oracle.

Yes Virginia editorialA baker's dozen years later, it's a surprise to see that perhaps something on MPE has continued to lift bits of the cargo of terminal data at VIT. A datacenter manager and IT execs do need to keep everything online, though. If a 3000 survived the HP-UX shift for this long, it's bound to have a better reason than "we don't really want to change things."

Does MPE/iX still exist in the field? Some in your community feel that asking about that is akin to asking about Santa Claus. But yes, at Virginia, it seems there's still MPE at the Terminal. If we're reading the messages right, it's doing more than a fairy, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:38 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 08, 2016

Hardware's emulation puts software at ease

MirrorIn the earliest days of the 3000's Transition Era, advocates for MPE/iX formed the OpenMPE user group. But the first campaign for these engineers (and a few businesspeople) was for the emulation of MPE itself. The ideal was that if MPE/iX source code could be turned over to the community -- since HP had no real interest in the future of the 3000 -- then the OS and its subsystems would be pushed onto newer hardware.

The ideal was open source for MPE/iX. That campaign assumed plenty of change was in the future of 3000-based software. The reality that formed about compatibility of software is illustrated in the everyday experience of Charon users.

One checked in this month with a summary of how smooth his software slipped into the Charon HPA environment. The emulation that paid off was virtualizing the RISC hardware. The caliber of the solution made things easy for Jeff Elmer.

I can say that since what is emulated is the PA-RISC hardware and not MPE, it seems unlikely that there would be any software incompatibilities.  Everything we use (multiple third-party tools plus in-house COBOL/IMAGE software systems) just worked.  It really was true that no one would have noticed a difference unless we told them.

The single item that we had to modify was in our backup job stream.  We had a tape rewind command in the job that was no longer needed and which the emulator at that point (in 2013) did not understand.  The "fix" took less than 60 seconds when I removed that clause from the job.

The report was sparked by a question about whether the Speedware 4GL suite was in production in a Charon site.

In summary, I would expect Speedware to work without incident but I couldn't speak to what combination would provide optimal performance (that is, which class HP 3000 should be emulated or what physical hardware should be under it). We spent a long time testing the emulator without charge before we proceeded with the purchase. I would think the possibility exists that Stromasys would extend a similar courtesy to you so that you could find out first hand with your data in your environment.

In fact, there's a Proof of Concept arrangement that Stromasys uses today to introduce its product for this kind of evaluation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:02 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 06, 2016

Stromasys reports aim at speed, and help

InstrumentsThe fine art and craft of tuning an Intel-based server to mimic HP's 3000 hardware has evolved. The Charon HPA emulator has been in production shops for more than three years. In the beginning, the software's demands on hardware were outlined in a table of preferred servers. Or in calls to a product manager. The latter has always produced more robust performance than the former. A recent string of messages on the 3000-L showed why. They also showed that a 3000 jobset that ran three times faster, after "setting power management to dynamic."

Performance tips on the L about selecting and tuning for the best hardware have included the following advice

Set other settings for performance
System Isochronous Mode enabled
Hyper-thread off or 1
Turbo-boost enabled
c-states enabled
Intel Speed Step enabled

If this set of instructions doesn't make much sense to a prospective user, it illustrates why Charon HPA is a fully-guided product by now. Customers and prospects buy services from Stromasys to deploy this solution. There's no other way. Downloadable freeware copies left the marketplace last year.

Emulating a legacy hardware server to run enterprise-grade applications is not a hobbyist's mission. Stromasys product manager Doug Smith says the customers have been better served with engineering-driven integration insights. He's got success statistics to prove it.

The nuances of installing and integrating Charon for the success include networking deployment advice. Ray Legault, a systems manager at Boeing, shared these insights when another manager asked him about the impact of networks on Charon.

I did not perform any tests over the network. My actual servers are 1,800 miles away. In Linux, I make sure my ETH1 is set correctly.

ethtool -K eth1 rx off tx off sg off gso off gro off txvlan off rxvlan off

To avoid having to redo every time you reboot, just add this line to the bottom of the ethtool file:

post-up ethtool -K eth1 gso off gro off

So it looks clear that knowing Linux's ethtool will be an essential skill of integrating Charon, too. Expert services are now crucial for the product. That's why it's become a solution for the serious user, one trying to eliminate the need for 15-year-old HP hardware.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:30 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2016

Working to Set MPE's Future to Forever

AbacusWhen a 3000 manager asked about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, the question evolved quickly. In just a few hours, MPE experts were talking about how long the OS could keep running. The detour of the 2027 CALENDAR intrinsic came up. It turns out the community experts are already working on that.

Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative, whose success story with Charon was part of our 2014 reporting, told the readers of the 3000-L that he's pleased with the way the Stromasys product cut out HP's MPE/iX hardware. The words "run MPE forever" were part of his message.

We used HP's 3000 hardware for 30 years. We've been using the HPA3000 emulator in production since December 2013. Our users would have never known the difference if we had not told them.

We had a 969KS 100 and went to a 2-CPU A-Class on the emulator. Performance is essentially identical but all concerns about "ancient" hardware went away. (Our RAID array hard drives were older than our web developers). Charon is running on a 1U "off the shelf" Proliant server under the Red Hat Linux environment (if we didn't have a DLT8000 and a DDS tape drive attached to it, all that it would take up in the rack would be the 1U). We run our disaster recovery version of the emulator in another location under VMware on OmniCube hardware, although we have never used it for anything other than testing.

Forever"Based on our experiences we would recommend it to anybody," Elmer said. "You could run MPE forever with this setup and over time your performance would only improve as you put newer, faster hardware under it." Whoa, forever? It's the promise of virtualized servers that emulate antique hardware. But MPE/iX has that calendar problem that'll rear up at the end of 2027, right? Not so fast there, said one MPE expert.

When Denys Beauchemein said that forever really meant December 31, 2027, Robelle's Neil Armstrong begged to differ. "That doesn’t stop the system from running, and a lot of issues can be handled at the application level quite easily," he said.

There are people working on such things at the OS level. I’ve been reducing the dependency on CALENDAR in all our software as well. By reducing the number of calls to CALENDAR, this helps mitigate the impact, of course, and adding options to change the result of a call to CALENDAR directly after a call are being considered.

It is an interesting problem.

Beauchemein retorted with the viewpoint of the IT manager who needs to be away from MPE/iX, since it's old.

That is fantastic news. Now I need to find my abacus and see if I can get them to refurbish it along with my slide rules.

Has anyone here even booted a 3000 for December 31, 2027 and see what goes on at the virtual stroke of midnight? Unfortunately, I do not have one handy.

All that Armstrong could offer in reply about a Jan. 1, 2028 bootup was "Yes, it’s been done. Nothing catastrophic happens."

He is right, nothing catastrophic happens. But what does happen?

SETCLOCK allows a manager to revise such a future date and time, but only up to December 31, 2027. It won't accept a higher date; it reports "out of range" if you try. MPE/iX continues to run. After midnight SHOWTIME will give the wrong result, year 1900. But if your application doesn't care about a time stamp (which is unlikely in a business computer) this doesn't matter. SHOWTIME will show Jan. 1, 1900. If days of the week matter, by setting the system date to Y2K, the day of the week will align with the correct day for 2028.

One of the sharpest of the MPE minds, Vladimir Volokh -- who co-created MPEX -- has given us a deep dive on that set of CALENDAR problems. He reports he's done that 2027 boot 10 years ago. In our conversations, his opinion has been that someone in the community will find a way to reroute MPE/iX to a future in 2028 and beyond, relying on current dates.

Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir added when we talked about this a few years ago. MPEX can do operations with dates—because unlike COBOL, or even the first language of MPE, SPL, MPEX has a DATE datatype. "If you have MPEX," he said, and here we could hear a wink, "and who doesn’t—DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."

Last week's exchange on 3000-L shows there's already work underway on getting beyond 2028. The thing about an abacus is that it does still work. Ours hasn't needed to be refurbished since we bought it in 1989. Unlike an abacus, MPE/iX has a purpose for being an everyday tool when the software has close ties to specialized business logic. It has a better reason to keep working forever—however you define that timeframe.

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

March 30, 2016

Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch

Wheaties 3000This month marked the 150th anniversary of General Mills, the benevolent cereal giant that started its business just after the Civil War milling flour. The maker of Wheaties, Gold Medal Flour and Play Doh, the company known as the Big G got a rousing eight minutes of celebration on the CBS Morning News this weekend. When the report turned to Wheaties, it triggered a memory of one special era for the HP 3000. MPE/iX once managed a giant boxcar-load of operations for the food company, a firm so large it acquired fellow 3000 customer Pillsbury in a 2000 deal that teamed century-old rivals to make the world's fourth-largest food company.

Powerhouse was an essential part of the Pillsbury legacy, but the reach of the 3000 was even deeper at General Mills. Mark Ranft, who operates the Pro 3K consultancy, said his time at the Big G covered the years when core corporate functions were controlled by a fleet of 3000s.

"I was the system admin for all the HP 3000s at General Mills," Ranft said. "At one time they had 30 systems.They were used for plant, logistics, warehouse management and distribution applications. We had a proprietary network called hyper channel that allowed fast communications between IBM mainframe, Burroughs (Unisys), DEC and the HP 3000 systems."

It was an era where the 3000 community dreamed of earning attention from Hewlett-Packard, as well as enterprises which were considering Unix. The 90s were the period when HP-UX vs. MPE was in full flame inside HP as well as among customers. In 1993 Hewlett-Packard ran an ad in Computerworld and InformationWeek touting the use of the 3000 at General Mills. One of the best pieces of HP advertising about its longest-tenured business system, the ad captured the flavor of the cereal giant.

It also helped us on the way to another anniversary being celebrated this month. Ranft dropped us a congratulations, along with other 3000 lovers, on the 21st anniversary of the first stirrings of the NewsWire. "I am so happy that you have done this for us for all these years," he wrote us. Growing notice of the large customers of the 3000 pushed Abby and I to start a business plan, project revenues, and research readership and sponsors during March, 1995.

General Mills was glad to point the way to lifting the 3000 into a higher rank than Unix. In the period where The Unix Hater's Handbook was making the rounds, IT Manager Mike Meinz booted out HP-UX from General Mills' datacenters after a brief fling. In language of the era, Computerworld said that General Mills "tried Unix, but it did not inhale."

"There is a panacea of thought that you have to have Unix," Meinz said in the article. "You don't have to have Unix."

Cheerio ComputerworldGeneral Mills went so far as to pull an HP 9000 out of the IT lineup and move its warehousing application over to its HP 3000s. The company was just into the process of converting those Classic 3000s to PA-RISC models. The vendor was taking steps to position the 3000 as a less-proprietary choice. "Not only is the HP 3000 open," Meinz said in the ad, "but it's an excellent, easy-to-use transaction-processing system for business-critical operations."

The headline that provided too-rare coverage of the 3000 in Computerworld enjoyed a joke at the expense of Unix. "Cheerio to Unix, cereal giant says," noting that the 9000 was chosen at first because it was the only platform that could host a preferred warehouse system. General Mills bought the source code for the application and did the porting. "What followed became a testimonial to MPE's portability," the article said. Meinz said he had anticipated the porting project would take six months, but it only took two. And much of that time was spent developing enhancements rather than actually porting it."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:10 PM in History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2016

Putting a CPUNAME on HPSUSAN's profile

The MPE is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by ownership of an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX. When a copy of MPE is moved onto a Charon virtualized server, it must come from one that's been assigned to one of HP's 3000s. 

SusanWe reached out for clarity about this when a major manufacturer was looking into replacing HP's 3000 iron with Charon licenses on Intel systems. After the MPE/iX software is turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.

So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the Charon emulator? Mc Rae explained.

The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist. 

In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.

However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the Charon emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.

The U in HPSUSAN stands for Unique, as in System Unique Serially Assigned Number. Mc Rae said that HPSUSAN is one of a kind for HP-built 3000 systems. But SUSAN doesn't designate an MPE/iX license, even though MPE is licensed via hardware ownership. 

Mc Rae explained to us, and to any Charon prospective user, "MPE hardware and software was created before the technology of  virtual systems and emulators, in the 1970s. Licenses were based on hardware ownership."

This sounds familiar. HP once compared the licensing of MPE/iX to license plates issued for a car. They could not be separated, these numbers and the car that was the HP 3000 iron. (Let's just put aside the common practice of those metal-plate days, when they'd give you a new number after your plate was older than 8 years in Texas.)

In 1999, HP was busy suing Hardware House and a few other resellers over the resellers' separation of HPSUSANs from HP's 3000 hardware cars. The House was taking other PA-RISC servers and pressing valid HPSUSAN numbers onto the non-3000 iron. People went to jail. Lo-jacks were ordered for ankles.

Thanks to the passage of 17 years' time, an HPSUSAN number can now move to a USB thumb drive plugged into a Charon Intel- or AMD-based server. Those license plates can travel to a newer model of car. The emulator's HPCPUNAME, however, can only be designated as an A-Class or N-Class system, according to HP's knowledge. That'll likely be a reason to contact all software vendors whose products operate on the replaced HP 3000 iron.

You see, vendors use a combo of HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME to control licensing. Products such as Infor's MANMAN or PowerHouse not only want to read HPSUSAN -- which you can move to Charon  -- but also HPCPUNAME. If you're moving off a Series 979, for example, "979-100" isn't an emulated system under Charon. No 979-100 for HPCPUNAME. You've got to get license permission from your software vendors to enable an A-Class or N-Class HPCPUNAME.

The HPCPUNAME on the Charon system may not be set to 979, Mc Rae said. "Based on the Charon HPA/3000 family, it is assumed that the HPCPUNAME will be set to an A-Class or N-Class CPUNAME," she said. "For example: HPCPUNAME = SERIES e3000/A500-200-50. As far as I know, Charon can only emulate A- and N-Class systems." That's true: a Series 9xx model isn't on the HPA/3000 product list.

The silver lining in this cloud is that you're only doing this contacting and CPUNAME-changing once. Moving to an A-Class or faster CPU from a 9x9 system is the last time you'll be changing from an unsupported CPUNAME to something included in the Charon product line. 

In short, independent software vendors are going to have to be contacted, if they've licensed their products with the HPCPUNAME-HPSUSAN combo on a Series 9xx. Contacting your software vendors about a system upgrade is a fair business practice. But it's more than the right thing to do. Series 9xx users headed to the emulator look like they need that refresh to boot up their indie software.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:05 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2016

Free software worth the time to track it down

It's entertaining and heartening to discover someone who's new to the HP 3000 and MPE. Fresh users tend to run in the hobbyist lanes of the IT race these days. Sometimes, however, they can ask questions that uncover values for the existing managers of the MPE server.

FreeThat's been the case with Michael Kerpan. He's just discovered the new freeware simh emulator engine for creating MPE V Classic HP 3000s. Kerpan is just pursuing this as a hobby project. "I'm not retired, but I'm also not in the IT business at the moment," said, "though I do maintain my SF club's library catalog server, which is a Linux box."

On the HP 3000 front, his box is a Windows server running simh, but Kerpan wants more than just the stock MPE V Fundamental Operating System to use. Kerpan specifically asked about the old Interex Contributed Software Library. The CSL started out as a swap-tape built from reel tapes that attendees at conferences brought along. Drop off the programs you wrote on your reel -- or eventually, DAT tape -- and pick up a compilation of such contributed software when the conference adjourned.

The CSL dropped off the radar of the 3000 community once Interex went bankrupt. The collection of programs wasn't even listed in the organization's bankruptcy assets. In some places out in the community CSL tapes still exist, but trading them hasn't been a compelling pasttime. However, MPE contributed software, now called open source and freeware, still exists. Knowing where to track it down is often worth the effort, if managing a 3000 is still your job.

The biggest sources of contributed freeware live on three servers with public access: 3k Associates, Client Systems, and Fresche Legacy (formerly Speedware). The first company is an Internet-savvy company from as far back as the early 1990s; its founder Chris Bartram wrote the first non-HP email application, NetMail/3000. The 3k website has dozens of programs.

In terms of number of programs, the Client Systems-Speedware servers are right in the running. They're the licensed sites for HP's former Jazz public server content. About two dozen or so programs, plus some UDCs and scripts, are available for downloading. Without a doubt the Speedware server is better organized and uses a cleaner interface. HP forced these companies to install a vast EULA on the front end of these collections. You must click through it each time you access. Annoying, but just about toothless by now.

Other locations for freeware include Allegro Consultants and Beechglen. Those companies include products they've built to sell and use in their own labs work. Some of the for-sale titles have gone free now there's less market for 3000 software. There's also freeware available through AICS Research, the QCTerm free terminal emulator. A 3000 Classic emulator in software, attached to an emulator of the HP 2392 terminal, represents the ultimate in live-forever status for the legacy of MPE. It's something like the mighty state that Gandalf occupied once his body -- that hardware -- was gone forever.

Live-forever is also a promise of the Stromasys Charon emulator for the final generation of up-to-date 3000 boxes. As for the CSL, it's bound to live forever, but in locations as mythic as anything in Lord of the Rings. Perhaps we'll see a return of the king of contributed software.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:42 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2016

Big files get zipped, moved on HP 3000s

ZipperA computer manager who's new to the HP 3000 is looking for CSL files this week. The Contributed Software Library is just an oasis to this IT veteran, something shimmering in his future that holds a highly useful thicket of utilities and more.

Someone in the 3000 community is bound to connect our new user with this CSL, for one reason: he's looking for MPE V programs to supplement his discovery of the emulated Classic HP 3000, simh. That's the MPE V-ready version of a virtual HP 3000: what amounts to a CISC skin for a 3000 on top of the simh code. Whenever the newbie connects with a CSL resource, if they've got their files on a 3000 they're bound to need to send about 24MB to him. That's going to require zipping them.

The act of zipping to compress for a transfer is an essential in 3000 management. Although the code for compressing files on HP 3000s is more than a decade old, like a lot of things on the system, it continues to work as expected.

Tracy Johnson, who manages the Invent3K server operated by OpenMPE, noted he's using the MPE/iX Posix shell's compress and uncompress. "It creates a file that ends in capital Z. Seems the compressed format is compatible with both GNU-zip and Winzip programs or any other Unix/Linux machine."

Lars Appel, who ported the Samba file sharing tool to MPE, offers a comprehensive answer. He points to an HP 3000 Web starter software kit that resides on a development server, open to the public.

Lars explained in a post a few years ago:

You can pick up the InfoIP zip/unzip programs (in a tar file) at my area in the Infocorp server. The link in that webpage that contains the zip/unzip programs is


Transfer it to the 3000 in bytestream or (fixed) binary format and then unpack with :/bin/tar "-xvzopf FILENAME". Place the two programs where you like; I typically have them in /usr/local/bin or (with uppercase filename) in a group or directory that is part of my HPPATH settings.

The webpage also contains a tar.Z file with /usr/local/bin/gzip


(gzip -d decompresses; creating a symbolic link gunzip is also useful)

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:04 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 14, 2016

Upgrade bargains on 3000s remain in play

FilenesAlthough the prices on the systems remain on the slide, there are still customers in the US who look to beef up their HP 3000 hardware from time to time. 

"We still have units that are licensed and salable," said Pivital Solutions' president Steve Suraci. "We still have customers occasionally looking to upgrade."

Prices for even the largest of HP's MPE system line are being quoted below $10,000, and in some locations, a deeper discount than that. Like the goods sold in the basement at the legendary Filene's, the word cheaper comes to mind—because the pedigree of each 3000 system's MPE license is sometimes the most important element. (Healthy disks are pivotal, too.)

Bonafide machines have valid HPSUSANs. It's essential for moving MPE apps and utilities during an upgrade. In the scruffiest days of the 3000 resale history, HPSUSANs were being slapped onto HP's L-Class hardware with rogue software, making a 3000 out of a cheap 9000. People went to jail over that episode from the end of the 1990s.

But even a valid HPSUSAN is not the same thing as a proof of license. A continuous chain of ownership paper trail makes for a fully-licensed system. Such a license can be important to the customers who care about keeping auditors happy. That level of validation isn't required for a support contract, though, since HP's long been out of of the MPE/iX business.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:03 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2016

New 3000 simulator looks back, not ahead

Hp2112bCommunity members on the 3000-L newsgroup have been examining a new entry in the emulation of HP hardware. However, this simulator creates a 3000 under Windows that only runs MPE V. The MPE version of SIMH — a "highly portable, multi-system simulator" — is a Classic 3000 simulation, not something able to run PA-RISC applications or software.

Some 3000 users are embracing this software though, maybe in no small part because it's free. It's been more than 15 years since HP supported MPE V and the CISC-based systems that launched the 3000 line starting in 1972. One of the experts in PA-RISC and MPE/iX computing, Stan Sieler, briefed us on what this freeware simulator can do, and what it cannot  — in addition to not running MPE/iX.

Currently only Charon from Stromasys runs PA-RISC. Thus, the SIMH runs only the Classic HP 3000. At the moment, it’s an old version of MPE V (Q-MIT, release E.01.00)

And, the machine probably has no networking support. It probably has some kind of serial datacomm support, but I haven’t looked at that yet (all my use has been via the simulated console, LDEV 20).

I’ve put several hundred CM programs on the “machine” to see which will load and run. Many won’t, because they use newer features (e.g., FLABELINFO intrinsic which came out on the T-MIT with the Mighty Mouse).

So, you ask, can you put a newer version of MPE V on the emulated 3000?

The answer is, I don’t know. If I recall correctly, the machine isn’t emulating (yet) the “Extended Instruction Set,” but the authors claim MPE has a run-time emulator for them, so perhaps that won’t be a problem.

It comes with a version of MPE V, if you download the two packages that the release notes file mentions.

It’s fast. On my Mac, it runs CPU bound stuff about twice as fast as a 400 MHz HP 3000 would.

This is classic software running on classic hardware, so it's strictly for the hobbyist. Or someone who still has MPE V apps running their company. The software is downloadable from Trailing Edge in a pre-compiled .exe file.

The discussion has already generated 40 messages on the 3000-L, easily the biggest discussion of the year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:55 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2016

Powerhouse MPE futures clouded in silence

Unicom GlobalUsers of Powerhouse have a mailing list, much like the one that HP 3000 owners and managers have enjoyed for decades. Powerhouse-L has traffic on several flavors of the Cognos creations. It's that range of product platforms that gives readers a chance to compare.

The news for MPE users of Powerhouse is that there is no news. This isn't a fresh take on the future of Powerhouse, Quiz, and the other products like Axiant which remain in use in the homesteading marketplace. Ken Langendock, a consultant in the market, asked on Powerhouse-L about the future of the products. He added that getting a response from Unicom Global, the owner of the products, has been difficult for his boss. It's not a good sign when a customer cannot get multiple calls returned.

Langendock was plain-spoken about which Powerhouse he needed an update for. A webcast from the vendor on March 4 didn't include Powerhouse futures by the 30-minute mark, so he pulled the plug on his viewing. He said MySQL support was high on his list of needs.

"The HP version to me is dead," he said. "I expect nothing more to happen on that version." That tracks with the reality of 2016 management from Unicom. When the software changed hands at the start of 2014, hope for changes to licensing and features rose in the MPE user base, but not for very long. Unicom owns scores of products by now, using a model that runs smoothly for Infor, owners of MANMAN.

Ownership of a product includes a paid support option, but not much will change for the 3000 world. An update from Bob Deskin, longtime Powerhouse product manager who consulted with Unicom in 2014, made no mention of MPE/iX after he reported his contact with Unicom.

We've reached out to Russ Guzzo, who heads the company's communications efforts and led the integration of Powerhouse into the company, but didn't get a reply to our question about, as Landendock put it, "doing something with Powerhouse."

"They assure me that they are continuing to develop and support PowerHouse," Deskin said. "I’m told that they are in catch-up mode because of the volume of support issues that have been reported."

They asked me to pass on the following concerning current releases which tells me that they are indeed continuing to develop and support PowerHouse.

For PowerHouse 4GL and Web, the current Windows version is 8.41U, and for Axiant 4GL, 3.4u. They support Windows Server 2012, MS SQL 2012, and Oracle 12c.

For PowerHouse 4GL and Web on Unix and Linux, the current version is 8.43G build 3350.101.It supports RHEL 7 and Oracle 12c. This is still a G version because they couldn’t find anyone to beta test the U version. It is a fully branded UNICOM version and is compatible with the Windows 8.41U and Axiant 3.4U even though it might seem otherwise. They still plan to have an 8.43U version soon.

The OpenVMS current version is still 8.40G and while 8.40U is still planned,  there are major support issues on this platform.

If you'd like more information, here are the contacts:

UNICOM client services department at: or call 818-838-0606

For technical questions (may require an active support agreement):, or call within the US toll free 800-866-6224; outside the US 973-526-3888

I’ve always found that providing support to UNICOM customers has always been their top priority.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2016

3000-L breaks silence with DTC primer

DTC NetworkOn the verge of four weeks without a new message, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup delivered a primer on the control of DTCs on MPE/iX networks. A longtime contributor to the community set up a question about using these venerable devices that connected HP's terminals and other devices to a 3000.

I have multiple HP 3000s sharing one DTC.  My problem is, which one controls the DTC?  In the event of  a power cycle, there is a race between them for which 3000 will download the new configuration.  I need system A, my A-Class, to be in charge. However, systems B or C are most likely to download first, leaving me with the manual step of unplugging the network from B and C, power-cycling the DTC, and then waiting for the A-Class to download the configuration. Is there anything that can be done to just leave the A-Class in charge?

Tracy Johnson replied, "It's always been a crap shoot. I'm of the opinion the first HP 3000 to notice the DTC needs downloading will do the job. Which usually means the less busy machine." As it was just the first answer on the newsgroup, there was still a need to do unplugging.

"For example," he added, "if you have a test machine on the side nobody's using, I would simply unplug the test machine's network cable until the DTC was reset. Since there will be no other machine in control, the regular machine will do the download.  When complete, I'd plug the network cable back into the test machine. However if both machines are in production and you have users active on both, you'll have to make a decision."

Lalley came back with an answer of his own, at least to eliminate the travel from chair to server.

"On the DTC's I guess it could be possible to do it without leaving your chair, if you TELNET to the console on B and CDTCCNTRL (has to be run from the physical console)  to stop the DTC subsystem, then restart it."

Mark Ranft at Pro3k had another idea.

Back in the good old days, we used DTC Switching - a feature that allowed a DTC prompt to appear at a terminal.  The user entered 'C HPA' to connect to host HPA.  I believe you could set a default system.  Initially DTC Switching was only available if you configured and downloaded the DTC using OpenView DTC Manager software running on a PC.  Later HP set up NMMGR to allow DTC Switching.

The Communicator for that release may have more details, but I only entered the MAC of the DTC on the one system that was supposed to download the DTC.  The other systems would have the DTC name, but not the MAC.  This allowed the system to have printers and other devices accessible on the DTC without concerns about which one downloaded the configuration.

Of course, the location of that MPE Communicator took all of 41 minutes to dig up. Barry Lake pointed at HP documentation (now hosted outside HP's baffling website) that covers Enhanced Host-Based DTC Management Functionality in Chapter 3. Plus, a manual on Configuring and Managing Host-Based X.25 Links.

Not too shabby for a mailing list that's more than 20 years old, but still manned by dozens of experts. It's the kind of expertise a good third party support provider offers—as usual, better than HP's today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2016

21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L

Right_WirelessTelegraphThe slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.

However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.

"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."

Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.

"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."

Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.

"I left my previous employer in Boise and I moved to a Microsoft shop, whose mainframe was HP-UX," Wallace said. "However, in 2015 we migrated off HP-UX and onto SQL Server on Microsoft Server 2008. We do health insurance and the purchased software, Trizzeto, was moved to MS SQL servers."

Another registered user keeps up with the community, but he can imagine a future where he'd be back on the MPE/iX front lines. "We're totally out of the 3000 business," said Ted Johnson of Wake Forest University, adding a sad-face emoji. "But I love seeing the 3000-L posts and keeping up. Who knows — maybe they'll get rid of me one of these days, and I'll end up back on a 3000."

The 3000-L, hosted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where the late Jeff Kell launched it the early 1990s, holds more than two decades of traffic. 10 years ago the list was big enough to measure a signal-to noise-ratio, but by now it's almost entirely signal. When John Burke was a monthly columnist for the NewsWire who summarized its content in net.digest, he rounded up the following help in just one month's communications. For a 3000 owner managing a homesteading shop, the 3000-L's tips still carry some value.

Quick Cuts

• Do you want to know when a particular account or group was created? LISTACCT and LISTGROUP are no help. But “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME,3” for the account or “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME /GROUPNAME,3” for the group tell all. And then some.

• The number of sectors reported by the REPORT command for a group or groups is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes very inaccurate. Running the program FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and issuing the SYNCACCOUNTING command will fix this problem.

• In case you were wondering, despite many requests for the enhancement, TurboStore will NOT append store sets to tape. Well, it might if you use the proper incantations, but it is unsupported and highly dangerous because under certain circumstances you could overwrite a previous backup without knowing.

• Speaking of things you cannot do that you might like to do, the ALLOW command is not persistent across sign-ons unless you use the extremely dangerous “ALLOW @.@; commands” version. This is another example of an enhancement that has been requested for years, but now will never happen. Fortunately, there are a number of options, for sale and free (MPEX, CSL, etc.).

• CI integer variables are signed 32-bit entities. So be careful if you are doing some wild arithmetic in your CI scripts.

• Here is a little trick when using Apache’s indexing (for example to keep track of documentation) to index file displays. You can override the default ascending sort by name by appending “?N=D” to the url. Instructions on changing Apache’s default behavior are available on the Web.

• If you are trying to program VPlus applications and are interested in working examples programmed in your favorite language, look in the group HP32209.HPPL89 (which should be on every FOS tape). This group contains source code for the ENTRY program in a variety of languages including COBOL, Fortran, Basic and Pascal.

• To see the firmware (aka PDC) Revision of a system (CPU): Run cstm, and at the cstm > prompt, type ‘map’ and note the Dev Num of a CPU and then type ‘sel dev DEV_NUM’ (e.g., ‘sel dev 41’) and then type ‘info’ and then type ‘il’ and look at the output for the ‘PDC Firmware Revision’. Easy, huh? Thanks to Guy Paul of HP for this tip.

• SPFXFER will allow you to write to disk (undocumented “feature/bug”). But don’t do it, because SPFXFER cannot read the disk file it creates! Doing this could lead to a big oops.

• While it would certainly be a nice to have, MPE/iX CI scripts have no provision for inline comments. Sorry, don’t even bother trying.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:01 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 24, 2016

Bringing a First 3000 Love Back to Life

Antiques RoadshowStories of HP 3000 longevity are legend. Less than 10 years ago, Paul Edwards could report on a Dallas-area customer who was running a Series 70 system in production. Paul was circumspect about who the lucky company was — lucky because they were still leveraging a system HP stopped selling in the late 1980s.

Area-code-716-new-york-mapWe heard from a longtime 3000 lover in Buffalo recently who wants to turn back the calendar on his Series 42 system. By his system, we mean that literally: Matthew Bellittiere took personal possession of the same system which he learned MPE upon in the early 1980s. The 42 was a server that considered a DDS tape drive an upgrade. Reel to reel was the standard backup peripheral for any computer HP first sold during the early half of the 1980s. HP gave the Series 42 its debut in 1983.

Series 42Bellittiere waited awhile to rekindle his old flame. About 20 years ago, he took the Series 42 into his home, but only this month is he working on getting it up to speed. A system that is 30-plus years old, that hasn't been started in 10 years: some might think this is scrap, or worse. But listening to his request, we hear a man who's finding a long ago sweetheart, rescued from the mists of time.

This HP Series 42 is the first HP mini mainframe that I started on around 30+ years ago. I arranged many updates over its active life. Some of the updates include increasing the memory by exchanging the 1/2 meg cards with 1-meg boards. I upgraded to the HP670H disc drives, and also to the DDS tape drive. In 1996 the company upgraded to a Series 947, and HP did not want the 42 back. It was going to scrap, so I requested it and it was given to me. I have had it ever since with plans to get it up and running.

I had to ask: Is the Series 42 project a hobby, or a work system? "Yes," Bellittiere admitted, "it is more of a project for me." But he needs the help of MPE V experts in our community to bring his old flame back to life.

Bellittiere understands there are special procedures required for a server whose discs are its newest parts (circa 1990, so 25 years old already). "My first question: does it need any special treatment before powering up?" he asks. "I think any internal memory will have been lost long ago. It has been at least 8 to 10 years since being powered up."

The components that die soonest in a 3000 are usually the power supply and the internal battery, although the disks are often not far behind. "I am not sure of the power up routine — can you help with some ideas?" I said we knew some 3000 experts with MPE V, CISC-generation hardware savvy. He replied with some hopeful praise aimed at his community.

"I am glad that you are still out there. I would not know who else could help me."

The Series 42 was a noble steed, one of the genuine workhorses of the 3000 line. HP used it like a team of draft horses in its labs. I took a tour of the company's disk drive manufacturing plant in the late 1980s — in the days when HP still built some of the world's most dependable drives in the industry, in Boise, Idaho. A wall stacked with Series 42s was doing burn-in testing for the 7973 drives that were already a mainstay in 3000 shops. At five-plus years already, the Series 42s looked like tiny tugboats, computing craft like ships whose decks was peeling but whose hulls were still buoyant.

I hope there's an MPE lover out there who's got advice for Bellittiere. The wisecracks are easy enough about boat anchors or semiautomatic target practice. People said the same thing about F-150 pickup trucks for awhile, too. My son Nick bought his first F-150 right after cut its lines on the 3000, when that truck was 22 years old, an age Nick hadn't yet achieved himself. People live and work in our world who find old tech a delight. Send your help and advice to Matthew via email, or at 716-536-3298. Let him see a colon prompt from a server introduced before fax machines were common office tools.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:56 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)