July 30, 2015

TBT: HP Image goes dead. Long live IMAGE

88 Summer GamesIt was 1988, and Adager co-creator Adager Alfredo Rego had already skied for Guatemala in the Winter Olympics. Months later, with the Summer Olympics at hand, Hewlett-Packard killed off development of a new database for the HP 3000. The project was supposed to give the server a spot on industry-wide benchmark charts, HP believed. But HP Image was only 98 percent compatible with TurboIMAGE, and that's 2 percent short of being usable. HP Image abdicated the throne that HP intended to a TurboIMAGE rewritten for the brand-new Spectrum-class 3000s.

The move matters today because it marks a turning point in the march toward industry standards for the 3000. The server has been legendary for preserving its customers' investments like app development. A from the ground up SQL database might have helped put the 3000 into a more homogenous tier during an Open Systems era. Of course, HP would've had to create a database that worked for existing customer apps. HP Image was not that database.

HP's step-back from HP Image in the summer of 1988 came after more than two years of development, lab work that hit the wall after test users tried to make their applications and data fit with the product. After dropping that baton, HP raced to put the HP SQL of Allbase/SQL into making 3000 and 9000 apps compatible.

In an HP Chronicle article I wrote back then, I quoted developer Gavin Scott while he was at American Data Industries. By that summer, HP had managed to move TurboIMAGE onto MPE XL 1.1. "Pulling the Turbo database into the Allbase concept appears to have reaped some benefit for users," I wrote. "In Scott's view, it's faster and still compatible, a rare combination."

It works flawlessly, and it is quite fast. Native Mode TurboIMAGE works exactly the way old TurboIMAGE did, even to the extent that it still aligns all of the data on half-word boundaries. You have to take that into account when you're writing Native Mode programs to access Native Mode TurboIMAGE; it will be slightly less efficient, because you have to tell your program to use the Classic 3000 packing method when you go to access the database.

King is DeadThat summer marked the point that HP had to give up on creating an IMAGE replacement for the brand-new MPE XL. HP eventually supplied a native SQL interface for IMAGE, thereby taking that product into its IMAGE/SQL days. But HP Image never would have been proposed if the vendor wasn't thinking about attracting SQL-hungry customers from other platforms with a new database scheme.

That era's TPC benchmarks, built around tests using Oracle and other SQL databases, were being used by IBM and DEC to win new enterprise customers. HP could only counter with the HP 9000 and HP-UX, and it needed another entry in that benchmark derby. TurboIMAGE was too boutique to qualify for a TPC test, the suites that were created to pit hardware vendors against each other. What would be the point of making a TPC test that required a non-SQL IMAGE? Only HP's IMAGE-ready systems could be compared there.

Instead, HP eventually had to pay close attention to retaining IMAGE ISVs and users. Scott commented this week on how that turning point came to pass in the late '80s.

Just as MPE suffered because management (really mostly the technical influencers and decision makers, not upper management) decided that Open Systems (which meant Unix) were the way of the future, I think the HP database lab had some PhD types who were convinced that SQL and relational was the answer to everything, without understanding the issues MPE faced with compatibility.

They tried to build one relational core engine that had both an SQL and an Image API, but for a long list of reasons this could not be made 100 percent compatible with TurboIMAGE, so you just could not run an existing 3000 application on top of it without major changes -- which was of course a non-starter for customers wanting to move from MPE/V to MPE/XL.

HP had already received a better strategy from independent vendors, advice HP chose to ignore. Deep in the heart of IMAGE lie routines and modules written in SPL, the foundational language for MPE and the 3000. SPL was going to need a Native Mode version to move these bedrock elements like IMAGE to the new generation of 3000s powered by RISC chips. But HP's language labs said an SPL II was impossible, because SPL wasn't defined well enough. So trying to leverage the Allbase transaction processor, HP galloped into building HP Image, using Modcal, its modified version of Pascal that already drove many MPE XL routines and subsystems.

As it turned out, it was easier to create a Native Mode SPL than to make a new SQL database that was 100 percent compatible with TurboIMAGE. Steve Cooper of Allegro, the company that partnered with Denkart and SRN to create the second generation of SPL with SPLash!, said 98 percent compatibility never succeeds. 

"Just like something can never be very unique -- it's just unique -- software can't ever be very compatible. It's compatible, or it isn't." DBGET calls in TurboIMAGE worked faster than DBGET ever would in HP Image. The number of items is reported in TurboIMAGE's DBGET automatically. HP Image had to run through a DBGET chainhead from stem to stern once again to get that number, "and that's a lot more IOs," Cooper said. Scott noted that native TurboIMAGE was a direct result of that independent language work on SPL.

The ultimate solution was to basically give up on HP Image completely and simply port TurboIMAGE from MPE/V to MPE/XL, which actually turned out to be relatively easy (after they stole the ideas surrounding the architecture of the SPLash! compiler to make their own Native Mode SPL II compiler (what TurboImage was written in.) HP's language guys spent several years saying a Native Mode SPL compiler was not practica -- but of course SRN, Denkart and Allegro succeeded with SPLash! thus making them look stupid).

Scott said TurboIMAGE was too simple to need SQL's prospective advantages. It was just a fast networked database that had a common API which thousands of apps were using.

HP Image and Allbase/SQL were big and bulky and complex, and thus a lot slower than TurboImage once it got to Native Mode. Today the world runs primarily on SQL/relational databases, up until you get to Big Data distributed no-SQL databases used in huge clusters. But in those days TurboIMAGE had the big advantage of simplicity, and the biggest advantage of having an API that all existing HP 3000 applications were already written to.

I'm not sure about "turning point" for hte database labs. I think they just continued on doing their Allbase stuff, they just didn'thave to think about Image anymore. It was intrepid programmers at CSY that got TurboImage working (with help from the compiler guys) and TurboImage remained simply one other MPE subsystem, not really part of any "database lab" which wouldn't care about a crusty old proprietary non-relational database.

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

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July 29, 2015

Carrying ODBC Links Into Windows Use

Windows 7Software that helps HP 3000s remain relevant is still being sold and still working. MB Foster sent an email this morning that reminded the 3000 community they've got a leg up on important connectivity. It's called ODBCLink/SE, installed on every HP 3000 that has the 5.5 release of MPE/iX running. It could also use some updating.

MB Foster's Chris Whitehead annotated the distinctions between ODBCLink/SE and its fully-grown sibling, UDALink. "Numerous organizations continue to utilize ODBCLink/SE (Special Edition of MB Foster Technology. Developed and distributed by HP on HP 3000s and HP-UX servers)," he wrote. "ODBCLink/SE’s ability to adapt to new technologies such as JDBC or Windows 7/8, or 64-bit architectures, is severely limited." UDALink is the means to bridge those limits.

We've been tracking the ODBC functionality of MPE/iX and IMAGE since the beginning — ours, as well as the customer demand. In 1994 MB Foster started selling ODBCLink for connecting to desktops. The start of widespread demand for better SQL access was in the fall of 1995, at the same time the NewsWire launched. HP labored to build access, and that labor progressed slowly. By December 1996 we pointed out in an editorial that deliberate work from MB Foster's engineers was going to bridge the HP gap.

The 32-bit world that Win95 created didn't have an HP-supplied path between HP 3000 databases and those slick, graphical interfaces on PC desktops. Third parties have stepped in to sell what HP is still working to bundle. Companies using ODBCLink praise the product and the connectivity it brings. So much praise has rained down that HP decided it should buy what it has been too slow to build. A deal was signed between HP and M.B. Foster. ODBCLink gets a trimmed-down cousin, ODBCLink/SE.

HP got out of the PC-based software business by turning to ODBCLink/SE. There's an extensive table in today's MB Foster email that shows why this free software in HP's MPE FOS has significant shortcomings. Updating this kind of essential tool can be a big step in keeping a homestead 3000 in the loop for corporate data. It's a story as true today as it was 20 years ago.

By 1996, Birket Foster said if customers could consider ODBCLink/SE as entry-level software, "we feel there is room in the market for both an entry level and a full-featured commercial solution. I think the issue is 'free' software, not the ability to solve the ODBC problem. That solution has been here for awhile."

In 1997 HP first shipped ODBCLink/SE from Foster's labs, wired into the MPE/iX 5.5 Express 3 release. We called it "the long-awaited ODBC driver to support 32-bit clients."

While customers must still navigate the complexity of Allbase/SQL and its attach/detach challenges, the software will finally give IMAGE/SQL customers a way to use things like Crystal Reports and Access 97 to tap their databases with both read and write capability. That capability is becoming more commonplace -- and much simpler and faster, by some reports -- if you're willing to buy a third-party tool to do the job.

As soon as SE was out there, people began to decide if bundled software was valuable enough to succeed. In a 1998 review, Joe Geiser said of that software, "it requires the use of IMAGE/SQL and the obligatory attachment of databases. Larger projects, however, should be using a commercial driver. The reasons are simple — ODBCLink/SE is the slowest of all of the available drivers, and consumes more connections to the HP 3000 than its commercial counterparts, issues which contribute to problems with response time and performance."

Geiser didn't even get to consider that 32-bit computing was going to be a full generation behind the current standard. The 64-bit standards didn't arrive until Windows 7.

In a 1998 review, another of our writers, John Burke, asked, "Are you going to use ODBC for anything more than casual, occasional access to a handful of IMAGE databases? If the answer is “yes,” then you need to consider the hidden costs of the free ODBCLink/SE."

In 1999, retiring GM Harry Sterling chronicled HP's reliance on the SQL lab at MB Foster. 

Customers buy the hardware from us, but there’s no value in our software to them. For any added value in software above the base, we prefer our partners do that. It frees us up to do the operating system stuff, and it gives the partners a revenue stream. I could see we were going to have another year of investment, and no revenue for that. I re-channeled those engineers back into networking, which was more critical for us at the time.

I canceled our whole ODBC driver project. 
It was halfway implemented, and I said “We’re not going to do this. It’s clear the customers are not going to pay for it. They want it free.” We started negotiating with Birket for ODBCLink/SE. We said hey, if you sell this and build stuff on top of it, and be willing to contribute the base driver in FOS, we’ll put that out that base driver for nothing, and you can sell products on top of it.

Two decades later, Foster's still willing to sell products on top of that base driver. Homesteaders can stick to solid tools, so long as they're being advanced and updated.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:39 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 27, 2015

N-Class 3000s offer subtle bathtub curves

BathtubA serious question on today's HP3000 newsgroup emerged about server reliability. The best answer came from an HP engineer whose career features more than 15 years of IO design and maintenance on hardware systems including that ultimate 3000 N-Class system. And along the way, Jim Hawkins introduced many of us to the bathtub-curve charting strategy.

It looks like a bathtub, this chart of how reliable hardware can be. High left-hand side, the part of a product lifecycle called infant mortality. Long-term youth to middle-age to early senior years, the flat, stable part of the bathtub. Finally the end of life, that sharp upswing on the right where moving parts wear out.

The question was posed to the newsgroup readers by Steven Ruffalo

I'm concerned about the reliability going forward of our N-Class servers. Are there any type of studies and metrics that could be used to determine how the failure rates of the parts on/in the N-Class will increase linear with the age of the equipment? I would imagine this would be true for any systems, but we have had an increase in processor failures over the last year. Is this coincidental, or should we start trying to stockpile additional spares?

According to Hawkins, there's been no tracking of N-Class hardware reliability by HP, which introduced the first N-Class models within a year of announcing it would be exiting the 3000 business. But he offered anecdotal, your mileage may vary, caveat emptor advice. He advised the 3000 owner that "You are in uncharted territory. Literally."

Curve chartIt was a well-placed pun, because it's all about a reliability curve, even if we can't ever know how the N-Class has fared statistically.

Typically reliability folks talk about the "bathtub curve" of failure rates: a high failure rate ("infant mortality), long low "stable failure rate," and an acceleration "wear-out" phase. I don't know anywhere where there is enough decent data to track long term reliability for N-Class populations at a statistical level with reasonable confidence bounds (even inside HP).

I will say anecdotally the N-Class itself was not subject to any large quality issues that I can recall. That is, I have some recollection of issues both in K/T and following rx/rp ZX1 and ZX2 systems but, while my attention may have wandered, things seem to have been pretty solid for N-Class.

(That's a reference to the K-Class and T-Class servers, known as the Series 9x9 and 9xx systems in 3000-speak.)

"I don't have any data to project when or if you'll see a rapid rise in parts replacement needs," Hawkins added, "the far side of the reliability bathtub curve."

Moving parts are the first to wear out in any computing device, but Hawkins noted that "movement includes thermal cycles through on/off switching, or even temperature swings if you don't have well-managed HVAC." There's a reasonable lifespan for everything, and those N-Class systems are at least 12 years old by now. A user might consider how long to trust a 12-year-old disc drive, and give some thought to the reliability goals for solid-state components. Burnouts were pretty rare in the stories we've heard about HP servers which run MPE/iX. For the time being, a lot of N-Class owners are enjoying HP engineering that's had a smooth bottom.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:35 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 24, 2015

3000 world loses a point of technical light

Veteran engineer and developer Jack Connor passed out of worlds including the HP 3000's this month, dying at age 69 after a long career of support, volunteering, and generous aid to MPE users.

In a death notice posted on his local funeral chapel's website, Connor's story included Vietnam era military service, a drag racing record, and playing bass on Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I Got Love In My Tummy, a single that went to  No. 4 on the US charts. He had been the proprietor of a bar in Columbia, Missouri, known as Nasties, and a tea house in Columbus, Ohio, The Venus Fly Trap. 

Jack ConnorConnor played a role in the volunteer efforts for OpenMPE in the last decade. He was also the worldwide account manager for HP and DuPont in the 1970s and 80s, and the death notice reports he was involved in the first satellite uplink in history for commercial purposes. At the time of his death Connor was working at Abtech Systems and Support from Indiana, and at his own company, InfoWorks, Inc. In the months that followed HP's shutdown of its MPE lab, he created NoWait/iX, software that eliminated the wait for an HP technician to arrive, on a rush-charge time and materials call, to transfer an old HPSUSAN to a new 3000 CPU board.

NoWait/iX was intended for use "until HP can be scheduled on site at both HP and the customer’s convenience -- and not paying the emergency uplift charge," Connor said. "However, if a customer has a third-party tool which is no longer supported, or licensing is no longer available for an upgrade, NoWait/iX can operate indefinitely, returning the old information to that single product."

In the waning months of OpenMPE's activity, he chaired the board of directors and promoted the creation of a new Invent3k shared server. "Making Invent3K a repository for the community is the primary focus," he reported to us in 2011.

Connor was a frequent contributor of free tech savvy to the 3000 community, using the 3000 newsgroup as a favored outlet. Just this spring we relayed his advice about linking a 3000 with existing networks.

What do I need to do on our MPE boxes to ensure that they will see new networking hardware? Does MPE cache the MAC address of neighbor gateways anywhere? I was thinking I needed to restart networking services, but I wasn't sure if anything more will be needed.

Jack replied

If you're taking it off the air for the network changes, I'd go ahead and close the network down until the work has completed and then reopen it. MPE will be looking for the IPs as it opens up. I know you can see the MAC addresses in NETTOOL, but I don't think they're of any import other than informational and for DTC traffic.

While serving on the OpenMPE board of directors, he also tracked down a data-at-rest security solution compatible with HP 3000s. 10ZiG's Security Group still sells the Q3 and Q3i appliances, one of which Connor put between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host.

Connor found the hardware solution provided security to beat any SFTP transfer option.

I tested an encryption box that sits between the DLT and IO card a year or so ago and it worked like a champ. It maintained streaming mode and all. However, it was in the $2,000-$3,000 range — and to be useful for a DR world, it would require two, so I haven't pursued actually recommending it.

He often helped out with IO and storage device questions in the 3000 community. For the Series 927LX, he noted that a DLT tape drive could be installed in the server that was designed in the early 1990s.

"This is not a problem as long as you have a free slot, or an open 28696A fast-wide card," he said. "I believe you need to be on MPE/iX 6.0 or 6.5 to go with a DLT8000. I'm sure a DLT4000 and probably a DLT7000 are okay." (The 28696A is a double-high interface device that permits the 927 to use HVD SCSI DLTs of 4000, 7000 or 8000 models.)

A simple search of the Newswire with "Jack Connor" turns up dozens of tips. Several 3000 veterans offered tributes in the wake of the Gary Robillard's news about Connor's passing. "He was a master at his trade," said Tracy Johnson. 

"Jack was a great guy who would always help no matter the problem, time or distance," said Bill Long. "As I moved on to different companies Jack was always there to help. He did consulting work for us when I worked for a small semiconductor company in Newark DE. He wrote the exotic interfaces we needed. Just a few years ago he helped me when I was consulting for Dow Chemical and needed help with my in-home HP 3000."

"My dear friend and colleague, a frequent contributor to this list, passed away peacefully in his sleep after a long illness," Robillard wrote. "Words cannot express how  greatly he will be missed by all who knew him."

On the tenth anniversary of HP's pullout notice for the 3000, Connor summed up his philosophy about helping in the MPE community. "I'd say we've all been a pretty good human chain holding the 3000 Community together," he said. "There's indeed life after HP, and a pretty full one so far."

He was laid to rest this past Sunday, and the obituary webpage included a link to the Van Morrison song "Into the Mystic," whose lyrics include these lines.

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it
I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:26 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2015

Do Secure File Transfers from the 3000

I'm trying to use ftp.arpa.sys to FTP a file to a SFTP server and it just hangs. Is there a way to do a secure FTP from the HP 3000?

Brian Edminster replies:

The reason that using MPE's FTP client (ftp.arpa.sys) fails is because as similar as they sound, FTP and SFTP are very different animals. Fortunately, there is a SFTP client available for the 3000 -- the byproduct of work by Ken Hirsh and others.

It used to be hosted on Ken's account on Invent3K, but when that server was taken out of service, so was Ken's account. As you've no doubt already noticed, it's available from a number of sources (such as Allegro). I'd like to highlight another source: www.MPE-OpenSource.org

Edminster goes on to explain he administers that site, as well as puts together the 'pre-packaged' install available there. It's in a single store-to-disc file in Reflection 'WRQ' format, making it easy for the majority of sites to retrieve and use.

I have a customer that's been using SFTP daily as part of their PCI compliance solution for several years. They push and pull data hourly from dozens of Point-of-Sale systems all over the country, and have moved lots of data this way.  

The biggest caveat from that customer's implementation is that if you're moving data over a WAN, SFTP seems to be more sensitive to jitter and latency issues than conventional FTP.  We ended up having to upgrade a couple of their more anemic 'last mile' circuits to accomodate that.  

In all other respects, it’s quite a robust solution, and can be tightly integrated with existing legacy apps. I know; I've done it.

If you have any questions about how to use the pre-packaged install -- or how to get around any limitations you might run into,-- don't hesitate to contact me. I've used this on dozens of systems over the last decade, and have transferred many, many gigabytes of data with it.

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

July 16, 2015

Bringing the 3000's Languages Fourth

Documenting the history and roots of IMAGE has squirted out a stream of debate on the 3000 newsgroup. Terry O'Brien's project to make a TurboIMAGE Wikipedia page includes a reference to Fourth Generation Languages. His sentence below that noted 4GLs -- taken as fact by most of the 3000 community -- came in for a lively debate.

Several Fourth Generation Language products (Powerhouse, Transact, Speedware, Protos) became available from third party vendors.

GenerationsWhile that seems innocent enough, retired 3000 manager Tom Lang has told the newsgroup there's no such thing as a Fourth Generation of any computer language. "My problem with so-called Fourth Generation Languages is the use of the term 'Language' attached to a commercial product," he wrote. The discussion has become a 59-message thread already, threatening to be the longest discussion on the newsgroup this year.

Although the question doesn't seem to merit debate, it's been like catnip to some very veteran developers who know MPE and the 3000. The 4GL term was probably cooked up by vendors' product managers and marketing experts. But such languages' value did exceed third generations like COBOL. The term has everything to do with advancing developer productivity, and the use of generations was an easy way to explain that benefit.

In fact, Cognos -- the biggest vendor of 4GLs in the 3000 world -- renamed its Powerhouse group the Advanced Development Tools unit, using ADT instead of 4GL. This was largely because of the extra value of a dictionary associated with Powerhouse. The dictionary was offered up as a distinction of a 4GL by Birket Foster. Then Stan Sieler, who's written a few compilers including SPLash!, a refreshed version of the 3000's SPL, weighed in with some essentials.

One way to measure a language is to see if it's got a BNF (Backus Normal Form), one of two main notation techniques for context-free grammars. According to Wikipedia -- that resource again -- a BNF "is often used to describe the syntax of languages used in computing, such as programming languages." Sieler said that the refreshed SPLash! had a BNF for awhile. Then it didn't. And really, languages don't need one, he added.

The list of the 3000's 4GLs is not a long one. HP dubbed Allbase as a 4GL at the same time that name signified a 3000 database alternative. It was a tool to develop more rapidly, HP said. Transact appears on some 4GL lists for MPE, but it's more often called a 3.5 GL, as is Protos. Not quite complete in their distinctions, although both have dictionaries. These languages all promised speed of development. They rose up in an era when object-oriented computing, with reusable elements, was mostly experimental.

Foster explained what made a 4GL an advanced tool.

The dictionary made the difference in these languages, allowing default formatting of fields, and enforcing rules on the data entry screens. I am a sure that a good Powerhouse or Speedware programmer can out-code a cut and paste COBOL programmer by about 10 to one. It also means that a junior team member is able to code business rules accurately, since the default edits/values come directly from the dictionary, ensuring consistency.

Sieler outlined what he believes makes up a language.

We all know what a 4GL is, to the extent that there’s a ’cloud’ / ’fuzzy shape’ labelled “4GL” in our minds that we can say “yes or no” for a given product, program, language, 4GL, package, or tarball. And we know that Speedware, etc., fit into that cloud.

Does a language have to have a published grammar?  (Much less one published by an international standards organization?)  Hell no! It’s better if it does, but that’s not only not necessary, but the grammar is missing and/or incomplete and/or inaccurate for many (probably most) computer languages, as well as almost all human languages (possibly excluding some post-priori languages). I speak as a compiler author of many decades (since about 1973).

Our SPLash! language (similar to HP’s SPL/V) had a BNF — at the start. (Indeed, we think we had the only accurate BNF for SPL/V.) But, as we added things to the language, they may or may not have been reflected in the BNF. We tried to update the manual, but may not have always been successful … if we got the change notice updated, I was happy.

Adding the word "product" behind 4GL seems to set things in perspective. O'Brien offered his summary of the 3000's rapid languages.

Speedware, Powerhouse, and Protos all had components (Powerhouse Quick, Speedware Reactor) that had a proprietary language syntax that offered Assignment, IO, and Conditional Logic.  As such, they meet the minimum requirements to be referenced as a computer language. TurboIMAGE has a syntax for specifying the database schema, but does not have any component that meet the IO, Assignment, Conditional Logic, so it does not meet the minimum requirements.

Speedware and Powerhouse have had similar histories, both offered as ADT products. But the companies that control them have diverged in their missions. PowerHouse is now owned by Unicom Systems. Speedware's focus is now on legacy modernization services and tools, although its own 4GL is still a supported product.

There's an even more audacious tier of languages, one that the HP 3000 never saw. Fifth-generation languages, according to Wikipedia, "make the computer solve a given problem without the programmer. This way, the programmer only needs to worry about what problems need to be solved and what conditions need to be met, without worrying about how to implement a routine or algorithm to solve them." Prolog is one example of this fifth generation. But even Wikipedia's editors are wary of bringing forth a fifth generation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:46 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 15, 2015

How to Keep Cloud Storage Fast and Secure

Editor's Note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In our series of Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for multi-talented MPE pros.

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP

One of the many cloud-based offerings is storage. It moves data from the end device to a remote server that hosts massive amounts of hard disk space. While this saves local storage, what are some of the challenges and risks associated with the type of account?

Safe cloudCloud data storage applications have been compromised through different weaknesses. Firstly, there is the straight hack. The hacker gains administrative access into the server containing the data and then can access multiple user accounts. The second one is obtaining a set of usernames and passwords from another location. Many people use the same usernames and passwords for multiple accounts. So a hack into an email server can reveal passwords for a cloud storage service. What are the ways to defend against this level of attack? 

Encryption is always a good option to protect data from unauthorized users. Many service providers will argue that they already provide encryption services. However, in a lot of cases this is what is called bulk encryption. The data from various users is bundled together in a single data store. Then the whole data store is encrypted with the same password. This gives a certain level of protection, for example of the disk is stolen. But, if administrative access is gained, these systems can be compromised. A better solution is to choose a service that offers encryption at the account level. 

Another option is to encrypt the data before it is stored.This is probably the safest method, as the encryption application is not part of the cloud server, and neither is the password. There is a penalty of performance and time in creating and restoring the file, as it has to be encrypted/decrypted. Today's computer systems normally make short work of this task. 

Finally, there is a common misconception that an encrypted file is bigger than the original. For good encryption they should be about the same size. The only challenge with any encryption is to make sure the password is safe.

Safe passwords

If you use the same username and password, the best solution is not to do it. But the difficulty is having 20 different usernames and passwords and remembering them all. One option is to let the browser do the remembering. Browsers have the option of remembering passwords for different websites. The browser creates its own local store of the passwords. However, if the computer's hard drive crashes, so does the password storage.

The next option is to use an on-line password account. The bad news is that they have the same weakness as other types of on-line storage. LastPass was recently hacked, so many users were worried that their password lists were compromised. I use a password vault that locally encrypts the vault file. That file can then be stored in online data storage safely. Plus, if you chose the right password application, the vault is shared across multiple devices. This way, different accounts and passwords can be used for each account and still be available from a secure, but available location.

Online storage, offline access

Most of the time many of us have access to the cloud. But there are times when I would like to have access to my data, but I don't have Internet access. The best example of this is on the plane. Although Internet service is available on many planes, not everyone has access. So it is good to choose a service that has a client application to synchronize the data. This will allow copies of the same file to be kept locally and in the cloud. This can be important when looking at mobile solutions.

In many cases, mobile storage is preserved by moving the data into an online storage location. Storing all the music files in the cloud, and then finding that they are not available offline, can be very infuriating on a plane ride.

Compression to be free

Free storage on-line services are limited to a set amount of storage. One way to get around this is to use data compression. Most raw data files can be compressed to some extent. But bear in mind that most media formats, such as mpeg, mp4, or jpeg, have already been created using compression. Many other files, though, can be compressed before they are stored. Some applications — for example back-up apps — will give the user a choice to compress the file before it is stored. Not only does this reduce the amount of space the data takes in the online storage, it is also faster to upload and download.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:43 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 14, 2015

A Fleet of Trucks That Couldn't Fell MPE

Semi grillOut on the HP 3000 newsgroup, Tracy Johnson inquired about the state of the 3000's and MPE's durability. Johnson, who's worked with OpenMPE in the past while managing 3000s for Measurement Specialties, was addressing the Truck Factor for the 3000 and its OS. "In what year did MPE reach the Truck Factor?" he asked, referring to the number of developers who'd have to get hit by a truck before development would be incapacitated.

The Truck Factor is used to measure the durability of open source projects. Results of an industry study show that most open source systems have a small truck factor. Close to half have a Truck Factor of 1, and 28 percent have a Truck Factor of 2. It's measured by looking at software author signatures for code hosted on GitHub in six languages: JavaScript (22 systems), Python (22 systems), Ruby (33 systems), C/C++ (18 systems), Java (21 systems), and PHP (17 systems).

MPE long ago stopped counting the names of such authors. Development ended for the OS when HP retired or reassigned its lab staff during 2009. But the tribal operating and administrative knowledge of the OS has a high truck factor, if you account for global connectivity. Dozens of MPE experts who are known to the community would have to fall under the wheels of trucks for MPE's operational knowledge to expire.

"I honestly don't think it applies any longer to MPE," Art Bahrs commented on the list, "as MPE has now stabilized and has a support base in people like Stan Sieler, Birket Foster, Donna Hofmeister, Neil Armstrong, Alfredo Rego and such. I know I'm forgetting lots more."

"Now if there aren't people out there who are willing to learn new "old" things," Bahrs added, "then MPE will fade out as this community fades away."

One advantage to moving out of the active development phase of life is that a technology becomes stable. It won't acquire new capabilities, and newer technologies will struggle to be relevant in an environment like MPE. But newer wonders like netty, a "client server framework which enables quick and easy development of network applications such as protocol servers and clients," have a TF of 1. If just one developer got taken out by a truck, more than half the GitHub code for netty would be orphaned.

Birket Foster has long used the examples of a rogue bus or a lottery victory to illustrate the delicate state of MPE knowledge at many customer sites. Winning a lottery and immediately retiring, or meeting your end under the wheels of a bus (or truck) could start a local demise of MPE practices. Finding seasoned help to take over in such a tough circumstance would not be impossible. But recovering the knowledge of custom apps will be a challenge for any company who doesn't document crucial applications and practices.

The senior status of MPE among technologies evoked another use of the truck metaphor for Scott Gates. Commenting on the newsgroup, he evoked the history of the 3000 at his school district.

For me, MPE and the HP 3000's "Truck Factor" has been it's like an old pickup truck — you put the key in, turn it over, and it's running. In my four years at Bellefonte, we had one unscheduled downtime when an original system drive failed after almost 10 years of constant use.

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

July 13, 2015

Celebrating a 3000 Celebrity's (im)migration

Eugene Volokh is among the best examples of HP 3000 celebrity. The co-creator of MPEX (along with his father Vladimir) entered America in the 1970s, a Jewish immigrant who left Russia to arrive with his family as a boy of 7, destined for a notable place on America's teeming shores. 

Those teeming shores are associated with another American Jew, Anna Lazurus, whose poem including that phrase adorns a wall of the Statue of Liberty. More than 125 years of immigrants have passed by that monument, people who have created some of the best of the US, a fact celebrated in the announcement of this year's Great Immigrants award from the Carnegie Corporation. Eugene is among the 38 Pride of America honorees appearing in a full-page New York Times ad (below, in the top-right corner) from over the Independence Day weekend.

Carnegie immigrant ad

Those named this year include Saturday Night Live's creator Lorne Michaels, Nobel laureate Thomas Sudhof, and Pulitzer Prize novelist Geraldine Brooks, along with Eugene -- who's listed as a professor, legal scholar, and blogger. All are naturalized citizens.

Eugene's first notable achievement came through his work in the fields of MPE, though, computer science that's escaped the notice of the Carnegie awards board. Given that the success of Vesoft (through MPEX and Security/3000) made all else that followed possible, a 3000 user might say that work in MPE brought the rest of the legal, scholarly, and blogging (The Volokh Conspiracy) achievements within his grasp.

An entry in the Great Immigrants website sums up what's made him an honoree:

A law professor at the UCLA School of Law, Eugene Volokh is cofounder of the blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, which runs on the Washington Post’s website (which is independent of the newspaper). Before joining UCLA, where he teaches a myriad of subjects, including free speech law and religious freedom law, Volokh clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. Volokh was born in Kiev, Ukraine, when it was still part of the Soviet Union, and immigrated to the United States at age seven.

It's not difficult to find Eugene in the firmament of the American culture, with articles in the Post, the New York Times op-ed page, and interviews on TV networks and National Public Radio. But each time a 3000 user starts up MPEX, they light up the roots of somebody who migrated long ago, in an era when the 3000 itself was a migration destination, a refuge from the wretched existence of mainframes. We pass on our congratulations. 

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

July 10, 2015

User group manufactures new website

CAMUS is the Computer Applications for Manufacturing User Society that now has a fresh website to go with its quaint name. While Computer Aided Manufacturing pretty much describes everything outside of the tiny Chinese enterprises doing piecework for the world, CAMUS is unique. It's devoted to a significant interest of the remaining HP 3000 homesteaders. Manufacturing remains an HP 3000 heartland.

Oops HPKeeping a website up to date is no small feat. In the face of declining use of HP 3000-related products, some websites have disappeared. The legendary Jazz server from the Hewlett-Packard labs went dark long ago. The full retreat of HP's 3000 knowledge seems more obvious all the time. The old www.hp.com/go/e3000 address, once HP's portal for things MPE-related, now returns the message above. 

Which is why the camus.org update is heartening. Terri Glendon Lanza reports that the site serves MANMAN, MK, MAXCIM, and migrated manufacturing companies.

Members will now be able to edit their profiles and search the membership for others with similarities such as geographics, software modules and platforms, or associate supplier services.

Our free membership still includes upcoming webinar meetings, connecting with 'birds of a feather', a listserv for questions to the community, and photo gallery of former events.

Society members receive access credentials to a members-only section. Just about anybody can become a member. Pivital Solutions and Stromasys are Associate members, which will tell you about the 3000 focus the group can count upon.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:06 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 09, 2015

Throwback: When IMAGE Got Its SQL Skin

SQLDuring the current Wikipedia project to document IMAGE, Terry O'Brien of DISC asked where he might find resources that point to IMAGE facts. Wikipedia is all about facts that can be documented by outside sources, especially articles. O'Brien was searching for InterACT articles, perhaps thinking of the grand series written by George Stachnik for that Interex user group magazine.

While the user group and its website are gone, many of those articles are available. 3K Associates has an archive of more than a dozen of them, including several on IMAGE. (That website has the most comprehensive collection of MPE and 3000 lore, from tech how-to's to an HP 3000 FAQ.) As part of his introductory article in the database subset of The HP 3000 For Novices, Stachnik notes how IMAGE got its SQL interface, as well as why it was needed.

Most new client-server applications that were developed in the 1980s made extensive use of the SQL language. In order to make it possible for these applications to work with the HP 3000, HP literally taught TurboIMAGE a new language--the ANSII standard SQL.

The resulting DBMS was named IMAGE/SQL -- which is the name that is used today. IMAGE/SQL databases can be accessed in two ways: either using the traditional proprietary interfaces (thus protecting customers' investments in proprietary software) or using the new industry standard SQL interface (thus enabling standard client-server database tools to access the data stored on HP 3000s).

The enhanced IMAGE came to be called TurboIMAGE/SQL, to fully identify its roots as well as its new prowess. Stachnik wrote the article in an era when he could cite "new technologies such as the World Wide Web."

HP removed many of the restrictions that had pushed developers away from the HP 3000, making it possible to access the HP 3000's features (including its database management system) through new industry standard interfaces, while continuing to support the older proprietary interfaces. In the final months of the 20th century, interest in the IMAGE database management system and sales of the HP 3000 platform are both on the rise.

Red Sox ProgramThat rise was a result of user campaigning that started in earnest 25 years ago this summer, at an Interex conference. Old hands in this market call that first salvo the Boston Tea Party because it happened in a Boston conference meeting room. More than nine years later, Stachnik wrote that "interest in the IMAGE database management system and sales of the HP 3000 platform are both on the rise."

There are many places to discover the history and deep, elegant engineering of IMAGE. Adager's website contains the greatest concentration of writing about IMAGE. It's possible that references from adager.com articles will make their way in the new Wikipedia entry. They wouldn't be relevant without that rebellion of 25 years ago, because HP wanted to release IMAGE from its pairing with the 3000. The users wouldn't permit it, bad press from the meeting ensued, and an IMAGE-free HP 3000 became much harder to purchase.

SQL arrived about three years later. The story had a happy ending when Stachnik wrote his article.

Any HP 3000 application that used IMAGE/3000 (and virtually all HP 3000 applications did) was locked into the HP 3000 platform. It couldn't be ported to another platform without some fairly major rework. This was almost the kiss of death for the HP 3000 in the open-systems-obsessed 1990s. In fact, many platforms did "go under" in the UNIX shakeout that took place in the early part of the decade.

Many industry observers expected that Hewlett-Packard would choose to jettison its proprietary HP 3000 platform in favor of its faster growing younger brother, the UNIX-based HP 9000. Fortunately, these observers did not understand a very basic fact about the company.

HP was (and is) very focussed on protecting its customers' investments. Instead of jettisoning the HP 3000 platform, the company chose to invest in it.

Whatever HP intended for the fate of the computer, the investment in SQL remains a way to keep the heartbeat of the 3000 pumping data to the world of non-MPE machines.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:52 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2015

Freeing HP's Diagnostics Inside the 3000

DiagnosticsWhen HP officially closed its formal HP 3000 support, the vendor left its diagnostics software open for use by anybody who ran a 3000. Throughout the years when HP sold 3000 support, CSTM needed a password that only HP's engineers could supply. But the CSTM diagnostics tools started to run in 2011 without any HP support-supplied password. 

However, managers need a binary patch to free up the diagnostics. Support providers who've taken over for HP know how to enable CSTM. The community has a former Hewlett-Packard engineer to thank, Gary Robillard, for keeping the door to the diagnostics open. Robillard says he is the engineer who last worked on CSTM for MPE/iX when he was a contractor at HP.

A 3000 site must request a patch to get these expert tools working. HP arranged for 3000 sites to get such patches for free at the end of 2010. We tracked the procedure in a NewsWire story, since the HP link on how to get these patches, once on the old division's webpages, has gone dead.

One such patched version of CSTM needs a binary patch. Robillard created this binary patch fix.

Versions of CSTM [patched] with ODINX19A or ODINX25A allow the expert tools with no licensing, but you still have to issue the HLIC command. 

If you install ODINX25A/B/C (6.5, 7.0, 7.5) you won't need to do anything except issue the HLIC command with any password. The HLIC command might say it was not accepted, but the license is activated anyway

When HP halted all its support of the 3000, Robillard said his patch corrects the problem with ODINX19A -- and gives 3000 managers access to these system diagnostics -- for servers running the 6.5, 7.0, or 7.5 versions of CSTM.

If you have installed ODINX19A, you need to do the following:

Logon as MANAGER.SYS. It's safest to create an input file to sompatch.

1. Run editor.pub.sys

2. Add the following three lines EXACTLY. The sompatch will only work if the instruction at offset 268 matches 86a020c2. The message "Error: Old value does not match" is displayed and no changes are made)

Here are the contents of BINPCHIN file (You will want to copy and paste these): 

~~~~~The 3 lines are below~~~~~~~

; Fix problem in DIAGMOND after 12/19/2010
modify ms_init_manage_sys  + 268,1 86a020c2|08000240 
exit
~~~~The 3 lines are above~~~~~~~~
//
K binpchin,unn 

• Make sure DIAGMOND is not running (run STMSHUT.DIAG.SYS)
• copy /usr/sbin/stm/uut/bin/sys/diagmond,DIAGMOND 
• run sompatch.pub.sys;stdin=BINPCHIN;INFO='DIAGMOND' 
• copy DIAGMOND,/usr/sbin/stm/uut/bin/sys/diagmond;YES 
• Restart DIAGMOND (run STMSTART.DIAG.SYS

After a few minutes, a "SHOWPROC 1;TREE;SYSTEM" should show the DIAGMOND process, and either the mapping processes, or memlogd, diaglogd and maybe cclogd (on A/N Class 3000s only).

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:13 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 06, 2015

Work launches on TurboIMAGE Wiki page

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.59.15 AMHistory is a major element in the HP 3000's everyday life. A computer that received its last vendor-released enhancement in 2009 is not in need of a lot of tracing of new aspects. But a serious chronicle of its features and powers is always welcome for homesteading customers. A new effort on Wikipedia will help one of its longer-standing database vendors, one who's moved onward to Windows.

Terry O'Brien still holds management reins at DISC, makers of the Omnidex indexing tool for TurboIMAGE. He's begun a distinct entry on Wikipedia for the database that's been the heartbeat of MPE almost since the server's beginning. O'Brien is enlisting the memory of the user community to take the page from stub status to full entry. "My original intent was to create an Omnidex page, since DISC is ramping up marketing efforts in the Windows and Linux space for Omnidex 6.0," he said.

During my ramp up within Wikipedia, I noticed the TurboImage article had little information and had no cited references. Although I have been a heavy utilizer of Wikipedia the past several years, I had never looked behind the covers. Wikipedia has a rich culture with a lot of information to digest for new authors. It is a bit daunting for new authors.

I originally was just going to add some general information and mention Fred White. Needing to cite references led me to an article Bob Green wrote on the history of the HP 3000 as well as numerous other articles from Robelle that I am citing. That let me to articles on 3000 NewsWire, so thanks Ron for your prolific prose on all things HP 3000.

Journalism, however, is not the best entry point for a Wikipedia entry. The most dispassionate prose conceivable is best-suited for Wikipedia. Think of software manual language and you're closest to what's accepted. A broad-interest topic like yoga gets a good deal more Wiki Editor scrutiny than a chronicle on a minicomputer's database. That doesn't mean there's not a wealth of accuracy that can be supplied for the current TurboIMAGE stub, however. O'Brien is asking for help

His posts to the 3000 newsgroup include such a request. "I also need to solicit other unbiased parties to collaborate. And what better place to get feedback on TurboIMAGE then from HP3000L!"

"So if there are any Wikipedia authors interested in added to the article or debating anything I stated, please do so in the TurboIMAGE talk page."

Wikipedia authors will know exactly how Talk works to get a page written and improved. And it's dead-simple to become a Wikipedia author. As O'Brien suggests, creating a page is much more complex than improving an existing one.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:07 AM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 01, 2015

Reflection dives deeper into new brand

Last fall, Micro Focus announced it was acquiring Attachmate and several other companies. The merger of these IT firms marked another step for a popular HP server connection product, Reflection, toward a new life with a new name, even if its functionality remains the same.

The Chief Operating Officer of Micro Focus, Stephen Murdoch, has reported to customers about the strategy to meld the products from Borland, NetIQ, Attachmate, Novell and SUSE. The scope of what these companies have offered is significant. Development, networking, connectivity and evironments make up these acquisitions.

We will be simplifying the branding and packaging of our portfolios. As an example, we will combine our leading host connectivity solutions of Reflection and Rumba into one set of Micro Focus branded solutions offering the best of both technologies. A similar approach of simplification and alignment will be taken systematically, resulting in one company operating two product portfolios, namely Micro Focus and SUSE.

By all reports, Rumba didn't meet HP 3000 manager standards in its versions available before Attachmate acquired Reflection. That was in the days when the blended firm was called AttachmateWRQ. Few HP 3000 sites, if any, have learned to rely on Rumba for their connectivity. Now the tracking will commence on how the feature sets of Reflection and Rumba survive this combination.

The deepest level of 3000 integration in Reflection lies in its scripting language. When the news first broke about the Micro Focus acquisition of Attachmate, we checked in with a long-time Reflection user to see how Rumba might fill in. Reflection's macros have to be converted to a Rumba format called ELHAPPI, Enhanced High Level Language Application Program Interface. As with any acronymn that has seven letters, it's a design choice that's got quite a, well, legacy air to it. According to Glenn Mitchell of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina 

It's an API that goes back to the early PC days, and allowed a program running on the PC to "scrape" data from a terminal emulator session running on the PC. So it represents a big move backwards in technology from Reflection VBA. 

Our guys figured out a way to run our VBA scripts in Excel and trap most of the Reflection API calls (e.g. getdisplaytext) and convert them to equivalent EHLAPPI calls for Rumba. The gotcha is that they've only done the most frequently used API functions, and Rumba doesn't support all of the functions Reflection makes available via API.

Scripting inside of a terminal emulator product represents a deep level of technology. Just the sort of tool a 3000 shop deploys when it can command petabytes of data and tens of thousands of users. When things change with vendor plans, whether it's a system maker or a provider of software, support staff shifts its support to migration tasks.

As an interesting footnote to the changes in the outlook for Reflection -- given that Rumba has been offered as a replacement -- we turn to the a recent comment by Doug Greenup of Minisoft. "Minisoft has NS/VT in its HP terminal emulator," he noted when we described the unique 3000 protocol in some versions of Reflection. "And unlike WRQ, we remain independent. We still have HP 3000 knowledgeable developers and support people." The company's terminal emulator for 3000s, Minisoft Secure 92, has a scripting language called TermTalk.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:13 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 26, 2015

What Has Made MPE/iX 8.0 A No-Go

Scrubbed LiftoffThe life of homesteading 3000 managers is not as busy as those who are managing migrated or just-moved business environments. But one topic the homesteaders can busy themselves with is the If-Then structure of making an 8.0 version of their operating system more than a fond wish. Our reader and 3000 manager Tim O'Neill visited this what-if-then module, a proposition was sparked by an April Fool's story we wrote this year. "I actually believed that article, until I recognized the spoofed name of Jeanette Nutsford," he said. We were having some Onion-like sport with the concept of an MPE/iX.

I had the thought that maybe somebody somewhere will apply all the MPE patches written since 7.5, add a couple more enhancements to subsystems (like maybe MPE users could see and use a Windows-managed printer,) test it in-house, then test it on a few customer systems, then release it and announce MPE/iX 8.0. The database options could begin with TurboImage and Eloquence.

That's pretty much the start of a workflow for an 8.0. If you were to make a list of the things that have stood in the way of such a watershed moment for MPE, it might look like an if-then tree. A tree that might lead to a public MPE, as free as Linux or HP's Grommet, the company's user-experience development application. Grommet will become open source, licensed for open use in creating apps' user experience. Grommet was once just as HP-proprietary as MPE.

The tree's not impossible to climb. Some of the tallest branches would sway in the wind of software law. The rights regarding intellectual property have blocked this climb to open-sourced MPE/iX. That's law that was tested outside of the HP and 3000 community. It came close to swaying in favor of customers who believe they're buying software, instead of just renting it.

No software creator would call the act of licensing its product a rental. But ownership rights of code like MPE or the CAD program Autodesk have always reverted to their creators. These programs were developed inside software labs controlled by HP and Autodesk. Such creators' ownership was not in doubt, until in 2007 the right to restrict any software's climb to freedom was tested.

Autodesk was sued that year by Timothy Vernor, who said he was entitled to sell used copies of AutoCAD he'd bought at an office liquidation sale from an Autodesk customer. The suit wasn't foolhardy. In 2008 a federal district judge in Washington state denied Autodesk's motion to dismiss. The next year, both sides filed motions for summary judgment, to settle whether a structure called First-Sale Doctrine could apply to previously licensed software. And then that district ruled in Vernor's favor. Transfer of software to the purchaser materially resembled a sale, not just a licensing. The software had a one-time price, and a right to perpetual possession. You could resell your software, and so it could have a value in the market beyond what its creator had received.

What's all this got to do with 8.0? The concept, and defending the ruling, represents a type of the most critical if-then branch in the tree of used-software logic. By now, every copy of MPE/iX is used software. To make an 8.0 with any value to the companies and consultants who'd labor through new patch integration, plus two levels of testing, and managing support, it'd need to be worth some revenue to those who'd do the work. You'd need a law to make reselling a revamped MPE/iX as the 8.0 version legal. 

Linux and the rest of the open source world enjoy this kind of ownership law. It helped that Linux never belonged to a company as a trade-secret product.

The Washington state court decided selling Autodesk could let a customer resell under the first-sale doctrine. So Autodesk could not pursue an action for copyright infringement against Vernor, who sought to resell used versions of its software on eBay. But like any software creator, that first-sale decision was appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the lower court's ruling got reversed. Vernor was denied the right to resale Autodesk software on eBay. There were non-transferable licensing restrictions, and in 2011, the US Supreme Court let stand the Ninth Circuit ruling.

This is the quest for the holy grail of MPE futures that OpenMPE pursued for more than eight years. At some point, the group believed, control of MPE/iX could be released to the companies using the software. It should be, they argued, since HP was halting its business in the HP 3000 and MPE. Vernor didn't even offer to modify the CAD software, to improve it like O'Neill suggested. The appearance of such an MPE 8.0 would deliver new functionality, fix bugs — and most importantly, lavish some interest on the OS.

HP used to talk about an 8.0, in passing at user conferences in product futures talks. There was nothing as specific as "MPE users will be able to see and use a Windows-managed printer" during these talks. Applying existing patches and recent ones, then releasing it as an 8.0, is a stretch. The x.0 releases of MPE/iX each brought on a major set of advances, not just printer control and patch integration. 7.0 delivered support for a new hardware bus, PCI, for example.

All those patches written since 7.5 PowerPatch 5? That'd be just the beta-test patches that never went into customer-testing for General Release. HP holds the intellectual property rights to those patches. The company would have to cut that work loose into the customer base. (If HP cedes ownership rights, then integration begins.) If HP pemits this 8.0 MPE/iX to be tested in customer sites, then something stable enough to be adopted would emerge.

If no such ownership change occurred, then even an 8.0 would still belong to HP — a company with no more interest in selling or support it.

The rights to MPE/iX have been stretched recently. While a two-user version of the Charon HPA emulator was available for download, the Stromasys software was distributed with MPE/iX as part of that freeware version.

Since there's no open-sourced MPE for offer, the testing and integration, then pairing the revived software with its database as well as Eloquence (never built for MPE, but could be integrated) — it's all simply a fine ideal. Nobody was able to step forward and push this concept into a test of law. Wirt Atmar of AICS Research checked with lawyers about reclaiming MPE off of HP's discard pile. It was a card the community could not play. 8.0 is a dream, and while there's no reason yet to cast it away forever, plenty of 3000 owners have experienced their wake-up call.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:20 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 24, 2015

OpenSSL: Still working, but falling behind

This month the OpenSSL project released a new version of the software, updated to protect sites from attacks like Heartbleed. The release coincides with some interest from the 3000 community about porting this 1.0.2 version to MPE/iX. These cryptographic protocols provide security for communications over networks.

Falling BehindHeartbleed never had an impact on the 3000, in part because it was OpenSSL was so rarely used. Developer Gavin Scott said that last year's Heartbleed hack "does point out the risks of using a system like MPE/iX, whose software is mostly frozen in time and not receiving security fixes, as a front-line Internet (or even internal) server. Much better to front-end your 3000 information with a more current tier of web servers. That's actually what most people do anyway I think."

But native 3000 support of such a common networking tool remains on some wish lists. 3000s can use SSL to encrypt segments of network connections at the Application Layer, to ensure secure end-to-end transit at the Transport Layer. It's an open source standard tool, but deploying it on an HP 3000 can be less than transparent.

Consider the following question from Adrian Hudson in the UK.

Does anyone know anything about putting OpenSSL on a HP 3000? I've seen various websites referring to people who have succesfully ported the software, but with the HP 3000s being used less and less, I'm finding lots of broken links and missing pages. My ultimate intention is to try and get Secure FTP (SFTP) running from Posix on the HP 3000.

HP placed the OpenSSL pieces in its WebWise MPE/iX software, and that software is part of the 7.5 Fundamental Operating System. Cathlene McRae, while still working at HP in 3000 support, confirmed that "WebWise is the product you are looking for. This has OpenSSL." She's shared a PowerPoint document of 85 slides written in 2002, one of the last years that WebWise (and its OpenSSL) was updated for the HP 3000. (You can download these slides as a PDF file.)

Keven Miller of 3K Ranger has detailed his notes from installing OpenSSL on a 3000.

"I'd be happy to talk with whomever has interest," he said. I'd like to do the "port" again with notes, so others can reproduce, and place it on my website."

I'm looking on my HP 918 (MPE/iX 6.0 PowerPatch 2)

Openssl 9.6a
OpenSSL> version
OpenSSL 0.9.6a 5 Apr 2001
OpenSSL>

I believe AFTP did build and run. That would be from OpenSSH. As I recall, the process is

1. install zlib
2. install openssl
3. install openssh

/OPENSSH/V00371P2/openssh-3.7.1p2#sftp
usage: sftp [-vC1] [-b batchfile] [-o ssh_option] [-s subsystem | sftp_server]
[-B buffer_size] [-F ssh_config] [-P sftp_server path]
[-R num_requests] [-S program]
[user@]host[:file [file]]
/OPENSSH/V00371P2/openssh-3.7.1p2#sftp hpux-1
Connecting to hpux-1...
Couldn't connect to PRNGD socket "/tmp/egd-pool": Can't assign requested address
Entropy collection failed
ssh-rand-helper child produced insufficient data
Connection closed

As I recall, I need to stream a job for this EGDPOOL. I hope to get back to this and other porting things. But work gets in the way.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:46 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2015

Fixing Date Problems From The Future

HP 3000 managers have traveled long roads toward the future of their servers, but sometimes the server travels even farther. Into the future, it seems, to apply modification dates to files that couldn't possibly be modified months or years from now.

Back To The FutureThis can cause problems with system maintenance. Craig Lalley experienced some last week. After running the NMVALCK command, he discovered "I have thousands of files with future dates." He was pretty sure there's a way to adjust a date like FRI, SEP 10, 2027, 1:53 AM by using MPEX. (A good bet, since the Vesoft product manages the 3000's files better than MPE/iX itself). But what about other repair options?

There are two, one in the community's freeware resources, and one in its Posix namespace. The freeware comes from Allegro Consultants. FIXFDATE (just do a "find" on the web page to locate the utility's entry) "will sweep through your files and change any creation, modification, access, allocation, or statechange date that is a "future" date to be today."

Another resource comes from within the 3000's Fundamental Operating System. Touch, a common Posix utility, exists on the HP 3000's implementation. 

Touch is chronicled on the Open Group Base Modifications website. While Posix is not as well-loved in the 3000 community as CI commands or freeware, its touch is bristling with options. The basics:

Touch shall change the last data modification timestamps, the last data access timestamps, or both.

The time used can be specified by the -t time option-argument, the corresponding time fields of the file referenced by the -r ref_file option-argument, or the -d date_time option-argument, as specified in the following sections. If none of these are specified, touch shall use the current time.

Changing the dates of a full system's worth of files might someday be the mission for any 3000 owner who's trying to carry MPE beyond January 1, 2028. The world of 3000 Future Time hasn't been explored much, mostly because the community seems confident some solution will be available in 2027. It's still 12 years away, after all.

Allegro's Steve Cooper knows date representation issues have been addressed by the 3000 development community before -- in an era when many companies were still engineering for the system. He can sound sanguine about the issue because his partner Stan Sieler engineered date repairs for the 3000 during Y2K work at the end of the 1990s.

Allegro sold a Y2K utility as part of its 3000 development toolset. "If anyone cares by then, one will need to do remediation similar to what was done for Y2K," Cooper has said. "Each program will need to be inspected for vulnerabilities, then fixed to use an alternate method of date storage and manipulation."

And, yes, as you suspect, this could arise before then. If, for instance, you are manipulating contract expiration dates in your COBOL program, and are using a 2027-sensitive format, then you will not be able to correctly handle any date past the 2027 cut-off.

If you don't mind, though, I'm not going to lose any sleep over this issue for another several years. Remind me again toward the end of the decade, and I'll ask Stan to look into it.  If I ask him now, I will lose a few months of productivity out of him, while he solves next decade's problems.

The issue is not limited to the HP 3000, even though the 2027 date is unique to MPE/iX. Unix has got the same kind of deadline approaching 11 years later. Cooper pointed to a Wikipedia article that explains the "Year 2038 problem" as an analogy to the 3000's.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:03 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 19, 2015

Changes Spark Healthy Adaptations

The constant grind of change in the 3000 community -- migrations, the shifting sands of homesteading resources -- may have a positive effect on managers who deal with it. "There is always a future," our ally and contributor Brian Edminster wrote. "It's just not always the future we think we'll have. And that's not always bad, in that it can force us to adapt, to improvise and stretch a bit. These are all signs of a healthy being."

Adapting reptilesExpanding the use of the HP 3000 in some companies seems outlandish, but it might not be. Not everywhere. In one case we're heard, new ownership of a division that uses a 3000 offered a chance to extend the use of their 3000, rather than just target the system as something to consolidate, maintain, or decommission. The company's mission includes the need to expand in the division's market that their 3000 system was designed for -- and seeing that their other markets' IT solutions won't work as well as the 3000.

Making that choice involves embracing used servers, and eventually emulated hardware. That's an adaptation of hardware sourcing. Independent support has been available a long time to make the former work, and the virtualized 3000s have been for sale for more than three years by now.

Older and common tools can also get adapted, because with this kind of field experience, practical application trumps strategic platform goals. It can happen at the simplest of levels. You might not expect that Notepad++ could become a 3000-related tool. Edminster tells a story about seeing this happen, though.

"Strangely enough," he reports, "Notepad++ is a popular editor in several of the shops I've done work in —primarily because of its versatility and availability of extensions via plug-ins.  

Its biggest shortcoming is, you guessed it, it's a hassle to get at the files on the 3000 with it. It has no native connection facility, unlike ProgrammerStudio, or Qedit for Windows. At least not without using Samba. And for a site with security concerns and needs, sites who have to comply with PCI standards, Samba is considered a no-no.  

The Notepad++ integration with the 3000 would work with a high-cost item like NSF/iX from Quest/Dell. Of course, "the development servers should be the only ones that need to 'mount' the MPE/iX filesystem, so PC tools can access them," Edminster adds, "so perhaps Samba might work in some environments."

He added that the web_dav module of Apache on the 3000 could also provide a way to make Notepad++ a better player with the 3000. Edminster's expertise includes such open source software. Such web_dav use "could be an easy way to get at files on the 3000 from any Mac or PC application. Making that work would make integrating a 3000 into the world of PC workstation apps so much easier."

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

June 18, 2015

Throwback: A Zealous Emulator Wonder

ZelusFive years ago this week, Stromasys announced the launch of its project to emulate the HP 3000's hardware set. Emulation was a quest for many years before 2010, though. The OpenMPE advocacy group was founded on the pursuit of an emulator for 3000s that would not be built after 2003. By 2004, the community was hearing about the timeline for emulator development. It did not promise to be a short journey.

We revisit those days to remind our readers about a time when then-recent 3000 boxes were standing in the way of making a virtualized 3000. Our podcast for this week includes comments from one of the first emulator vendor candidates, as well as the ultimate developer of a product that marks five years on 3000 planning timelines.

Along the way, the tracks on the trail to making HP's 3000 systems virtually unneeded followed the hard road HP learned about migrations. More than half the systems that were turned off between 2003 and 2008 went to other vendors, according to one report from an emulator vendor. That period saw Hewlett-Packard lose many customers while they departed the 3000, according to the Chief Technology Officer Robert Boers.

What's remarkable about the emergence of Charon from Stromasys is the persistent dedication the vendor showed for the concept. It demands patience to be in the world of emulators. In 2004, nobody was even certain about the best release date for an emulator. HP-branded 3000s in that year were still commonplace, and all had falling price tags. By the time Charon made its debut, that hardware had become seven years older, and used systems were commonly more than a decade old. Time has not enhanced the vintage of these systems. An evergreen emulator, first announced five years ago this week, changed all of that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:46 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 12, 2015

Find hardware specs, move DTCs, and more

Is there a command or way to see the hardware specs of a HP 3000 via MPE or its installed utilities? This machine has no other utilities, like MPEX. I am looking to document the processors, memory, number of hard drives, and size of those drives. 

Jack Connor replies

Depending on MPE/iX version, you can use SYSDIAG for 6.0 and older or CSTM for 6.5 and later. In SYSDIAG, type SYSMAP, then IOMAP, and GENERAL for the IO components, then exit and go to CPUMAP for the CPU info.

In CSTM, type MAP, then SELECT ALL, then INFO, then IL (InfoLog) to get a listing of everything that MPE owns.

I don't work that much with COBOL these days, but I wanted to compile a  program and I got an error message,"size of data segment greater than 1 gig or 64 bytes" How do I get around this?

Steve Cooper replies

That means that the total space you asked for in your Working Storage Section is more than 1 GB.  Now, there are ways to work around that, but my guess is that you don't need to work around that.  My guess is there is a typo or some other unintended problem, where you are asking for way more storage than you intended. Check your OCCURS clauses and PICs to make sure you mean what they say.

We have to move a DTC into our network. Along the way there are Procurve switches and a Cisco router or two. I know that somehow the switches and routers must be configured so as to allow multicasting on addresses 09-00-09-xx-xx-xx to be forwarded and not filtered, but our Procurve administrators aren't quite sure they know how exactly how to do this. What is Procurve-ese for configuring what's necessary to allow remote DTC operation across our network?

Jeff Kell replied

You don't have to do anything at layer-2.  The layer-3 will have to bridge the traffic.  If the layer-3's are Cisco, you can specify the traffic to bridge, in which case you just want the [08|09]-00-09-x-x-x traffic.

The 09-00-09 is multicast used for discovery, but beyond that, you're going to get some directed layer-2 08-00-09 as well.  You will need to include your HP's DTSLINK NIC MAC prefix as well if it is a later model that does not have the old HP 08-00-09 prefix.

If you own the whole infrastructure path, what we used to do is run L2 trunks between sites, and propagate a common vlan for the DTC/HP traffic, while routing everything else.

Or if the Ciscos are real routers rather than Catalyst-style switches, you can run a L2TP tunnel end-to-end to propagate the HP vlan across the routed hops.

I need to rebuild an environment from one HP 3000 system to another. Trouble is, we want to have groups from the same account end up on different user volumes. Is there a way to do this using BULDACCT? 

Keven Miller replies

BULDACCT was made for processing complete accounts. Do BULDACCT  CHC%VSACCT=MEDADV_1. Then edit BULDJOB1 for the other group, changing MEDADV_1 to _2

Mark Ranft adds 

What I usually do is use BULDACCT to move the entire accounting structure. Then I surgically PURGEGROUP and NEWGROUP (with the appropriate HOMEVS= and ONVS= options, plus CAP= and ACCESS= etc) to duplicate the special groups.

I'm having trouble locating TurboIMAGE limits. What's the max number of items in a dataset?

Paul Edwards replies

From HP’s website: 

The objective of this TurboIMAGE enhancement is to raise the limits on number of items, sets and master paths in a TurboIMAGE database to these values: 

Number of items: 1200
Number of sets per database: 240
Number of paths for master : 64

All new databases created will have the benefit of increased limits. The new limits will not be applicable for old databases created under previous versions of TurboIMAGE. However, these databases will continue to function with the old limits and applications will be compatible.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:17 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 08, 2015

In 20th year, NewsWire digital turns 10 today

Burning at both endsA decade ago today, this blog received its first post. On June 8 of 2005, a death in the 3000's family was in the news. Bruce Toback, creator of several 3000 software products and a man whose intellect was as sharp as his wit, died as suddenly as HP's futures for the HP 3000 did. I wrote a brief tribute, because Toback's writing on the 3000-L made him a popular source of information. His posts signed off with Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about a candle with both ends alight, which made it burn so bright.

I always thought of Bruce as having bright ends of technical prowess along with a smart cynicism that couldn't help but spark a chuckle. His programming lies at the heart of Formation, a ROC Software product which Bruce created for Tymlabs, an extraordinary HP software company here in Austin during 1980s and early 90s. Toback could demonstrate a sharp wit as well as trenchant insight. From one of his messages in 2004:

HP engineer [about a Webcast to encourage migration]: During the program, we will discuss the value and benefits of Transitioning from the HP e3000 platform to Microsoft's .NET.

Bruce: Oh... a very short program, then.

In the same way Toback's candle burned at both ends, I think of this blog as the second light we fired up, a decade after the fire of the NewsWire's launch. Up to this year we burned them both. Now the blog, with its more than 2,600 articles and almost 400,000 pageviews, holds up the light for those who remain, and lights the way for those who are going. This entry is a thank-you for a decade of the opportunity to blog about the present, the future, and the past.

We always knew we had to do more than give the community a place to connect and read what they believed. We're supposed to carry forward what they know. The NewsWire in all of its forms, printed and digital, is celebrating its 20th year here in 2015. A decade ago our June 2005 blogging included a revival of news that's 20 years old by now. It's news that's still can still have an impact on running a 3000 today.

In the blog's first month of 2005, I wrote

"HP 3000 enhancements can travel like distant starlight: They sometimes take years to show up on customer systems. A good example is jumbo datasets for the 3000's database. Jumbos, the 3000's best tool for supporting datasets bigger than 4GB, first surfaced out of HP's labs in 1995, just when the NewsWire was emerging. We put our news online in the months before we'd committed to print, and our report of September 1 had this to say."

HP will make the enhancement available as part of its patch system, bypassing the delay of waiting for another full release of MPE/iX. But there are already discussions from the HP 3000 community that a more thorough change will be needed before long — because 40-gigabyte datasets someday might not be large enough, either.

"Why care about 20- or 10-year-old news? Because the 3000 has such a long lifespan where it's permitted to keep serving. In the conservative timeline of 3000 management, jumbos were the distant starlight, only becoming commonplace on 3000s a decade later. Jumbos are finally going to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP's engineers say their alpha testing to fix a critical bug in LFDS is going well."

"Like the jumbos before them, LFDS are also going to get a slow embrace. How slowly did jumbos go into production systems? Five years after jumbos first emerged, John Burke wrote in our net.digest column "it is hard to tell about the penetration of jumbo datasets in the user community beyond users of the Amisys application." His column also offered some tips on using jumbos, even while database experts in the community continued to lobby for a way to build larger files."

That reporting in 2005 marked the first time in a decade that 3000 customers could build a dataset as big as they needed. Up until then, LFDS had not been recommended for 3000 customers except in experimental implementations.

The nature of the 3000 community's starlight made a 10-year-old enhancement like jumbos current and vital. Alfredo Rego of Adager once said that his database software was designed like a satellite, something that might be traveling for decades or more and need the reliability of spacecraft to go beyond the reach of support transmissions. HP's signal for 3000s has died by now. We hope to repeat signals, as well as report, for more than another decade, onto the cusp of MPE's calendar reset of 2027. Thanks for receiving these transmissions.

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

June 05, 2015

Plan B: Stay on the HP 3000 to 2027?

Atmar poster project 1Could you really stay on the HP 3000 through 2027? What follows is a classic strategy for 3000 owners. Wirt Atmar of AICS Research wrote the following column in the months after HP's 3000 exit announcement. The article is offline for the moment, so I thought we'd put it here as a reference document for any IT manager who's trying to defend the case for remaining on their HP hardware a few more years. When Atmar passed away in 2007 the community lost a dynamic advocate for MPE computing. His company eventually migrated its QueryCalc application for IMAGE reporting to Windows. But not before he organized advocacy like the World's Largest Poster Project, at left. Few 3000 experts did more for MPE owners than Atmar — including thinking outside of HP's box.

Plan B: Staying on the HP 3000 Indefinitely

By Wirt Atmar

Hewlett-Packard and a few others are stating that staying on the HP 3000 for the long term is your least desirable option, the one that puts you at the greatest risk. Let me argue here that remaining on the HP 3000 is not likely to be all that much of a risk, at least for the next 25 years. It will certainly be your least expensive option and the one that will provide you with the greatest protection for your current investment in software and business procedures.

AICS Research, Inc. wholly and enthusiastically supports the evolution of an HP 3000 MPE emulator, another path that has been described as "risky." But there's nothing risky at all about the option, should HP give its blessing to the project. It is technically feasible and completely doable. Indeed, the emulator actually offers the very real possibility of greatly expanding MPE's user base. However, staying on the HP3000 does not require HP's blessing. It's something you can decide to do by yourself. And should you decide later to move off of the HP 3000, you've really lost nothing in the interim. Indeed, you've gained time to think about what is best in your circumstances.

Risk Estimation

A part of calculating your "risk" is really nothing more than sitting back and determining what part of the computer market is rapidly evolving and which part is more or less stable.

The HP 3000 is well-known for its qualities: a very nice CI scripting language, a very robust job scheduler, an extremely stable and scalable database, and its simple, English-like commands. Beyond that, we have also been lucky that the HP e3000 has also recently had put into it several standards-based attributes: network-based IP addressable printing, telnet and FTP, and all of these qualities are now very stable.

But all of the other processes of modern computing, the material encompassed by POSIX (Java, Samba, Apache, bind, DNS, etc.) are the qualities that are rapidly evolving. And none of these need to be on the HP 3000. In fact, you're probably better off if they weren't on the platform.

Little Linux boxThe picture at left is of a $450, 128MB, 900MHz, 30GB Dell server running Red Hat Linux and a used, unlimited-number-of-users, 128MB, 8GB Series 927 we bought from a customer for $200. Because of HP's announcement, some fraction of users, undoubtedly greater than 50%, are going to move off of the HP 3000. What this migration is going to do is provide a glut of hardware on the market in the next several years that is simply going to be unbelievably inexpensive, and there's no reason that you shouldn't take advantage of the situation.

You can actually telnet to this 927 by logging onto 67.41.4.238 and typing:

:hello <yourname>,demo.qcterm

Once there, you can then telnet from the HP 3000 to the little Dell server by typing:

:telnet 192.168.1.3

And that's very much the point. The telnet and FTP standards are now very stable. Almost no change is going to occur in these standards in the next quarter-century. Fortunately both the HP 3000 and Linux have them deeply embedded in their structure now. Because of that, you can very readily append Linux and Windows processes onto your HP3000 as auxiliary cheap external boxes. Using the FTP site command, the HP3000 can easily operate as a master controller of any number of external Linux and Windows machines.

It is our intention to move our web pages up on the Linux box. It is undeniable that Linux makes a fine webserver. But on the other hand, it is equally undeniable that the HP 3000 is a very nice database platform. Using HP3000 scripts and jobs, it is very easy to transfer files to and from the Linux box, constantly updating web pages as need be from data held in your HP3000's databases.

Most of the applications on the HP3000 are quite old and very stable. If the more modern -- and therefore much less mature -- applications such as web and file serving are put onto the Linux box, such auxiliary Linux platforms can fail without impacting the HP3000 at all, other than perhaps holding open the one or two processes that might be waiting for a reply. But even if that should prove to be true, all that these processes should do is hang until the Linux boxes are resurrected. They certainly will not crash the HP3000.

Hardware Maintenance

There are fewer parts in a modern computer than most people imagine: a power supply, a few circuit boards, a few disc drives and a backup device, generally something like a DDS or DLT tape drive. But beyond that, they're hardly anything else but sheet metal.

918 in the picture aboveOne of our HP3000's, the 918 in the picture at left, originally came with two 4GB drives mounted internally. One of the drives failed, as that particular series of 4GB drives that HP supplied had a tendency to do. Access to the drives is merely a matter of unscrewing two screws at the base of the faceplate, lifting the faceplate away, and pulling the disc drive cage out a bit from the central case.

To replace the drive, all I did was unplug the power cables and the ribbon cable from the defective drive inside the cage. Otherwise, I left the drive mounted where it was. I then ordered an extremely inexpensive, external SCSI-connected LaCie drive from APS that was designed to work on PC's or Mac's and plugged it into the SCSI port at the back of the HP3000, giving it the same SCSI address as the dead drive [I prefer SCSI-connected external drives, even though they're a bit more expensive, simply because they're so much easier to replace if the time comes again to do so]. I wasn't able to order an exact replacement 4GB drive. The smallest, cheap external $250 drive that I was able to order was 18GB, and that was from the "legacy" series. Nonetheless, it booted instantly.

How stable is this sort of repair process likely to be over the next 25 years? SCSI is SCSI. We were an early and very enthusiastic adopter of Macintoshes when they first appeared in 1984, and this 18GB drive could have been just as easily connected to one of our 1985 Mac Pluses as it was to the 1999 HP 3000. Although there are other external bus structures in existence (USB, Firewire, optical, etc.), SCSI is likely to be approximately as common 25 years from now as it is currently. But even if it were supplanted by some other bus structure, you can reasonably be assured that bus convertor boxes will be available. While there is likely to be a great deal of evolution in peripheral devices over the next quarter century, SCSI frees you to be able to accept that evolution rather easily.

Can you really operate a business on 25-year-old hardware, 25 years from now? We do it here with our Macintoshes. Because we were an early adopter of the Macs, and because Apple has not attempted to maintain backwards compatibility in its lines, we were orphaned within just a few years of adopting the Macs. Our initial enthusiasm for the Mac caused us to put 5,000 pages of company documentation on the machines. Unfortunately, the very next series of Macintoshes, the PowerPC's, would not run our software and thus we were constrained to keeping our original Mac Pluses alive forever.

Although Apple has made the Mac line incompatible within itself several times since, none of these more recent incompatibilities bother us, because we were stuck on the very first generation of Macs. When the Mac Pluses and Mac Classics began to become obsolete, we bought 10 spare machines from the local high schools for almost no money at all. These spares are now stuffed in every nook, cranny and closet, but so far, they haven't proven to be necessary. Although the original Macintoshes were never made nor advertised to be rock-solid, reliable devices, so far they've held up to 17 years worth of daily use.

And that too is simply the nature of electronic devices nowadays. Mechanical devices (discs, tape drives, keyboards) may fail, but the electronic circuits could easily run for several hundred years without much maintenance.

Software Maintenance

Plan B 918 picturePictured at left is a third small HP 3000 that we run, another 918. However that's not the device of interest in this picture. Rather the machine of importance is the small $400 e-machine PC in the center of the image.

Adobe Acrobat Distiller is the program that converts PostScript files into the PDF format that's become very popular on the web. Beginning about five years ago, for a period of two years, I spoke to everyone I could at HP and Adobe about porting Distiller over onto the HP3000, but I was able to make absolutely no headway with anyone. No one was interested. Even more frustrating, because POSIX is not UNIX, the UNIX version of the Acrobat distiller would not run on the HP3000 as it was, even though it was certified for HP-UX.

One day, in an epiphany not unlike Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus, it simply dawned on me that I didn't need to keep beating my head on the wall. Rather, I could purchase the very inexpensive Windows-based version of Acrobat and FTP my files from the HP3000 down into a PC. The process worked so well that I have now become a very enthusiastic advocate of not porting material onto the HP3000 directly. Rather I now argue that it's best to run the programs on the platform for which they were designed and control them from the HP3000. Indeed, doing this insulates and protects the HP3000 in two ways: one is from random software bugs, the second is from obsolescence.

In the arrangement we now use, a standard, simple HP3000 job runs our QueryCalc reports and prints their PostScript output to MPE flat files. As a second step in the jobs, the ASCII flat files are FTP'ed down into the e-machine, into an Acrobat "watched" folder, adding the file extension ".ps" onto the file as an intrinsic part of the transfer. The PC is set up so that when a ".ps" file appears in the watch folder, Acrobat automatically converts it into PDF, moving it to a pre-specified output folder. Although the distillation process generally takes less than a second, we have our HP3000 jobs wait 10 seconds before they retrieve the newly-converted PDF files and move them back onto the HP3000. Once the new files are back on the HP3000, they're FTP'ed to a third server, our webserver in Minneapolis, MN, inside the same job. It's all surprisingly very simple, very straightforward and very efficiently done.

Because virtually any process on a Linux/UNIX or Windows machine can be controlled in this manner, there's essentially no reason to port anything to the HP3000 nowadays. But just as importantly, this simple observation makes the current version of MPE nearly obsolescence-proof. Even more than SCSI, FTP and telnet, because they are now nearly ubiquituous 30-year-old standards, are going to look the same in 25 years as they do now. They cannot be changed.

Hardware ages, but software doesn't. It is essentially immortal. But can you run 25-year-old software 25 years from now, especially if no one is "maintaining" it? What does maintenance mean? To a great degree, it means keeping up with the evolving standards, not fixing bugs. But what would you really want to change on your HP3000? Your code works now. It will work just as well a quarter-century from now.

The little Linux box in the topmost picture is set to dial back to Red Hat every evening, check for updates, and apply them automatically, if need be. Doing this is necessary at the moment because of the rapid evolution attendent to trying to make Linux a mission-critical operating system, and it will be that way for the next five years or so. But there's virtually nothing that really needs to be fixed on the HP 3000 that sits next to the Linux box. MPE code has proven itself to be extremely reliable at tens of thousands of sites over decades of use. And although the total sum of all of the equipment in the upper image came to less than $2000, there is sufficient computing power on the table to run a $50 million/year business easily.

All software contains bugs, and on the last day that HP corrects whatever bugs it finds in MPE, if no emulator and no Open MPE should come to pass, those defects that exist in the code on that day will remain there forever. But in many ways, operating under these conditions is more stable and more predictable than when code is still actively being modified. You rapidly learn where the remaining pitfalls are and you simply work around them.

The real trick to operating obsoleted hardware and an O/S is to buy multiple spare equipment. This equipment is going to become startlingly cheap in the next few years, so keep your eyes open for it. In your free time, configure these spare systems to be identical to your production boxes. In this manner, if your primary systems should fail, you can actually swap out a spare system faster than you can call for assistance and certainly be back on line before the repair people arrive, if you need them. Doing this also allows you to find out what's wrong with the failed system at a leisurely pace and get it back up and running on a schedule that's far more appropriate to the task than one dictated by panic.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this note, I do not believe that staying on the HP 3000 indefinitely to be a particularly risky strategy. If your code and business procedures work well today, they will work just as well tomorrow, a week from today, or twenty years from now. In great contrast, migration may be the riskiest thing you can do.

Over the years, we've had a great many customers move off of the HP 3000 and we've been very interested in hearing about their successes and their failures. The former users who have had their companies bought out by a larger organization have had the greatest success. The larger organization dictates what kind of computer system they're going to use, and in this situation, the HP3000 often loses. Nonetheless, our former customers generally have to do no more than have their terminals changed out and learn the new business rules as they connect to the central server at company headquarters.

In this company-purchase environment, everything has been relatively well smoothed out in advance by the purchasing organization, optimizing their procedures over a period of years, if not decades. But the same hasn't been true of our customers who have "migrated" off of the HP 3000 onto some other platform, based on their own volition. Their costs of migration have universally been far higher than anyone originally estimated, as have the times involved. Indeed, the migration efforts were so difficult that a few of our former customers have outrightly failed during the process and many others were put at high risk. There's no single day in the life of a company when the computer system, no matter how it's architected, that it can't operate and fulfill its business purpose, and it's this simple necessity that makes migration so extremely difficult.

If your choices boil down to choosing between a "migration" process, which may cost millions of dollars, and which may well put the company at risk, and doing nothing, other than purchasing a number of very inexpensive spares, staying put may well be the least risky thing you could ever do.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:16 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 01, 2015

Older laptops find current use for 3000s

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies

Back in the MPE-III, MPE-IV, and MPE-V days, I often advocated using a printing terminal as a console (i.e. an HP 2635), in order to leave a permanent hardcopy audit trail.  A little loud, sometimes, but it made it hard to hide what was going on, and allowed you to flip back through prior 'pages' of history. And unlike PCs, the messages were persistent (that's to say they would survive a power-fail).

Since then, I've been an advocate for using PCs as a system console workstation -- often ones that would otherwise be ready for retirement.

Compaq Armada laptopActually, I prefer to use laptop PCs, as they're typically smaller and lighter, have a battery in them that can act as a short-term UPS, and many can be configured to allow folding the screen closed while leaving them turned on and active. A laptop saves space, and if the system's been configured to shut off the display and spin down the drives when there's little to no activity, it can save power as well. 

Key documentation and/or other useful info can also be kept on the laptop as well -- so you don't have to look things up on paper. If the laptop is old enough, either it (or a docking station for it) will have a serial port, or you can also go the USB to Serial adapter route, if necessary. Something like this Compaq Armada is quite old, but it does include a serial port.

On the laptop, the freeware QCTerm terminal emulator is a perfect choice for use as a system console, and has a 15000-line memory. That beats the heck out of any CRT I've ever seen! You can still get copies of this emulator from the Internet archives. I also plan to make QCTerm available, along with associated documentation, on my website.

I've provided a working URL that'll take you right to the old download page for the latest version of QCTerm (v3.1a). Just click here. From that page, you can also search 'backwards' through time, to find earlier versions of QCTerm as well.

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

May 29, 2015

Retrieve What's Lost With Wayback

Even when things go dark on the Web, their history doesn't. The Internet Wayback Machine is always watching and recording, taking snapshots of sites or their content that's been removed. So long as there's a Wayback, there's a way back, so to speak.

QCTerm LogoI discovered this yesterday when checking on freeware from AICS Research. The company still supports its HP 3000 users of QueryCalc, but at the moment the feature-rich website has nothing on its face but a static graphic. AICS did business long ago as a tax service, and all the website reports is a gaggle of details about that enterprise.

As 3000 users know, a lot more resided at aics-research.com. In years past, there was a 3000 Relative Performance Chart, an essay to guide users on remaining on the 3000 indefinitely (called Plan B at the time), as well as a rich history of early Hewlett-Packard computing products. But most of all, there was QCTerm, the free 3000 emulator that AICS created for the 3000 community. QCTerm has always been "freely distributed to all users for their personal and corporate use, without time limit or any form of obligation being incurred by any party."

QCTerm is a full-function HP700/92 terminal emulator, very similar to other terminal emulators, running in Windows. The only difference is that QCTerm carries no cost "and may be freely distributed to as many users as you wish."

QCTerm was not constructed as a precise mimic of an HP700/92 terminal, although it identifies itself as such. "Rather, we wanted to make QCTerm simpler, more browser-like, and more intuitive, while retaining the full functionality that would be expected of an HP terminal," the software's description reports.

You can still download Version 3.1 of QCTerm using the Wayback Machine address. It's also available from the software.informer website.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:58 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2015

Make old PCs do a console's work

HP PortableGot a wheezing PC someplace in your IT shop? Believe it or not, even the creakiest of desktops can still serve your HP 3000: as a console, a la the HP700/92 variety. This is the kind of PC where, as one veteran puts it,"the keyboards have turned to glue."

...Trying to type a coherent instruction (or even worse, trying to talk someone through that task remotely) where random keys require the application of a sledgehammer to make them respond, at which point they auto repeatttttttttttttttt.

It's enough to give a veteran manager a pain in the posterior, but hey -- some HP 3000s (of the 900 Series) demand a physical console as part of their configuration. Can't you just hook up such an antique PC straight to the 3000's special console port and let it work as a console? Yes, you can.

Overheard among chatter between 3000 vets:

You can connect a PC via its serial port to the console port on the HP3000, and then run a terminal emulator via the serial connection, leaving it logged on as the console. That way, using free remote control software (VNC Free) on the PC, you could even have control of the physical console (as opposed to just taking the virtual console) so that things like Control-A/B would work.

You'll need a little physical cabling help to make this work. Even though those desktop PCs are old, most of them have not had serial ports in many years. Think about it. It's all USB by now. So you buy a USB-to-serial converter. You'll need a copy of an HP 3000 terminal emulator on the PC configured to connect via the serial port.

Just make sure the PC stays up and the emulator's window is open and connected. You don't need the console buffer filling up.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:31 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 26, 2015

The Legacy of Trusted 3000 Access

Circle of trustIn plenty of HP 3000 customer sites -- or the IT operations that include a 3000 among the servers -- MPE has been an outlier. An important one, however, and that's a good reason that access to the TurboIMAGE data has sparked a generation of tools. Linux, Unix, Windows systems all need to connect to the 3000's data. UDALink software has a track record of keeping 3000s in the computing Circle of Trust. Now there's a new generation.

Finance might need 3000 data to get a firm grip on the current operational profitability of the business. Customers will need to gauge supplier and vendor performance, based on data in 3000s. Accurate data, delivered in a timely way, improves customer relations and sales. And manufacturing processes must measure the time it takes to complete or commit to a product delivery date, for example. 3000 data might be on a legacy system, but it can be crucial to corporate objectives.

MB Foster is showing off the setup, configuration and enabling of secure ODBC/JDBC connections in UDALink to access a HP 3000 or another environment, starting at 2 PM Eastern on Wednesday. The webinar lasts about an hour, and you can register through MB Foster for the free briefing. This is software that connects 3000s to the rest of the world by way of direct access to data.

UDALink is the progeny of ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration that HP is counting upon, the journey of Windows Server 2003 users.

The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."

ODBCLink/SE was first delivered inside of the MPE Fundamental Operating System in the 1990s. A full-featured version of ODBCLink was available for sale, and that full-edition software became UDALink. The latest version of the UDALink JDBC2 module has support for these changes from the JDBC 3.0 API, to name a few.

  • Reuse of prepared statement by connection pools
  • Connection pool configuration
  • Savepoint support
  • Retrieval of parameter metadata and auto-generated keys
  • BOOLEAN data types
  • Updating of columns containing BLOB, CLOB, ARRAY and REF
  • Transformation groups and type mapping
  • Database Metadata APIs

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:53 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2015

A Memorial to 3000 Advocacy

Wirt AtmarIt's Memorial Day in the US, a holiday where we celebrate those fallen in combat. There's that ultimate sacrifice in uniform and on duty for this country, worthy of a parade. But here on a day when many of us take time away from the job, it's worth a moment to remember those who've left our MPE community after good work to benefit all.

Wirt Atmar was one of those fellows. He passed away more than six years ago of a heart attack, but he's got a living memorial up on the archives of the 3000-L newsgroup. The lifespan of HP's business with the 3000 got a benefit from his work as well. It's safe to say that MPE's 1990s would've been poorer without his advocacy for IMAGE.

1990 was a high-water mark in HP 3000 advocacy. From his company AICS Research, Wirt created the report tool QueryCalc as well as QCReports and a free QCTerm emulator. In the fall of 1990 he helped spark a change in HP's business practices about the 3000 — a change that remains important to those who are changing little about a stable HP 3000 environment.

In 1990 Atmar wrote an open letter to HP published in The HP Chronicle, the monthly news magazine I was editing at the time. In his letter Atmar chastized HP for the way it was relegating IMAGE to minor status among the 3000's futures and features, as well as the general treatment of a loyal customer base. Word was building in the community that HP had plans to separate the IMAGE database from the purchase of any 3000. The database had been included with the 3000 since 1976, a radical move at the time that sparked the creation of untold numbers of utilities and applications.

A programmer or development company could create an application or software for the 3000 community using IMAGE as the database, knowing that every 3000 out there would be able to make use of the creation. 3000=IMAGE was a formula close to being broken. The community reared up on its hind legs and castigated its supplier, using the Interex 1990 user group meeting as the forum for its dismay. SIG-IMAGE, a Special Interest Group of users gone dormant, re-formed to organize the complaints and demand remedies.

Computerworld Boston Tea PartyIn community lore, the protests around the meeting are known as "The Boston Tea Party," in part because they changed HP's course of conduct about customers. I recall Adager's Fred White as the most scathing critic of HP's myopia of the time, but a row of customers lined up behind and in front of him at the public microphones in a Boston meeting hall. This was a time when the HP Roundtable was the highlight of the conference, a chance to quiz the top executives of the company, right out in the open, about shortcoming and problems. The national IT press of Datamation, Computerworld and Information Week, all with HQ just up the road, were on hand that year to report the rebellious talk.

HP looked chagrined and embarrassed fielding customer complaints — during a time when customer communities had a different impact on their vendors.

At the time of the Boston uprising, Atmar noted, HP was easy to take advantage of, because the vendor was afraid of negative publicity. He said that his open letter "basically caused the [1990] Boston riot."

In the fall of that year the users not only stalled the separation of IMAGE from the 3000, but sparked a "Customer First" strategy from HP that was used to retain 3000 customers. HP used Customer First as a model in its other enterprise computer operations. As part of that, customer focused R&D mandated that every employee had to become an expert in understanding customers' businesses so they could know the customers' "pain points.” At its best, Customer First let HP anticipate 3000 customer needs in order to be able to deliver solutions that customers might not have even considered. Every engineer and manager was sent on customer visits, to spend a day or two with HP 3000 customers. HP gained insight at a new level, and refreshed its customer relationships. Customer First became a mantra in a new generation of HP 3000 division managers, the idea of customer delight: unexpected features, beyond commonplace requests.

It was a renovation for customers, even if it came at the end of a pointed stick of sharp criticism and some disgust. But as Atmar pointed out, "It was a glorious moment, yes, but as the Roman slaves told the Roman generals, 'All fame is fleeting.' "

Even 15 years later, as homesteading advocacy talks were taking place with HP, the outcome -- a better place for homesteading 3000s -- would've been impossible without the ideals of Customer First that were sparked by that 1990 uprising. On the occasion of the 3000's 25th birthday, Atmar talked about what that birthday of the product -- which was still living on the HP price lists in 1997 -- meant to the customers.

Maturity. If you were a business owner or manager, I can't think of a single word that you would want to seek out and celebrate more than a mature solution, one that can easily demonstrate that it can do what it says it does. Immature solutions, on the other hand, are going to cost you an awful lot of money — and a growing segment of the business community is beginning to understand that. You can only be lead down the garden path so many times before it begins to dawn on you what it's truly costing you.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:11 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2015

The 3000's Growth: Built Upon Basics

HP 250-260IT managers with MPE applications still hold hope of better futures for the HP 3000. The future of the system is the same as it ever was in many places, companies and organizations that protect the value of the custom apps they've built. HP miscalculated the value of these in-house, hand-tooled apps. The vendor's warnings of a shrinking ecosystem placed little value in these home-grown systems.

Tim O'Neill rarely misses a chance to illustrate what HP missed in 2001. When our report on the fate of Carly Fiorina's presidential run emerged, O'Neill wrote about the vitriol aimed at all things HP including Carly.

Despite all the errors and vitriol and despair that HP inspired — continuing to this day and even in this space (where space refers to my space) — the world still could use an operating system dedicated to managing data for business and industry, and doing so effectively and affordably, and without the risks contained in other systems not designed for such real purposes.

With proper system engineering planning, oversight, and new development, and modern hardware (e.g. using the product from Stromasys,) MPE/iX could fill the requirement not being met by a few popular proprietary operating systems and dozens of competing alternatives. In the mode of the HP 260 business system, a New Age HP 3000 from Stromasys could be a dedicated multi-user business system with storage on a SAN of choice.

But what is this HP 260 in O'Neill's memory, and why was it successful in its era of the late '80s and into the '90s? Business Basic drove that system. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies reminded us of what made an HP-designed integrated solution a good enterprise choice.

Stan Sieler of Allegro, owner of a 250, recalled that "The Classic 3000s had BASIC/3000 and BusinessBASIC. The PA-RISC systems certainly could run programs written in those languages, but also had BusinessBASIC/iX." Edminster cast a light onto the attributes of the business of BASIC.

I first worked on 250/Basic at HP's Rockville office, back before the 250s were even shipping to the public.  I worked for a 3000 OEM at the time, and couldn't help but think that the language on that machine beat the pants off BASIC/3000 (from a sophistication standpoint, at least).

Later, I did some support work on the eastern shore of Maryland, where a canning company was using a HP 250 that had a accounting/distribution system written in 250/Basic.  A little more recently than that, I did some support work on a custom system written in 3000/BusinessBasic on a Series 917 that was used for property management.  It was really very interesting how they integrated credit-card processing via a shared Telamon Engine.  Of course, with PCI requirements being what they are, that application would need to have a number of upgrades in order to remain compliant.

I should check and see if they're still using their 3000.   It's unlikely, after all these years - but I've been surprised like that before. 

Edminster noted that the GrowthPower MRP II system from CSI was another application on the 3000 that was written in BusinessBasic. "It's been ages since I've seen that application either, but I did have a GrowthPower customer nearby that I was helping to keep a 3000 running in archival mode," he said. "It actually had been a GrowthPower site, but had converted to a PC-based MRP system. It took nearly a whole rack of PC equipment to replace what one lowly 917 had previously handled."

The funniest thing was that many of the users still preferred to use the 3000's app, and would, if they were allowed to. It actually took a hard drive failure that made it apparent that some were still using the old system for things that they apparently shouldn't have been. The management had me alter the application to allow read-only access to put a stop to that. (We altered the IMAGE database passwords to only allow read access.) That made the management happy, but didn't earn me any friends with the previous clandestine users of the system.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:05 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2015

SSDs in use on 3000s: Virtualized by now

Earlier this week, a 3000 devotee and technician asked if anyone was using solid state disc (SSD) on HP 3000s in place of the aging SCSI drives in most servers. "It sounds like a great concept," said Jon Jonston, who's working on a preservation project for the HP Computer Museum.

We are just looking to restore images onto a disc for demo purposes. So, even powered down life is not important, but cost is. We have found that IDE->CF works great as a hard disc replacement in old DOS PCs. SCSI2SD is a great low-cost solution (for Apple), but doesn't work with HP. We are looking for a low-cost, single disc SSD for HP 3000 computers.

SSD DriveAfter one newsgroup user compared putting SSDs in 3000s to a McLaren racing engine in an SUV, a more plausible solution emerged: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."

But there was a time in another May when SSDs running native in HP's 3000 hardware was a possibility worth investigating.

It was almost six years ago, and the Charon emulator was not yet announced. Extending the future of the HP hardware was more of a necessity for a homesteading user. Stan Sieler of Allegro said he'd be looking into what would be needed to bring solid state storage to MPE.

"I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete' -- but still world's-best -- business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said in May of 2009. "I'm hoping to do some tests in the near future."

Sieler said that those SATA/SCSI adapters would be a crucial part of putting SSD on its MPE feet. "Few SSD drives have SCSI interfaces... hence the SATA/SCSI adapter component," he said. "An SSD with a SCSI interface would look completely like an SCSI disk drive."

This kind of design, to mimic the SCSI interface, would've helped to avoid using the SCSI Pass-Through code HP engineered during 2007. The community still hasn't heard reports of how the pass-through works, and HP said that employing it is "not for the faint of heart."

A computer museum would need to ensure that old hardware could be represented in its original form. An IT shop preserving MPE applications, instead of the platform -- not so much. A virtualized 3000 will do. Craig Lalley checked in to report that his Stromasys Charon installation runs from an SSD.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:58 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 12, 2015

3000 sites of some size still checking in

Last week we were on the hunt for HP 3000 customers of some size. These are organizations that are big enough to be publicly traded. The distinction can be important to any customer who wants to retain their HP 3000 apps after a merger as part of an enterprise-wide portfolio.

Portfolio ManagementA note here on portfolios: they're not just for publicly traded securities. Applications can be managed, portfolio-style. MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster has shared several lessons with the 3000 community on how Application Portfolio Management practices keep a company prepared for discussions about keeping apps, no matter what environment hosts them. The right time to migrate is a question that APM data can answer for any CIOs who are asking about MPE apps.

Sees largest lollipopAs for the 3000 sites of size, three more have checked in. The largest line of candy shops in the US, an online resource for IT products, and a worldwide nutrition company are all current 3000 sites. They all have corporate ownership which must bear the burden of shareholder scrutiny.

The largest candy shop company in the US is See's Candies. 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.

(This is the second Berkshire Hathaway 3000-using company we've discovered. Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for years and is also part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.)

Tiger Direct is an operation of the Systemax Corporation, traded on the NYSE. The parent corporation had revenues overall exceeding $3 billion for the current fiscal year. Tiger was acquired and integrated into the corporate IT of Systemax in 1996, the same year the TigerDirect.com website was launched. Like See's, Tiger Direct sells via web outlets directly to customers.

Shaklee manufactures and distributes natural nutrition supplements, weight-management products, beauty products, and household products. Its $150 million in yearly revenues come from operations in the US, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and Japan; the company is traded on the Japan Stock Exchange.

All three of these companies sell to consumers using e-commerce packages. High volumes of transactions are keeping 3000s busy in these shops. The stability of legacy solutions, and the design to manage thousands of sales per hour, are making these companies' success a matter of public record. 

If you know of other publicly traded corporations still using HP 3000s, let us hear about it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 07, 2015

Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too

We've just reported on a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and is using HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running up to 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which the operating system will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at the CALENDAR intrinsic explains its hold on the 3000's far future. But consider that 2028 is not so far away that engineers aren't already conceiving technology for that year. Volkswagen has a concept video about a VW that runs in 2028.

Before that future, though, there's always history. When MPE was created in 1970, it started as a project called Omega. The miracle of this engineering was its use of 32-bit computing, still a novelty at the time. But when HP canceled Omega in favor of a 16-bit 3000 -- a management choice that prompted black armbands among HP staff -- it sealed the server into a 57-year period of service.

That's because, as Vladimir reminded us, 16-bit 3000s left only enough intrinsic room for 127 years of accurate dates. The intrinsic CALENDAR, written for the eldest MPE Segmented Library (SL), uses only 7 bits to describe which year is in effect. That delivers a maximum number of 127 years which you can express, and MPE was built with 1900 as its base for dates.

From HP's Intrinsics Manual:

CALENDAR
date

16-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return)
Returns the calendar date in the following format:
Bits Value/Meaning
7:9
Day of year
0:7
Year since 1900

HP only allotted 7 bits to describe the year for MPE. Who'd expect that the OS would have a lifespan of more than 50 years? Someone who figured newer and better tools would take over completely by then. It's commonplace to believe in the equivalent of flying cars -- Volkswagen's 2028 model concepts are on the Web, and up in YouTube in a video. (Enjoy the Apple Watch-like commands at the 1:45 mark that show how to customize the VW Ego's exterior.)

Maybe cars will fly in some places, maybe not in others. Oh, but for that one extra bit. HP ordered 16 extra through HPCALENDAR in the 1990s, just too late to influence the heart of MPE.

While working in the realm of those original 16-bit MPE intrinsics, "You cannot make less than 9 bits for the date of the year," Vladimir said. "That would be less than 365 days. So that leaves us 7 bits to express the year."

The '90s HPCALENDAR, reaching into the new elbow room of 32 bits, can use as many as 23 bits for the year. That intrinsic will cover 8 million years, even more. HPCALENDAR is available in Native Mode MPE, and it remains the best choice for any new work done on a 3000's applications.

But MPE's existing intrinsics provide the barrier here: the oldest are in Segmented Library (SL) -- and the newer HPCALENDAR is in Native Library (NL). And the only companies with any chance of adjusting the 3000's dates into 2028 and beyond are those which have insight into MPE/iX source. Then there's knowing what to do with it. They must get into the MPE source and recompile it to use HPCALENDAR.

For complete reference, here's the manual page for HPCALENDAR:

NM callable only.

This intrinsic returns the date in the supported
date type code 4 listed in the table, 
“Supported Date Formats.”
Syntax

I32

   date := HPCALENDAR;

Operation Notes

Where date is the 32-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return). This returns the
calendar date in the following format:

Bits Value/Meaning

23:9 Day of year

0:23 Year since 1900

Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir reminded us. It can do operations with DATE. "If you have MPEX, and who doesn’t," he says, "DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."

Vladimir also talks, on his return from consulting trips to 3000 sites, about the level of 3000 knowledge he sees in even long-time users. Management relies on the HP guys to tell them what’s up, and the HP guys don’t know.

"There are all kinds of excuses not to know what you’re doing," he says. He tells of his philosophy about learning. You draw a circle to represent what you know. "Inside the circle is what you know, outside is what you don’t know. You go along the circumference. Only by going along there can you see what you don’t know. So you learn, and you draw a bigger circle, a bigger circumference. The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know."

In converse, consider the smallest circle of knowledge, just a point. Vladimir adds, "When you know nothing, you think you know everything."

No one knows who will be working in the years near 2028 on HP 3000s. But in an era where Amiga computer games can be played on iPhones -- and companies now earn money for such a creation -- it's easy to say we don't know who will break this 2028 barrier. And they might be driving a car called a Volkswagen, and maybe even using a computer called the 3000, and neither will resemble what we know today.

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

May 06, 2015

Big companies still use the HP 3000

SkyscrapersFrom time to time, HP 3000 managers need specifics on the community's use of the 3000. Who's out there of any size who's devoted to making MPE a realistic 2015 business tool? As it turns out, there's an array of current customers who are large enough to trade on the stock market, even while they use an operating environment first booted up before their companies went public.

Size of company is one measure of the 3000's success over all of those decades. Another way CIOs try to gauge the staying power of a server that doesn't have vendor support is to see how many sites count MPE as an essential corporate business tool. This census-style of measure won't impress anybody in an era where Windows Server powers hundreds of thousands of businesses. (Windows Server customers are facing a migration this year, though, one that's not voluntary anymore.) Forced to an estimate, we'd say there are 2,500 HP 3000s running around the world, with about half as many customers.

But this is a computer still in regular use by publicly-traded companies. Several 3000s run at 3M, where they'll be part of the IT environment for a few more years. Manufacturing and ERP are the usual jobs for long-term, large-company MPE systems. But some sites are using the servers for e-commerce, for distribution, and for general finance operations.

One of the higher-profile organizations using the server is AMETEK, a company which is part of the S&P 500. Two divisions run MANMAN on their 3000s. At last report, one of these systems isn't going to power down until 2023 -- just four years before MPE date-management will start to report the last century's first two digits.

Another public site is Measurement Specialties. About a dozen systems are running in the US and in China at a company that was traded as MEAS before it was acquired by TE Connectivity (TEL) last year. 

As we've reported in the past, Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for many years. Cerro is part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.

This brief and incomplete list of 3000 users would not be complete with mentioning Boeing Corporation. Large companies such as these might only use a few 3000s with legacy applications, but a big organization also has a serious mission to contain costs. The expense of supporting a 3000 by an independent company -- for example, Pivital Solutions, an all-3000 provider -- is lower than it ever was from Hewlett-Packard.

Migration is an inevitable choice for a company that looks out over the next 20 years, unless clever technology will resolve that 2027 date problem. But with the rise of the virtual 3000 hardware from Stromasys, not even the age of disk drives will force a transition until then.

The 3000 is also in use by the US Army, an organization that's about as public as any can get.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:25 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 01, 2015

Message Files Editing, DLT Autoloading Tips

What tools can I use to 'edit' a message file without destroying the file? I learned the hard way that if you’re using FCOPY to copy from a message file, it destroys the records read from the message file. Can you "COPY" a message file without destroying the records that are copied? 

François Desrochers says

You can use non-destructive reads by specifying the COPY option on a file equation as in:

FILE MSGFILE;COPY
FCOPY FROM=*MSGFILE;TO=NEWFILE

There's also an FOPEN Aoptions (bit 3:1) to enable the option.

As for editing a message file, the only safe way I know is to extract all the records into a regular flat file, edit it and load it back into the message file.

If it's easy to identify which records to remove, you can use FCOPY.

:BUILD MSG2;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;MSG
:FCOPY FROM=MSG1;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1

Extract records with "Y" in column 1. MSG1 is empty at the end of the task. To use non-destructive reads, do: 

:FILE X=MSG1;COPY
:BUILD MSG2;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;MSG
:FCOPY FROM=*X;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1

MSG1 still has all the original records. 

Use FCOPY's EXCLUDE option to extract all records except the ones with a "Y" in column 1 as in:

:FCOPY FROM=*X;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1,EXCLUDE

I have a HP Q1567A DDS5 auto loader installed on a 987. I installed and configured it on the SE port on the multifunction IO card. I can store files to it fine, but I can't get it to advance each day to the next tape. How do I do this?

Ryan Melander replies

Does it auto-eject the drive when the backup finishes? The reason I ask is I have the same configuration on my account with a DLT7000 autoloader 8/Slot. I have it set up to auto eject after each backup, moving the tape back to its original position. It then auto inserts and mounts the next tape for the next backup time.

Jack Connor notes

I generally set the DLT autoloaders for no circular, stacker mode. This goes through all the tapes in the unit and then stops.

Jim Hawkins says

DEVCTRL.MPEXL.TELESUP should work to set up the eject option. Put it inside your job to be sure that it is set correctly every time.

Gilles Schipper adds,

Specifically,

!DEVCTRL.MPEXL.TELESUP 7 EJECT=ENABLE LOAD=ONLINE

where the "7" is the LDEV number of the tape drive.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:02 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 29, 2015

Linking Yesterday's Data To Today's Server

Yesterday's dataAnother migration is underway in the world of enterprise computing, one that will transport millions of customers. It's not from one OS to another, or even from one model of computer to something much newer. It's a transition from one Windows Server release to the latest, although the latest Windows Server doesn't bear the name of our current year.

Business is making a shift from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012, triggered by applications. The apps are making use of a larger computing space, going from 32- to 64-bit software. And in so doing, these IT shops need an upgrade to their data links. HP 3000s that are networked into a Windows Server enterprise have a newer model of connectivity software to handle this migration.

UDALink is the progeny of MB Foster's ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. Now UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration.

The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."

Foster's product ODBCLink/SE was delivered inside of the MPE Fundamental Operating System. A full-featured version of ODBCLink was available for sale, and that full-edition software became UDALink. The latest version of the UDALink JDBC2 module has support for these changes from the JDBC 3.0 API, "to name a few."
  • Reuse of prepared statement by connection pools
  • Connection pool configuration
  • Savepoint support
  • Retrieval of parameter metadata and auto-generated keys
  • BOOLEAN data types
  • Updating of columns containing BLOB, CLOB, ARRAY and REF
  • Transformation groups and type mapping
  • Database Metadata APIs

The feature list will be important to the application developer who's maintaining 3000 programs that reach into databases across platforms. "The flexibility with the new interface will allow new integrations, and access for all HP 3000 and UDALink customers," Foster said. The most up to date Windows Server release can reach into 3000 databases.

Pricing information and procedures to add the JDBC2 module enhancements are available from the vendor at marketing@mbfoster.com

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2015

Sendmail, Group Purges, and ACD Removal

Is there a proper or "right" way to shut down sendmail?

Donna Hofmeister replies

• Use the Posix kill signal from SERVER.SENDMAIL or any user with SM capability. (The following can be easily turned into a job!)

kill $(head -n 1 /etc/mail/sendmail.pid)

• Only use :ABORTJOB as a last resort! (This is true for all of the Posix things that got ported to MPE)

If you don't need to run a mail server (e.g. sendmail) on your 3000, you shouldn't. In most cases, using a mail client will be "just the ticket." Point the client at your in-house (SMTP) mail server and enjoy.

How can I easily purge all the files in a group without destroying the group structure?

If GRPNAME is the name of the group then either:

1. chgroup GRPNAME and

purgegroup GRPNAME 

Or, purge @.GRPNAME 

[Ed. note: Vladimir Volokh notes this last command does not purge databases from a group, although it purges everything else. You must be an SM user to purge everything in one account from another account. Of course, MPEX's %purge will purge everything, and will report the list of what is to be purged. %purge(ISPRIV) for a selection of databases only, for example.]

How can I convert an SL to an XL?

Jeff Kell and Gavin Scott reply:

You can OCTCOMP an SL, which will make the code in it run in mostly-Native Mode (though using several times the memory) and with exactly the same limitations as the original CM code. OCTCOMP just adds a pre-translated version of the CM code to the end of the file that will be invoked when you run the program or SL on an MPE/iX system.

We have problems accessing the files of one group because someone has added ACD's on all the files within that group. Is there a way to remove them all easily?

Mark Ranft replies

Using MPEX, you can issue the command

ALTFILE @.GROUP.ACCOUNT;DELACD

Keven Miller adds

And if you don't have MPEX, you can use a command file like the one below.

PARM FILES=@, PCMD="ECHO File !"
SETVAR XSI_CMD "!PCMD"
IF FINFO ( "CMDFLST,TEMP", "EXISTS" ) THEN
PURGE CMDFLST,TEMP
ENDIF
FILE CMDFLST;MSG;TEMP;NOCCTL;REC=-40,,F,ASCII;DISC=100000
LISTF !FILES,6;*CMDFLST
FILE CMDFLST,OLDTEMP
SETVAR XSI_CNT FINFO ( "CMDFLST,TEMP", "EOF" )
SETVAR XSI_R 0
WHILE !XSI_R < !XSI_CNT DO
 INPUT XSI_FILE < CMDFLST
 SETVAR XSI_R XSI_R + 1
 SETVAR XSI_FILE RTRIM ( XSI_FILE )

 SETVAR XSI_DO REPL (XSI_CMD, "!", XSI_FILE)
 SETJCW CIERROR=0
 CONTINUE
 !XSI_DO
 IF CIERROR = 0 THEN
    ECHO !XSI_DO
 ENDIF
ENDWHILE
ECHO !XSI_CNT FILES
DELETEVAR XSI_@
PURGE CMDFLST,TEMP

This command file takes 2 parameters. 1. a  fileset (wildcards allowed) 2. an MPE command with a ! exclamation as place holder for the filename It does a LISTF ,6 of your fileset into a MSG file. Then it reads through the MSG file and processes each file with your command.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:18 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 24, 2015

Solutions for Keeping Passwords Fresh

Our management wants our 3000 users to be forced to change their password on a regular basis. Also, certain rules must be applied to the new password. We don’t have VEsoft’s Security/3000, although we do have MPEX. I therefore have two options. 1. Write something myself, or 2. See if there is anything in the Contributed Software Library that will do the job, or can be modified to supply the required solution.

Homegrown and bundled solutions follow. Jeff Vance offered this:

There is a pseudo random password generator available among the Jazz files which knows MPE’s password rules. See RANDNAME. There are also UDCs which force a password to be supplied when using NEWUSER, NEWACCT and NEWGROUP CI commands. These required passwords can be random or user entered with a minimal length enforced. 

Then he added as an afterthought, a strategy to program your own password system:

I haven’t thought about it much, but it seems you could have a password file (maybe a CIRcular file?) for each user on the system. This file would have their last N passwords, and the modified date of the file would be the date their password was most recently changed.

A logon UDC could detect if the password file for that user exists. If not create it and require a new password right then.  If the password file exists then get it’s modified date and compare that to today’s date. If greater than X days then in a loop prompt for a new password. Validate the entered password against previous N passwords and your other rules. Maybe run a dictionary checking program to make sure the password is not common, etc.

Update the user-specific password file with their new password, and then logon the user.

From the support community, Donna Hofmeister weighed in with this advice:

The solution that your management demands is going to cost more for you to develop, implement, or maintain than it’ll take for you to get Security/3000. If you have no choice other than to develop a product, then I’d certainly model it after what VEsoft has already done. That is:

Based on a system-wide UDC, examine all sessions (it is just sessions, yes? By the way, a DSLOGON from inside a job is still a session.) against a ‘database’ (By the way, just how secure is this database?  A real database needs passwords... Who’s going to maintain that? A flat file could be lock-worded, but that’s not a slam-dunk answer.) a database which is looking for the ‘age’ of the password (By the way, are you going to provide an advance warning period?). 

If it is time to change the password, get the ‘new’ password from the user... but writing the rules is a pain, and keeping track of reused passwords is just annoying. Auditors in the states love when you can say the password is one-way encrypted. Dunno what your management is saying for encrypting an MPE password.

Then came a solution rolled up by Paul Christidis

Some years ago I had developed a set of command files that could be used  to require users to have passwords. Later on, mostly as an exercise, I  enhanced the process to age passwords and to automatically assign ‘random’  passwords as they expire.  The random passwords are comprised of  alternating consonants and vowels, they can have a minimum and maximum  length and optionally a random digit can be inserted.

The entire ‘process’ is comprised of a system batch job (should be running  always), a command file that is invoked by a log-on UDC and communicates  with the batch job, a ‘control’ command file that starts and stops the  batch job, a command file to determine the password age and a command file  to generate the random password. Below are the comments from the batch job. They explain some of the details.

!# Author:  Paul H. Christidis
!# Remarks:   This job 'listens' at a message file for any requests to
!#    determine if a user has a password.  Once that determination is
!#    made it passes back to the session an indicator to that effect.
!#    A command of STOP causes the job to terminate.
!#
!#      The request comes via the execution of a command file or a System
!#    wide UDC and it is comprised by the file name where the reply should
!#    be placed and the user's name and account.
!#      This job does NOT return the user's password, it only writes in 
the
!#    message file specified by the client the command:
!#          setvar user_password true/false
!#      The client then executes the command and tests the setting of the
!#    variable 'user_password' to decide what action to take.
!#
!# DATE:    06/08/2004  *** WHILE RETAINING THE ABOVE BEHAVIOR ***
!#   The job logic was changed to assign a new password after 30 days.  A
!# file in the posix space is built using the user's name.  Then at each
!# logon a command file is used to determine the file's age, using its 
modify
!# date, and when it is older than 30 days another command file is used to
!# generate a random password.  Said password is sent back to the session
!# and the user is informed about his new password.
!#
!#   If the 'job/session' name is not to be used in creating the posix 
file
!# that will be used to age the password, then the value of the CI 
variable
!# 'pw_UseSess' should be set to 'FALSE'.
!#
!# DATE:    06/10/2004   [Added alternative aging values functionality]
!#   Alternative aging limits are kept in an ASCII file "pswrdage" 
comprised
!# of 'setvar' commands, for each MPE account, MPE user or Session name. 
It
!# should adhere to the following format:
!#       SETVAR SYS_MANAGER_XTIDIS_pwage   45
!#       SETVAR SYS_MANAGER_pwage          40
!#       SETVAR SYS_pwage                  35
!#
!#  The above have the following implications:
!#    The user's "xtidis,manager.sys" password expires in 45 days
!#    The user's "manager.sys" password expires in 40 days
!#    Any other user of the "sys" account has their password expire in 35 
days
!#    While the 'default' 30 days applies to every other user on the 
system.
!#
!# NOTE 1: Suffix of '_pwage' is required.
!# NOTE 2: A negative or zero setting equals to NO password aging.
!# NOTE 3: The order MUST be 'ActName_UserName_JobName_pwage'.
!#
!# Date:    06/11/2004   [Added code to 'force' a password change]
!#   When the CI variable "ForcePwChange" is set to TRUE in the session 
that
!# executes the command file, the 'passed' code is changed and the batch 
job
!# forces the password change (Unless it was already changed on the same 
day)
!# <---------------------------------------------------->

Dave Powell coded up some of the fine print nicely in his contribution:

It ought to be possible to do everything for free, using just MPE.  Editing the new password is the ugly part, but if you randomly assign it that issue goes away. The next issue is that the :password command seems to like to be purely interactive, as in:

echo oldpass >> tempf
echo newpass >> tempf
echo newpass >> tempf
:password < tempf
password
Command not allowed in noninteractive environment. (CIERR 2500)
PASSWORD WAS NOT CHANGED.

That leaves the altuser cmd, which needs AM cap.  If you don't want a background job (like Paul's suggestion), you can have the command file (called by  your logon UDC) use the echo command to build job with AM cap, which it then streams, kind of like (untested, but I have working examples of cmd-files building other jobs):

ECHO !!JOB ACCTMGR/PASS.SOMEACCT; HIPRI  >> TF
ECHO !!ALTUSER !HPUSER;PASS=!NEW_PASS >> TF
ECHO !!SETVAR STREAMED_BY   WORD(HPSTREAMEDBY,"()",2) >> TF
ECHO !!TELL !!STREAMED_BY Your new password is !NEW_PASS >> TF
ECHO !!EOJ >> TF
STREAM TF
ECHO Please note your new password when it appears
PAUSE 99; JOB = !HPLASTJOB
PURGE TF, TEMP

If I haven't screwed up the fine print too badly, this code in the middle of the password cmd-file runs the job that changes your password, then waits for the job to tell you what the new password is.  The single exclamations before HPUSER & NEW_PASS mean that values that are variables to the session and command-file become hard-wired values for the job.

Before all this your cmd-file checks the date, gets a random password, etc., as posted by others.  After it the cmd-file writes (or just builds) a file that serves as a timestamp.  But I am not too comfy with putting the passwords into a plain-text file, so I might skip that part (remember, the user needs both read and write access to it).  Put the command file in a group that users have xeq access to, but not read/write access.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 17, 2015

Hardware appliance bolsters MPE encryption

Encrypted backupsHP 3000 sites still need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software. There's a reasonable amount of promise in SFTP of today for MPE/iX, but the solution isn't likely to satisfy security audits.

FluentEdge Technologies encrypts data moving through applications including the Ecometry ecommerce suite, as well as databases themselves, using software solutions that tap into apps and don't require any rewrites.

There's also a hardware solution, one that's been tested with the 3000, that offers a universal method to keeping data secure in transit. The 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances. A few years ago, Jack Connor put one of these appliances between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host. Now there's a new version of the device.

Similar to 10ZiG's Q3 appliance, the Q3e is the newest version of this state-of-the-art technology. Providing complete security for backup tapes, the Q3e appliance is designed to be easy-to-use and non-intrusive. Installation takes only minutes and key management is strong, yet simple. For the highest level of security, each Q3e appliance includes a hardware encryption chip that is unique to each customer. The Q3e is available with user selectable AES-128 or AES-256 encryption modes and supports up to four tape drives.

Connor, who supports HP servers at Abtech, found the original Q3 hardware solution provided security that would beat any SFTP transfer option. "I tested an encryption box that sits between the DLT and IO card and it worked like a champ," he said. "It maintained streaming mode and everything."

3000 customers are using their systems in e-commerce applications today, even though some in the community say the credit card processors' PCI DSS security rules might block such use. But the Q3 webpage lists PCI specifically as a security standard served by this standalone box.

10ZiG's Q3 storage encryption solution assists in your compliance with the PCI Standard by protecting your customer's data with encryption. The Q3 storage security appliance encrypts data at rest without effecting your current backup procedures. Installation is quick and key management is strong yet simple.

One of the testimonials on the Q3 webpage comes from the Series i IBM community, a group of servers whose OS is just as unique and specialized as MPE/iX.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2015

Patches Are Custom Products in 2015

Last spring we visited the state of HP 3000 patching and found that new work has been making its way into the customer base — one customer at a time. HP Support once created such custom patches, engineered specifically for the configuration at the customer site. Independent support providers who have access to the MPE source code do this today. It's a elite number of support providers. Ask yours if they've got the source.

Tailored workLast year a 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s. This mention of MPE bug repair was a reminder, actually, that Hewlett-Packard set the internals knowledge of MPE free back in 2010. Read-only rights to the operating system source code went out to seven companies worldwide, including some support providers such as Pivital Solutions and Allegro Consultants.

The latter's Stan Sieler was watching a 3000 newsgroup thread about the error winding up. Tracy Johnson, the curator of the 3000 that hosts the EMPIRE game and a former secretary to OpenMPE, had pointed out that his 3000 sometimes waits longer than expected after a PAUSE in a jobstream.

I nearly always put a CONTINUE statement before a PAUSE in any job.  Over the years I have discovered that sometimes the CPU waits "longer" than the specified pause and fails with an error.

A lively newsgroup discussion of 28 messages ensued. It was by far the biggest exchange of tech advice on the newsgroup in 2014. Sieler took note of what's likely to be broken in MPE/iX 7.5, after an HP engineer had made his analysis of might need a workaround. Patches and workarounds are a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get 'em if you want 'em.

A workaround is the more likely of repairs for something that's not operating correctly in MPE, by this year. Patches were a free HP 3000 element, and those that HP created still are free today -- unlike the situation for HP's still-supported servers. The dilemma is that the final round of patches HP built weren't tested to HP's satisfaction. Plus, there's no more vendor work on new repairs.

Enter the third party supporters, the companies I call independent support providers. They know the 3000 as well as anybody left at HP, so long as they're a party to the source code for the operating system. In many cases, a binary patch isn't what a customer wants. Such a thing has to be tested, and a lot of production 3000s are under lockdown today. Changes are not invited.

But in the case of an MPE/iX jobstream PAUSE error, there's always a chance for a fix. HP's Jim Hawkins looked at Johnson's problem and ranked the causes Nos. 1-4. Number 4 was "possible MPE/iX bug."

Sieler said that it looked like this was a genuine MPE/iX flaw. What to do, now that the MPE/iX lab at HP -- which once included Hawkins -- has gone dark? Sieler pointed to patching.

After analyzing hxpause, the executor responsible for implementing the CI PAUSE command, I suspect there is a bug in the MPE/iX internal routine "pausey", which hxpause uses. The bug appears to be triggerable by :BREAKJOB/:RESUMEJOB, but I have not characterized  precisely what triggers it.  It is, however, apparently the result of the equivalent of an uninitialized variable.

I believe Allegro could develop a patch, should a customer be interested in it.

Patches beyond the lifespan of an HP lab are a touchy topic. A binary patch, as Allegro's Steve Cooper describes this kind of assignment, is likely to live its life in just one HP 3000 installation. It's a creation to be tested, like any patch.

And now it seems that patches are not only a for-pay item, but something to be guarded. HP even pressed a lawsuit against an independent company when the vendor observed that its patches were being distributed by the indie. No money changed hands in the suit settlement, but the support company said it would stop redistributing HP's patches.

This kind of protective culture from systems vendors is endemic by now, according to Source Direct's Bill Hassell. "This is a hot topic, both for customers as well as third party support organizations," he reported. "There have been very strong reactions from customers to recent statements about firmware restrictions." Hassell, well-known as an HP-UX expert among former Interex user group members, pointed to a handful of articles from HP's own blog and the industry press such as ZDNet, or one from PC World.

But the first one Hassell pointed at was the message from HP's own Mary McCoy, VP of Support for HP Servers, Technology Services. It's titled Customers for Life. In essence, the February posting says HP's firmware only gets an upgrade for "customers with a valid warranty, Care Pack Service, or support agreement."

We know this is a change from how we’ve done business in the past; however, this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for our customers and partners. This decision reinforces our goal to provide access to the latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property, for our customers who have chosen to maximize and protect their IT investments.

In the face of this, and other HP announcements such as ProLiant patch availability, the customers who are commenting at HP's website are not happy. One noted that "the customer segment who will suffer the most from this revision in HP firmware availability will be the small and medium businesses performing their own in-house IT support." Some say the pay-for-patch mandate is only going to drive them to other vendors for small business servers. HP asserts that every vendor is doing this by now.

Enter the indie patching potential for MPE/iX. Binary patches are much more of a possibility when source code is in the hands of a support company. The source for HP-UX, or any other proprietary Unix, isn't in the wild, and the same can be said for Windows. Linux source is always available, of course. Nobody is going to be tagged as a Customer for Life when they choose Linux.

But that's also true of MPE/iX. Enter an indie support relationship and you get the benefits of that vendor's expertise, based upon the level of their understanding of MPE. Leave that relationship and you're not penalized. You're just on the hunt now for another support vendor of equal caliber.

A support company's caliber is measured by the way it conducts its business practices, not just what it knows how to create or fix. This vendor lock-in is something familiar to a 3000 owner. But it was technology, not business decisions, which enforced such lock-in during the 20th Century. The indie companies have a patch for the current era's lock-in error.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:54 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 14, 2015

Finding Your Level of MPE Patches

PatchworkPatches to the HP 3000 never were a popular item in the base of production servers. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen Development once said that "about three things can happen when you patch a 3000, and two of them are bad." In essence, a static 3000 system is a stable system, and managers give away the promise of better features for the certainty there will be no errors or aborts. At least none that the management has not already seen, logged, and worked around.

However, the years which have rolled by have pushed 3000s into new territory. For example, the ability to see larger LDEV 1 drives -- and by larger we mean bigger than 4GB -- only comes through a series of patches. Drives fail, and then replacing them with something not strictly approved by HP is an obvious option.

It's not obvious to determine what a 3000's patch level is, though, considering most of the systems haven't been patched in years.

One of our editors and sponsors pointed out a tool in the 3000 community that can help. To be clear, of course, maintaining independent third party support is one of the best ways to track patch levels. While they can't say it out loud, many support vendors keep a full complement of MPE/iX patches on hand, too.

We asked where some experts are finding HP's patches for MPE these days, and Brian Edminster of Applied Technology pointed out the patch-check tool while he was summing up the state of patching.

I'm not sure how you'd be able to get said patches out of HP, given that the last time I called any of the HP support lines asking about support for a 3000, they thought I was talking about a printer.

I was under the impression that companies that had officially provided contracted MPE support had access to the patches, if they didn't actually have copies of them downloaded and on-hand. My 918 or better systems are all on fully patched for MPE/iX 7.5, so I really hadn't thought about getting patches from HP anymore.

Beechglen has a script that compares your current patch level against what was available, so you know what patches you were "missing."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 13, 2015

How MPE Talks to Its Network Neighbors

Our networking team reports they're going to refresh the hardware on our IP gateways. Our Telecom manager says they will 

  • Change the physical gateway, because the hardware is being replaced
  • Not change the IP address and gateway address
  • Change the MAC address of the gateway (because of different gateway hardware)

Network NeighborhoodWhat do I need to do on our MPE boxes to ensure that they will see the new hardware? Does MPE cache the MAC address of neighbor gateways anywhere? I was thinking I needed to restart networking services, but I wasn't sure if anything more will be needed.

Jack Connor replies

If you're taking it off the air for the network changes, I'd go ahead and close the network down until the work has completed and then reopen it. MPE will be looking for the IPs as it opens up. I know you can see the MAC addresses in NETTOOL, but I don't think they're of any import other than informational and for DTC traffic.

Donna Hofmeister adds

Halt the network (even the system if possible -- because it's almost the same thing) while the larger network work is being done. When the new gear is in place and seems stable, "wake up" the 3000 and watch what happens.

When you halt the network (presuming you're not taking the box down) be sure to halt/quiesce network-dependent things (like jobs/listeners) just prior. I'd suggest doing an 'openq' on your network printers as well (keep the input side of printing open, but not the output side).

Jeff Kell notes

If you have access to your routers/switches, you can also attack this from the other end. 

Cisco switches/routers (layer-3) have an ARP table that holds the MAC addresses of the hosts on the subnet. They are subject to a timeout. However, they will generate a "gratuitous unicast ARP" request to any host in the table 30 seconds before it is scheduled to expire. If the host is up, it will respond, and reset the learning timer. It will ALSO push the MAC address and IP of the gateway (the router that just performed the unicast ARP) into the host.

Unfortunately the default ARP timeout on a Cisco device is 4 hours.

You may tweak this as desired on a per-interface basis via the "arp timeout xxx" configuration directive.

If you are doing network monitoring by any SNMP tools, they work best when the mac-address tables (CAMs/TCAMs/etc) are loaded with the host values, and the ARP tables are populated with the current hosts. The mac-address table timeout default is only 300 seconds (I'd suggest moving that up, depending on how volatile your connections may be; we use 600 seconds).  This will cause the "gratuitous ARP" to occur at 530 seconds, and if the host answers, it perfectly repopulates the tables for your management tools to read.

Howard Hoxie adds (with a prompt from Gilles Schipper)

MPE caches the MAC for the gateway, and that there is a command that updates with an "INTERNET=@" or "INTERNET=ALL" clause.

(The command is NETCONTROL net=netname; update=all, where netname is probably LAN or LAN1)

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:08 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 07, 2015

Operating Systems Of Our Lifetimes

Operating SystemsClick the cartoon for details and the joke

Managers and owners of HP 3000s are the kind of customers who understand what an operating system does. Most of us in the community remember when there were countless OS's out there to run our businesses, if not necessarily our lives.

The HP 3000 stands out in a healthy legacy comparison because its birthdate in the initial generation of minicomputers. Unlike nearly all, its OS remains in business use today. Other OS's which are not in use: MCP from Burroughs (a source of MPE inspiration); Univac's VS/9; NCR's VRX; Control Data's Kronos; and Honeywell's CP-6. 3000 veterans will recognize those as BUNCH companies, whose mini and mainframe products were swept away by IBM's, HP's, and Digital's.

MPE has not yet outlasted the VS minicomputer operating system from Wang Labs, since that mini still has support from its latest third party owner, TransVirtual Systems. There's more than blind loyalty there when an OS can move into the four-decade lifespan. There's commercial value, too. VS still has about a decade to go to get to MPE's 41 years.

For the 3000-savvy, the cartoon above would have a few extra boxes in it. The longest one is likely to be MPE, in its II-V, XL, and iX generations. There are a few others that pre-date DOS, of course. HP tried to sell PCs running CP/M, for example. You could insert the following boxes underneath the fine cartoon from XKCD, the work of brilliant cartoonist Randall Munroe.

MPE timeline

That useful lifespan for MPE will run to 53 years, unless a rolled-over calendar is not a problem for your applications.

Hop over to Munroe's website to enjoy the irony and heart of someone who understands that Gnu (yup, the root of the 3000's iX generation) could be there at the very end, turning out the lights. And who can say for sure that MPE will truly end its days on Dec. 31, 2027 after all? Wang's OS has passed through several third party hands. HP's own VMS will become the property of a third party next year.

In-tribute plug: If you can't find something on the XKCD store to buy, or a cartoon to link to, then all of the above is probably nonsense. For the rest of you, let me know if Gnu could really rule the planet after civilization ends. We're already hearing that embedding a Linux microkernel would make the OS more useful for Digital server users. Something less complex is surely on its way. It might arrive before that fire.

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

April 06, 2015

Trail of support leads to indies, or an alt-OS

Independent support companies have been keeping HP 3000s running for decades. At one point the battle for support dollars was so profound HP tried to file lawsuits to restrict fair commerce in the maintenance marketplace. Companies with 3000 experts on tap have held their ground over more than a dozen years of the declining interest from Hewlett-Packard in the server and its OS.

Recently we've seen independent resources marshaling knowledge bases and documentation on the server. Much of the MPE/iX OS manual set is on hpmmsupport.com, a website set up by some of the creators of the MM II/3000 MRP software. It's a good thing that outside resources like this exist, because now there's more evidence that the archives of Hewlett-Packard are closing their MPE doors tighter.

Slamming doorThis retraction of knowledge can lead a 3000 owner in two directions. They can either embrace operating processes that will require an independent expert to field support calls. Or if a company needs another reason to make serious steps to migration, then less vendor information to help fix bugs will be adequate to push the cart down the hill, away from MPE.

Tonight one set of information can be indexed at an HP Support website. There are patch notices and pointers to support documents, but everything is behind a demand for a valid support agreement. And this news about the successor to HP's IT Response Center (ITRC) shutting some MPE doors includes a confusing footnote. Somewhere out in the world, there might be a 3000 site still getting support from HP, deep under the covers of corporate policies.

While the vendor was public about its waning intentions for 3000 futures, it was also eager to preserve such support business. HP's reach for support contracts while advocating migrations slowed the migration business for the community. In the long shadows after two extensions of support deadlines, migration companies and homesteading firms have been finding no vendor help to portray and preserve the state of the 3000. The customers were promised otherwise, years ago, when the information was still fresh on HP's websites.

Sometime last week, a support company's 3000 expert looked in on the HP website where she'd been referencing MPE/iX answers for many years. Nothing to see here, HP advised her in a webpage.

"I went to Whatever They're Calling the ITRC These Days to look for a bit of MPE support information," said Donna Hofmeister, "and got told MPE is no longer supported. (Thank you for playing, now please go away.) No more than two weeks ago, all the support information was there."

"So what happened? Has it truly been taken down, or did HP decide to disallow access since we no longer have an MPE support contract? I'm guessing the former."

Guessing about the status of HP 3000 information resources is a murky venture for people regarding HP as a stable resource. And after all, nobody can get an MPE support contract, can they? Hofmeister, like a few others in the support community, says that's a murky situation, too. "I've heard rumors that some people still have support through HP," she said, "but no proof."

The lack of an official resource — or one that stays in the same place for more than a year at a time — could be cause to recoil from a future with the 3000. Or perhaps, just back off of a future with its creator. Independent service providers, or migration missions: those seem to be the choices today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 03, 2015

That final 3000 IO upgrade is still in use

Pass ThroughMore than five years after HP rolled out the ultimate release of MPE/iX, the vendor finished its work on an SCSI Pass-Through driver for the HP 3000. It was an one of the last HP-designed MPE enhancements. Independent support companies have the tech resources to create customized patches for their customers. The HP driver still makes it possible to connect and configure SCSI storage devices which HP has not certified for 3000 use.

Full instructions on how to use the software are on the ManualShelf free website. It's a tool for permitting an application to address SCSI devices without the use of the MPE/iX file system or high-level IO interfaces. But the software itself was built, lab-tested, then placed on the HP software improvements leash: It was only available to the HP support customer who was willing to take SPT, as HP called it, as a beta test version.

Patches MPENX01A, MPENX03A and MPENX04A were beta patches required to make the SPT work on MPE/iX 7.5. HP still makes these patches available to any 3000 customers at no charge. Two years ago, Allegro's Donna Hofmeister said "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person." 

Consultants and companies which provide support have many of these patches in their resource bins. The entire patch collection is just 1.27GB, small enough to fit onto a giveaway thumb drive.

HP always described the SPT as a tool with many caveats. While the software has a wide scope of help for the customer who wants to add the latest SCSI disk to the 3000 in the future, HP has printed plenty of cautions such as these in its Communicator article:

Sending SPT commands to a device in use by MPE or other applications may result in data loss, data corruption and/or System Aborts. We do not recommend sending SPT commands to Disks with MPE/iX Volumes present nor should one access tapes devices which are used for normal back-up or data logging purposes. Rule of thumb: Don’t do SPT to tape or disk media you cannot recover at a time you don’t wish to cause a system outage.

In 2007, SPT joined the six dozen or so HP developed enhancements and fixes stalled in beta test status. Customers still purchasing HP support were expected to test enough to get SPT into the full community as a general released patch, but few wanted to use beta-grade software in production.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 02, 2015

TBT: The Ultimate MPE/iX links big disk, FC

7.5 datasheetHP unveiled the final, ultimate generation of its 3000 operating system 13 years ago this month. On this Throwback Thursday we mark the month that MPE/iX 7.5 made its datasheet debut. It was less than six months after Hewlett-Packard announced an "end-of-life" for the 3000, but the OS was destined to be officially supported for more than eight years.

Independently, 7.5 is still supported by the community's third-party experts, such as Pivital Solutions. The data sheets and lab reports illustrate why the release has had such longevity, a run that rivals the lifespan of Windows XP.

7.5 release headline Feb. 2002When 7.5's data sheets moved into the customer base, the colorful paper was still commonplace as an information delivery device. What was uncommon about the release was its forward-looking view of fast storage support. HP had built in A-Class and N-Class hardware support for Fibre Channel IO connections, the fastest of their day. But it took the arrival of 7.5 to streamline and stabilize FC connections.

Previously, the 3000  could only be connected to FC devices through HP SCSI Fibre Channel router. In selling the benefits of 7.5 -- and with it, the upgrade sales of A- and N-Class servers -- HP admitted this router arrangement "not only added complexity and slowed FC transfer rates, but it also created multiple potential points of failure."

Access to the wide range of Fibre Channel devices was among the benefits, letting customers make the jump from the AutoRAID arrays to the more powerful and flexible VA 7100 series. Just this week, a customer made news in the community while troubleshooting a VA 7100. That storage platform remains in obvious use at 3000 sites.

The ultimate generation of 3000 processors, the PA-8700, got their complete support in 7.5, too. Fibre Channel proved to be a tangible benefit of the new PCI bus on the newest servers. One feature would have a reach even further than that CPU line: the ability to access a boot disk greater than 4GB. 7.5 opened up untold millions of gigabytes across the entire 3000 line.

"After years of requests, HP has finally lifted the 4GB limit on the LDEV1 peripherals which boot HP 3000s," we reported in April 2002. "The limitation harkened back to a day when no drive held more than half a gigabyte. Modern disks are as large as 160GB, and the more recent boot drives shipped with HP 3000s wasted scores of gigabytes on every system, simply because MPE/iX couldn’t see the storage space."

Tapping the full range of storage was a game-changer for homesteaders, according to one well-known storage and MPE expert.

MPE veterans praised the enhancement as vital to the 3000’s continued success. “In my mind, this enhancement was critical to the viability of homesteading and the success of OpenMPE,” said Denys Beauchemin of backup utility provider Hi-Comp. “A few years from now, when your LDEV1 disk drive breaks, you will no longer be faced with the problem of buying a 160Gb disk drive (the smallest available) and only being able to use 4Gb.” 

Far less crucial was the included support for a free, secure Apache Web Server, which HP had rebranded as HP WebWise. Developed from the starting point of open source Apache — in a user-driven project led by then-customer Mark Bixby — a native 3000 Web server seemed essential in the late 1990s while the dot-com boom was mounting. HP tried to charge for its supported implementation, but slow uptake shifted the product to free-in-7.5 status. The future of the 3000 would not lie in support for Web services, though, not when Windows-based servers were ubiquitous and cheap.

An OpenSSL crypto library was one of the byproducts of that full WebWise support in MPE/iX 7.5. Security concerns were increasing in that era, and some developers of e-commerce software wanted tools to integrate into their applications. WebWise was intended for the 3000 administrator and developer to be able to create RSA, DH and DSA key parameters and X.509 certificates; do encryption and decryption with ciphers; perform SSL/TLS Client and Server Tests and handle S/MIME signed or encrypted mail. 7.5 made support of sendmail possible.

It's all possible today, but the advance of these security tools slowed considerably after the crypto library made it into every copy of 7.5. There was a silver lining in this slow uptake of the frozen toolset. When OpenSSL was used to hack millions of servers in the HeartBleed malware crisis, few 3000s were exposed. That incomplete implementation of OpenSSL, frozen in an earlier edition of the software, put it back in the same category as un-patched OpenSSL web servers: not quite ready for prime time.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:39 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 31, 2015

Emulation Without Need For A Cradle

Virtualized HP servers will be getting slimmer this spring. Stromasys has cornered the market on the emulation software that makes fast Intel systems behave like business servers HP released more than 20 years ago. The Stromasys Charon product is sitting on an announcement that it's getting a new version for its Digital customers, one that reduces the need for a Linux installation separate from the Stromasys software.

The HPA version of Charon, which emulates PA-RISC 3000s, is getting a speed upgrade in a few months, according to the vendor's head of communications Isabelle Jordain. But in the meantime, a new Backbone version of the company's VAX emulator is rolling out. The configuration is designed to increase stability as it simplifies configuration. 

CHARON-VAX Barebone brings the same security and peace of mind as traditional Charon solutions  — but with a Linux microkernel embedded in the Charon software. Barebone uses only the essential components of the Linux OS, increasing your data center's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.

Emulator solutions ride in a cradle of Linux in the generation sold to 3000 customers. While the Charon-HPA will do so for the foreseeable future, it's got a shot at eliminating the need to mount up a Linux host environment. This Backbone edition runs emulation without a need for the tuning and maintaining of Linux licenses and support fees.

The VAX customer still can count on support in the future for their OpenVMS software. HP's making an intellectual property transfer to a third party of VMS. But that independent support of a business server OS is something HP 3000 customers are experiencing, too. Third parties making a business of handing both hardware and software needs for servers built 10 to 20 years ago. There must be something crucial in such systems for the customers using them.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:33 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 30, 2015

Contractor-Consultant Resources for 3000s

We're opening up a new page for the NewsWire's site as part of our all-digital transition. The community's consultants and contractors have been posted for more than five years at the OpenMPE News blog, which I've maintained and administered. Now the listing of independent and company-based consultants from that website is online at this page at the NewsWire's site.

ContractorThe list gained a new member recently, so there are still computer pros emerging who seek places to help the homesteading community members. If you're a consultant and you're not on our page, we'd be happy to extend you a place there, or update your listing from the OpenMPE News site. Email us your particulars, or include them in a comment below. Be sure to give us the snail-mail and phone contacts, since location can be important to some customers seeking expertise. A few lines on what you do will be helpful.

We've also got some unverified listings from prior to 2013 among the resources on the page. If you're in that category and would like to update us, send a note and any changes.

Some companies have wide-ranging nets of engagements they'd like to attract. But among our community, there's no one writing support contracts who focuses exclusively on the 3000 but Pivital Solutions. "It's our only business," says president Steve Suraci.

Some individuals are on the lookout for full-time, part-time, or temporary jobs at 3000-using companies. For example, we heard from one 3000 pro who offered his listing to the OpenMPE blog earlier this year.

Stephen Baumgart (stevebaumgart@outlook.com)
I seek a full-time, permanent or temporary position where my talent and experience will provide value to an organization. I have 40 years of design and system development experience, 35 of those years in development on HP 3000, and 30 years in Powerhouse and eight years of COBOL experience. I have managed the MIS department, managed projects, and performed many system and data migrations. I have a BS in Computer Science from Purdue University.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:19 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 26, 2015

Checkup Tips to Diagnose Creeping Crud

When an HP 3000 of the ultimate generation developed trouble for Tom Hula, he turned to the 3000 newsgroup for advice. He'd gotten his system back up and serving its still-crucial application to users. But even after a restart, with the server looking better, things just didn't seem right to him. 

I am concerned, since I don't know what the problem was. It almost reminded me of something I used to call the Creeping Crud, where people started freezing up all over the place, while some people were still able to work. The only thing was a reboot. But in this case, it seemed worse. Only a few people on our 3000 now, but we still depend on it for a high-profile application. What should I check?

CrudThe most revealing advice came from Craig Lalley, who told Hula he'd try a Control-B into the 3000's system log. The steps after the Control-B command are SL (for System Log) and E (for Errors only.) Typing CO puts the 3000 back in console mode. Hula's system had lost its date and time on one error, and the Alert Levels showed a software failure along with lost boot functionality.

But amid the specifics of eliminating the Creeping Crud (it may have been a dead battery) came sound advice on how to prepare for a total failure and where to look for answers to 3000 hardware problems. The good news on the battery is that it's not in a Series 9x7. Advice from five years ago on battery replacement pointed to a hobbyist-grade workbench repair. More modern systems like Hula's A400 at least have newer batteries.

Using a DSTAT ALL was suggested, as well as checking the status of available storage with DISCFREE. Mark Ranft said "I would make sure there's a good full backup. (Just in case you need it for recovery.)  If you don't have one, doing one may help identify a disk issue. I would check the system logs especially for disk errors. I would check for network errors, using linkcontrol @,all." He shared his own recovery experience.

I had a system acting strangely this past weekend. It was basically hung but allowed new logons. I could not abort anyone. When I got to the point where I tried to stop the network, I got a system abort 1458 from Subsystem 102. I didn't bother to take a dump. I completed the boot and everything was better.

Chuck Trites reminded Hula to create a current CSLT tape, and "run BULDJOB to create the BULDJOB1 and 2 files — in case you need to recreate the accounting structure and UDCs — and store them to tape."

Hula's own check list included the following:

During the reset, the 3000 got up to the date and a little past and seemed frozen. I pulled the plug and restarted again. It took 2-3 times as long as normal and at first, the red fault light was on (I never saw that on before). After it got a bit into the restart, the fault light turned off by itself. The only attention message I got about the whole thing was a message with everything unknown on the 3000.

When the computer came all the way up, it still seemed very sluggish. I scheduled the nightly update and backup and went home to look at it more in the morning. I logged on from home and the backup seemed to be running okay.

This morning I tried resetting the GSP and checked the connections to the console terminal. I also found out that someone else had a hard time getting on the 3000 towards the end of the day. Very sluggish. But this morning, everything seems back to normal.

Hewlett-Packard's hardware builds have been extraordinary, but a server that's been churning out critical data for more than 12 years (A-Class boxes production stopped in 2003) can develop crud. Something as simple as replacing a dead battery might be the answer to the woes. Advice for the crud also came from Gilles Schipper, Jack Connor and the others mentioned. What they've got in common is working in a support practice, or at least a consulting business that includes 3000 sites.

Self-maintenance is common in a community like the 3000's. It's also a good practice to have a support vendor, one who knows the system as well as the volunteers posting to the newsgroup.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2015

The Distinction MPE Source Has Delivered

DistinctionThe long-sought MPE source code arrived in your community five years ago this month. Hewlett-Packard released CDs filled with millions of lines of Modcal and SPL, shipping them off to eight companies who'd paid $10,000 each for the resource. Companies including 3000 specialist Pivital Solutions, as well as corner-case outliers such as Ordat (makers of a TurboIMAGE middleware tool), as well as the ubiquitous Adager and Allegro earned the right to explore and adapt the 3000's heart and soul.

Hopes were sky-high when the source code quest began in 2002. Just a matter of weeks after Hewlett-Packard pulled its own plug on 3000 futures, a new organizaton called OpenMPE took up the pursuit of those lines. The ideal was to find a way to extend the life of MPE/iX beyond HP's plans. The maker of the 3000 had other ideas. Its goal was to cut off further development of 3000 resources.

Better fortune took eight more years to arrive, and even then the 3000's source rolled into vendor shops with a major restriction. To use the code legally, a licensee had to promise they wouldn't try to move MPE/iX beyond its ultimate 7.5 release. No new generation of the 3000 OS. By 2010, 7.5 had seen no significant advance for three years. The initial 7.5 release, sans PowerPatches, was eight years old.

But the vendors who earned the right to apply their skills and experience to that code, continue to distinguish themselves in the support and development sectors. Neil Aemstrong of Robelle summed up the advantage. "Seeing the source and reading it is certainly a large part of being able to develop patches and potentially avoid any issues," he said. "It may not be perfect, but it helps."

In addition to the above-named Pivital, Adager and Allegro, Beechglen, Neil Harvey & Associates, and Terix entered the elite source-ready roster. All but Terix remain in your community today. HP has standards for its licensees, and some (like Pivital) were even invited to join this cadre. One more license was assigned, but Open MPE couldn't complete its arrangements.

Source made no difference in constructing an emulator for 3000 hardware (it was unlikely to do so) but support companies have used to generate workarounds for homesteaders. These are among the highest-flying companies who started offering source-inspired patches in 2011.

HP blocked the release of any work in 2010 for another eight months. “Customers will have multiple options for MPE/iX assistance after HP exits the Worldwide Support business on December 31, 2010,” said HP 3000 Business Manager Hou stated in a comment on license terms. “The licensees... will not be able to use the MPE/iX source code in the delivery of system-level technical support until January 1, 2011.”

Releasing work derived from the source has been more than a matter of a license.  Any such holder needed advanced technical skills to make something out of the millions of lines of source HP shipped.

"The source code by itself is a dead entity," Adager's Alfredo Rego said. "You have to know how to bring it alive." 

As for OpenMPE, its volunteers and board of directors always believed that HP would need to grant permission to know more about MPE/iX. HP consulted with vendors outside of the OpenMPE orbit, but that group more than any other put the vendor on record during source negotiations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:14 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2015

3000s still worthy of work to secure them

While an HP 3000 might be an overlooked resource at some companies, it's still mission-critical. Any server with 40 years of history can be considered essential if it's still part of a workflow this year. Managers of 3000s don't automatically think of protecting their essential resource from the malware and hackers of 2015, though.

SafecrackerThat was illustrated in a recent thread on the 3000 newsgroup traffic. A 3000 manager serving the Evangelical Covenant Church needed help restarting an old Series 9x7. (By definition, any Series 9x7 is old. HP stopped building this first generation of entry-level 3000s more than 20 years ago.) The manager said the 9x7 had been "in mothballs," and he wanted to run an old in-house app.

I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS but cannot remember/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.

And then on the newsgroup, advice on how to bypass 3000 security began to emerge. It surprised one consultant who's recently closed down a big 3000 installation full of N-Class servers. Should the community be talking about how to hack a 3000, he wondered? The conversation really ought to be about how to ensure their security, practices we chronicled a few years ago.

It's not like the bypassing information shared was certain to sidestep MPE's security. But Mark Ranft of Pro3K thought these answers should be taken offline.

Please remember that even though these are legacy systems, providing expert level security tricks and secrets to help people break into systems is still probably not a great idea on an open forum. I suggest you reply with your hacking suggestions in private email messages.

Not many 3000s sit on open, public networks. But the servers which they communicate with are often on accessible networks. Who's to say what's even accessible these days? Unisys, which is a long way from relevant in the enterprise computing field by now, is selling its newest products as Stealth Computing. "You can't hack what you can't find," they say in their ads on NPR.

Security is never so simple as that. But hackers navigate complex protection all the time. HP sold a security software product that one support expert said "implements directory encryption." The kingpin of 3000 security is of course Security/3000 from Vesoft. (Founder Vladimir Volokh called today to report things are looking up in his company, so to speak. Q1 of 2015 is more robust than Q1 of 2014.)

Controlling who can login as an operator is a great way to enable tighter security for a 3000. Passwords for OPERATOR.SYS are an excellent practice. If a 3000 is in mothballs with no sensitive data on it, these kinds of habits aren't essential. But how can you be sure no data is essential, of no use to hackers or competitors? Better secure than sorry.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:40 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2015

Good news stories about keeping a 3000

GoodNewsOn Monday we updated our community on some migrations away from 3000s in the education sector. One of our favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, was a touch dismayed at the exodus. We reported four migrations in all, working off of the news from the vendor's (QSS) website. But that was enough to elicit a forlorn, "Isn't there anybody out there still enjoying the service of their 3000?"

Yes, there is, and we've heard from some of them recently. Earlier this month I posted a notice about the birthday of the NewsWire's founding concept on LinkedIn. We first dreamed it in March of 1995. Among the congratulations were some passing remarks about 3000 durability. Just another one came in today, from Tom Moore in the UK. "I suspect we all look a lot older," he said, "but I just do not feel it. I still have a 3000 running behind me. It runs our accounts."

The HP 3000s are still doing their vital work at Measurement Specialities, the manufacturer with operations in the US and in China. MANMAN is serving in its second decade at that company. Terry Simpkins, IT manager there, just reported that he's hired new staff for his 3000 development team.

There's a nice nest of 3000-using companies in the world. They don't provide much news copy, because much of what they're doing has been proven a long time. But the system's biggest, most devoted fans still want to hear something from a successful installed base.

Migrations away from MPE applications "are a missed opportunity and a disadvantage to the rest of us," O'Neill said in a comment. "The migrations might even be more costly than staying on MPE/iX. Are there any good news stories about people actually deciding to stay on MPE/iX?"

Some of the potential costs of homesteading flow off an application vendor's strategy. If an app vendor won't be carrying its products forward on MPE/iX much longer, it could be far more costly to stay on a 3000 and homestead. But for home-grown applications, whose fate is still in the hands of the system manager and IT director, there's still a good case for homesteading.

Where the homesteading strategy needs help these days is on the hardware portion of the equation. Stromasys wants to put HP's gear into mothballs for the MPE/iX user, and ultimately put the virtualization server boxes out in a place like Rackspace. Without that option, the future for homesteading might look like a search for one piece of good news after another: We located a replacement CPU board as a spare. Those disk drives can be refitted for 3000 use. Here's a fallback tape device, like an LTO-3, we can jury-rig into a 3000's backplane.

The applications are more easily preserved, and even promoted as durable. They're nests for business logic. Keeping down the expense of redevelopment to maintain business process status quo — that's good news. It's not the sort you'll often hear barked from a newsie's stand, though. Extra, extra! Efficiency preserved in the face of change and growth!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:30 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)