October 26, 2016

MPE/iX to private licensees: A new HP way?

ThinQ FridgeFifteen years ago HP was cutting its 3000 business loose and software vendors scrambled. A few of the bigger ones, like Adager, were looking for a way to buy the MPE/iX assets from Hewlett-Packard. Nothing could be arranged. However, HP recently started posting notices about its patented technology it's trying to license. 

The IAM Market (free registration required) has started to hawk the intellectual property of both sides of the HP, a company about to mark the first anniversary of its split-up. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is offering a range of patents, all designed to let a company use HP technology to serve business users.

HPE Patent Sale – Mission Critical Computing Portfolio

46 issued patents (41 US, 2 JP, 2 GB, and 1 FR) relating to servers and storage products for Mission Critical Computing (MCC). Key applicable areas include High Availability, High Reliability, Replication/Failover, SSD/HDD, System Management.

Except for that SSD element, everything in the portfolio could fall into the realm of HP 3000 and MPE technology. If only such a marketplace existed 15 years ago. More importantly, if only HP was actively licensing its IP back then. Something could have been worked out. Today, at least there's a mechanism for listing patents for sale and finding interested buyers.

By the time the 3000 pullout at HP started to set in stone during 2002, the licensing discussion was being steered toward emulator-ready user licenses. Meanwhile, the source code licenses were more than seven years away from being a reality.

For many customers, the only issue that matters is the licensing of MPE to be used on an emulator that mimics HP 3000s running on Intel hardware. Rumors continued to abound that HP is proposing the destruction of a licensed HP 3000 for every MPE license for an emulator that a customer wanted to deploy. The 3000’s longest advocates are howling over that possibility.

“It’s clear that HP’s intention is to limit the MPE user community to the number of licenses at the time of its death,” said Wirt Atmar of AICS Research, “thereafter drawing the population constantly downwards over the years. This is completely opposite to the future that I believe is possible, where MPE would be distributed world-wide, at prices comparable to Linux distributions.”

Emulator licensing makes the Stromasys Charon product a realistic choice for companies keeping their HP 3000s in use, either as permanent archive machines or in production. But the software communnity was reaching for so much more in the months following HP's 2001 notice of a pullout. Perhaps those MPE/iX bits, as well as the related subsystems, are available today.

The only companies who've even seen MPE/iX source, to use as a support and development reference, are the eight licensees of the code. They don't get to sell it or release modified MPE/iX. But it's there as a resource for support providers like Pivital Solutions and software companies as well.

Any dreams of restarting an MPE/iX business would have to begin with IP licensed for commercial use.

Stranger things have happened. The HP WebOS software developed for the Palm smartphones, as well as the heart of ill-fated HP tablet, found its way into LG Smart TVs, after all. At one point, LG was planning a range of consumer devices that would use the HP IP which the vendor sold to LG. LG never got WebOS into its ThinQ line of refrigerators. MPE/iX, should it ever go into the market, might become an item of the IAM Market.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:14 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

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October 19, 2016

Come together to conference with CAMUS

ConferenceCallAdmit it. It's been a long time since you talked person to person about your HP 3000 with somebody outside your company. User conferences and one-day meetings for 3000 folk used to be as common as leaf piles in October. That's what happens when you live a long time. You can outlive your community and lose touch.

CAMUS, the Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society, has a way to reconnect. At 11 AM Central Time on Thursday, Nov. 10, the Annual User Group meeting of the organization will form around a conference call. Terri Glendon Lanza of CAMUS is organizing the call. It's free.

The agenda, shared by CAMUS member Ed Stein of MagicAire, is 10 minutes of CAMUS announcements, followed by general discussion with the Board of Directors and everyone on the call. It's manufacturing managers who make up CAMUS, but you might have questions about a certain emulator that earned its stripes in the Digital market before arriving to emulate HP's 3000 systems. Both Digital and MPE managers will be at this conference.

Or you may be interested in the new ERP replacement for MANMAN, Kenandy. Experts from the Support Group -- which is installing Kenandy at Disston Tools this year -- will be on the call. You might just want to know something about MPE management that could take only a minute to answer. 

Send an email to Terri at askterri@sbcglobal.net, or call her at 630.212.4314, to get your conference call-in phone number. The call runs until 12:30 Central Time. You might learn something, or get to show what you know.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:15 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2016

Rebuilding Systems Faster and Better

I'm looking at how to save as much time as possible in rebuilding an HP 3000's software and directories. My options seem to be using STORE, versus the sysgen tape command "tape store=@.@.@". What's the best way to go here?

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies

Construction-loaderUnless your system is small (like a 918 with 8-12GB of disc), you don't want to try to do a full backup via sysgen. If you really do a full backup then I prefer this syntax “store /;...” as it is self-documenting and you know that the Posix files will be backed up as well. (On older releases of MPE, @.@.@ did not back up Posix files <eek>)

You want to make sure that you run 'buldacct' periodically (and routinely). You also want to make sure that you are somehow backing up your directory (store /;*t;directory, for example). Between the two, you have belts and suspenders (for recovering your accounting structure).

On older releases of MPE, you want to make sure that the network is shut down prior to making your SLT tape. And it's still a good idea to have the system quiesced when making an SLT, since everything in the sys account (and .pub.sys in particular) will be locked while the tape is being made. Nothing quite like grumpy users to make your day.

Just as a matter of preference, you should normally do a BULDACCT @ at the beginning of the weekly full backup, then the DIRECTORY option along with ;ONVS=MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET, PRODUCTION_SET, etc as a belt and suspenders approach for that day we all hope never comes.

Mark Ranft of Pro 3K outlined the use of sysgen

Here are instructions for a complete backup of basic MPE/iX system via SYSGEN's TAPE option.  It is best if everything fits on a single DDS (or DDS-2 or DDS-3 or DDS-4) tape cartridge, but it will ask for a second (additional) tape(s) as needed.

Note:  I included a 'second_volume_set' which can be changed or removed

Note 2:  The line below is >80 characters, so you have to know how to create a file so that this does not wrap (or make other adjustments.) 

Step One - Create an indirect file containing the following as a single line... 

@.@.@;onvs=mpexl_system_volume_set, second_volume_set


Step Two - Create this job

:job jsltall,manager.sys;outclass=,1          
tape store=^fsltall.job.sys                  
:tellop END OF JSLTALL --------------  EOJ    

Feel free to add a BULDACCT to this.

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

October 10, 2016

Duke diners deliver some wayback news

Wayback sherman peabodyIt's always a great event—since it's so rare now — to see 3000 folk gather in person. Last week an invite over 3000-L and other channels requested the pleasure of the company of anyone in the Bay Area who remembers — or works with — MPE and HP 3000s. The number of lunchtime diners at The Duke of Edinburgh pub was at the intimate level, which is not a surprise. What was interesting was how informed some attendees were.

"Some were finding out about the [Stromasys] emulator," Stan Sieler reported. He was among the few who were still working on MPE tasks. I was surprised that the news of the emulator was just arriving in October 2016, five years after the product's debut in the Bay Area.

In the fall of 2011, about 80 HP 3000 folk gathered at the last HP3000 Reunion. (I won't say final, because reunions tend to hold on until organizers and the ardent alumni lose the ability to travel, drive, and have meals together. We're not young, us 3000 folk, but we're spry.) The story of the Charon HPA product has orbited the MPE solar system for many months. Not everybody looks up at the sky to see the stars, of course.

Those getting wayback news about Charon included one who needed a free hobbyist license. That kind of license went off the market at the end of 2014, when Stromasys transitioned to an all-proof of concept licensing and sales plan. The PoC strategy has yielded a string of green-lit transitions to the non-3000 hardware. Hobbyist/freeware licenses got abused; free software was caught running in commercial settings. Other people might have failed at their no-cost DIY approach. You don't always get news of failures when you never knew about the attempts.

News travels slowly, especially for managers who are not in everyday contact with MPE and 3000s anymore. Sometimes 3000 news has traveled slowly for reasons other than simple oversight, or becoming busy with non-3000 computing.

It's been embarrassing to see, year after year, that the events we publish as news just don't stick with all people who rely on 3000s. You can't get everybody in the loop, not on anything. (Okay, all people have heard of Donald and Hillary, if they've heard of the United States.) HP discovered these gaps in the news loop when it started to spread the word that the 3000 was finished. The company that created MPE called the end of its 3000 business an end of life announcement. Almost a decade after that first finale, the computer isn't finished. The HP we knew, that's finished.

The news of an end of life sometimes flows slowly, or too fast like in that End of Life fable above. This afternoon I heard someone register surprise that Arnold Palmer was dead. It's not just a popular soft drink; Arnold was among the greatest golfers ever. Late last night, Abby was pretty sure the actor Rip Torn wasn't alive anymore. Not yet true, and Not Dead Yet could be a regular magazine, sort of a more gruesome What Are They Doing Now?

When HP's news about the end of its 3000 business rolled out -- trumpeted by at least five publications, covered in ABC News, circulated in serious correspondence to the customers paying for HP support -- it took years to become universally-known. That 2001 announcement was still news to customers more than five years later. For other managers who knew, they kept it to themselves, since the computer was still working. What's surprising is that good 3000 news, like Charon HPA, hasn't arrived yet in a few quarters.

In a way, though, that's good news for Stromasys. "They're coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith earlier this year about finding 3000 users who were on nobody's radar. When you're selling a solution that keeps good software in place, it has a better chance of surfacing than reports of the death of a close ally like HP's 3000s.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:28 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2016

How to fail at mission-critical IT with 3000s

HeloiseWe recently tried to be helpful for a 3000 manager who was desperate to get an MPE/iX server back online in steady, reliable service. Our role was just to feed questions to the volunteer force of experts on 3000-L and then pass back answers to the manager. The experience led us to think about what any company should do to fail at using a 3000 for mission-critical service.

Be assured, following these helpful hints will ensure your 3000 cannot do its work.

  1. Do your support with someone who'll just help out from time to time. Save your support budget for your other servers that are mission-critical. Let the 3000 fend off errors with volunteer help.
  2. Let your inventory of spares of the 3000's moving parts take care of themselves. A power supply or a hot-spare CPU board takes up a lot of room; set aside space for more modern computer components. Someone will be able to find something soon enough when trouble comes up.
  3. When a software or network problem starts to occur, give the situation awhile to work itself out for a few months. Save your support budget for the time when things are crashing because they've gotten serious.
  4. When your support vendor bills you on your 3000, let that expense take the same place as less-critical services. This isn't a vaccine, after all. It's just support for mission-critical servers.
  5. Make it clear to your management you're saving money by using the 3000 in a mission-critical role. Reinforce the cost-effective nature of the use of MPE/iX by keeping the software on 15-year-old HP hardware.
  6. If No. 6 might raise attention you're using MPE/iX, keep the age and support matters internal to datacenter planning. A 9x9 with no support provider is a fine way to ensure the future.


If a 3000's performance is crucial to staying in business, then not doing any of Nos. 1-6 will be a better course for the health of your company as well as your career opportunities. Keeping the investment of MPE/iX applications in top shape is not simple these days. But not having a support expert on the budget, with a monthly retainer, makes success difficult to impossible. The factor of luck shouldn't be a part of your operational formula.

If a 3000 is crucial to a company's success, then a cost as small as $10 a day shouldn't be out of budget. Some 3000 support companies are glad to stay available these days for a nominal fee.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2016

Emulation customers got all they wanted

Signed Sealed DeliveredFive years ago this week Stromasys was doing a full technical detail demonstration of its PA-RISC emulation software. Since then, such virtualization has become an everyday choice for interim homesteading (just a few years of use needed) or long-term plans, too.

The software got its debut in front of a sophisticated crowd: HP 3000 veterans at that year's HP 3000 Reunion. In 2011 skeptics were schooled and devotees bowled over.

The rap on emulator choices from out of the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like Intel's Xeon chips will over the year to come with Skylake. Here's a surprise nobody saw coming: the ultimate Itanium chip, Kittson, began development in 2011, and it's still not running in HP's servers. To think, MPE/iX could've had that fate if HP had chosen to port the OS to that chipset.

HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts at the Reunion believed in Charon's emulation future. In 2011 there were more in attendance at the Reunion than could fit in a single-family home. What's still in the years to come is making a home for MANMAN on one Ubuntu-Charon partition of a big Skylake Intel server, and MANMAN's replacement Kenandy on another.

Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group manufacturing and 3000 support firm, posted glowing comments five years ago about the future of Charon in a CAMUS.org report. What he's foretold has come to pass.

It was amazing to learn that within a year, MANMAN (and everything else that runs on MPE/iX 7.5) will be running on Intel/AMD 64-bit machines. MPE Virtualization: what a home run! Dr. Robert Boers, who came all the way from Switzerland to give his speech at the Reunion, showed MPE/iX running on a small Linux PC costing about $600, and MPE/iX is expected to run many times faster than on an HP 3000 A-Class machine. They also had it running on Craig Lalley’s laptop in the same room; he’s been consulting on this project, but now it’s open to any developer with a good reason to download it.

It was non-obvious to me that MPE would need to boot up in 2 or 3 minutes, mainly because all the memory, IO, and disc checking had been done by the underlying OS (Ubuntu Linux in this case), but also because of the PDC rewrite they must have done. No more watching all the dots and 1s, 2s, and 3s etc. going by on the console for 10 or 20 minutes (or longer on large-memory HP 3000 machines).

Later, in a more technical briefing at the Reunion's hotel, Floyd noted that all the right answers flowed from Boers.

It was like Christmas and Boers was Santa Claus (there is a slight resemblance). MPE booted on both the laptop and the little Stromasys server Dr. Boers carried under his arm off his flight from Europe. Fun was had; DEBUG was run; Glance worked in Block Mode! Stan Sieler asked if MPE crashed in all known ways.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:46 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 30, 2016

Earliest birds to eye Charon stick with 3000s

One week ago the 3000 Simulator Project rolled out a new version of software to simulate an MPE V Classic 3000. That news led to a look at the modern emulation product Charon HPA and what has helped make it a success. Diligent engineering and testing of the Stromasys product across the community started just about five years ago. One of the earliest vendors to green-light their software for emulation was a company who's still selling new customers on MPE software: Minisoft.

BirdseyeHistoryFounder Doug Greenup called last month to report on some new sales into your market, the one which established his company. He mentioned Minisoft's connection to See's Candies' HP 3000s. See's is using Minisoft's middleware, and the connection between emulation and Minisoft popped up when I found Greenup's earliest report on testing against Charon. Minisoft was the first third party company to announce their products were Charon-ready, including ODBC, JDBC, and OLE DB products. These were the days when PA-RISC emulation was as new as Clarence Birdseye's frozen food was in the 1940s. Greenup's report was so early in the Charon HPA lifespan that the Stromasys software was being helped into the market by independent consultants like Craig Lalley.

Craig [Lalley] gave us access to the Stromasys emulator to test some of our legacy MPE products. The HP 3000 terminal emulators under Windows and Macintosh worked fine connecting up via Telnet. We ran some VPLUS screens with no problems. Connections were reliable and fast. We also tested our middleware drivers, connecting and running queries.

The bottom line is our products worked like they were interacting with an HP 3000. So if any of our customers deploy Stromasys, we are confident our MPE products will work.

Charon HPA needed software vendors who were familiar to the 3000 community to step up and certify. It's satisfying to see that one of the earliest adopters of your market's emulator is still selling software to MPE/iX sites. We'd call those sites 3000 customers, but its possible the HP hardware has been replaced by Charon HPA. Which is precisely why it was good business to step up and demonstrate that the emulator worked just like an HP 3000. Works better, now that HPA is not five years older like those boxes with "HP" on the front.

There's your report. MPE/iX still running at high-profile candy manufacturer. New 3000 software still being sold in a few places. Stromasys now moving toward five years of support from the MPE third party vendors, support that started with Minisoft.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:21 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 28, 2016

Meeting at Building D: the rarest 3000 link-up

DukeSnugNotices were posted this week on the 3000-L mailing list about a rare meeting next Monday, Oct. 3. At opening time 11:30, people who know and remember the 3000 will gather at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. It's a site popular enough with the MPE crowd that it's still called Building D by some seasoned community members. The Duke is on Wolfe Road, just to the west of where the 3000 grew up. As the 3000 group intends to arrive at opening time, it might be able to commandeer the snug (above).

In-person meetings for the 3000 community happen in bars and pubs by now. The last one we heard about this public was SIG-BAR's meeting in London in 2014. Dave Wiseman, a vendor and software maven whose history includes a software project called Millware for 3000s, set up SIG-BAR. The 2014 meeting was announced so far in advance that people were able to plan their summer vacations around a gathering at Dirty Dick's. There's something about English pubs that attracts the 3000 crowd.

AppleCampusThe Duke of Edinburgh is within walking distance of a mecca of the 3000 world, now departed: The HP Cupertino campus. Building 48 has been replaced by the rising concrete and steel of the new Apple world headquarters building. There's no word yet if the 3000 friends who meet Monday at Building D will bring their drones to take their tour of the Apple-ized HP campus.

A walk through the HP parking lot and across a cozy margin of poplars used to bring you to the Duke. "It's right across the street from where MPE lived," said Stan Sieler of Allegro while announcing the meeting. As of Monday, MPE's heart will be among the taps and chips of The Duke. Two years ago, Robelle's Bob Green said this about the last in-person meeting at that London pub:

We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine—especially the new emulator—- and discovered what each of us was doing. An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.

As for that emulator, Charon HPA is in full swing by now, a certainty of life going forward with MPE/iX systems. For one additional lunchtime, a pub will be emulating the home of the system, even as it continues to move into a virtual existence.

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

September 26, 2016

3000-L connects again after a silence

Tin-can-telephoneAs if on cue after our report about its silence, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup sprang back to life over the weekend. One problem solved by the 415 readers was how to identify if a store to disk backup is a LZW compressed backup file. A Tracy Johnson report also confirmed that a LISTF,2 can report the time of each LISTF, by writing a specialized job.

Meanwhile, a 15-year-old HP 3000 with network connection troubles got advice from the newsgroup's readers. A Series 969 running MPE/iX 6.0 would not be the first thing you'd choose for interfacing to an internal website. But when a 3000 has data that a user needs over the Web, the server is the place to go.

Trouble started to surface when clients access a webpage which then opens a telnet session with the 3000, grabs the info, and then returns the data to the webpage.

We’ve been getting more and more errors over the last year, culminating in non-stop Could not initialize data in path with TCP, which then blocked anyone accessing us through our webserver. We’ve tried many changes but cannot seem to get past this.

When it locks up, the HP 3000 keeps running but won’t accept any new sessions. Which means our clients can’t run searches.  Which is very bad for us. Sometimes we can stopnet and startnet and it will work for a while, but then the errors start again. Eventually, we have to coolstart to be able to have clients log in.

Mark Ranft suggested "If they are already running in the CS queue, here is the likely cause.  Is there some new monitoring in place? If so, it may not be behaving well on the network.

What happens is someone uses a telnet or ftp connection to monitor whether the network is up on the 3000.  They send the SYN, the hp3000 answers with the SYN ACK, and then the 3000 receives a reset before the connection is complete.  This handshake sequence causes this exact error.

Also inetd and other HP3000 networking improved greatly in later versions of MPE/iX. If they must stay on 6.0, they should at least be sure to install the latest patches.

A third party support company served this troubled user until the support vendor folded, "and the only options we found weren't affordable." Getting the 3000 back up will trigger a revisit of that situation. Any server with critical customer data on it—and doesn't have a support vendor—relies on the largesse of the 3000 volunteers of 3000-L. That mailing list did go without a new message for more than a month, a troublesome response time for a critical server.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 23, 2016

Simulator for Classic 3000 gets third release

A third release of an HP 3000 Series III simulator is now available from the Computer History Simulation Project website. J. David Bryan of the project reports the software which simulates the old MPE V HP 3000 Series III now has a cold dump facility.

Entering the DUMP command  simulates pressing the ENABLE and DUMP front panel buttons.  The contents  of main memory are written to an attached magnetic tape in a format  suitable for analyzing with the DPAN4 program provided with MPE. The new  SET CPU DUMPDEV and SET CPU DUMPCTL options specify the default device number and control byte for the dump.

Known as the SIMH project, the software is aimed at hobbyists who are using MPE V programs and utilities. Even though a power failure is not a desired event, the simulator has a capability of creating one. This is in addition to yanking the plug out of the laptop or PC running the simulator software.

"The user may simulate a system power loss with the POWER FAIL command  and resume powered operation with the POWER RESTORE command," project notes from Bryan state. "The SET CPU ARS/NOARS command determines whether or not MPE automatically restarts when power is restored."

A full set of new features is listed in the release notes that accompany the simulator source files. Aupdated HP User's Guide covers the new commands is provided in Microsoft Word  format with the source download. The guide is also available as a PDF file at an MIT website. A preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image available from Bitsavers was not changed for this release. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:16 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2016

Power outage, or no problems? It's been quiet on the 3000-L. "Yeah, too quiet."

SergeantIn the classic war movies, or a good western with Indian battles, there's the moment when someone notices the silence on the field. "It's quiet out there, Sarge," says the more innocent hero. "Yeah, too quiet," the non-com replies. That kind of quiet might be the sound we're hearing from the 3000-L mailing list today.

It's been five weeks without a new message on the mailing list and newsgroup devoted to MPE and its servers. Advice and solutions has flowed for two decades and more off a mailing list that still has 498 members subscribed. The number of subscribers has remained steady over the last three years. Like the number of migrations in the market, the exit from the list has slowed to a trickle. So has new traffic, of late.

The silence may not be ominous. In 2016 the 3000-L is used almost exclusively to resolve MPE/iX problems. The hardware posts are limited to the rare announcement of used server prices, messages that the members still howl at if they don't include <PLUG> in the subject. The server hasn't been sold by HP in more than a decade, but its owners still don't like to be bugged by sales messages. They solve problems in a grassroots manner. As a notable ballplayer once said, you can look it up. There might be no problems to solve.

1996-L-TrafficHowever, no messages at all over 35 days sets a new record for the 3000-L quiet. This 3000 resource was much more lively a decade ago. And 20 years back? Well, HP was still selling enough 3000s in the fall of 1996 to be sending its new marketing manager Kathy Fitzgerald to speak at an Indiana RUG meeting about the new servers. There was also advice on storage compression, because compression-enabled DDS drives were becoming more common.

3000-L migration messageGood advice: If you can find a DDS tape drive from 1996, you should take it out of service. Your MPE server, no. And evergreen advice from the L is still available online. Jeff Kell, the deceased 3000 guru who started the server on a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga server, built it to last.

In 1996 people wrote on the L that they understood most drive and backup software vendors recommend against using both hardware and software compression. "You should try each separately and use the technique that achieves the best result consistently," we reported. Mark Klein of ORBiT Software gave an interesting explanation of what was going on and the compression possibilities.
"Actually, there are cases where multiple levels of compression are useful. But first let me describe the various types of compression available.

"Hardware compression is typically LZW or some variant thereof. This type of compression uses a dictionary of repeating strings that can be dynamically determined on the fly and, as such, doesn't require the dictionary to be stored with the data as with other types of compression. There are other types of hardware compression available, but LZW is the most common found on compressing tape drives. LZW can also be done in software.

"Since the compressibility of the data really depends on the data itself, there are instances where negative compression will be achieved as well as instances where very large files can compress down to almost nothing. In fact, I've seen an instance where a large, multi-Gb database that was mostly empty got compressed into less than 32K using LZW.

"LZW is not effective in trying to compress something already compressed with LZW. This can result in negative compression (the resulting data actually gets larger). For that reason, I wouldn't recommend using LZW software compression on top of LZW hardware compression.

"Another type of compression is called run length compression. This is in essence a combination of a length tag and a string. The length indicates how many times to repeat the following string. For example, a line of 80 blanks would be represented by (80," ").

"Now, using a combination of RLC and LZW one can achieve better levels of compression than with one or the other method. So, if you want to use software compression with a hardware compressing tape drive, I would recommend using RLC compression in software."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:21 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 19, 2016

Re-SUSAN services: off-label, or standard

Off-LabelAs the 3000 servers age, their components are failing. It may not be a common event yet, but when it happens, getting an HPSUSAN number transferred to new iron has some options. One of the alternatives is a mighty fan to forestall the re-SUSAN processes.

Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci reports that HP's still servicing 3000 owners who need an older HPSUSAN moved to replacement hardware after a failure. "In our area HP still provides the service to officially update the SUSAN. That's how we'd deal with it, but I'm sure other providers would differ."

When a 3000 manager has no provider anymore, they're likely to look for an off-label solution. In the drug industry, off-label is a use of a drug for which it was not intended. HP never intended to give independent companies the ability to change an HPSUSAN. That's why its tools were protected with a lockword. Then again, HP intended to move MPE/iX to Itanium, and to serve 3000 owners with no end date for support. Everybody knows about intentions can turn out.

Enter Immediate Recovery Solutions. The Bay Area company's history is using software that gives one key HP support capability to owners of 3000s. The Immediate in the company's name refers to intent: To get a 3000 back online, if HPSUSAN is standing in your way, as soon as they can get access to your console,

If that seems rather intimate for a first encounter—saying here's my console on the Internet, and now do your best — then the value of a relationship with an ongoing support provider becomes plain to you. So on the first day a 3000 needs to be replaced, but keep its original HPSUSAN to preserve booting up old vendor software, the choices are three. Call your support company for standard service. Call Immediate Recovery and go all the way on your first date. Or look around for a hefty fan, if you're lucky.

The fan story comes courtesy of The Support Group, where MANMAN customers go for their custom treatment. One server in the MANMAN world had its A-Class box begin to go out when it got warm in the computer room. That's the moment when a server replacement is on the decision tree.

With luck, calling a support company or taking that big plunge on a first date might be delayed by a fan. As with other older 3000 hardware, sometimes putting a big fan in front of the back of the server reduces the heat and eliminates the failures. Older hardware can develop problems when it overheats. We've been told that doing a vacuum of the server's case can cut down the overheating, too.

Ss_updateImmediate Recovery, for the record, is doing what it's done out in the open since 2006. Its SSPWD takes an HP lockword — designed to limit use of ss_update to HP’s support personnel — and delivers the corresponding password to let a support provider start and use ss_update. It's helpful to recall that ss_update, which lives on every HP 3000 still in use, does what HP used to do with SS_CONFIG. The HP of 1999 got very litigious about unauthorized use of SS_CONFIG.

“We’ve seen copies of SS_CONFIG which had a disclaimer, but it just so happens that ss_update doesn’t, or HP didn’t really care,” said Steve Pirie of Advant, a company that identified Immediate Recovery as a "software partner." That HP ss_update program reconfigures HP 3000 SPU boards.

We got a message from "Captain GREB," as the Immediate Recovery owner calls himself. "In reference to having HP come out and change the HPSUSAN on a replacement box to match the original box, we can do that for clients — and we can do it remotely if the client will temporarily connect the remote LAN console port to the Internet. We did one in Germany last month."

The GREB stands for Generic Replacement Box, although anything with an HPSUSAN isn't generic, since the U there stands for Unique.

As Suraci said, there are other companies who use non-HP means to reconfigure 3000s. "Give us a shout if you don't like HP's price for this service," said the Captain. We'd add that while it seems unfair to give HP the business to re-license 3000 hardware, nobody will ever ask for an explanation of that service in case of any audit. We're pretty sure that HP Enterprise knows its way around a license.


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

September 14, 2016

Dancing the Samba services tune, MPE/iX-style

Samba DancersTen years ago this week we were promoting instructions on how to use Samba better on HP 3000s. Samba is "a group of programs that allows a Unix host to act as a fileserver for Windows platforms," according the MPE/iX documentation rolled out in 1999. The file-sharing and printer sharing software which has been a part of MPE/iX since the 6.0 release "allows Unix-like machines to be integrated into a Windows network without installing any additional software on the Windows machines. Many different platforms run Samba successfully; and there are nearly 40 different operating systems which support Samba." And many more now, a decade later.

HP brought features of Samba to the 3000 in a port called Samba/iX. "It is a solution for those wishing to access HP 3000 disk storage and printers (both networked and spooled from MPE/iX) from common PC client operating systems like Windows." Samba/iX allows access to disk and printer resources of MPE/iX by providing standard SMB file and printer services that are accessible from PC clients and their applications. An administration tool called SWAT makes Samba so much easier to use.

Samba 3.0.22 is distributed by the following MPE/iX base patches. Your independent support provider should be able to help you round one of these up. They've got the latest functionality.

  • SMBMXY6D (BT) for MPE/iX 6.5
  • SMBMXY6E (BT) for MPE/iX 7.0
  • SMBMXY6F (BT) for MPE/iX 7.5

The (BT) stands for Beta Test. HP never cut the 3.0.22 version loose as a general release (GR) version. For reference, the following are GR versions with less functionality.

  • SMBMXG3A (GR) for MPE/iX 6.5
  • SMBMXG3B (GR) for MPE/iX 7.0
  • SMBMXG3C (GR) for MPE/iX 7.5

Even a total 3000 network newbie can get Samba up and running. Samba must be running before you can run SWAT. Here's some useful info when getting SWAT going.

In SERVICES.NET you'll want a line that reads:
swat   901/tcp   # Samba/iX Web Admin Tool

In INETDCNF.NET you'll want:
swat stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS /usr/local/samba/SWAT swat
(adjust the path to your SWAT NMPRG)

 If you’re running an older version of Samba, you’ll need to modify ‘/usr/local....’ to point to where SWAT actually lives (and case is important).  The user needs to match the user in your samba daemon jobs. (For many, it’s MANAGER.SYS, for you it may be MGR.SAMBA) When you're connected to your MPE/Samba server through a browser to access SWAT, you'll be asked for a logon and password. This is a good thing.

After changing your services and inetdcnf files, all that you should have to do is give inetd a swift kick (e,g,  :inetd.net -c  ) Check inetd’s $stdlist after doing that and you should see that it brought in the new configuration.

In your browser point to http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx:901/ (where xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx is the IP of your 3000). Or you can use the name of your 3000 too.

When updating Samba and Apache config files, some are picky about how their records are terminated. Robelle's Qedit can make the needed adjustments. Be sure to know what version of MPE/iX you have installed, including patches.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:55 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2016

HP sells software business to boring buyer

Grace_HopperMicro Focus, which has already bought Attachmate (nee WRQ) and Acucorp (maker of a COBOL that was once fine-tuned for the 3000) is now sitting on what HP was selling that Hewlett-Packard Enterprise calls software. Like Autonomy, for example. The latter is probably valued at one-tenth what the-CEO Leo Apotheker's HP board paid for it five years ago. Admiral Grace Hopper's invention has ultimately provided a harbor for HP's exit from the software sector. The buyer builds COBOL.

The entire transaction only costs Micro Focus -- makers of boring software that drives thousands of businesses -- $8.8 billion on paper. HP's is cashing out of software for application delivery management, big data, enterprise security, information management and governance, and IT operations management. With Autonomy in the deal, the company HP purchased for $11 billion in 2011, HPE gets an albatross off its back.

Here's one shakeout: Minisoft is now the only vendor selling 3000-ready terminal emulation that remains under the same vendor brand. WRQ has been absorbed, and HP's out of the terminal business they started with AdvanceLink in the 1980s. (Minisoft's still selling connectivity software to MPE/iX users, too — as in active sales, this year.) HP sells almost zero 3000 software today.

A Reuters report says the HPE move tilts its business mix hard towards hardware, with two-thirds of what's left at HP Enterprise now devoted to a sector with slim margins. HP has stopped much of its operating system development over the last 15 years, casting off OpenVMS and MPE/iX, then stalling HP-UX short of a transformation to Intel-ready software. Instead, MPE/iX got its Intel introduction post-HP, when Stromasys made its Charon HPA the gateway to x86.

NonStop remains a part of to HP's enterprise group and enjoys development, but it's tied to Itanium chips. Nothing left in the Business Critical Systems group -- HP-UX, VMS, NonStop -- gets any love anymore during HP's analyst briefings.

HP software, aside from operating systems, could provide a frustrating experience for 3000 customers. Transact and Allbase were strategic, until they were not. IMAGE got removed from the 3000-bundled status it enjoyed. HP had to farm out its ODBC lab work to keep up during the 1990s.

The deal between HP and Micro Focus gets more unusual when you see that HPE has to pay Micro Focus $2.5 billion in cash. In exchange, HPE shareholders will own 50.1 percent of Micro Focus. HPE wanted to get its software out of its enterprise business and into the hands of a company with business success in software. Micro Focus built its rep on embracing backbone technology like mainframe connectivity and COBOL.

HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said that Micro Focus knows how to invest in software. The company, which owns the Reflection product line, is supposed to keep HP's software stable.

"Micro Focus' approach to managing both growing and mature software assets will ensure higher levels of investment in growth areas," Whitman said, "like big data analytics and security, while maintaining a stable platform for software products that customers rely on."

Reliability and boring are sometimes conflated, but a stable platform is often built upon software with both attributes. UBS analyst Steve Milunovich, who tracks HPE, said HP's sell off of assets is "strategy that works well for current shareholders, who gain significant ownership in better-run businesses." A company whose backbone is COBOL now owns HP's software assets — a line that lost its COBOL compiler when the 3000 was dismissed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:18 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 07, 2016

HP remains in HPSUSAN update business

Update buttonClose to 15 years has elapsed since HP chose to step away from the 3000 business. However, the vendor is still serving the needs of any customers who require an HPSUSAN ID to be refreshed onto replacement 3000 hardware.

We looked at this situation several weeks ago. For a customer who's looking over a move away from HP's 3000 hardware — but wants to remain on MPE/iX — Charon HPA from Stromasys is the logical choice. Going with a virtualized PA-RISC box can help sidestep a complication while staying with MPE. Replacement hardware will need either a refresh from a software vendor to accommodate the change in HPSUSAN. Or, in an extreme case, the HPSUSAN of record from the retired hardware would need to be flashed onto the permanent storage of the 3000.

Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions, a comprehensive 3000 support practice focusing on MPE/iX,  gave us an update on the ways to move an HPSUSAN. "In our area, HP will still provide the service to "officially" update the HPSUSAN," he said.  "That's how we would deal with it, but I'm sure some other providers would differ."

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

A better choice is to find your indie support company and let them guide you through a complex process. Many 3000 customers have no worries about third party software vendors going out of business. These sites operate with their own in-house applications and use tools and utilities from bedrock vendors like Adager, Vesoft, or Robelle. Powerhouse found a new home with Unicom.

Hewlett-Packard still keeps the lights on for licensing issues around MPE/iX, even in 2016. It's a good bet the vendor never imagined they'd be needed to keep production business servers online that far into the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 05, 2016

Labor of homesteading lifted by advice

Mother JonesToday in the US we celebrate Labor Day, a tribute to the respect that workers earned during the labor movement of the 20th Century. Many offices are closed including most states' offices. Here in Texas organized labor works in the shadows cast by a business-sotted political engine. Nobody needed a labor movement and its human rights back when the 20th Century started, according to the politicians controlling those times. Mother Jones and other heroes who were radicals got the 11-year-olds out of the coal mines of West Virginia, as a start. Machine guns were employed by the powers in charge to oppose that movement. You can look it up.

Homesteading customers face labors too, and they have long struggled for respect. Their work is no less important than the heavy lifting of migration was. Migrations have tapered way back. It's easy to say there are now more companies working to keep 3000s in production than companies working to get off the platform.

If you are lucky enough to have a holiday today, thank your precursors in the labor unions. For a good look at what labors a homesteader should work on, here's Paul Edwards' homesteading primer from 2004. Homesteading tasks are little-changed by this year, with one exception. All customers have moved the labor of their 3000 support to third parties. The Web resources listed in Edwards' primer are much-changed, however, with a few exceptions.

HP’s Web site at www.hp.com knows nothing of 3000s, except for the printers using that number. HP has become HPE.com.

HP manuals are no longer at docs.hp.com. The best independent collection is at HP MM Support. HP did not keep a promise to archive all of the manuals that homesteaders still use.

The HP Jazz site for utility MPE/iX programs and job streams closed in 2008. It's been cloned in large part at Speedware's HP legacy page

Interex passed away in 2005. There's been no user group replacement.

Still operating, from Edwards' list: OpenMPE at www.openmpe.com; the HP3000-L mailing list; and the NewsWire. Thank you for your support of our labor of love.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:21 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 02, 2016

Open launch has become a workaround tool

Jon Backus 2016Fifteen years ago this week I put the finishing touches on a Q&A with Jon Backus. He might be best known to one group of 3000 managers who flagged down his taxi-like service of MPE education — his Tech University had independent experts whocarried people from one point in their MPE careers to the next, better trained. An MPECert program was part of the venture that went into business just before HP changed its mind about continuing with 3000s. Tech University offered an alternative to Hewlett-Packard training classes, vendor-led education that was on the decline in 2001.

However, there's another milestone in his career just as well known. He launched OpenMPE as 2002 began, starting with a conversation with then-lab manager Dave Wilde. On the strength of that talk, the advocacy movement ultimately delivered MPE source code to third parties. It did take another eight years, but hopes were high at the start. HP named a key lab engineer to a board of directors. Minisoft donated middleware and MPE software from some of its licensed 3000s.

Backus began it all when he launched a discussion group on the Internet to explore the ways MPE might be preserved by its customers after HP steps away from it in a few years: a homesteading option. The group moved quickly to a consensus that open source methods didn’t fit MPE very well.

Jon Backus 2001“The feeling and desire is very much not open source,” Backus said at the time. “The vast majority feeling is a migration of support and control of the entire MPE environment, including IMAGE, to a new entity. The source would continue to be closely controlled, similar to the way it is today.”

Starting a education group for HP server customers was a bold move. We interviewed him as one of the last 3000 experts to sit for a Q&A before HP's November 2001 exit announcement. August 2001's HP World was the last show to offer any HP hope for the server. Without OpenMPE and its work to capture that source code, however, to independent support companies such as Pivital Solutions, the trade secrets of MPE/iX would be lost. Instead that source acts as workaround and custom patch bedrock to help homesteaders.

Source for MPE/iX was not the initial goal Backus proposed for OpenMPE, though. The whole of the 3000 business would pass to a third party in his opening gambit. HP took months to even respond to that, saying the computer's infrastructure was decaying. Tech University was already addressing the brain drain before OpenMPE was born.

"You gradually have a mind-drain of how to use the operating system to the fullest, how to use the third-party utilities to their fullest," he said at HP World 2001. "You end up stuck in a legacy mind-set. Just because the 3000 was created 30 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s frozen in time. It’s evolved. The paradigm shift is that your knowledge of the platform needs to evolve right along with the platform.

"People bash HP for not offering more training. But until you push the boundaries of what your 3000 can do, you don’t have any right to pick on HP for not doing more."

One of the 3000's best HP friends at the time was Jeff Vance, who subsequently spoke for the vendor's intentions from a division-level viewpoint. OpenMPE's ideal of getting the 3000 to a new home outside HP would test the strength of a community that had just been cut off from the vendor.

“We could see if the ecosystem is still deteriorating at the rate we’ve determined, or if customers are willing to accept, say, IMAGE support from a third party,” he said. “That would be my guess at how we’ll get out — and that may lead later on to true open source.”

Vance said that HP didn't have plans to keep its MPE enhancements engineering team together beyond October 2003. As it turned out the team put a few enhancements into the community beyond that date, including an SCSI pass-thru module and a means to connect larger disk storage devices to MPE. Vance said HP resources would be vital to making any new entity successful in extending MPE’s life.

“It has to come soon,” Vance said of HP’s decision on how to help OpenMPE. “We have to make a pretty important decision, and we have to do it quickly. The longer we delay, the more the infrastructure decays.”

This isn't a story with the happy ending Backus and the advocates dreamed about in 2002. But seven companies got limited source code licenses just as HP closed down all of its MPE operations — more than eight years later. If you do business with one of the support companies with a license, that source is there to help solve a problem if needed.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:01 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2016

How Good Things Are Slow to Change

Change for the BetterFive years ago this week I was debating Apple's place in the future of tablets. The iPad was roaring along with more than 60 percent of the share of tablets shipped at the time. I bought one for my wife a few months later, to help her convalesce following a hip surgery. It was an iPad 2, and it's turned out to be the equivalent of a 9x9 HP 3000. It might run forever.

My debating point in late August of 2011 was Apple would not be chased off its leadership of market share anytime soon. In 2011 nobody offered a tablet featured with apps and an infrastructure like Apple's. I heard the word "slab" to describe tablets for the first time. That label predicted that a tablet could become nothing more special than a PC. White box, commodity, biggest market share will eliminate any out-sold competitors.

Sue KieselThe trouble with that thinking is that it's the same thing that drives the accepted wisdom about the future for datacenters still using MPE/iX and the HP 3000. Last Friday I attended a 20th work anniversary lobster boil at The Support Group for Sue Kiezel. She left her datacenter career on MANMAN systems to become a part of Terry Floyd's consulting and support company. All through those years, HP 3000 experience has remained important to her work. There's years ahead, too, years with 3000 replacements -- in their own time. Slowly, usually.

Terry Floyd-LobstermanThose 20 years also track with the Newswire's lifespan. It's always a chipper afternoon when I visit the company's HQ out in the Texas oaks near Lake Travis. In addition to things like barbecue and cake -- and last Friday, lobsters large enough to crowd a deep pot--reminders of the success of the 3000 are often laying about. Last week I noticed flyers and documents outlining software from Minisoft. Not all of that software is MPE-centric products, but it is all designed for any company that still makes and ships products using a 3000-driven datacenter. Even if that datacenter is hooking up iMacs to MPE/iX, a specialty Minisoft has come to own completely. The 3000 users who remain in the market believe they have a good thing. Change comes slowly to good things, behavior which mirrors human nature.

Change came slowly to the iPad's market share of shipped tablets. It took three years for the shipped-per-quarter numbers to drop below 30 percent. At one point they were below 20 percent -- this is share of units shipped, not total overall share of tablets in use. Then the iPad rallied and grabbed more sales. It was and remains a good thing to use if you need a slab computer.

Like the HP 3000s and those MPE/iX users, the tablets made by Apple are built to last longer. That iPad 2 which first sat on Abby's lap while she healed from her hip? Still working every evening here, five years later, streaming Netflix all through the night and delivering emails. Another model of tablet which captured 16 percent share that fall, from newcomer Amazon -- well, those Fires are well-extinguished now. It's not a snipe hunt to find a Fire from 2011. More like the pursuit of a heffalump.

What's similar to the tablet-slab derbies is the way the ownership shifts. People leave iPad ownership when cost of acquisition becomes the primary factor. Why pay the $400-plus when an LG or a Samsung is less than half as much? Why keep using MPE/iX when Linux can drive less costly hardware? Ownership is about much more than capital costs, whether it's an iPad or an MPE server. When the pad -- Abby just calls hers "my computer" by now -- is doing what's needed and doing a good job, then it gets to stay.

And the 3000 and MPE are helped along by companies that retain experience and expertise in products and professionals. Companies with a realistic view of the long term (things will change, but slowly) and devotion to keeping that solution running well. After eight years of using iOS mobile devices, phones and slabs, I finally got my hands on an Android tablet. ATT did the Android brand no favors by giving it to me for free, unprompted. The phrase "We're gonna give you 40 acres, and a mule" rattled in my head after the ATT business rep told me about my upgrade.

Using Android is different than iOS, but in one particular way it's as different as a mule and a Caterpillar tractor. I don't expect this modest LG G Pad to outlast an old mule. It was inexpensive, but as one owner said on the BestBuy site where you can have the tablet for 99 cents, "If you are looking for the cheapest 8-inch tablet with LTE service, this is it, but one gets what one pays for."

And sometimes you get more than what you pay for because it lasts so long. It's easy to find statistics on how much Android holds over iPad in market share. Proof that MPE/iX and its experts have a slim market share is easy to find, too. It's harder to see how many five-year-old tablets are still in everyday use. Or how many MPE-based applications are pushing into their third decade of service. Good things change slowly. That's a blessing in an era littered with tweets that announce a new world order every day. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:15 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 26, 2016

Expecting the Best, Even During A Disaster

Aircraft-537963_1920This week marked the onset of cheaper air fares. August 23 was the official day for lower fares to be posted by airlines. A fare between Austin and Bejing -- the country where a dozen HP 3000s are driving a manufacturing corporation's operations — is down to $863.

So the impact of airline companies' failed disaster recoveries will recede. There are fewer people to strand when a system goes dark like the one did at Delta Airlines. The disaster was centered around a single building in the Atlanta power grid. It led to people tweeting “I’ll never fly your airline again.” This is just life in 2016. Get used to it: instant reviews, dashed off in the heat of anger and dismay. Tweets motivate spending millions to do good DR.

But the assumptions are that legacy systems are to blame. "Legacy systems stay on way too long," said one blogger who's had some software experience as well as work at Boeing. "Vendor agreements, support and maintenance — and the pain of switching and upgrading a system that’s by and large pretty reliable and so deeply integrated—are things few CTOs want to touch."

Southwest Airlines had no legacy systems at work during its high-season meltdown. The 3000s had been turned off. The plan was to save money by getting more modern. The disaster recovery was not high on the budget list. Customers don't care about IT budgets. They expect the best, even during a disaster. Plenty of 3000s have come through hell and high water.

That reliability doesn’t come out of thin air. The track record the server built during the advent of ticketless flight operations is one reason it still drives manufacturing in places like China and airports serving See's Candies. Celebrating the days of MPE glory won't return it to those places where DR has failed, though. Turning back only happens when a system fails upon installation. Once you're in, it's hard to turn something away at the gate.

Tim O'Neill — a 3000 manager who qualifies for Most Devoted IT Pro to MPE — was moved by our report of a 3000 doing more magic than SAP could at one company.

Yesterday a new user began using our one remaining MPE application. I could say that utilization is growing. If I were a little smarter, I would be able to rewrite the application in C (or some other new programming language on MPE) give the application a Windows look and feel, and then customers who are currently asking to manage their data in the way that only this application does might say, "I want a system like that." And Stromasys would sell them Charon systems.

Charon is ready. The new programming language, not so much; Java was a candidate, but not for long. In that magic alternative world, the thrill would be new MPE customers buying hardware. "I would think I were dreaming," O'Neill said. We can settle upon the dream of keeping MPE alive where it's working. There's still business out there.

One reason business is still in play is that people expect the best. Any company whose product could get you killed, or injured, or create a sleep-in-the-terminal kind of event, should be expected to put in enough DR to avoid a disaster that’s not an act of God. Nobody expects to read in the ticketing side of the Delta website that “You should know we don’t have millions to improve our disaster recovery. Have a good flight, and may the odds ever be in your favor.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:17 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 24, 2016

Some 3000 magic is beyond SAP's powers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

August 22, 2016

Replacements can trigger re-licensing, fees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 19, 2016

Vendor makes its installs a key to emulation

Customers have not been crazy about paying for services along with their software. You can make a case for doing things differently when the expert arrives to put something mission-critical into your datacenter, though. Hardware integration included installing services for a long time, until the commodity era arrived. Software then slid into self-install territory with the advent of PC apps, and then open source.

Door-lock-407427_1280Thing is, the 3000 community managers learned lessons from an era when they were sometimes as experienced as anyone the vendor could assign to their installs. By the end of the 1980s, though, the vendors often had sharper software engineers than most customers. But the MPE vendors didn't have big staffs for outreach with installs. Here's a tape, stream it like this. Call us if there's a problem. DIY system management was the first option.

Now, if you got a great third party support company, they'd help you with anything. Few software companies wanted to be in that business, though. Adager's Rene Woc would say they got called for every problem someone ever had with an IMAGE database. Sometimes the calls didn't even come from customers. After the call, there was sometimes a sale, though.

Finally, there was freeware. For the price, there was no reason to believe anyone would help install this at your site. Emails and websites gave advice. This was the moment when Charon HPA stepped in. People needed to see the new product working to believe in its magic. For a couple of years anyone could download the software on a single-user license and mount it themselves. The results depended on how adept your administrative skills were. Everybody likes to think of themselves as well-seasoned. It's sometimes less than true.

Charon HPA is a mission-critical part of enterprise computing. Although it doesn't emulate anything in MPE/iX, this is software that transforms an Intel processor into a PA-RISC engine. MPE users have lots of variations in their PA-RISC configurations. That's what happens after 40 years of commercial computing success.

So freeware Charon downloads ended a few years ago. Then over the last year-plus the DIY option has been ended too. "We do it ourselves to be sure it's done right," said one official at Stromasys. There was the freeware era, then the DIY era with customers installing themselves. Now it's the vendor-install era. The proof of this concept comes from a statement by the HPA expert for 3000 sites. Doug Smith says, "All of our installs are successful now."

People who did the DIY route for HPA, and some who made a stab at plugging in freeware, have generated a few considerations while installing. These are mostly anecdotal reports from that DIY era. When you quiz them about issues, you hear things like IP address configurations and printer workarounds. There are some embarrassingly old printers out there attached to 3000s. We've even heard reports of DTC-attached print devices. Really, that's the kind of thing that's best replaced. It's not like the newer generation of printers is expensive, after all.

The undeniable consideration is the third-party software re-licensing for Charon HPA. Most of the push-back we hear about from HPA prospects revolves around costs versus the number of years needed to emulate. Migrating customers do a shorter-span cost analysis. We haven't heard of a single software vendor who's unwilling to re-license, though. Yes, every app and tool vendor gets to pick their price for this re-licensing. You charge what you believe you can get.

In one spot, new-ish 3000 systems are shipped out from a hardware support company to replace failing 3000s. It's the kind of thing that can forestall an HPA prospect. Interesting, because none of that replacement HP hardware is getting newer. Just different. Battery life alone on HP gear might give you some pause. Putting a fan in front of the 3000's backplane to lower the temperature to operating level? More common than you'd think.

Help on Charon HPA comes from Stromasys. Some 3000 sites are accustomed to asking their regular support and service providers to assist. But the buck stops at the Stromasys desk. Everybody wants it that way, even the customers. A vendor takes the lead responsibility in exchange for being a key to a stable, essential datacenter running 3000s.

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

August 17, 2016

Crashed IT Versus Staying On MPE's Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 15, 2016

Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns

OC Register Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 12, 2016

How to purge UDCs on the HP 3000 safely

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

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

Stan Sieler of Allegro shared a story about this recently. "We recently encountered a site where—somehow—an HFS filename had gotten into COMMAND.PUB.SYS. You can't delete UDC entries with HFS filenames, nor can you add them. I had to edit the file with Debug to change the name into something delete-able." Then there's the rebuilding of the catalog. Keven Miller has contributed a program that sorts and reorganizes UDC files.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2016

Measure 3000 performance for datacenters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 08, 2016

August Throwback: Java and VPlus get cozy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 05, 2016

Whatever you know best becomes a platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 01, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25, 2016

Even archival 3000s are keeping things aloft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2016

Samba-3000 sync and Formspec data tips

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

Frank Gribbin resolves and explains:

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

James Byrne also points out:

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

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

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

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

Alan Yeo says:

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

Gilles Schipper points out:

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2016

How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The disc image is contained in "mpe-vr-software-kit.zip". The directory also contains "32002-11018_Rev-2548.zip", which is the MPE-V/R FOS  tape, if you prefer to generate everything yourself. The software kit includes the console logs from the RELOAD that used the above tape image to produce the disc image.

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

July 08, 2016

Is there something you desire in MPE/iX?

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

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

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

Perhaps, though, we could find an equivalent:

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

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

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

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

July 04, 2016

Celebrate Your Independence Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 01, 2016

Celebrate independence this weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 29, 2016

Date format variable help for MPE/iX

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

Michael Anderson replies

First echo:

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

Then setvar:

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

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

Allegro's Barry Lake adds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stan Sieler adds

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

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

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

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

June 27, 2016

Refitting Migration to Look Like Emulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2016

A Hybrid Solution to Staying and Going

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

June 22, 2016

What's MPE got to do with emulators?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 15, 2016

Throwback of mid-June marks much change

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

HP-UX gains in later results (2005)

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

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

New, independent training begins (2006)

MPE-Education.com becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.

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

So much to see, so far to go (2007)

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

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

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

HP to release more 3000 patches (2008)

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

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

Retired HP lab leaves issues behind (2009)

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

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

Red-blooded sites shape new scheduler (2010)

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

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

N-Class price points at value (2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 13, 2016

2016 Advice: Emulate Your 3000 System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 10, 2016

What A Newer MPE/iX Could Bring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 06, 2016

SLEEPER, Awakened for the Masses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 01, 2016

Recovering Your Lost Logins

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

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

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

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

Gilles Schipper shares what he knows.

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

:file t;dev=tape
:store command.pub;*t;directory

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

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

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

May 27, 2016

A Weekend Memorial to the Future's Past

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making a market for an emulator

HP won't resell an emulator to help the market

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

May 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2016

Tape drive changer a powerhouse for MPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 16, 2016

A Spring When The Web Was New to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 06, 2016

Options for STORE You May Not Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 04, 2016

CPR for a Non-Responsive Console

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

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

Gilles Schipper says

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

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

Mark Ranft adds

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

Robert Thwaites notes

These are the simplest things to try first

<ctrl>Q (x-on)


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

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