November 25, 2015

3000 community keystone Jeff Kell dies

Jeff Kell Dec. 2014Jeff Kell, the man who founded the keystone of 3000 help, advice and support in the 3000-L mailing list, died on Nov. 25 of liver cancer and complications from damage induced by a diabetic coma. He'd battled that illness in hospitals and hospice since 2014. Kell was 57.

"It is a very sad day when a good wizard passes on," said coworker and colleague Richard Gambrell at the University of Tennesee at Chattanoona. "Jeff had a gentle soul and brilliant mind."

Kell was the rare IT professional who could count upon 40 years of experience running HP 3000s, developing for MPE, and especially contributing to the state of the art of networking for the server. He created the ultimate network for the 3000's community by establishing HP3000-L, a LISTSERV mailing list now populated with several hundred thousand messages that trace the business computer's rise, decline, and then revival, rife with enduring high tech value and a thread of humor and humanity.

Kell's obituary notes that he came by his passion for scuba early, having worked for a short time at the Chattanooga Aquarium where he fed the sharks. A key contributor to the development of LISTSERV, Kell was instrumental in UTC’s earning the LISTSERV 25th Anniversary plaque, which lists UTC as the 10th University to deploy LISTSERV.

Kell also served as a volunteer to chair SIG-MPE as well as a 3000 networking SIG, but it's nearly impossible to sum up the range of experience he shared. In the photo above, he's switching off the last N-Class system at the university where he worked. Almost 40 years of MPE service flowed off those 3000s.

In the mid-1980s he was a pioneer in developing Internet Relay Chat, creating a language that made BITNET Relay possible. Relay was the predecessor to IRC. "Jeff was the main force behind RELAY, the Bitnet message and file transfer program," Gambrell said. "It inspired the creation of IRC."

My partner Abby and I are personally indebted to Kell's work, even though we've never owned or managed a 3000. The 3000-L and its rich chest of information was my assurance, as well as insurance, that the fledgling 3000 NewsWire could grow into the world of the 3000. In the postings from that list, I saw a written, living thread of wisdom and advice from experts on "the L," as its readers came to call the mailing list and newsgroup Kell started. Countless stories of ours began as tips from the L, or connections to people posting who knew mission-critical techniques. At one point we hired columnists to summarize the best of each month's L discussions. In the era where the Internet and the Web rose up, Kell was a beacon for people who needed help at digital speed.

JeffKellHe was a humble and soft-spoken man, with a wry sense of humor, but showed passion while defending the value of technical knowledge -- especially details on a product better-loved by its users than the management at its vendor. Kell would say that all he did was set up another Listserver on a university computer, one devoted to becoming crucial to UTC's success. Chattanooga is one of the best-networked towns of its size in the world. Kell did much more than that for his community, tending to the work that helped the L blossom in the 3000's renaissance.

Kell looked forward to an HP which would value the 3000 as much as the HP 9000. In 1997 he kicked off a meeting with HP to promote a campaign called Proposition 3000: Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, sold from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX "as trivial as any other Unix platform." 

HP should be stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, "and not its weaknesses," he said. "We don't have to be told anymore what the 3000 can't do, because a lot of the things we were told it can't do, it now can. If we take the limitations of the Posix shell and remove them, we have Proposition 3000," Kell said to HP managers. "I would encourage you to vote yes for this investment in the future."

More than 16 years later, when MPE's fate had been left to experts outside of HP's labs, Kell offered one solution on how to keep the server running beyond MPE's Jan 1, 2028 rollover dating gateway.

"Well, by 2027, we may be used to employing mm/dd/yy with a 27 on the end, and you could always go back to 1927. And the programs that only did two-digit years would be all set. Did you convert all of 'em for Y2K? Did you keep the old source?" Kell's listserver is the keeper of all 3000 lore, history, and wisdom, a database that can be searched from a Web interface -- even though he started the resource before commonplace use of what we were calling the World Wide Web.

Some might dismiss that resource as a museum of old tech. Others were using it this week, to connect newer-age tape devices to old-school 3000s. He retired the last of UTC's 3000 at the end of 2013 (in the photo above). His own help to the community members on tech specifics and the state of this year's networking will outlive him, thanks to his work setting this keystone for the community's exchange.

He had a passion for scuba, and could also dive deep into the latest of networking's crises. At the 2011 HP3000 Reunion, he held forth at a luncheon about the nuances that make up a secure network in an era of hack like 2013's Heartbleed.

About 10 days after the news rocked the Web, Kell posted a summary on the challenges and which ports to watch.

Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've heard about Heartbleed. Every freaking security vendor is milking it for all it's worth. It is pretty nasty, but it's essentially "read-only" without some careful follow-up. 

Most have focused on SSL/HTTPS over 443, but other services are exposed (SMTP services on 25, 465, 867; LDAP on 636; others). You can scan and it might show up the obvious ones, but local services may have been compiled against "static" SSL libraries, and be vulnerable as well.

We've cleaned up most of ours (we think, still scanning); but that just covers the server side. There are also client-side compromises possible.

And this stuff isn't theoretical, it's been proven third-party.

Lots of folks say replace your certificates, change your passwords, etc.  I'd wait until the services you're changing are verified secure.

Most of the IDS/IPS/detections of the exploits are broken in various ways.  STARTTLS works by negotiating a connection, establishing keys, and bouncing to an encrypted transport. IDS/IPS can't pick up heartbleed encrypted. They're after the easy pre-authenticated handshake.

It's a mess for sure. But it’s not yet safe to necessarily declare anything safe just yet.

Even on a day when most people in the US are off work, the tributes to his help and spirit have poured in. "He was smart, soft spoken, and likable," said Gilles Schipper from his support company GSA. "He will be deeply missed. My condolences to his wife Kitty and the entire family."

Ed King, whose 3000 time began in the 1990s, said "Jeff was a great guy, full of wisdom and great stories, and he gave me a chance to flex my wings with some very interesting programming assignments, which kickstarted my career. He will be missed."

Developer Rick Gilligan called him "hard working, brilliant and a great communicator." Alfredo Rego said in a salute that "The members of Jeff’s family, and all of Jeff’s friends and colleagues, know that he made a tremendous difference during his life on this Earth."

The family's obituary for Kell includes a Tribute Wall on his page on the website of the Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. 

Personally, I'll miss his questing spirit and marvel in his legacy. What a Master he was.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Follow the 3000 NewsWire on Twitter
for immediate feeds of our latest news
and more

November 24, 2015

The Wide World of Connecting Storage

IO used to be more complex for IT. Sure, the array of choices for disk is vast today. But in the era when 3000s used to think they were lucky to get SCSI plugged into them, configuring disk connections was not simple. HP-IB protocol, built to link HP's instruments, was simple, used for all HP devices, and slow. But it was integrated and seamless compared to the SCSI of single-ended, fast/wide, and Ultra Fast.

Such was the case for one 3000 manager seeking advice from his colleagues. You never think about these things on a 3000 until the hardware breaks. Or backups fail. Or storage media gets rare. Aging hardware is one of several issues that require expertise, even if a 3000 runs the ultimate 7.5 version of MPE/iX. Our manager hunted for his help on the longest-running 3000 classroom in the world, the HP3000-L mailing list.

A single-CPU A-Class was moving away from DDS technology, the DDS-3 that was first launched in the '90s. There are other options for 3000 tape backup. But these options include single-ended, fast/wide, and other cable and termination combinations. DLT technology, introduced more recently but still a 1990s choice, runs with HP 3000s. It helps to get the ends right, though, if DLT is to have a new beginning on an old-school 3000.

"Until now they have done their backup on DDS," a manager talking to the 3000 newsgroup explained. "Lately they had a failure on the DDS drive, and have realized that it is getting difficult to get new tapes. They have decided to move to DLT8000, model C6378A, and have bought two of them. One is supposed to go live on the 3000, and the other to be stored as a spare device."

The DLT is hooked to the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on the A-Class. But ODE/Mapper doesn't recognize the device."

There was an error, and no DLT joy. Soon enough, one veteran consultant said, "You will have trouble connecting a fast wide SCSI device to an ultra-wide SCSI controller." It wasn't a rookie mistake, but the veterans who still prowl 3000-L had a solution and even a link to an inexpensive fix. So it goes, here in the fifth decade of HP 3000 mission-critical service. Answers are everywhere.

This wasn't an inexperienced 3000 pro, it seemed, when reading that he tried to "add the device in IOCONFIG by adding first the path 0/0/1/0.2, and then the device with the command: ad 8;path=0/0/1/0.2.0;ID=dlt;mode=autoreply."

SCSI on the 3000 sure isn't the world of USB, where just 2.0 and 3.0 cover the scope of IO choices. A $59 adapter card connected that DLT to the 3000. The IO challenge also prompted advice even a pro might not know — making a case for having fresher hardware than HP's to run MPE.

There was advice about using Mapper on the 3000 to troubleshoot an IO device from Michalis Melis.

Normally the path and the device should be recognized by running ODE/ Mapper without even loading the operating system. You do not have to go to SYSGEN. If Mapper fails you have a problem before the OS loads.

Craig Lalley made the link between two incompatible kinds of SCSI interfaces.

You are trying to hook up a Fast/Wide SCSI device to an Ultrawide interface. The C6378A can only connect to a HVD Fast Wide SCSI interface (A4800A SCSI card comes to mind). Remember, the A-class does not support Dual-Head cards, so your only option is A4800A. You need either a DLT8000 with a Fast-Wide interface, or you need a cheap A4800A HVD (High Voltage Differential) SCSI card. You can daisy chain devices to the card, but I would only use one tape at a time.

Lalley also tipped his hat to Keven Miller, who supplied the link to that $59 adapter card.

Then Denys Beauchemin, who has been among one of the more prolific contributors to the 3000-L, delivered detailed advice about connecting backup devices. His background reaches back to the first decade of 3000 use, including years spent with Hi-Comp on backup software development.

Fast/Wide SCSI (FWSCSI) is essentially HVD SCSI on SCSI-2 standard. This means that the signal is a differential in the voltage between various wires (HVD is High Voltage Differential) and Ultrawide SCSI is SE (Single Ended) SCSI, on the SCSI-2 standard which makes is wide (16 bits), like the FWSCSI.

So what is needed is a converter to power the signal from the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on your server to the FWSCSI interface on the DLT device. I have a number of those somewhere here, but they were for SE SCSI, not UltraSCSI.  They might work for that, since all they did was provide the powered signal and the cable is the one that converted from wide to narrow.

Another thing to consider is that since HP nicely crippled the A-class, that 3000 system would not be able to keep the DLT8000 streaming. And that device hates not streaming, so much so that it will enter shoeshine mode and perform abysmally. Just a parting gift from HP to the MPE community. You should hear what they're doing to the VMS crowd.

That last comment comes from Beauchemin's current duties as migration manager for the OpenVMS users who are leaving that platform. VMS had a steady Internet community to help Digital users, just as the 3000 has 3000-L. People like Beauchemin, largely working outside the 3000 world, are still providing advice for homesteaders -- even while assisting in migrations. After migration there is much to manage, but simply migrating off Hewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware makes using MPE/iX less complex.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:07 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 23, 2015

Virtualized clouds may shift due to Dell

Dells cloudsAlthough the merger isn't yet complete, EMC will become part of Dell in the year to come. Those are two impact players in the HP enterprise arena, fierce HP rivals as well as providers of gear in HP shops both migrated and homesteading. The biggest impact on HP 3000 customers might come not from either of these companies, though, but from a subsidiary. VMware, which is powering a significant number of virtualized environments, is 80 percent owned by EMC.

That makes Dell the primary owner of the most popular virtualization provider in the industry. In the wake of the merger announcement, consultants, developers and vendors from the community have looked to the future of Dell's VMware ownership. Even a possible impact on cloud computing has come up for discussion.

"Whoever owns VMware next could control and own the future of the cloud," goes the proposition of the new VMware ownership. VMware has certainly promoted its new efforts into cloud computing. But that doesn't make the vendor a controlling force in cloud computing.

The three pillars of cloud computing, according to cloud ERP provider Plex, are elasticity, efficiency, and cloud as a service. VMware is only a backbone for such cloud offerings. The actual cloud applications use a range of backbones. The most common one is Xen, used by Amazon Web Services. HP dropped out of the public cloud business earlier this year, facing losses while going up against Amazon and others.

However, corporate enterprise IT may include clouds on VMware. A VMware-based one might run on an internal security zone not visible to the Internet. Another style can be based on OpenStack, visible to the Internet.

"Dell owning 80 percent of VMware is a huge deal," says Gavin Scott, a developer and a veteran of decades on MPE/iX and former SIG-Java chairman. "But it's not because of clouds. It might actually be bad for VMware because it will push Dell's competitors to look at other solutions. VMware is crazy expensive, so customers may be quite happy to be led to other vendors' doorsteps."

"VMware is like Oracle," Scott told us. "The most expensive way to solve the problem. But it also has the most features and functionality and is a 'safe' choice."

"I think of cloud computing as involving the use of a third party's cloud resources," Scott said. "If you've got a big VMware virtualized infrastructure, that might just be running all your previously discreet servers in a bunch of VMs. If you're dynamically bringing clusters of servers on/off line to meet demand, that's more cloud-like."

"I think a lot of VPs of IT like to think they're trendy by having their own "cloud," and at that point the term is relatively meaningless." 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:54 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2015

Multi-threading traces years of MPE service

JugglerYesterday we explored the prospects of multi-threading for HP 3000 sites. It's an aspect of application and software design that can benefit from virtualization. In years past, when much of the 3000 application base was being created, separate hardware CPUs drove this multi-threading. Stan Sieler of Allegro, one of the authors of the textbook on Precision Architecture RISC "Beyond RISC," told us that multi-threading is likely to have made its way into 3000 software via Unix.

It's a concept, through, that's been possible for MPE ever since its beginning. The MP in MPE stands for Multiprogramming, Sieler reminded me, and that "Multi-threading is a form of multiprogramming or multiprocessing."

Generally, but not always (as words are often abused), “threads” are related to a single process.  E.g., my video compression program might work on several parts of the video simultaneously with three or four threads. On some computers, two separate threads of a single process cannot execute at the same time … on others, they can.  

On most computers nowadays, threads are implemented at the operating system level. On older systems, threading was sometimes implemented above the operating system, relying on user code to switch threads.  (I’ll skip co-routines, which few systems have now, but the Burroughs MCP did.)

Multi-programming is the concept where two (or more) processes (or “programs”) appear to run at the same time, but in reality each gets a short time to run, and then the CPU pays attention to the other process, then back to the first one… or “time slicing.”

On the 3000, few programs use multi-threading, but it is available. It came about the same time as Posix did, perhaps one release later (I can’t recall). In general, if you show me a 3000 program that uses threading, I’ll bet it’s written in C and originated in the Unix/Linux world. 

Essentially all computers nowdays have multi-programming. The original HP 3000 (pre-CX) did, too. (The HP 2100 (running RTE) had, IIRC, no multi-programming.)

Sieler adds that "Multi-processing is where you have more than one CPU … each CPU can run a single process at a time (and, with multi-programming, can appear to be running more than one at a time).

"So, you could easily have a program — even on the Classic 3000 — that ran multiple copies of itself (assuming, of course, you had a reason for doing it)."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:27 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 18, 2015

Application threading a gate for performance

Ski-gatesMany an HP 3000 app was designed in an era when threads were expensive. Multi-threading is another way of describing multiprocessing. It's the M in MPE. But few HP 3000 programs use multi-threading. Multi-processing uses multiple processors. These 2-way and greater 3000s could cost upwards of $200,000 over the last complete decade of sales in the 1990s. Since this was the MPE/iX value model, the cost reflected the combo of hardware and system software, during an era with user-count licenses for the OS driving up the capital cost of 3000 computing.

For any customer who had but one CPU propeller to push along their ship of software, a single-threaded app made good sense. But the single threading programs of MPE/iX are a gating device for engaging the full horsepower of virtualization. Dave Clements of Stromasys mentioned the common threading architecture for MPE/iX apps while we talked about VMware's connection with the Charon product. This is a common reason why every 3000 customer's Charon performance is one of those "it depends" solutions.

A user of Charon can sometimes get along with a relatively slow CPU clock speed for the Charon host hardware. At the Conax Technologies datacenter, a 2.7GHz Intel host is standing in for a Series 928 HP 3000. Virtualized CPU power is almost as fast as the original hardware there, according to the system manager — and then any application process that reaches out to the disk screams along, the manager added. But there's not a lot of multi-threading in the 3000 app world.

"We run into a lot of applications that are not multi-threaded," Clements said. "It makes a difference. We see that a lot in database applications. There's not a lot we can do about single-threaded applications," he added, in order to take advantage of the multi-threading abilities in newer and faster host CPUs. What makes Charon an effective emulator is, in part, its ability to excellerate multiple threading of processes. It's the same kind of lift as if the newer Intel chip designs were to give power upgrades to the PA-RISC CPUs. This is the promise of virtualization. Multithreaded apps get more from it.

Stromasys customers and prospects have not been reporting that speed is a barrier to their adoption of the product. Charon has the potential to run 3000 programs even faster if those apps have been written to use multiple threads. "Every customer poses the potential for a unique solution," Clements said. Other aspects can be changed, he said — things that are easier to update than application code which was probably first conceived before the Web was born.

As it turns out, just like in fine sheet sets, a high thread count helps smooth things for application computing, too. However, since app threading isn't going to change in a customer datacenter, other comforts for faster performance can be applied instead.

For example, system IO can be improved easily, from new controllers to faster devices to solid state disks. Hardware is cheap compared to the manpower of rewriting an application to take maximum advantage of newer CPU horsepower.

Controllers on the SANs, on the host, and switches for the storage devices to connect — all are hardware gating components in the formula for virtualization. At Conax, the system manager said the advantage to working with legacy software is "the bits don't change." Those are application bits he's referring to. Charon will be upgraded and improved many more times than most MPE/iX apps, here in 2015. Most of that 3000 software is frozen in time, a very stable time. In a growth business like virtualization, there's always room for improvement: of hardware, and of the virtualization software, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:50 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2015

Putting PDF Into a 3000's Data Flow

PDF logoHP 3000 experts know of a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer for getting reports into PDF format and then out via Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest, there are other commercial solutions. There's also several bolt-together techniques if you've got very limited budget to homestead.

Bob McGregor reports:

We use txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.

Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, adds:

I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the Windows system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.

The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago.)

John Pitman employed that concept of Appel's in a combination of an off-the-shelf FTP solution, a freeware PDF converter, along with a good deal of innovative 3000 integration.

Nominate a spooled ldev as always suspended (74 in our case, arbitrary). Users can choose this device as their printer in their menu, and all subsequent reports (until changed to another real printer ldev) will go to this device — and therefore NOT physically print. Some reports that are commonly used to import to Excel have been modified to make headings tightly lined up with the data columns, and only print one page heading, to ease the import process.

Run a job on 3000 that every few minutes scans for spoolfiles for this ldev, then copies them to Posix space specific to 74 (for generality), with the creating user and account in the file name (e.g. mgr_stock_O12345.txt), then delete the original spoolfile.

A scheduled program on the Windows box (every minute) connects via FTP to the 3000. When it finds a spool files as above example, it checks for a Windows destination dir of MGR_STOCK, and copies the file to it as O12345.txt, and deletes the 3000 copy of the file. The account name enables segregation of reports for different applications in our case. If the file is > 1MB (an arbitrary size of your choice), it's zipped. It could as easily be converted to any desired form — for example to PDF via the shareware cutepdf.

It could also readily email the output to a user, given access to a mail server, and a way to develop the email address. Users have a client to access the FTP server and obtain their .txt or .zip files

This has been running for more than 10 years with almost no issues. Occasionally a large file might hang FTP, but canceling and restarting the copy usually fixed it. I have seen report selection errors produce 500 MB TXT files.

You might use several suspended ldevs for different types or groups  of users. We ran this on four 3000s in different locations, each with their own separate windows boxes using BP-FTP server. This means that users in Australia can run a report on the Houston or China system to the local printer 74, pause, connect their FTP client to the relevant FTP server, and download the report without having to print it.

The process also enables soft storage of month end reports, which can be very useful for comparative purposes, auditing, and general historical reference. We now have about eight years of this information stored, with backups and CD copies. Much more compact than paper, and cheaper.

Michael Anderson of consulting firm J3K Solutions added that there is also a open source PDF tool, pdfcreator, a manager can use to set up a network PDF printer. "Some assembly required, and batteries not included," he noted.

Another vote came in for the Advant/X software from Tracy Johnson, the OpenMPE volunteer who manages the Invent3K shared open source server. Johnson notes that this STR Software product "while intended to convert spool files and then e-mail or fax them, can be used short of the transmission process."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 16, 2015

Webinars set courses for future operations

The next three days each contain a webinar that can help a 3000 manager decide how to best use their IT resources. One of the presentations covers a new cloud-based ERP migration solution, explained in detail, while the other two come from a long-time provider of data solutions for HP 3000s.

Chart a courseOn Nov. 17 (Tuesday) Kenandy demos its cloud-based, Salesforce-driven ERP stack. It's a new performance of the overview show broadcast at the end of September. Kenandy has enough features to replace more than a few MPE/iX apps, for any sites which are looking for replacement solutions on the way to migration. Registration is here on the Web, and the program starts at 1 PM Central Time, US.

Over the following two days, MB Foster airs a pair of Q&A, webinar-driven broadcasts about best practices for data management. The company is serving customers beyond MPE/iX sites now, from the experience of carrying out a migration as well as the integration of its software and practices in non-3000 customer sites.

Wednesday Nov 18th's Webinar covers Data Migrations Best Practices. IT operations generate opportunity and challenges to organize  data into useable information for the business. The Webinar will deliver practical methodologies to help you prevent costly disruptions and solve challenges. "A data migration project may not be your specialty," says CEO Birket Foster. "We are offering an opportunity to learn from our successes and minimize the business impacts of data migration, through best practices." The Webinar begins at 1 PM Central US, and registration is here on the Web.

Thursday Nov. 19th's Webinar (a 1 PM Central start time; register here) from MB Foster explains the strategy and experience needed to employ Operational Data Stores in a datacenter. An ODS requires integration, Foster says. 

"Essentially you’re changing what and why you deliver information, and where that information resides for end-users decision support and reporting," he says. "You would also change ongoing management and operations of the environment."

The meeting will deliver insights into MB Foster’s ODS and DataMart services, its technology, and best practices including:

1. What an Operational Data Store and DataMart are 

2. How actionable data can be delivered, quickly 

3. Why investing in an ODS and DataMarts are smart choices

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2015

Quotes On A Happening, 5,111 Days Ago

Computerworld on 2001 announcementMy career has not changed significantly, but I no longer believe anything HP tells me. They could say the sky is blue, and I'd seek a second opinion. They lied to our face once, I won't give them a chance to do it again. — Terry Simpkins, TE Connectivity

It was very difficult to reinvent and took several years. HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result — Doug Greenup, Minisoft

I had received the news prior to the public announcement. I was very angry with HP after being told by Hewlett-Packard at HP World that there was a long future for the system. — Paul Edwards, Interex director

We felt like we were supporting legacy products already, because most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn't change our plans much. — Terry Floyd, The Support Group

When I joined the conference call, in which management announced to CSY staff that they were pulling the plug on MPE and the 3000, I remember the date and the hour. My feeling was one of relief that they were going to stop pretending that the 3000 had a future. It might have had a future, but not with the level that management was investing in R&D at the time. — V.N., HP 3000 labs

I remember heaving a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep two proprietary platforms. Between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. — Christian Lheureux, Appic

I was working for a company called Hewlett-Packard at the time. I don't know what's become of them; I think they still sell ink. Last I knew, they sold personal computers too, but they weren't sure about that. — Walter Murray, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

CruellaThis really scared a lot of people at the company where I was working, but I kept telling them we had third party support, and not to worry. The directors decided to leverage our 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000. We secured a used 9000, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer 3000. — Connie Sellitto, Cat Fanciers’ Association

We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given its Internet capabilities. The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning, from which we never fully recovered. — Jeff Kell, founder of the 3000-L mailing list

I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. The job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s — and thankfully very little to do with HP at all. — Chris Bartram, founding webmaster.

Share your memory of the day below. Or email the Newswire.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:33 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2015

TBT: HP translates brags about fresh e3000


On a November afternoon fifteen years ago, users and vendors met in an Amsterdam conference center to celebrate integration. A handful of companies had melded their HP 3000 applications with the Internet. "All of the users I spoke with were already doing some kind of e-something, whether elementary or quite advanced,” said Adager CEO Rene Woc. One showed off how Java had helped create an interface for a company that was selling parts for power looms. Their customers were all over the world.

IMG042The users' presentations were especially notable because they were offered in five languages. Simultaneous translations were paid for by the HP 3000 division, the only time in more than 30 years of conferences I've been able to pick up a wireless headset and hear technical reports translated. Not into everyday C-level language, but into French, Spanish, German, Dutch and English. HP set up two rooms with a total of 10 translators. The vendor was working to encourage 3000 managers to speak the language of the Web. HP collected $365 per attendee to help defray the cost; 90 customers and partners attended from 14 countries.

Users wanted their 3000s to be better connected because they didn't want their systems left behind as IT expansion ramped up. Everyone had escaped Y2K worries by November of 2000. The dot-com boom hadn't gone bust, and in some segments like e-commerce, Web interfaces were bringing genuine innovation for interfaces.

IMG012The surge was less certain for companies which had limited their 3000 communications to data swaps over internal LANs. Some were using an intranet, employing the Web technology without exposing the 3000's data to the outside. Others like Lindauer Dornier used the Enhydra Web application server and Java/iX to send the power loom manufacturer's parts data to its customers across the world.

The HP 3000 at the heart of Dornier's operations was plugged in when Windows NT proved too slow. The Windows product that became Windows Server a few years later got dumped in favor of MPE/iX. The meeting "had a lot of flavor of the old days," said HP's Sally Blackwell. The emphasis was not on sponsorships. It was an exchange of information, with HP's help."

HP 3000 Division Product Marketing Manager Loretta Li-Sevilla made the trek from the HP 3000 headquarters, telling customers that “the 3000 is a rock solid foundation for an Internet future. With the 3000 as your platform of choice, that future is unlimited.” There was another 12 months of future remaining with an unlimited flavor.

The European arm of the HP's 3000 operations always performed with more panache. The extra promotion sprang from a need to compete more head-on with Unix in Europe. Enterprise operations had adopted HP-UX servers sooner than in the US. A 25th Birthday Party for the 3000 unreeled in Stuttgart in 1997, instead of in the US. At the three-day Internet brag meeting for 3000 users, CSY Europe Regional Business Manager Alexandra Wiedenmann said, “We will provide you with the products, technologies to help you move into the e-world. Nothing should stop you from Let’s Go e!”

Going faster than Microsoft: Dornier's Peter Herpich, who’d been managing HP 3000s since 1980, hired an independent consulting group to develop the parts ordering application. He said he learned that Java expertise transfers easily to the e3000, and he didn’t have to look for developers trained in both the 3000 and Java.

His consultants built the application on an NT system, but it performed slowly there. “I said I’m not happy,” he reported. “I said they should bring it to the HP 3000.” HP’s Lars Appel assisted the consultants, and the Java application was ported to the e3000 in six hours.

The company served more than 900 customers across the Web. “For me it was a surprise,” Herpich said. “It’s a success. I have 60 percent of our spare parts orders processed electronically. We have a new communication channel with the customers.”

In 2000 Herpich said he had no faith in Microsoft’s solutions, adding that a problem with a Microsoft system means “you have to install it a-new. I don’t want to use a replacement technology for three years, and then have to reinvest again.” He also noted that, “you don’t need specially trained HP 3000 people to create new applications on that machine. The consultants worked on an order system in Java, and brought it to the HP e3000.”

Enhydra was an open source application server for rapid development and deployment of Java and XML-based apps. The server handled all application operations between browser-based computers and a company’s back-end business applications and databases — in this case, IMAGE/SQL or Allbase and HP 3000 apps written in languages like COBOL.

After his presentation, Herpich joked that he saw the 3000 investment of his company paying off for his staff, too. “I can always tell which of our staff is working with the 3000. They have a tan in the summer, while the other people do not.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:42 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 11, 2015

Protecting a 3000 by Eliminating Its Services

Ron as PrivateHere on this day when we celebrate people who have served in the armed forces, a question emerged about enabling HP 3000 JINETD services. Or disabling them, to make a 3000 more powerful and secure. (Yes, it seems to defy the logic about more services being better, one that we can hear in national defense debates. We didn't have such debates at Signal Corps training for the Second Battalion.) The solution to the 3000 service problem included advice on how to trim back risk as well as performance drains on a 3000.

Grigor Terterian said he was having a Series 979 freeze up, because JINETD was receiving a call "for echo udb." Mark Ranft and Denys Beauchemin said the fastest repair would be to comment out echo in the inetdcnf file. Ranft got specific with an example.

# Internet server configuration database
#echo  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#echo  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#daytime  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#daytime  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#time  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#time  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#discard  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#discard  dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#chargen stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#chargen dgram  udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
telnet  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal
#bootps  dgram  udp wait   MANAGER.SYS /SYS/NET/BOOTPD bootpd
#tftp  dgram  udp wait   NET.SYS   /SYS/NET/TFTPD tftpd
ftp  stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS /SYS/ARPA/FTPSRVR ftpsrvr

In the example above, only telnet and ftp services are enabled, Ranft said. This led Art Bahrs, a Certified Security Professional, to add that the services you leave on are the ones that can cause trouble, if you don't need them enabled.

Bahrs, who's also a retired Marine, celebrated his Veterans Day with this advice.

You should never, ever, no time, (did I mention 'never'?) run services you don't use or have a business or production need for.

Two reasons: First is security minded. If you have a service active, it is just another way to be hacked. Second is that an active, running service uses machine power, which is wasteful of electrons if there’s no need for it.

Ranft added his experience with inetd on MPE/iX:

Note that the command: - c

will have inetd re-read the configuration.

Your success with this may vary. I've had lots of trouble with inetd in the far past. They got a lot better with the latest (final, for MPE/iX) set of patches. But on occasion, a scheduled restart ( -k) and re-stream will probably help prevent issues.

I run my inetd with the logging feature.

!job jinetd, manager.sys

This allows one to see the offending IP address in the $STDLIST.

Received call for: telnet tcp
telnet/tcp: Connection from unknown ( at Fri Nov 6 19:56:28 2015
Received call for: echo tcp
echo/tcp: Connection from unknown ( at Wed Nov 11 12:56:45 2015
Received call for: echo udp
echo/udp: Connection from unknown ( at Wed Nov 11 12:57:07 2015
Received call for: echo udp
echo/udp: Connection from unknown ( at Wed Nov 11 12:57:25 2015

As one veteran to others, I honor the services of all on this day, and thank you for your efforts toward our security. Long may it wave.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:59 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 09, 2015

Making 3000 Disk Faster By Virtualizing It

Age is an issue for HP 3000 homesteaders, a challenge that must be met on more than one front. Aging in-house expertise will require a replacement IT professional. That can be tricky to locate in 2015, but one way to approach the task is to train a consultant who's already a trusted resource.

Faster dashboardAt Conax Technologies, the veteran HP 3000 manager Rick Sahr was heading for retirement, an event that threw the spotlight on the suitability of MANMAN for ERP. Consultant Bob Ammerman stepped in to learn MPE/iX and the 3000's operations. That was a solution that followed an effort to replace MANMAN with another ERP software suite, running under Windows.

The trouble with the replacement application stemmed from its database. Oracle drove that app suite, and Conax and Ammerman were assured that having strong experience in Oracle wasn't a requirement of adopting the replacement app. "I'm a SQL Server guy," Ammerman said. His work to interface MANMAN with Windows helped to preserve the 3000's role. That rescue was the best way forward when the company chose to back away from the new app.

The shift in plans opened the door for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. As it turned out, the $100,000 of server and SAN disk purchased for the ERP replacement app was a good fit for virtualizing the 3000. Charon can just about match the CPU performance of the replaced Series 928. The bonus has been what virtualization has done for storage and disk speed. It's erased the other age barrier, the one presented by old disk drives.

"As soon as you go out to touch the disk, it just screams," Ammerman said of the Charon solution. Backups now blaze along, because the virtualized 3000 system is writing to virtualized tape drives. A Windows-based backup for the Dell server and the SAN takes care of protecting the disk images which aere created while using Charon.

The emulator's virtualization of the 3000 CPU is governed by the number of CPU cores, threads, and the speed of the chips. The Dell system runs at 2.7 GHz, a little lower than Stromasys has recommended. "It just works," Ammerman said of what's kept the 3000's age from showing. The nips and tucks that came along with the facelift of hardware are protecting the company's MPE/iX investments.

A retiring MPE guru, along with hardware that's more than 15 years old could point to a migration, one with a serious deadline for completion. "Nobody's in a hurry to move now," Ammerman said. "We'd hoped to get off the 3000 years ago." Now the letters of interest for replacing MANMAN have yet to go out to prospective vendors. Infor, the vendor that's holding the reins and license for MANMAN, has a shot at replacing the MPE/iX app.

When a company can expand its IT know-how by hiring the right person to learn MPE/iX, that's a serious gap that's been overcome. The hurdle of disk age was cleared at Conax by virtualizing that hardware so it runs on late-model drives attached to a Windows system. The most important part of the mission-critical solution remains stable and unchanged: the MPE/iX application.

It's all been made possible with the right approach to managing legacy hardware. "I like old tech," Ammerman said, explaining that he started with Data General business servers. DG has emulation solutions, too. Finding something fresh to emulate what's been successful has been a proven strategy for companies that can't justify migration yet.

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

November 05, 2015

Licensing advice for hardware transitions

Today the CAMUS user group hosted a phone-in meeting, one where the main topic was how to manage licensing issues while changing hardware. Not HP to HP hardware, within the 3000 family. This migration is an aspect of homesteading: moving off the Hewlett-Packard branded 3000 hardware and onto Intel servers. The servers run Stromasys Charon HPA, which runs the applications and software built for MPE.

LicensesIn-house apps need no such relicense, but everything else demands disclosure. This is a personal mission for companies that want to leave HP hardware behind, but keep their MPE software. In one story we've heard, a manager said the vendor would allow its software to run under Charon. "But you're on your own for support," the vendor told the manager. No-support licenses are the kind that satisfy auditors. In lots of cases, self-support or help from independent companies is better than the level which that sort of vendor offers.

We've talked with three managers who've done this MPE software relicensing, all reporting success. Two of these managers told their stories at today's meeting. Last year we collected the tale of re-licensing from Jeff Elmer, IT manager for Dairylea Cooperative. They left a Series 969 for a PC-based host when old drives in the 969 posed a risk.

He said licensing the software for the Charon emulator solution at Dairylea was some work, with some suppliers more willing to help in the move than others. The $1.7 billion organization covers seven states and uses at least as many third party vendors. “We have a number of third party tools, and we worked with each vendor to make the license transfers,” said Elmer. 

“We won’t mention any names, but we will say that some vendors were absolutely wonderful to work with, while others were less so. It’s probably true that anyone well acquainted with the HP 3000 world could make accurate guesses about which vendors fell in which camp.”

Some vendors simply allowed a transfer at low cost or no cost; others gave a significant discount because Dairylea has been a long-time customer paying support fees. ”A couple wanted amounts of money that seemed excessive, but in most cases a little negotiation brought things back within reason,” Elmer said. The process wasn’t any different than traditional HP 3000 upgrades: hardware costs were low, but software fees were significant.

“The cumulative expense of the third party software upgrades was nearly a deal-breaker,” Elmer said. “In the end, our management was concerned enough about reliance on old disk drives that they made the decision to move forward. In our opinion it was money very well spent.”

Another guest at today's conference, Bob Ammerman, manages 3000 operations at Conex Technologies. He didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.

The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said, "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.

"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.

That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.

Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.

"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse. 

It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.

So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."

In the very first success story for Charon HPA, Warren Dawson moved his company's applications that relied on Powerhouse to the emulator in 2012. His company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations.

Nearly all of Dawson's third party vendors came on board and made efforts to ensure their software works. “One was a little slow in doing so, so we made a workaround," he said, "and then I made that a permanent workaround. I didn’t know when they would come on board. They came on just before we went live, and we’d already decided to move away from their product.” 

In the case of a switch in backup processes, Dawson’s procedures now back up twice as much data, using HP’s standard STORE and RESTORE programs — in less time than when the backup was done using the third party software on the HP box.

The change from using HP’s native iron to emulation has also reinvigorated some of Dawson’s MPE software vendors.

“I’ve even gotten better support from some of our vendors now that we’re emulating," he said. "They see that there’s an extended life in the system, and so a couple of them have made efforts in that regard. We’ve been paying support for years, and for some software we’d hadn’t asked for support in 10 years. They’ve come back to our requests to help us and been very good about it."

One backup software solution didn’t make the transition from 3000 hardware and storage devices to the emulated system. DAT tapes presented an extra effort. Dawson used a utility to copy the tapes to disk, “and for some reason when I did that, it didn’t work properly in the backup software. There was some sort of SCSI issue which was at Stromasys’s end, and they’ve since resolved that issue. But the backup vendor said initially they weren’t supporting the emulator, so we worked something else out.

The Quiz reporting tool is part of the software set that’s made the step onto the emulator. The company buys and maintains its Powerhouse licenses through a reseller, and that partner has handed the relicensing of Quiz onto the emulator. “I haven’t dealt directly with Cognos for a long time,” Dawson said.

Minisoft’s ODBC drivers run on the emulated system, since part of the application’s project is to extract data. Since the databases and the application have been emulated, Dawson’s remains able to use Visual Basic programs, using the ODBC drivers, to do reports as well as updates. Dawson singled out the company as taking extra time to help make the emulation succeed.

“Minisoft’s been the most helpful, because that reporting system started out being the most troublesome.  We’ve been having a VB 6 program issue, where those programs ran under Windows XP but are an issue under Windows 7. These programs were written 10 years ago, and the people who wrote them are long since gone. They explained how I could run their software in different ways, with the old driver under VB 6 on XP versus a new driver for .NET on Windows 7.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2015

Compliance rule pipes MPE app to emulator

RacineRacine Water & Wastewater, a municipal utility in Wisconsin, ran an HP 3000 and associated billing applications for decades. The organization even made the shift to final-generation HP hardware with an A-Class server. After the utility shifted IT operations to another platform in 2008, the Hewlett-Packard hardware for MPE/iX chugged along in archival mode. But the risk in running on drives more than a decade old grew serious. The organization that serves 100,000 customers in the communities around Lake Michigan reached out to an emulation platform from Stromasys to keep its archives vital.

The utility needed to maintain a legacy system in order to access archived data. After they had migrated their primary billing system to a newer system, only four years of archived data could be migrated to the new environment. More than 25 years of records remained on the HP 3000. By 2014, they knew they needed a solution to continue to access billing records stored on the HP 3000.

The State of Wisconsin mandates access to billing history records. To meet those compliance needs, the utility engaged with an independent consultant to research archival solutions. Mike York of Assertive Systems in Wisconsin began his due diligence and demo testing. Charon HPA came in for review, and while retrieving that A-Class server's HPSUSAN number, the HP hardware suffered a disk failure. Stromasys was able to help recover the system, even before the utility had adopted the Charon emulator.

According to a case study on the Stromasys website, a DDS-1 backup tape failed to load. Recovery was stalled. Ken Scolaro, administrative manager for the utility, was working with York to try to bring HP's 3000 hardware back online.

Scolaro and York sent a backup tape to the Stromasys engineer providing support on the project. Stromasys purchased a DDS-1 tape drive for the data recovery, and utilizing Oracle Box, built a Virtual Machine and recovered the HP 3000 system. After recovering the tape data and configuring the virtual HP 3000 with MPE/iX 7.5, the virtual machine was exported and sent via thumb drive to the customer. The utility then imported that VM to its local server.

The Stromasys sales representative provided a proof of concept for us," York said. "He accomplished this from an old and very questionable backup tape. Amazing." 

The Racine utility replaced the Hewlett-Packard iron with Intel-based hardware. Twenty years of data is now available via Charon. "Utility staff did not even notice this change was made," Scolaro said. "The system installed easily without any unexpected problems," the case study on the Stromasys website reports. "It has run flawlessly ever since."

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

October 26, 2015

Migrating licenses: an individual's mission

Mission-possibleHewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware is getting older, and although it's well-built, 13-year-old drives make for a good migration spark. The move to Stromasys emulators is another sort of migration, shifting MPE onto standard Intel hardware, but what of the application and software licenses? Getting them transferred is a mission for each company migrating away from HP-badged 3000s. So far, we've heard few reports of show-stopper licensing woes.

The first company that's discussed is the owners of the Powerhouse software. While that's not Cognos, or even IBM anymore, its owners are still a company that does not automatically see value in keeping a customer on support. Bob Ammerman didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.

The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.

"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.

That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.

Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.

"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse. 

It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.

So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."

That's long-term thinking on the part of Infor. Vendors who are cooperating in these license migrations look toward a future when MPE won't be an option any more for their customers. Some vendors have solutions that run on other platforms. As an example, MB Foster "was happy to do a transfer," he said. This strategy preserves an investment while it maintains support revenue for vendors.

Users at Conax employ a front-end interface to SQLMan. If the company could "bring down MANMAN nightly for a snapshot, we would." Instead, they shut down the application completely once a month. It also means that company historical data is online at anytime. "One company manager asked me to look at 2010 data, and we could," Ammerman said. "We used to have to purge the old data, but we don't have to anymore" with the SQLMan transfer procedures.

Carrying licenses forward involves calls and contact vendor-by-vendor, but some have policies in place. Especially those who've done decades of business with 3000 users. From backup software right down to applications, everything's been migrated to the fresher Intel hardware running MPE/iX. "They'd be silly not to re-license products," Ammerman said, "if they want to keep their support revenue."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2015

CAMUS to host homestead-migrate meeting

Icon HomesteadCAMUS, the manufacturing software society that serves ERP users, will host a meeting on November 5 to shed light on a solution to migrate off MANMAN. Or homestead on the application. The 90 minutes covers both prospects for the HP 3000 customer who continues to rely on MANMAN.

Even almost 40 years after its introduction to MPE, MANMAN is still running company operations around the world. Conax has built its business model around it while it makes temperature sensors. What's more, the MANMAN user still has resources like CAMUS and its membership. Board member Terry Floyd of The Support Group says the software is still central to his business.

Migration Icon"We can still say that almost all of our revenue comes from MANMAN, and that's amazing," he said. It can be expected that a support company like his, which specializes in ERP software, could dig in to serve MANMAN sites that operate with the source code as an application resource. The range of releases is wide, and not all of it is running in Native Mode of MPE/iX.

"All MANMAN users have all of the source code," Floyd said. "Most people are on NM, but I have run across a few running ancient versions before Release 6. Release 12 is current, and 8 or 9 is where some of our best customers are. Most MANMAN sites are probably on Release 11."

The ERP site managers, and anyone else running an enterprise server, can call in to the CAMUS meeting at 11 AM Central Standard Time on Thursday, November 5. The conference connection and call-in number will be emailed to anyone who registers with CAMUS board member Terri Glendon Lanza with a call to her at 630.212.4314, or via her email.

The Stromasys emulator portion of the program leads off the event, with a discussion from Birket Foster of MB Foster and Steve Cooper of Allegro. They'll discuss how the Charon-HPA emulator gets along with third party software and applications.

"We're having a round-table type discussion on implementing Stromasys for the HP 3000," Lanza said. "We're looking to hear experiences from folks who have implemented Charon. We'll be asking what the third parties have been like to deal with."

The other option available for MANMAN sites is to move on to something more modern in architecture. Cloud ERP from Kenandy will come up for discussion at 11:45, according to the meeting agenda, with a presentation led by Kenandy's Stewart Florsheim. Is Kenandy MANMAN, updated? The cloud software that's built around Salesforce1 was launched by ASK Software's founder Sandy Kurtzig, creating MANMAN back in the 1970s.

Around 12:30 Central time, callers will enjoy an opportunity for open discussion about ERP, the 3000, and probably migration. Callers don't have to be CAMUS members. But everyone needs to register to get that call-in number.

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

October 20, 2015

Patching an HP 3000 with Patch/iX, Stage/iX

Editor's Note: Today a system manager asked for directions on using AUTOPAT on an HP 3000. That's very old school tech even for a classic system like the 3000 (TOH to Alan Yeo for digging out that link). More than 10 years ago, our contributor John Burke detailed the use of the more-modern MPE/iX patch tools.

By John Burke

Patch bicycleEven after HP introduced Patch/iX and Stage/iX to MPE/iX, these HP tools were poorly understood and generally under-used. Both are tremendous productivity tools when compared with previous techniques for applying patches to MPE/iX. There's a good reason for using the newer tools. Prior to the introduction of Patch/iX and Stage/iX, system managers did their patching with AUTOPAT, and you had to allow for at least a half-day of downtime. Plus, in relying on tape, you were relying on a notoriously flaky medium where all sorts of things could go wrong and create “the weekend in Hell.”

Patch/iX moves prep time out of downtime, cutting downtime in half because you create the CSLT (or staging area) during production time. Stage/iX reduces downtime to as little as 15-20 minutes by eliminating tape altogether and, furthermore, makes recovery from a bad patches as simple as a reboot.

This article is based upon the Patch Management sessions I presented at three Interex Solutions Symposiums. The complete set of 142 slides (over 100 screen shots) and 20 pages of handouts are downloadable from my website. The complete presentation takes you step-by-step through the application of a PowerPatch using Patch/iX with a CSLT and the application of a downloaded reactive patch using Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Included is an example of using Stage/iX to recover from a bad patch.

Why should you care about Patch Management? Keeping a system running smoothly includes knowing how to efficiently and successfully apply patches to the system. HP supplyed bug fix patches to MPE/iX and its subsystems through 2008, including two PowerPatches a year through 2006. Some patches add functionality to older 3000s. Patch/iX is a tool for managing these patches.

Patch/iX can be used to apply reactive patches, a PowerPatch, or an add-on SUBSYS tape with a PowerPatch. Patch/iX is actually a bundle including the PATCHIX program and a number of auxiliary files that are OS release dependent.

Patch/iX allows you to:

• Qualify all patches in a set of patches;

• Install reactive patches at the same time as a PowerPatch;

• Selectively apply patches from a PowerPatch tape; and,

• Create the CSLT (or staging area for Stage/iX) while users are still on the system; i.e., when it is convenient for you without incurring downtime.

Stage/iX is an OS facility for applying and managing the application of patches. Stage/iX reduces system downtime for applying patches to the length of time required for a reboot and provides an easy and reliable method for backing out patches. Stage/iX includes an interface to Patch/iX that creates the “staging area” and two utilities:

• STAGEMAN, which allows you to manage all aspects of patch staging, including which version of the OS will be used for the next update; and,

• STAGEISL, an ISL utility available from the ISL prompt whenever the system is down. It contains a subset of STAGEMAN functionality that allows you to recover from most problems.

Steps in staging

The set of all operating system files, for example NL.PUB.SYS, etc., are considered the current Base OS. Stage/iX creates and manages staging areas, which are HFS directories that hold versions of files that are different from the Base. More than one staging area can exist at a time. Each staging area contains the difference, or delta, between the Base OS and a patched version of the OS.

When a staging area is activated on the next boot, the files in the staging area are moved into their natural locations while the Base versions of the files are saved in a Stage/iX archive HFS directory. To back out a patch, the reverse takes place and the system is restored to its original state.

Once you are satisfied with the new and patched OS, you can COMMIT the staging area to the Base, deleting the staging area directory and all archived Base files. Note that Stage/iX and Patch/iX allow new patches to be staged and applied in a cumulative fashion. In other words, if you create a new staging area while another staging area is active, the new staging area will contain all the changes between the Base and the active staging area plus all the new changes.

Whether or not you use Patch/iX and Stage/iX, the key to successful OS patching is preparation. Information is the key to preparation. The System Software Maintenance Manual (S2M2) for your particular release of MPE/iX is the bible for all patch management activities. It contains a checklist for each possible update and patch activity along with detailed sections corresponding to checklist items. A hardcopy version and a PDF version on CD usually ship with each major OS release.

The S2M2 for each OS release is also available and downloadable from Information about specific patches is available at the IT Resource Center ( A PowerPatch usually comes with some patch specific documentation – make sure you have it available before you start.

Finally, before you ever sit down at the keyboard, create a Patch Book for the specific patch activity you will be attempting. You can do it with the hardcopy manual and a copy machine, but I prefer to use the PDF version, printing out the two-page checklist and each section that makes up the checklist to create my Patch Book.

How to get, apply patches

Suppose you just got the latest Patch Digest and there is a patch you need to install or you’ve read a thread on the 3000-L mailing list that references a patch you think you should install. Let’s look at how you can get and apply the patch using the ITRC, Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Note that the complete reference manual for both Patch/iX and Stage/iX can be found in the appendices of every S2M2 since, and including, the one for MPE/iX 5.5.

Before proceeding too far, check HPSWINFO.PUB.SYS to ensure the patch has not already been applied. [Note that Patch/iX will tell you if a patch, or even a superceding patch, has already been applied, but it only takes a moment to check HPSWINFO and it could save you some time.] Each patch has an eight character ID. For example, consider TIXMXC3B. The first three characters indicate the subsystem; in this case TIX stands for TurboIMAGE. The next four characters are internal to HP’s patch management mechanism. The final character is the version identifier; in this case “B” indicates the second version of this patch.

First off, identify the proper checklist, in this case Checklist B, and create your Patch Book. Next, review the information about the patches at the ITRC; in particular, look for any patch dependencies.

You need to make sure you have the latest version of Patch/iX installed on your target system. This is critical to your success. All sorts of bad things can happen if you use an old or incomplete version of the Patch/iX bundle. To check the version of Patch/iX, sign on as “MANAGER.SYS,INSTALL” and type in PATCHIX VERSION, The program will respond with something like: Patch/iX Version B.01.09

[Ed. note: getting patches from HP is a free process, but you may have some work in front of you to find a place inside HP support that recognizes the 3000 as a server, and knows how to deliver its patches. If you have a maintenance contract with a good third party — Pivital Solutions, for example — they can help lead you to the right HP cubbyhole.]

Once you have the current Patch/iX and your patches, you are ready to run Patch/iX and create your staging area. There are four steps in any run of Patch/iX:

• “Select Activities,” where you define what type of patching activity you want to perform. You have the choice of adding a PowerPatch, adding reactive patches from tape, adding reactive patches from download or adding SUBSYS products.

• “View Patches” (optional): You can actually view information about all the patches that have been applied previously to your system. Note that this can easily number in the hundreds for a system that is kept reasonably up to date.

• “Qualify Patches,” where Patch/iX does a lot of work to determine which patches of the set you supply it with can and/or should be applied.

• Create the stage, the tape, or both that will be used to actually change the OS.

This is all done while normal production continues and places a minimal load on your system. Once you have created your stage with Patch/iX, you run STAGEMAN to activate your staging area with the SET command. The next time you boot your system (and this can be done remotely from your home at 3 AM Sunday morning if you like), your changes will take effect. Total downtime is the time it takes to do a SHUTDOWN followed by a START NORECOVERY.

What if something goes wrong? If you have problems after successfully rebooting your system and you want to back out your patches, simply run STAGEMAN and use the SET command to make the Base the active stage, reboot your system and you are right back where you started. Suppose you cannot even boot the system successfully after setting the stage? Simply boot to the ISL prompt and use STAGEISL to set the active stage to BASE, reboot and, again, you are back to where you started.

Once you are satisfied with your changes after reasonable testing you can again run STAGEMAN and this time use the COMMIT command to make the active stage the Base and free up the disk space occupied by the old Base.

Of course I have only touched on the key points in the Patch/iX and Stage/iX process. There are a number of details I have left out that are covered in your Patch Book. My goal has been to demonstrate the ease with which you can patch an HP 3000 OS using Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Try it once and you will never go back to applying patches via AUTOPAT — nor will you ever again use a CSLT tape to apply patches if you can possibly help it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:54 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2015

Emulator helps DTC-printer shop into 2015

Hp-distributed-terminal-controller-dtc-2345a-2345a-b48A classic manufacturer of temperature and pressure equipment needed to bring its MPE/iX environment onto current-day hardware. Even though Conax Technologies was still using DTCs like the one at left to link 3000s to terminals, as well as to line-feed printers, the Charon-HPA software helped to lift the full MANMAN solution onto a virtualized HP 3000 environment. 

Like many of Charon's customers, Conax was working with aging Hewlett-Packard hardware. A Series 928 was linked to user terminals as well as printers over a DTC network. The Datacommunications and Terminal Controller was a hardware device, configured as a node on a LAN, to enable asynchronous devices to communicate to Series 900s. Terminals were directly connected to DTCs, and at Conex, printers as well.

"The printers were our biggest challenge," said Bob Ammerman, the IT consultant who oversees the MPE/iX operations at the company. "We had wires running to desks, we had DTCs. Some of the PCs were using QCTerm." About 40 users access MANMAN at peak times at the company's operations in New York State.

Those printers were a significant element in the multi-part form heritage of the company. After the implementation of Charon was completed, MANMAN "thinks it's still printing to the dot-matrix devices, but we've upgraded them to laser printers," Ammerman said. The emulator project included license transfers of Cognos PowerHouse products, the 60-user MANMAN license, as well as middleware from MB Foster and others. Conax took the responsibility for arranging each transfer.

Retiring aged hardware like old disks, dot matrix printers, and non-IP networks is a common need among Charon's user base. But the software is not as easily replaced. Applications like MANMAN become part of the fabric of manufacturing companies the size of Conax. Networking has made the leap from DTCs to TCP/IP. While the company could "take our remaining terminals and dumpster them," MANMAN and its decades of data has to keep working.

"Conax has built its business model around MANMAN," Ammerman said. Like many such companies, any move to another ERP solution would trigger changes to its business processes. Staying in the MPE environment, but moving the hosting hardware to a Intel-based server stack, preserved the firm's work of customizing software to meet company practices.

"Every piece of the 3000 software just ran" on the Charon emulator after testing and some revisions to accommodate needs at Conex. "As I like to say, the bits in there don't change," said Ammerman, who can count his IT experience back to the days of classic Data General minicomputers. While he admits to liking old tech, the new hardware-software stack is up to date on virtualization choices: the Dell servers (using 2.7 GHz processors) run VMware, with Ubuntu Linux configured to manage Charon, and MPE being managed by that Stromasys emulator.

The manufacturer has bought a perpetual license for Charon, which is software that's sometimes licensed for a fixed term. "I'd do it again," Ammerman said of the virtualization that brought a DTC-laden shop into the virtualization era. "We're very pleased with Stromasys."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2015

Data links make hardware migration possible

A one-system HP 3000 shop in Buffalo, NY brought its MPE-hosting hardware into the new era using the Stromasys emulator. The migration from HP's 3000 hardware to Dell servers was made possible by the use of an ODBC connection favorite, UDALink.

Temperature SensorBob Ammerman works at Conax Technologies, supplying his consultant system management and development for the maker of temperature sensors and compression seal fittings. The company has replaced its Series 928 with the Charon virtualized server, but a more modern interface to the historical data was an essential piece of the new solution, too. 

"It wouldn't have been possible without the MB Foster software," Ammerman said of UDALink. The newest version of what began as ODBCLink in the 1990s has been keeping the company's data available for pivot tables in spreadsheets and much more. The software vendor of UDALink is hosting an MB Foster Cares class to launch a new webinar series tomorrow at 2 PM EDT. Cloud use of the software is on the agenda, as is distributed processing.

The manufacturing data at Conax goes back to the period when UDALink was ODBCLink. Keeping it all available meant reducing the need for the classic Cognos tools, according to the manager there. But some crucial programming by Ammerman kept those ODBC hooks vital. The idea was to bring history into the present day.

Ammerman's home-grown software is SQLMAN, an interface that lets users tap into the MANMAN data with the touch of button to make those pivot tables for spreadsheets. While the Quiz software that was once sold by Cognos is still important, users at the company don't create their own Quiz reports anymore. The users choose from pre-developed reports, a move that slims down the need for so many licenses.

In the webinar, Birket Foster says he'll "be highlighting product features that may already be included in your license, as well as some special uses for your product that you may have not thought of already." Manufacturing managers using 3000s have probably thought about how they'll keep years of historic data available.

In a classic migration, the ERP alternatives often can't make room for historical data. But shifting an MPE application to new hardware is a relatively new option. Given the right tools, it's a strategy that even smaller shops can embrace while using legacy software. At another manufacturing site, the MANMAN use is ending, but the data must be extracted and moved. UDALink is working there, too.

Foster says its design goals have been to make UDALink at least 10 times faster than scripting for data migrations. That describes the efforts to create the links. At that homesteading Conax site, Ammerman said the performance of the tool is "pretty snappy on the emulator." Time efficiency is crucial to maintaining and extending value, whether a site is migrating or sustaining its 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:10 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2015

Making Room for a 3000's Historic Data

ReadingroomOne promise from migration projects is the brightening of skies through better user experiences. The futures get bright when they're reflected in new features, better interfaces and user experiences, faster performance and more complete connectivity.

However, some 3000 sites have discovered that while their futures look brighter on the way to a migration, their pasts fall in a dim light. In one example, a manufacturer in New York was on the way to replacing MANMAN with newer ERP software.

There was a problem, and it lay in the reams of history the company had amassed after two-plus decades of creating temperature sensors and sealed fittings. The new ERP target application couldn't reach into the history of MANMAN transactions. This kind of need can spring up so innocently you don't see it coming. A C-level exec, or just a VP, wants a report to include history back to 2010. The new ERP package will track everything that's current, but history is another matter.

It's the kind of requirement that's keeping HP 3000s running the world over. Rigorous analysis demands looking back, in order to project the future.

This afternoon we checked in with Wes Setree, a long-time HP 3000 expert who's moving out of the MPE world for good. He'd told the 3000-L mailing list group he's moving on, and his story includes a successful transition. Setree will be doing applications and Linux system management in a new job.

At his former employer, the HP 3000s are being pulled out of production use. But they're not going offline completely for another 14 months.

My previous employer was waiting to get one last line of business off their 3000, then look for a sunset on the platform. That occurred around Oct. 1, so their last few 3000s will be going offline most likely by end of next year -- since all the database info has been ported and they don't need to keep it plugged in.

Migration of data become the defining element of a 3000's life. Historical data needs to be migrated with care, and the right software can make the process an effective and efficient task. Setree lavished his praise on the system, as well as those on the mailing list who still work with MPE.

I, like many others on this list, am heartbroken for the demise of this incredible and stable platform, and I thought it would carry me through the end of my career. Sadly it didn't. For those of you who still run this platform I applaud you and wish you all the best. It could have and should have been the market choice for future generations.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 09, 2015

Why Good News Can Stay Under Wraps

Life is full of bad news, the kind of events we seem to capture and yet are eager to pass along. There's drama in conflict, of course. The world of MPE and 3000 users has been rife with conflicts, pitting stability and legacy against the promises of modernization: mobile abilities, redundancy, commodity pricing, efficient scalability, and ease of use.

ConfidentialIn contrast, making a go of staying with a legacy solution like MPE and the 3000 might be a development that's not often shared. There's the judgement to endure about not responding to change with new strategy. There might also be some clever moves, all upstanding, that make keeping MPE hardware a reality. Sometimes spreading good news starts with letting the light fall on reality.

We've heard a story from an IT manager about his ERP solution, one that is living in an emulated environment. "I want to keep a low profile about this," he said in a conference call. "The less detail they hear about me, the better I like it."

What's at stake there is keeping an operating budget in good order. Move to an emulator and you'll have to talk about licenses and what they're worth in 2015. But if you emulate a Series 900 with software that's got the same horsepower, what's really the difference? Application suppliers have their ideals about what an upgrade adds up to, while utility and middleware companies are sharper dealers. By sharp we mean smart. They want to keep a customer, regardless of their MPE platform.

Managing the transfer of MPE licenses to the emulator is of great interest to the legacy application community. In the first week of November, the CAMUS user group will have a meeting designed to learn about licensing, if anybody can share their experiences. Terri Lanza wants to hear from ERP sites who've moved licenses onto Charon. The conference call takes place on Thursday, November 5.

Up to now, the best user profiles we could share about moving MPE software to Charon came from Warren Dawson in Australia, and Jeff Elmer at Dairylea Cooperative. Both of these IT managers relied upon third party software running on their 3000s. Almost everything made the move, legally and above board. What didn't move got dropped by these sites. A big-vendor application wasn't part of either of those stories, though.

We'd like to hear more from this community about the challenges of making a license transition, in part because this is a help-yourself task. Arranging these transitions is the responsibility of the 3000 manager, not an emulation company. You make your own deal, but hearing good news about it helps muster the effort.

There are vendors who are happy to transfer a license from HP's 3000 hardware to a Charon installation. That's the Good News, a report that might provide enough hope that a site would push forward with the HP-to-Intel transition. Vendors who didn't cooperate might be induced to do so in other circumstances. Everybody makes their own deal in the MPE world of 2015.  Price lists for moving from tier to tier have been retired. It's worth a call -- and a call back, if there's no response -- to a vendor to get some good news.

This subject is good news for a migrating company as well as anybody holding the position of homesteading. One common element among the Charon users is the reality that everything's got an expiration date. Stromasys helps companies buy time for transitions. How much time varies, just like the terms of any license deal in 2015.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2015

Reloading, Redux: How To

Loading cementIt used to be the worst thing that could happen to an HP 3000 was a reload of its data. Adager gained its central place in the 3000 manager's toolbox because it would prevent the need for a reload after database restructuring. Although the worst thing to happen to today's 3000 is the loss of an expert to keep it healthy and sustained, reloads are still a significant event.

Not very long ago, a 3000 manager was looking for a refresher on how to do a system reload. Ernie Newton explained why he needed one and shared what he knew. Advice about adding the DIRECTORY parameter, and using BULDJOB1 to set up the accounting structure, followed when Ernie said

We suffered a double drive failure on our Raid 5 disk array yesterday and I'm thinking that I may have to do a reload. It's been almost 15 years since I've done one. If I recall, I do a load when bringing the system up, then do a restore @.@.@.

Our resident management expert Gilles Schipper provided detailed instruction on doing a reload. We hope it's another 15 years for Ernie until he's got to do this again.

Here are the instructions, assuming your backup includes the ;directory option, as well as the SLT:

1. Boot from alternate path and choose INSTALL (assuming alternate path is your tape drive) 
2. After INSTALL completes, boot from primary path and perform START NORECOVERY. 
3. Use VOLUTIL to add ldev 2 to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. 
4. Restore directory from backup (:restore *t;;directory) 
5. openq lp
6. Perform a full restore with the following commands
:file t;dev=7(?)
:restore *t;/;keep;show=offline;olddate;create;partdb;progress=5

Gilles adds, "I would suggest setting permanent and transient space each equal to 100 percent on LDEV 2. The 75 percent default on LDEV 1 is fine as long as you don’t need the space. And if you did, your solution shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze the little extra you’d get by increasing the default maximum limits."

The reason for limiting LDEV to 75 percent is to minimize the otherwise already heavy traffic on LDEV 1, since the system directory must reside there, as well as many other high traffic “system” files.

You won't want to omit the ;CREATE and ;PARTDB options from the restore command. Doing so will certainly get the job done -- but perhaps not to your satisfaction. If any file that exists on your backup was created by a user that no longer exists, that file (or files) will NOT be restored.

Similarly, if you omit the ;PARTDB option, any file that comprises a TurboIMAGE database whose corresponding root file does not exist, will also not be restored.

I suppose it may be a matter of personal preference, but I would rather have all files that existed on my disks prior to disk crash also exist after the post disk-crash RELOAD. I could then easily choose to re-delete the users that created those files -- as well as the files themselves.

Another reason why the ;SHOW=OFFLINE option is used is so that one can quickly see the users that were re-created as the result of the ;CREATE option. Purging the "orphan" datasets would be slightly more difficult, since they don’t so easily stand out on the stdlist.

Finally, it’s critical that a second START NORECOVERY be performed. Otherwise, you cannot successfully start up your network.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2015

Pursuing Crowd-funding for an MPE Port

Open source software once provided a turbo-boost to the renaissance of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. For one manager, the concept still holds some promise to improve his 3000's offering.

"Does anyone have a newer port of Apache and SSL for the HP 3000?" Frank Gribbin asked last month. "If not, I know a reliable vendor who can do the port. Anyone interested in crowd-funding the effort?"

CrowdfundingGribbin has long been on the trailblazing path with the 3000. His company was among the first to put Java/iX to work in its production software. At the law firm Potter Anderson LLP, he's done development as a part of testing the Charon emulator, too. 

"Our 3000s are still useful and humming along," he said. "I haven't done anything in Java for awhile. But I've been having a lot of success using the Apache CGI capability to communicate with BASIC programs that access IMAGE databases."

BASIC. Still working in a 3000 installation.

"My interest in Java was to build a better user interface for 3000 apps," he said. "I thought that was one reason the 3000 was losing market share. Once I figured out CGI scripting and a web interface, I put my effort into that. On our 3000, most of the time, BASIC got the job done. I've written supplemental code in FORTRAN, SPL, Java and Visual Basic, too."

Java does suffer from performance issues on the HP 3000, in part because of HP’s strategy of throttling down the speeds of PA-RISC processors in A-Class and N-Class 3000s. Crowd-funding open source work is only one element in improving such software. While an outside organization might be able to get the language’s latest version ready for MPE/iX, any such group might also have to pay to transfer the Java for MPE license that HP originally got.

The last MPE/iX version of Java was getting the job done, language expert Gavin Scott said during one of the final SIG-Java meetings at HP World.

“Today's Java version for MPE should be good enough for most needs going forward,” Scott said at the 2004 meeting. “It's already Nth generation technology both from the point of view of Java from Sun and from the MPE porting effort. If you're developing your own code, having an older Java version should really be no problem. The only issue that arises is if you want to run some commercial package that's not certified for the older version, or can't be made to run due to it missing some later feature.”

“But once HP stops producing Java for MPE, there will be no future releases,” he added. “I believe you need to be a big company prepared to shell out a lot of money for a Java license and meet many very complex and expensive requirements.”

Scott noted at that time he knows of third-party Java execution systems, compilers, and class-library implementations — some of which are free. “But none are really a replacement for the full Sun Java implementations,” he said.

Gribbin spoke with a Java licensing representative about extending the life of the language on the HP 3000.

“While the source code is free, implementing it on our platform is our challenge, and certification for redistribution of a J2SE implementation is in the $75,000 to $100,000 range,” he said back in 2004. “J2SE provides an option for headless configurations, and we'd be okay in the test harness without GUI features.”

By now, the abilities of the Apache web server software are standing in for the language that HP once ported. Ports were a promising way to win new 3000 sites. Now they're a way to keep the system connected to the servers that HP allowed to rise up in the 3000's place.

"Vendors maximize profits with 'out with the old, in with the new,' " Gribbin said. "Customers minimize expenses with 'keep what is best of the old and enhance with the new.' Just a different priority."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2015

3000 Masters make the most of ERP access

Volokhs, Simpkins, SadaatThe MPE/iX servers which service manufacturing users still have feature-growth opportunity. That's the chance to improve usability, an opportunity often presented by third-party add-on software. A few of the 3000 masters met last month to integrate that sort of software. They were widely-known, recognized for advocating MPE computing, or sharing deep ERP background to make a 3000 work smarter and more securely.

Eugene Volokh, Terry Simpkins, and Ali Sadat came together for an afternoon in LA, hunched over laptops and connecting three MPE-savvy software programs. (Of course, Eugene's dad Vladimir couldn't help but look over his son's work.) At the heart of the equation was MANMAN, still in use at Measurement Specialties' 10 HP 3000 sites, running manufacturing and ERP in China and elsewhere. That remains Simpkins' mission. He's also stood up for homesteading, or choosing HP 3000s, ever since the middle '90s. His company was acquired last year by TE Connectivity, a process that sometimes shakes out legacy software and systems. Not this time.

Eugene and Terry SimpkinsHelping Simpkins was Vesoft's Eugene Volokh, co-creator of Security/3000. The servers Simpkins' company uses also use the Vesoft product first launched in the 1980s. Eugene was just a teenager when he helped his dad Vladimir build Security/3000. As you can see from the picture above, one of the most famous members of the 3000 community has gotten older — as have we all.

The summit of these masters was topped up by Ali Sadat (foreground, above), whose Visual Basic user interface runs in front of MANMAN at Simpkins' sites. The product which started in 1997 as AdvanceMan does more than just pretty up users' OMAR and MFG screens with buttons and pull-down menus. By now it's an interface to the Web and XML, and it also lets users work in more than one MANMAN module at a time, plus eliminates the typing of commands to execute MANMAN actions. It doesn't require any changes to existing MANMAN environments. For continuity the screens began as ones that were similar in form to the original MANMAN screens. The flexibility and usability is now an opportunity to use an interface for improvements. That's an improvement to an app that was first released in the late '70s. Sadat's Quantum Software calls the product XactMan by now.

But XactMan needs to pass through the Security/3000 gates to get access at the sessions in MANMAN -- at least it does at a sensible site like Measurement Specialties that's deployed passwords right down the session level. Sadat, Simpkins, and Volokh were hard at work for an afternoon engineering the integration. Vladimir updated us on the connection, adding that Security/3000's sessonname logon parameter -- a full execution of the MPE stub -- needs to know XactMan wants session access. XactMan takes up no user sessions on the HP 3000, regardless of the number of PCs that are interfacing to MANMAN.

Saving sessions used to be important, but the improved interface is the point today. Catching three masters of the 3000 at work was a nice candid moment, captured in the photos by Eugene's mom Anne. During that week in LA, there was a masters gathering of minds all older than 45. The 3000 community is beyond mid-life, but these four people were working to make sure it goes gracefully into its senior years.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 30, 2015

The Re-baking of an Abandoned Classic

About five years after Hewlett-Packard stopped building the 3000, another legend ended its sales. Hydrox, the original sandwich cookie and the snack that Oreo copied and knocked off in 1908, fell off the world's grocery orders in 2008. Sometime tomorrow morning, Hydrox Cookies will arrive at ardent fans' doors and mailboxes. 

Hydro_stuffed_biteThis resurrection of a beloved cookie has several things in common with MPE systems of the past. At the heart of each revival is a belief that a better-known product is not necessarily better. That, plus a devotion to research that any return to sales demands. Some 3000 owners believed, from 2004 up to the year Hydrox left the market, that HP would return to 3000 sales. By 2010 there were few who retained such hopes — but by that year a better 3000 was already in development.

Like MPE users, Hydrox consumers know their cookie is superior to something better-known: the Oreo. Leaf Brands made tomorrow's return possible by rescuing the Hydrox trademark from disuse by Kellog's. The cereal company was the last firm to make a Hydrox, but by the end the cookies were being baked using high fructose corn syrup instead of genuine sugar. Unlike Oreos, though, the first ingredient in a Hydrox is flour, not sugar.

Hydrox schoolHewlett-Packard never tinkered with the composition of MPE/iX or the 3000 hardware at the end of its HP lifespan. But the company has transferred its "HP3000" trademark to a VPN server appliance series. A set of HP inkjet printers called the 3000 has also been on the product list since the last HP 3000 rolled off the line in 2003. HP has not abandoned that trademark, but the server's owners haven't dropped their devotion to the product, either. Like the Hydrox fanatics, some 3000 users look forward to a return of MPE-capable systems.

It's like making a new cookie from an original recipe: new MPE boxes have growth options. And like Hydrox, you purchase them in different ways today.

Oreo chased Hyrdox from grocery shelves by out-marketing Hydrox's creators Sunshine Bakeries. But Oreo was not better to many households, and to some in ways more than taste. Hydrox never used animal lard and so was a kosher cookie. The HP 3000 was cut off Hewlett-Packard's shelves by superior marketing of Windows, starting with NT and onward through Windows 2003. The valuation of these Windows systems outstripped HP's proposition for 3000 ownership.

Today you purchase a new 3000 through any high-end Intel server supplier. As of this week, you buy boxes of Hydrox from Amazon, but the distribution chain will widen, say the new makers of the cookie.

What the sandwich cookie world had been left with, after the Hydrox exit, were a dozen brands of Oreos, from Double and Ultra Stuff, to Thins, to mint and peanut butter stuffings. Key lime Oreos were an improvement to the sandwich cookie world, yes. Likewise, the 3000 replacement markets have a wider array of tastes because of much-improved Linux options, and the scope of Windows and Unix choices alone outnumbers even the Oreos products.

Over the last 12 years we'd sometimes receive a message or query about the prospect of taking back the 3000 brand and legacy from the hands of HP. By this year, there were only a few companies doing business with Hewlett-Packard regarding their MPE systems, after all. Most of them were paying to transfer existing licenses, a $432 transaction. Why not cut "3000" loose from HP's intellectual property?

Unlike Kellog's, Hewlett-Packard hasn't moved on. It has little to gain by cutting the trademark loose. For eight years, the OpenMPE advocates worked and wished for independent ownership of source code, but nobody was driven to carry forward manufacture of that PA-RISC chip line that powers 3000s. The OS — that stuffing that makes the computer cookie so special — was another matter. Without the value of MPE, the Charon line from Stromasys has no reason to exist today. Virtualizing that chipset made a 3000 with a better future.

Hydrox cookies have two essential elements that make them superior, their fans say. The trade-secret vanilla of the stuffing is unique, and the cookie is baked with cocoa flour in addition to regular flour. Cocoa flour is the equivalent of the Intel x86 line that powers Charon. Everybody knows where to get it. But the classic vanilla for the stuffing, manufactured in Texas for the new owners Leaf Brands, is the equivalent of MPE/iX: a trade secret. But this one was carried forward.

Leaf's owners first confirmed Kellog's was finished with the Hyrdox brand, rescued the unused trademark, and then set about re-crafting the cookie. They needed to match the taste that Boomers remember from their childhoods, research that reminds me of the Stromasys development that matched the HP 3000 boot process. Leaf's Ellia Kassoff found archived Hyrdox cookies on Craigslist, worked to match the ingredients on the package, then tested his cookies on the most ardent of fans.

The most fun version of this cookie revival comes from NPR's Planet Money. The report says that on the subject of trademarks, Kassoff sought evidence of a Doctrine of Abandonment.

The trademark is this relationship between a company and its customers. And so if that relationship is broken, if the company stops using the trademark, there isn't really anything to protect anymore. The trademark is deemed abandoned.

The good fortune for the devoted fan of MPE is that HP didn't have to abandon the 3000 trademark for the server to regain a growth path. These days when you type "HP3000" in the HP website search window, the first two results point at Stromasys and its distributors. The trademark lives on, along with its delightful stuffing.

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

September 22, 2015

Meetings serve futures. Most rely on pasts.

Last week I got a note from Terri Lanza, consultant to MANMAN and ERP users, asking about any forthcoming meetings for 3000 customers. Terri was a big part of the last HP 3000 meeting, the 3000 Reunion meeting that kicked off four years ago today. Lanza also queried ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, since Alan drove the engine of that Reunion while I helped organize and publicize.

Alan and ReunionLanza is on the board of CAMUS, the user group devoted to ERP and manufacturing tech. "CAMUS was offered a place in California to gather," she said, "so our board wondered about choosing between San Diego and LA." Alan replied in short order that nothing is being planned for a 3000 meeting, and if anybody would know, it would be him. He kickstarted the meetings in 2005, 2007 and 2011. He even tried to turn the crank on a 2013 meeting. These things need financial support.

There's a great deal less purchasing among 3000 users four years after the Reunion. Purchases drive these tech meetings, but not just the sales pursued on an expo floor. Purchases of the past prop up meetings, as people try to better use the tech they already own.

That's why it's interesting to look at the content for many meetings among seniors like those who were at the Reunion. Tech meetings serve the drive toward futures, with talks about the Internet of Things or the Etch-A-Sketch wisdom on rules for social media. Learn, erase, learn again.

Legacy technology, though, tends to pay the bills for the bright-future meetings we used to attend. CAMUS is the exception, since its futures cover the survival of datacenters and legacy servers. Those are the servers that don't seem to get airtime, because their days of futures are supposedly over. Even HP seems to think so, if you look at what it's talking about at user meetings.

 HP's not counting on its legacy servers -- and an Integrity box is legacy like the 3000, just further up the road -- to float much of the company boat. Continued support of legacy systems can finance a visit to a sunny-futures meeting, though. The older generation does this support, and it pays for the dreams and foresight around newer technology. Or you hold a reunion, and remember what made you close friends, while you fought the fires of yesterday together.

But these days everybody is looking forward at expected change. Not much is changing about 3000s except for the age of their components. Humans always overestimate the amount of change coming into their lives, though. There's talk about manual driving becoming outlawed as self-driving cabs abound, or signboard ads at Macy's that will work better than an Onion gag about them. Someday we may be living in a world like those of the movies Total Recall or Minority Report. Walk slowly past that signboard. It could be sharing data that might live in an archived IMAGE database, which will be more reliable than split-second smartphone recognition.

Meetings serve a social need, and you never want to slag anything people are still investing time and money in. You can talk about the future with its uncertain changes, or gather survival advice to extend investments past. Maybe Google Hangouts or YouTube will give 3000 users a no-travel meeting option by next year. Since there's nothing under non-disclosure, the cybersecurity won't need to be advanced.

I remember attending a BARUG conference back in the 1980s in Santa Cruz. We enjoyed an expo space that overlooked the beaches and the suntanned pulchritude all a-frolic on the sands. Good times, but there was also talk on how to improve and extend what was still in use. We're betting that's become a mission for today's Web. If there's no travel budget, that'll work — and you won't have keep those bright-future shades trained on the changes that may never wash up on the sands of your datacenter.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:24 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2015

Passing audits: MPE privileges can be keys

Migrated HP 3000 data can become forgotten while making provisions for an audit. Since some HP 3000s work as mission-critical servers, these active, homesteading systems must weather IT and regulatory audits. The 3000 is capable of passing these audits, even in our era of PCI, HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley challenges — all more strenuous than audits of the past.

However, establishing and enforcing a database update procedure is a step onto filling the gap in the security of an MPE/iX system. HP 3000 managers should take a hard look at how their users employ System Manager (SM) privileges. (Privileged Mode, PM, and System Supervisor OP should also be watched. Overall, there can be 21 capabilities to each user.) In their most strict definition, those privileges can expose a database. Hundreds of users can be created at Ecometry sites; even seasonal help gets SM users, according to one consultant's report, users which are seldom deleted after the holiday has passed. One site had a script to create new users, and each had PM capability, automatically.

Privileges are often a neglected aspect of 3000 operations, especially when the system's admin experts have moved on to non-3000 duties, or even to other companies. (Then there's the prospect that nobody knew how to use privileges in the first place.) Some SM users have disturbed the integrity of 3000 databases. It's easy to do accidentally. A creator of a database can also update a 3000 database — a capability that can foul up a manager's ability to pass some audits.

VEAudit from VEsoft, using its LISTUSER @.@ (CAP("SM")) filter, can give you a report of all of the SM users on your HP 3000. You can even ask for the SM users where password="". (Now there's a good list to find: SM users who have no passwords.) There is no MPE command that will do such things, we are reminded by VEsoft co-founder Vladimir Volokh. Even after more than three decades of his business as a 3000 software vendor, he also offers consulting on MPE operations and management, and still travels the US to deliver this. 

If you are worried about arbitrary access via QUERY, you can "disable subsystem access" via DBUTIL. This will, of course, only disable the access on QUERY.

Some less-adept auditors can also demand that a database's password be changed every 90 days. It's quite impossible to do, considering the database password is built into every application program.

So a database's security might be compromised through SM privileges, but it depends on the meaning of "update." This term can be construed to be as restrictive as using DBUPDATE to change an entry. It can also refer to UPDATE access DBOPEN MODE 2. 

To get very specific, an update can mean that the modify date has been changed in the file label of one or more IMAGE-related files. In a very general definition, an SM user can update the database simply by way of a restore from tape. (OP privileges permit this, too.)

Auditors sometimes ask broad questions, the sort of inquiry that fits better with the everyday use of HP 3000s in an enterprise. But for MPE/iX experts, "update" means any kind of modification capability.

So you can answer your auditor's question and say "no, SM privileges don't permit any of our users to update a database in another 3000 account." This answer is true, to the extent that the auditor's concern is about changing data — not just making a minor date change or using DBOPEN MODE 2. For auditors without MPE/iX and IMAGE expertise, well, they might not go so far in their examinations.

As for the SM user's ability to muck up an IMAGE database, it’s a mistake that is not difficult to make. An SM user who obtains a database password can corrupt an IMAGE database just by using the restore command. We’ve heard a story that such a user might explain, "Oops, I thought I was signed onto the test  account."

It's important to make a system fool-proof, because as Vladimir says, "fools are us." 

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

September 15, 2015

COBOL Tools for Comma Separated Values

CSV exampleIt's been a long time since I wrote in COBOL, and I have an elementary question about creating a comma-delimited file. If I want...

"item one", "item two","","","item three"

How do I create the "," between item one and item two?

And the ","",""," would it be the same?  Just put that inside double quotes?

Something tells me that there is an escape sequence, but the mind is not cooperating. 

Walter Murray, who worked in HP’s Language Labs before moving on to other 3000 work, replies

The STRING statement is helpful. I don't advocate using an apostrophe to delimit nonnumeric literals, preferring to stick with standard COBOL. And yes, QUOTE is a figurative constant guaranteed to give you a quotation mark.

Murray offers a COBOL sample program to illustrate.
000100  IDENTIFICATION DIVISION.                            
000200  PROGRAM-ID. COBTEST.                                
000610  DATA DIVISION.                                      
000620  WORKING-STORAGE SECTION.                            
000630  77  ONE-COMMA    PIC X       VALUE ",".             
000640  01  1ST-ITEM     PIC X(6)    VALUE "ITEM 1".        
000650  01  2ND-ITEM     PIC X(6)    VALUE "ITEM 2".        
000660  01  3RD-ITEM     PIC X(6)    VALUE "ITEM 3".        
000670  01  MY-RECORD    PIC X(72).                         
000700  PROCEDURE DIVISION.                                 
000800  1000-START.                                         
000900      INITIALIZE MY-RECORD                            
001000      STRING  QUOTE 1ST-ITEM QUOTE ONE-COMMA          
001010              QUOTE 2ND-ITEM QUOTE ONE-COMMA          
001011              QUOTE          QUOTE ONE-COMMA          
001012              QUOTE          QUOTE ONE-COMMA          
001013              QUOTE 3RD-ITEM QUOTE                    
001014              DELIMITED SIZE                          
001015              INTO MY-RECORD                          
001016      DISPLAY MY-RECORD                               
001020      STOP RUN.       

And the output...

"ITEM 1","ITEM 2","","","ITEM 3"

Tony Summers adds

It's worth putting a final comma at the end of the line, otherwise some versions of Excel can make the last column very wide.

Ken Roberston notes

One item worth noting, is that right before the STRING statement, you should move spaces to your output buffer.  STRING will not clear the buffer, so if your current string expression turns out to be shorter than your last, whatever was there before will remain - and you will get bad values in your output.



Finally Robert Mills has a macro for COBOL that creates a CSV record (copy and paste to retrieve all the characters in every line of the macro).

*> *************************************************************************
*> %AppendCsv(Field#,CsvRecord#)
*> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
*> Append Field to CsvRecord. If Field contains a comma (,) then Field is
*> quoted (") before being added. Quotes (") within Field will be replaced
*> with single-quotes (').
*> *************************************************************************

01 AppendCsv-macro.
05 AppendCsv-comma-count pic s9(04) comp value zero.
05 AppendCsv-field pic x(512) value spaces.
05 AppendCsv-field-length pic s9(04) comp value zero.
05 AppendCsv-index pic s9(04) comp value zero.
05 AppendCsv-pointer pic s9(04) comp value zero.

$define %AppendCsv=
initialize AppendCsv-macro
move function trim(!1) to AppendCsv-field
move length(function trim(AppendCsv-field)) to AppendCsv-field-length
move length(function trim(!2, trailing)) to AppendCsv-pointer
if AppendCsv-pointer > 1 then
move "," to !2(!3:1)
add 1 to AppendCsv-pointer end-add
varying AppendCsv-index from 1 by 1
until AppendCsv-index > AppendCsv-field-length
if AppendCsv-field(AppendCsv-index:1) = "," then
add 1 to AppendCsv-comma-count end-add
if AppendCsv-field(AppendCsv-index:1) = quote then
move "'" to AppendCsv-field(AppendCsv-index:1)
if AppendCsv-field-length > zero then
if AppendCsv-comma-count > zero then
quote, function trim(AppendCsv-field), quote delimited by size
into !2 with pointer AppendCsv-pointer
function trim(AppendCsv-field) delimited by size
into !2 with pointer AppendCsv-pointer

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

September 11, 2015

Fiber and SSD discs boost 3000 speed

Jackson-TubeWhile getting an update an IT manager at the welded carbon steel tubing manufacturer Jackson Tube, we discovered a field report on the combination of Linux, Fiber Channel networks and large disk that's being installed by Beechglen. Early this year, Mike Hornsby briefed us on the basics of the setup, one designed to bring fast storage options using Storage Area Networks to 3000s. Dennis Walker at Jackson Tube supplied some specifics.

We are currently using Beechglen's Linux Fiber Optic SAN on solid state drives with Distributed Replicated Block Device (DRBD) replication, which gave us a giant increase in speed. It's very cool; they use a Linux server with SCST Target SCSI for Linux to act as a Fiber Channel SCSI device. It uses Qlogic Fiber Channel boards to connect to the HP 3000.

Our setup is in-house, using their hardware on a hosting contract with Beechglen. We have two of their SAN devices and two of their HP 3000s, one production and one development system. The SANs are connected over an Ethernet fiber converter in two different buildings 1,000 feet apart. They have set up Linux's DRBD, and so can cross-mirror the HP 3000 logical block devices.

Before they told me about their setup, I had already been investigating  a similar solution with the same software but with a SCSI-iSCSI adapter. They offered what I wanted all set up and tested, and using Fiber Channel. Plus they said they had to patch MPE to work correctly, which I could have never have done.

The Linux Fiber Optic SAN doesn't have a fancy user interface, Walker added, "but having used Linux since 1992, the text configuration files and shell commands are just fine for me. Most people have them do everything and just know they have a Beechglen SAN, so it's all transparent to them."

The HP 3000 LUNs are just flat files pointed to by the SCST configuration and can be copied for one kind of backup when the 3000 is shut down, which is a super-fast backup and recovery. Although we don't back up that way, we have a base system backup of the LUN files for a quick recovery, and we do disk to disk backup using TurboStore True Online to a private volume LUN setup on a regular disk drive. Those backup files are FTP'd to our company backup servers.

The performance is radically faster. We've seen 4,000 to 5,000 logical IO's per second, compared to a couple hundred at the peak on our old Model 20 Arrays. We've been on the system for 15 months with no problems. I consult with a company in town that uses much fancier EMC arrays with Windows servers and they cannot say the same. Plus, they have lost data because of EMC problems. This solution is not nearly as fancy, but it's very simple and reliable using just regular Linux subsystems.

The vendor recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The solution uses CentOS Linux. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:31 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2015

Still Emulating, After All of These Years

The Dairylea Cooperative was among the first of the North American 3000 emulator users to testify about making the choice to dump its HP hardware and keep MPE/iX. We ran a detailed story about Jeff Elmer and the organization that covers seven US states with sales, distribution and marketing for dairy farmers. There's a long history of Dairylea success, as well as success with the 3000.

Milk BottlesWe decided to check in after a couple of years and see what everyday life with Linux, MPE and the Charon emulator looks like today. The IT director Jeff Elmer answered our queries straight away, as if he was ready for the questions. He's making good use of VMware, so in that he's right in step with the virtualization strategy that was celebrated at the recent VMworld.

By Jeff Elmer

We started with the emulator in December 2013 and never looked back.  We always loved the HP 3000 hardware, but with the emulator we no longer have any significant concerns about hardware failure since we aren't dependent on a RAID array consisting of disk drives built when some of our web developers were small children.  

Even if we did encounter a hardware issue with the Proliant server that hosts the emulator, we could just fail over to an instance of the emulator we have standing by to run under our VMware environment in our business continuity site. We can "power up" that emulator in another city without getting out of our chairs.  We would then restore from our most recent full backup (we do a full every day of the week which is written to disk and copied to the business continuity site) and then tell people to use the Reflection shortcut that points them to the emulator in the business continuity site.

Our users never saw a difference between the "real" HP3000 and the emulator. Performance has been equivalent and it has also emulated that legendary HP 3000 reliability since we have had no downtime. The worst experience we have had with the emulator is a couple of instances when the system time got out of whack.

While we would prefer that something like that never happen (and recognize that it could be a disaster in some shops), having it occur roughly once a year isn't much more than an inconvenience to us. Stromasys let us know that this is corrected in the latest version; I'm assuming it was pretty difficult to track down since it was an intermittent problem.

It has been business as usual for us in the almost two years that we have been using the emulator, and our expectation is that it will be business as usual as long as the organization needs the systems that run on it.

I would recommend the product to anyone who wants to use their HP 3000 indefinitely.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:07 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 08, 2015

Emulation does not include HP's slowdown

One of the prime reasons for extending 3000 application life is investment protection. It is difficult to justify, however, if a company continues to grow while its hardware performance remains capped at 2003 levels That's the incredible hamstring that most MPE/iX applications labor under. Aside from refusing to put MPE/iX onto Itanium chips, there was a fresh generation of PA-RISC processors available to HP by the middle of the last decade. But those PA-8900s were never employed in 3000s, just 9000s. Then there's the matter of hardware down-clocking. It's a feature not included in 3000 emulation.

Intel-i7Owners of 3000s probably know their systems were hobbled by HP during the design of the ultimate generation of the servers. They should also know that protecting their application investments with an emulator eliminates that hurdle to modern-day performance. The recommended top end today is an Intel i7. Whatever comes next will be available to keep MPE application performance growing.

In the wake of the just-completed VMworld show, it's easy to see that virtualization -- the other name for emulation -- is mainstream technology by now. Five years ago this month, though, we interviewed the Stromasys CTO Robert Boers about the design goals for the Charon emulator for PA-RISC 3000s.

Is your emulation going to get rid of the slowdown code that has hamstrung PA-RISC processors on 3000s?

We’re not using that. They’ve clocked them down to the equivalent of 55 MHz on the low-end models. HP actually had a back-door to allow their support people to turn up the performance if they were in a hurry. We’re actually building an accelerator.

The reports of Charon use in the field do not include any notes on clipped performance. The company made good on its promises of acceleration -- an area that can be enhanced by more upgrading hosting hardware, too.

There can be other reasons to leave MPE/iX behind, aside from lagging performance. An emulator won't do much for MPE brain-drain, or software suppliers who shutter up their business, or even the lack of a vendor-supplied support system. But it's been close to five years without HP in the picture. MPE expertise is still out there for hire. Software has been rescued or moves along as strong as ever in tool provider's cases.

But there's that hardware future that looks brighter. An N-Class server might not be as costly an investment burden as it once was, but emulation offers more growth. We asked Boers (who's retired now after a mainstream management team adopted the Stromasys solution) whether the clock would run out for a meaningful product release of Charon.

Some in the community say too much time has passed to make this a relevant product. What’s your take?

To tell you the truth, HP’s been pretty slow. I feel concerned, because we should have been ready much earlier. We’ve been waiting about a year until we got an agreement on the Processor Dependent Code information, because HP's overriding worry was the ability to run HP-UX. What concerns me is that there’s only about a half year left to get additional HP licenses. We might have a working beta by then, but not much more by the end of the year.

The emulator started to generate references by 2012, about two years after HP halted its additional license sales. As it turns out, MPE/iX licenses are still out there for sale in the form of rock-bottom used HP 3000 hardware prices. HP recognizes this value of these licenses. That's why it's operating a license transfer business almost 12 years after it sold the last of those down-clocked 3000 servers.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:57 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2015

TBT: In the Thick of Proceedings Season

ProceedingsBefore you even left your house for a flight to an HP user conference in the Eighties, you had to leave room in your suitcase for the thick books of proceedings. So much room, by the middle of that decade when the 3000 grew fastest, that you might have leave behind the booth swag you snagged from conferences like Interex annual meetings.

Word Star30 years ago this week, I was packing for my first national HP user conference. The Interex meeting was scheduled for Washington DC, the first time a HP 3000 users conference would meet in a national capital. We learned things afterward by packing up these fat tomes in our bags for the return trip. It was an era where you advanced your skill set by reading papers, printed in monotype Courier off HP 3000s which were running HP Word, or WordStar off a PC. HP could provide WordStar on its HP-150 Touchscreen PCs. It hadn't earned good notice for the utility of its touchscreen functions, though.

Road to SuccessThe graphic design for proceedings was spartan at best. At least half of the papers were written by users, and every professional who attended a show went home and hoovered up that wisdom that was shared without regard for reader comfort. The 200 papers from the Interex '87 show required three volumes of more than 700 pages each. The papers were printed in alphabetical order of authors' names, and nary a page number is to be found.

In addition to meeting in DC for the first and only time, 3000 users in September, 1985 could hear a speech from an HP CEO. David Packard was a former CEO and current HP board member when he addressed the multitudes at the conference. While Packard's speech has been lost to the wilds, those proceedings papers remain in closets, online, or fixed in the skill sets of the 3000 managers who have moved on to other platforms. Most printed advice that did not yet have the benefits of HP's LaserJet marked milestones on those hundreds of sheets printed each year.

Presenting a paper helped your career, whether you were a rock star of the community or just a hard worker moving up. Eugene Volokh, at age 17, published a 53-page paper in that 1985 proceedings set on The Secrets of System Tables.. Revealed! The paper started with parody of a Norse poem, revised to include 3000 terms.

During an era when the work in computing was called Data Processing, one paper from HP Major Accounts rep Bill Franklin cited a survey showing "in many organizations, less than 1 percent of all management decisions are being made using on-line interactive systems." Batch was big, apparently, but another paper provided methods to alleviate the 3000's "grave failings as a batch job machine." 

It was a time when the fastest growing segment for 3000s enabled a practice being called Office Automation. HP rolled out the Series 37 during the year that led to Washington, and the vendor dubbed it The Office Computer. You could use what the industry still called a minicomputer without special cooling or a raised floor for cabling. Setting up a 3000 on a carpet was still a fresh achievement.

"Our office workers had little if any, access to computing," Ellie East of Media General wrote in one paper. Her DP department "established the company-wide use of the HP 150 computer by approximately 150 executives, managers, accountants and secretaries." Those Touchscreen 150s were in the mix to reduce the computing load of the 17 HP 3000s across the company. Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets made that happen.

Proceedings FormatSpell-checking from word processing was not as important as vetting concepts and DP practices for the papers. You were more likely to get called out for formatting errors on your printed report. One paper delivered 10 pages of tips on "Writing Intellegent Software." It was an era when "compatability" could appear in a headline that I wrote the next year, a gaffe that didn't trigger even a handful of calls. At least that DP pro in DC could point to tech skills that I could not claim, not from the HP Chronicle editor's chair. Our very first booth, one we'd built ourselves, was a DIY number so heavy that it needed a fork lift to make it onto the expo floor, down in the basement hall of the Washington DC Hilton. The ceilings were not 10 feet high. We were upstarts in that hall, tilting at the Interex publications windmill with an editor who was more newspaper writer than proceedings aficionado. 

In that Washington DC September week, there was evidence of volunteering on every proceedings page. Interex '85, billed as The Information Crossroads of the 80s, was hosted by the Baltimore-Washington Regional Users Group. At the meeting's pinnacle where the volunteers took a bow, they all sported red blazers, the ones they'd been wearing all week. The RUG officers told us the coats were an invitation to "ask me" for help about finding which talk to attend, or where an event could be located.

The Interex 85 conference was among the last to be driven by a focused users group. 3000 managers and vendors from the Southeastern Michigan Regional Users Group hosted Interex 86 in Detroit. Users took home another two-volume set of proceedings. By Interex 87, held in Las Vegas in another September, the role of the RUG in national meetings was on the wane. An icon as flashy as a red jacket would not appear on the stage of another meeting. Those tomes of technical paper, gathering the advantage of desktop publishing to reduce their page counts, would survive for another 14 years of conferences.

A sampling of such classic proceedings from the 1970s through the end of the Interex era is online at the OpenMPE website. I've got no idea how those thousands of pages were driven into digital images, but the brute force that must have been required matched the rolled-up sleeve approach to 3000 DP of 1985. Captured in those online pages is advice on software which still runs on 3000s of today, such as IMAGE and its logging capabilities. The first TurboIMAGE Textbook was still four years away from that week in DC, and it also caught a 3000 wave that was powered by paper.

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

August 31, 2015

Posix file movements, using FTP and more

I'm attempting to move files in and out of Posix namespace on my HP 3000. The file I've copied becomes bytestream, and has a REC of 1. But I want to transfer that file from Posix down to my PC, I need to maintain it's structure — but what appears to be happening is it's one long record, with no separators. Is there a way (automated) that I can move files in and out of Posix, maybe FCOPY, and be able to keep the structure?

Donna Hofmeister replies

Simply copying/renaming a 'regular' MPE namespace file into HFS-namespace will not change its structural attributes.

If the MPE file was ';rec=-80,,f,ascii' to begin with, it will still be that afterwards.  And it will retain those attributes (cr/lf in particular) following an FTP transfer from your 3000 to [something else less enlightened].

To have a foreign/non-MPE filed take-on MPE fixed-record length attributes during an FTP transfer, simply add something like the following on your transfer line:

[put|get] non_mpe_file_name MPEFILE;rec=-NN,,f,ascii (making all the proper substitutions)

How do I get my HP 3000 to play well with Web-based FTP clients?

HP's James Hofmeister, who led the effort to keep FTP up to date on the 3000, replies

Lots of work went into an implementation of the FTPSRVR to support web access to the 3000. The "SITE POSIX ON" command can be sent by a FTP client and the 3000 FTPSRVR will emit Posix "standard" FTP output and will react like a Posix host (including file naming conventions).

It also is possible as documented to specify "POSIX=ON" mode in the file and achieve this functionality system-wide for all non-3000 client to 3000 FTPSRVR connections; again the FTPSRVR will emit Posix "standard" FTP output and will react like a Posix host (including file naming conventions).

Warning:  Before you specify "POSIX=ON" mode in the file, make sure you read the FTPDOC file closely; as you are warned that MPE file syntax will "no longer" work; The 3000 FTPSRVR is acting in Posix mode.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 26, 2015

Taking a Closer Look at 3000 Emulation

Emulate Rubik'sEmulation solutions have pro’s and cons. We caught up with Birket Foster this morning, after his company had suggested that emulation deserves a closer look. In our 8-minute podcast, I talked with him (over speakerphones on short notice, thank you) about how emulation really can be a solution to keep legacy applications vital. Companies, especially the small ones that still rely on MPE environments, want to protect their business investments. After all, investing in emulation solutions that can support your MPE legacy applications — well, it's critical to the future success of your organization. It can also be a key to greater efficiency, innovation and growth.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:33 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 24, 2015

N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000

N-ClassThe ultimate class of HP 3000s, the N-Class, entered the 3000 marketplace with servers for sale that started in the mid-five figures. The lineup included a server rated at 440 MHz with a single processor, and that N4000-100-440 model has a unit on the market selling for a bit less than its original price of $210,000. Quite a bit less.

Cypress Technology posted a notice of the server with a price tag of $3,000. That's a markdown of 98 percent over the lifespan of the product.

A great deal of time has passed between those two price points. The N-Class prices were announced in February 2001, only nine months before HP revealed it was canceling its 3000 futures. The servers shipped to a limited number of sites in advance of the HP takedown notice. The N-Class servers were a great value compared to prior-generation Series 900 HP 3000s, but this 100-440 unit was in the middle of a lineup that ran in price from $70,000 to more than a half-million dollars.

Jesse Dougherty of Cypress said the server has a 300GB disk in addition to the traditional so-wee 9GB boot drive. There's 4GB of RAM and an MPE/iX software set, and the latter's got some transferability, according to Dougherty.

The ability to assume a valid MPE/iX license was once a benefit to a 3000 manager, since it conferred supportability from HP of the system. But HP's support carrot has long since withered away. There's residual value in a server that was built 12 years ago, though, and perhaps at least $3,000.

Given the right paperwork for the N-Class so this license could be transferred for HP's $432 fee -- and the vendor will take that payment today, more than 13 years after its exit notice -- such a system could pass an auditor's screening and become a valid player in an enterprise environment. Plenty of third party companies are on the radar for support.

Without that paperwork -- HP wants to see a chain of ownership from an original purchaser, or a letter attesting to it -- some auditors might reject such a purchase.

At a cost of $3,000, though, this server is at least a source of spare parts. Parts are becoming more essential by the day for the homesteading HP 3000 user. Those who've moved to the virtualized hardware set sold by Stromasys for their MPE/iX applications are not seeking a server for the value of its parts. The N-Class comes with a 100 Mbit Base-T LAN adapter, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:32 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 19, 2015

Stripping on the 3000, Carriage-Style

How can I strip out the Carriage Controls from a spool file?

Tony Summers replies:

CarriageWithout dropping into Posix shell, the only other idea that comes to mind would be some third party tool. SPOOLPDF was a program we used from Open Seas to convert spoolfiles into raw PCL. A second program (OPENPDF) subsequently converted the PCL to a PDF document. OPENPDF was simply ported version (to MPE) of a Unix application (pcl2pdf). And we still use pcl2pdf on our HP-UX servers.

Lars Appel pulls a new approach out of his files:

Well, EDITOR.PUB.SYS also can change or replace columns.

/CHANGEQ 1/1 to "" in ALL

This changes column 1 through 1 to "nothing" in all lines (quietly).

If you don't want to strip CCTL but convert it to PCL escape codes, you might try using the network spooler (which typically does this when sending a file to the JetDirect printer). Example programs are in the HP3000-L archives, such as listening for TCP port 9100 to capture such data sent by the network spooler. Look for the FakeLP challenge with examples in Java, Perl, and C.

Tracy Johnson adds a note on a free utility:

I use Beechglen's SF2HTML utility. It's a convenient tool to convert CCTL codes to line and form feeds. Then I run it through an editor to get strip the HTML code. It only generates three codes, "<HTML>", "<BODY>", and "<LISTING>".  Easy enough to convert to blanks or nothings. Then use the Sanface Software program txt2pdf to convert the edited file to the final result.

Beechglen's Doug Werth notes

With enhancements in later versions, SF2HTML can be controlled by several variables, including one to remove the HTML tags from the output. This eliminates the extra step of running the resulting file through an editor before feeding it to txt2pdf.

Dave Powell offers a command file alternative:

Many moons ago I wrote a command file, HP2RTF to convert a cctl file to word-processor-readable rich-text format, converting the carriage control codes to the appropriate number of line-feeds as part of the process. It's happier if you redirect your output to a CCTL disk file, but it can sort-of handle spool files too. It contains its own complete source code, so if it doesn't do exactly what you want you can tweak it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2015

HP drives its stakes between support posts

Preparing for SeparationAs August unfolds and HP's final quarter as a combined company unfurls, the corporation that services some of the targets and platforms for 3000 migrators has already divvied up support access. HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise have become separate support systems. Users are being invited to look in more than one place for answers that were previously at a one-stop shop

In early August, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. will provide two different support portals. When you access HP Support Center, you will be able to select a portal for HP Inc. products or a portal for Hewlett Packard Enterprise products.

HP Enterprise business might have fared a little better in the division.

As of August 1st the HP Support Center Mobile application will only be available for Hewlett Packard Enterprise products such as servers, storage, and networking. A message within the application asks you to update to the latest version.

Results for MPE:iXHP is calling the move a "Welcome to our Two-Car Garage." Assigned to the Enterprise arm of HP (to be known as HPE on the stock market), the MPE/iX operating system still has its small outpost in HPE support pages. For the customers who hold an HP Passport login, access to the existing 3000 patches is promised. However, the web-driven access to patches seems to be locked behind the October, 2013 policy that a current HP support contract is required for patch access.

HP-UX customers can purchase such a contract to use the new HPE support site for patching. Since MPE/iX users can't buy such a thing, access to patches is supposed to be free. Getting the patches requires some extra effort, according to independent support providers in the 3000 community. At least looking into the rest of the official 3000 documents — including 64 PDFs of system manuals — remains in a logical place. A special order is still the order of the day to access the patches, though.

We've tracked down 3000 documents at HP before now, but this link is working as of the split up of support sites. (You'll need that Passport to get inside, no matter where you're heading, for migrated platform help, or researching archival documentation.)

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:26 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 12, 2015

How to Keep Watch on Backup Completions

DAT tapeWe've had a backup hang up on a bad DAT, and we learned about it when the morning jobs couldn't start on the 3000. (We shut everything down we can, back up, then open everything up again.) To find a better way to respond to this, I'm making a procedure to compare the expected backup duration (from a table we've built) to the backup's actual duration so far. The idea is to get an early report if the duration has been exceeded by more than an hour.

I've parsed the JOBLIST output to get what I wanted. But it looks like I'll need help on converting a string variable to a numeric variable as part of this procedure. Does MPE have anything like that?

Francois Desrochers replies with this ![...] construct, an undocumented part of MPE/iX:



would create a string variable, you could do something like:


to create a numeric variable.

We're trying to restore about half a terabyte of data from an old HP 3000 backup set to a non-3000 machine. Is there a sound way to do this, or any way at all?

Stan Sieler replies:

We've done this for a customer who was without an HP 3000. We decided to use MPE/iX on our system to

  1. Restore their data onto our 3000
  2. Package up the files (either with tar, or LZW)
  3. Move them to an external disk drive on a Unix or Linux or Windows machine
  4. Unpack them
  5. Then send that external drive to the customer.

This morning I came in to find our backup job stalled. Abortjob was ineffective, as was abortio. I ended up rebooting the system. While coming up, I got a “defective sector” message with “FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT has an extent with unreadable data.” The file is now locked, and I need to use FSCHECK to unlock it. How can I determine which drive this extent is on?

Stan Sieler replies

FSCHECK’s DISPLAYEXTENTS command may help. Note that, if I recall correctly, it displays logical unit numbers, not exactly LDEVs.

I'd like to make sure I get complete backups. Should I be using @.@.@ in my TurboSTORE command?

Gilles Schipper replies that backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete:

People should really be using the forward slash, 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 — 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.

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

August 10, 2015

How to Make a 3000 Act Like It Uses DNS

DomainsI have a script that uses FTP to send files to a site which we open by IP address. We've been asked to change to SFTP (port 22) and use the Domain Name Service name instead of an IP address. Does the 3000 support using DNS names?

Allego's Donna Hofmeister replies:

To start, I'm not sure you want to do SFTP on port 22. That's the SSH port. SFTP is meant to use port 115. Have a look at one of Allegro's white papers on how to enable SFTP on MPE

If you are going to use DNS, you must have your 3000 configured for that.  It's easily done.

However, if you've never done anything on your 3000 make it act like a real computer (oh -- that's right, it is a real computer and fully capable of using DNS), this can turn into a can o' worms.

For 'DNS lite' it's probably simplest to:

1. Copy hostsamp. net to

2. Edit to make sure it has loopback   name    <--- where and name are corrected to the system you want to connect to

3. Copy the to

4. Edit to have this line:

hosts : files[SUCCESS=return NOTFOUND=continue]

With this done, the 3000 sorta kinda acts like it's using DNS — because it's looking the the hosts file for how to translate 'name' into ''

Tony Summers provides a caveat:

One warning. The upgrade from FTP to sFTP (or SSH FTP etc) can involve more change to your scripts than you expect.  What we do for FTP (originally on the HP 3000, and now on the HP-UX server) is build a text file with the commands (the sample below, edited)

cat FTPT0070
get /export/002_iccm_extract_1161.csv ICR21161


The file is then presented to the FTP client. On the HP 3000 it was something like....


Then both the output file, FTPS0070, and any JCWs set by the FTP program were inspected to test the success of the FTP session.

cat FTPS0070

Connected to

220 Welcome to FTP service - xxxx.
331 Please specify the password.
230 Login successful.
200 Switching to ASCII mode.
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV. 550 Failed to open file.
221 Goodbye.

In particular,  the 3-digit status codes were analysed,  looking for error codes like "550".If you do something similar in your FTP scripts,  then all I can say is welcome to a very different world.

Karsten Brøndum adds:

Here's a completely different approach. 

Depending on your skills in the Java area, there is a nice LPGL package called ftp4j (which requires Java 1.4 or later) that I have used a couple of times. It's a full-featured Java-based FTP client. (By the way, ftp4j will do both SFTP and FTPS). I've found it way easier than to fiddle with files with text files containing commands, especially when it comes to error handling.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:04 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 05, 2015

Steady steed of Invent3k saddled up again

SaddlebagsAfter a couple of months offline, the shared development and archive 3000 server Invent3K is back once more, carrying its saddle bags of software and sandbox spaces. The system was put online at first by OpenMPE's volunteers after HP closed down the Invent3K hosted at the 3000 division.

Tracy Johnson, a member on the final board of directors, supplied an update last night.

The Invent3k machine is back online after almost two months of being down; it's now at  Also after a few years, it is back in Texas where it belongs with HPSUSAN 0.  (The DR machine that it has been running on is no longer accessible.)

It may be riding rough at first. There might be some bugs to iron out due to a big tape restore.  But most of it is there. It was a group effort. Thanks to

  • Rob Gordon at Black River Computer for donating the hardware and man-hours to fix it.  (It all centered on fixing LDEV 1.)
  • Terry and David Floyd with the Support Group for putting it back online and hosting the hardware
  • Keven Miller with for fixing the Web pages.
  • Steve Cooper at Allegro for pointing the domain name to the new IP number.
The server's got HP MPE/iX subsystem software on it, but FTP DSLINE, PCLINK2, and WS92LINK have always been locked down to keep that software in place for developer use of the subsystems, not transfers.

In keeping with the spirit of HP's original Invent3k, the new INVENT3K offering is for the use of member accounts to compile and test their own programs.

More than a decade ago, Hewlett-Packard believed that a 3000 for public use would help the 3000 community. The server was dubbed Invent3K, because its mission was to further the 3000's lifespan through the invention of software. HP stocked it with subsystems, offered accounts for free, and let development commence. Some useful products came out of Invent3K. The first that comes to mind is a version of perl ready for MPE/iX. That's a version of Perl that continues to work.

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

August 04, 2015

Large Disk MPE/iX patch is still notable

300 GB Ultra SCSIA report on a new patch from 2005 is still able to bring good news to HP 3000s that are trying to use HP hardware to stay online today, one decade later. The Large Disk patch for MPE/iX 7.5 continues to be available from Hewlett-Packard. It expands the usable area of a 3000 disk up to 1TB, and the patch is necessary to utilize and 146-GB and 300-GB devices with an HP badge on them.

When we shared the original news about this advance, the patch was in beta test status. Large Disk made it out of the beta wilderness, thanks to testing from customers of that era. We suspected as much when we said, "of all the patches HP is hoping you will test this year, Large Disk looks like it has its eyes fixed firmly on the 3000's post-2006 future." At the time, we all believed HP would be exiting the 3000 biz at the end of '06.

The news might not be fresh for anybody who applied this patch, but the absence of it will keep 3000s limited to much smaller disks, devices much older. It bears a re-broadcast to your community, if only because we've tracked down a current link to the fine technical paper written by Jim Hawkins of HP. The paper was once hosted on the 3000 group's Jazz server, whose links have all gone dark. Many of those Jazz papers are now on the Client Systems mirror of Jazz. Speedware (Fresche Legacy) also has these tech papers.

In our initial report, we said the patch's scope was limited to 7.5 and "the work is no small feat, literally and figuratively. Without it, HP 3000s can only boot up drives of 300 GB or smaller. The work of Hawkins and cohorts at the HP labs will let users attach drives up to 1TB under the MPE/iX operating system."

In the HP paper on the enhancement, Hawkins pointed out it'd been a long time since any boundaries got moved for disk on the HP 3000. The Large Disk team moved the limits a long way out, after that long hiatus.

The last major initiative to address disks size was done in MPE XL 4.0 for support of disks larger than 4 GB. These changes were done to address an approximately ten times (10x) increase in disk from 404-670 MB to 4.0 GB disks. In 2005 with MPE/iX 7.5, we were confronted with nearly a hundred times (100x) size change (4.0 GB to more than 300 GB) over what had been possible in MPE XL 4.0.

Hawkins' detailed article notes that 3000 sites who want to use HP's 146 GB and 300 GB Disk modules ought to consider installing these patches. Customers who might have MPE Groups or Accounts which use more than 100,000,000 sectors — that's bigger than about 24 GB — also find the patches useful.

In 2005 we were concerned about whether a patch that ended its HP lifespan in beta test would ever see the light of day. In the language of that era, Jan. 1, 2007 was supposed to be the end of HP's 3000 business. 

The answer to the question "What's to become of HP's engineering in 2007?" seems to lie in the hands of the customers. HP won't backport this patch without enough interest to get Large Disk out of beta limbo. If these patches remain in beta through 2006, we have to wonder what will become of these well-crafted bytes on January 1, 2007.

It would be sad to think such exacting work would be locked away on some DVD disk in an archive, simply because the testing rules are locked in the box of MPE 4.0-era thinking: only HP-supported 3000 customers can apply to test.

Good will and common sense prevailed to keep patches like this in the toolbelt for 3000 managers. All patches were made available, without needing any support contract, after HP closed out its official support for MPE/iX. A diligent independent support company will be able to point a manager at the right HP process to get these patches.

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

July 30, 2015

TBT: HP Image goes dead. Long live IMAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 29, 2015

Carrying ODBC Links Into Windows Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 27, 2015

N-Class 3000s offer subtle bathtub curves

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

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

The question was posed to the newsgroup readers by Steven Ruffalo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 24, 2015

3000 world loses a point of technical light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack replied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 17, 2015

Do Secure File Transfers from the 3000

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

Brian Edminster replies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 16, 2015

Bringing the 3000's Languages Fourth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foster explained what made a 4GL an advanced tool.

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

Sieler outlined what he believes makes up a language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 15, 2015

How to Keep Cloud Storage Fast and Secure

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

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP

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

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

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

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

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

Safe passwords

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

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

Online storage, offline access

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

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

Compression to be free

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

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

July 14, 2015

A Fleet of Trucks That Couldn't Fell MPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2015

Celebrating a 3000 Celebrity's (im)migration

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

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

Carnegie immigrant ad

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2015

User group manufactures new website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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