May 02, 2016
New encrypted hardware solves aged issues
Security standards have advanced in IT, while HP's 3000 hardware has not. Encryption resolves a key need for data security that's a part of the HIPAA regulations. The 3000 components won't allow for full disk encryption. There's another approach. A replacement hardware solution for MPE/iX -- which is still being used in the insurance industry -- has been on the market for more than four years. In fact, the hardware is all around us.
Encryption solutions for an older 3000 hardware's data are available. FluentEdge Technologies has sold a PCI-ready solution for Ecometry sites for more than five years. A built-in full-disk approach is only an option with a fresher OS, though. We don't mean the environment powering the application; that's still MPE/iX. The control of the hardware is where such new hardware can be put into play.
Virtualizing with the Charon HPA software offers several advantages over relying on HP's hardware. Component failures are a matter of when, not if, in 15-year-old hardware. If the 3000 isn't an A- or N-Class, it's even older. Shrink-wrapping replacement drives won't look as good to security auditors as a full disk encryption of recent-model components. Newer drives include broader options.
The virtualization of the MPE/iX hardware can become an encryption strategy. Alternative methods that rely on legal defenses don't exist like they once did. A security expert friend of mine tells a story about using lawyers instead of encryption. It's a story from a different time: the era when 3000 hardware was not so old.
The certified CISSP Steve Hardwick was once involved in a HIPAA audit. After the presenting the audit results to the CIO, the next question to be resolved was remediation -- bringing the systems into compliance. The CIO’s response, Hardwick said, took advantage of an older version of HIPAA instead of newer hardware.
The CIO said that "after consulting with legal counsel, we are taking no action to mitigate the deficiencies found in the audit. They have informed us it will be cheaper to litigate than spend funds on security changes.”
That was in the early days of HIPAA. In those days, that regulation lacked teeth. To rectify this, the US government passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act for enforcement. It defines what's a breach of information. plus the responses that organizations must take after a breach. Very quickly, the cost of not putting security controls in place changed, especially due to the enforcement defined by the act.
Bringing 3000 applications into line with regulations like HIPAA and HITECH usually includes securing the healthcare data. Full disk encryption is an option if the drives are controlled at the host level by an OS other than MPE/iX. At the host level, Linux is the controlling environment in a virtualized environment. Drives in Charon, for example, are disk images in OS instances such as RedHat. Choosing virtualization can supply something to pass an audit. It's not exactly brand-new hardware, but it can be generations newer and leave the old and reliable app software in place.
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April 27, 2016
The Remains of Any Need for CPUNAMEing
Earlier this week a reseller in the 3000 market offered an N-Class 3000 with an upgraded CPU. The server's HPCPUNAME, however, reflects a slower model of the system. These names of systems are actually a part of the 3000 process that Hewlett-Packard regards as ongoing business. There are oh-so-many names of 3000 systems. In some cases, what your software sees in the name is not what you get.
HP's support for the 3000 terminated at the end of 2010, but there are a few HP services that continue today. Name changing is among them. Steve Suraci of Pivital, which sold 3000s as an official reseller until HP stopped that sort of business, says it's a lock that HP didn't do an N-Class upgrade that doesn't have a corresponding HPCPUNAME change. "For sure HP didn’t do the upgrade," he said. Outside the lines upgrades can be a way to skip software upgrade fees.
The only thing pertinent to the current 3000 community is HP's CPU rename service. When HP did this with support engineers at a time plus materials engagement, a software-to-hardware blessing changed the HPCPUNAME and HPSUSUAN numbers for replacement 3000s. When a CPU board dies, or a system needs to be updated at a fundamental level, Hewlett-Packard still owns the only software that can transform replacement hardware into your hardware — complete with reinstated numbers that allow third-party programs to run unfettered.
This service is still available, if you insist, from HP. A server that reports it's a 550 MHz N-Class, while it's actually a 750 MHz system, could use this kind of correction. What's important, though, is whether an N-Class will be fast enough. Reporting a different HPCPUNAME can keep third party software from running. That issue can be corrected by calling the software vendor, who'd probably be glad to hear from an MPE customer.
Of course, there's always the possibility the caller is a former customer, running software which is legal but not on support. Getting an HPCPUNAME change to make the software match the hardware then becomes a courtesy—or a service extended in exchange for renewing support. "You will know me by my commitments," says one sage, and keeping a support commitment seems like a good idea if you're using third party software products for MPE/iX in 2016.
Modern budgets for homesteaders, however, sometimes don't have room to pay for application and toolset support. HP can't hold a hostage anymore by waiting for MPE/iX support ransom. It ended all support business in 2011, business the independents picked up nicely. They don't have the use of SS_CONFIG (for the system up to 900 Series vintage) or SS_UPDATE (for the ultimate models of 3000s) can cost a customer on a time and materials basis, and HP's last stated plan said it would offer these reconfigurations of stable storage for an undetermined period.
HP long ago considered its customer communication to the post-2010 community complete. "We at HP believe we have responded to and addressed all of the HP e3000 end-of-life requests our customers and partners have made in recent years," one document stated while there was a e3000 webpage at HP. Such pages are long gone now, farmed away to the archives of 404-land and the Internet Wayback Machine.
The portion of HP which continues to touch the 3000 community in perpetuity is licensing operations. Software License Transfers between HP's 3000 systems sold on the used market are still being offered through HP’s SLT organization. This SLT operation serves all of HP’s licensed products, not just the HP 3000. Transferring a license officially is still an essential step to some customers, even when they're buying a used 3000 like an N-Class. That makes full disclosure of the HPCPUNAME important.
In 2008 while those webpages were still alive, HP was candid enough to admit that only a portion of its customers would make the effort to have 3000 MPE/iX software licenses transferred. There was no support eligibility that HP could offer after 2011 in exchange for this compliance with license requirements. Customers now need to supply their own reasons to do things by the book.
April 25, 2016
Proving concepts leads to hardware exits
They've been called straw men, and more lately proof of concept projects. These assessment steps have often represented significant change at HP 3000 sites. Few migrations got the green light to proceed with the raw change and full-on expense without demos of replacement apps. Even when the change was limited to applications only, with no platform replacement, testing with production data was the most secure choice.
That's why the strategy sounded familiar when Stromasys hosted its first webinar in years. The company calls its assessment engagement to test Charon a proof of concept. Led by Global Accounts Manager Ray LeBrun and system engineer Darrell Wright, the talk included a note on how essential the PoC step has been to success with the Charon virtualized system.
"We're pretty confidant that if we engage in a PoC with you, then we're 99-plus percent sure Charon will work for you," LeBrun said. "We will not engage if we're not confident this is the right solution for you."
Stromasys works with a site's production data to prove the concept of giving HP's 3000 hardware an exit date. MPE/iX and the applications, and of course the data, stay in place. However, LeBrun said Charon has also been "a bridge to allow you to get to a migration. We have folks who say, "I'm only going to use that  application for another two years. Well, two more years oftentimes becomes three, four, and five years."
The technology concept behind virtualization is well known by now. People are so familiar with it that LeBrun said the vendor gets asked regularly when HP-UX Integrity server virtualization via Charon is coming. The question came up in the webinar, too."It's not in our roadmap anywhere," LeBrun said of a Charon built to give HP's Unix hardware an exit date. "Even if it was, I probably couldn't say anything about it, but it'd certainly be viable if there was a business case for it."
A business case for migrations — either off HP's hardware, or away from an operating environment — usually gets built at a customer site only after the technology has been given an all-clear. Stromays Proof of Concepts are paid engagements, because they include vendor staff hours spent onsite, services to transfer data to the Intel-based Charon system, and training a customer's IT staff to use the software.
A five-day onsite engagement, followed by a 30-day test period, makes up a PoC. "We basically do a live install of your application [on Charon] in your environment," LeBrun said. "You're not testing for look and feel. You're testing your application with your data."
April 18, 2016
A Parts Supply Non-Problem for HP's 3000
One part of Hewlett-Packard's end-game fantasy about the 3000 pointed to parts. This was a server the vendor wouldn't build after 2003, HP warned. You could not be sure your server and its essentials could be serviced -- where would the parts come from? For the last decade and more, HP's 3000 parts have come from everywhere. About the only hardware services supplier constricted by the halt in HP manufacturing of parts was -- wait for it -- HP.
While practicing the careful shrink-wrapping of HP-built replacement motherboards, disks, IO buses and power supplies, the market has shared and sold ample hardware to replace 3000 systems. One reseller reported on the 3000-L he has hundreds of HP 3000 terminals on hand and was ready to send them to the scrapper. There might be sites where HP's tubes are essential for production operations, but I hope not. The scrap heap looks like the next stop for those 700/92s.
On the other hand, there are a few consumable items that make HP's hardware hum. One is essential to smooth operation of a service processor. You can get a replacement part for this processor at your grocery store.Craig Lalley reported this week that a customer needed their Guardian Service Processor looked after inside the HP 3000 hardware. The GSP is mighty useful for an A-Class or N-Class customer. However, it carries a battery inside that dies, like all batteries do.
(I still have an HP 14B calculator here, given to me as a 1989 HP 50th anniversary memento, which fires up each time I press the On key. I used to think it was solar-powered. How could any batteries last 27 years? Ah, the HP of old. Perhaps those batteries came by way of a NASA supplier.)
And the GSP's battery? Lalley says it's a CR2032, a part HP installed in a commercial server that once sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Or to put it another way, without ever owning an HP 3000, I've got a replacement part for an essential 3000 subassembly sitting right here in my hutch. Right next to that 14B with its 1989 batteries.
There are good reasons why HP's hardware for MPE/iX may not be a wise very-long-term component for production computing. But a lack of parts never was a good reason back in 2002 -- and it's just a tall tale today, even if the parts are aged like fine wine.
April 15, 2016
Use GSP and More for 3000 ID, control
There's been plenty of change in the 3000 manager's life over the last 15 years. Some of the change is a little easier by exploring the use of the Guardian Service Processor. It can help in changing the location of HP 3000 consoles from one part of a shop to another. There's even a story out there that says the identity of the HP A- and N-Class hardware resides in the GSP.
Kent Wallace, while a 3000 manager for Idaho-Oregon healthcare delivery system Primary Health, needed to move his 3000 console.
I must move the 3000 console another 10 feet farther from the rack (it's an N-Class HP 3000/N4000-100-22). What are the 3-pin positions on the wire that I need to extend its RS-232 cable?
Our blog contributing editor Gilles Schipper chipped in with a solution offering even farther movement:
If you want to extend the range of the console to anywhere on the planet (at least where there’s Internet access) you could consider the HP Secure Web Console to replace the physical console. Depending upon the condition of your physical console, this solution may also save a bit of wear and tear on your eyeballs, instead of adjusting those pins.
Schipper wrote us a great article on setting up such a web console. The GSP is quite the tool.
Former HP support engineer Lars Appel offered another take on Schipper's strategy:
While Gilles is right about the possibility of using the web console, it would probably be easier to use the already built-in dedicated LAN port of the N-Class systems that gives access to the GSP by telnet.
I prefer the “telnet console” over the “web console” because it gives more freedom in the choice of terminal emulator — whereas the web console typically lacks features like “easy cut and paste” or special key mappings (e.g. German language ;-) or something similar.
This prompted Schipper to clarify his suggestion:
Lars is absolutely right about the built-in “secure-web-console” that comes with all N-Class and all but the earliest A-Class e3000s.
And, yes, the built-in is definitely more functional, allowing cut-and-paste as well as telnet access, whereas the external variety has only Java access to it via a web browser and no cut-and-paste.
So, if one has a choice, the built-in is definitely superior and available with only proper configuration. However, the external secure web console is available for all HP 3000s, and would still be most useful where is internal secure web console is not an option.
The GSP is a powerful part of an HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. It's the maintenance control console commanding the ultimate class of the server to reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the 3000. Consultant Craig Lalley has noted the GSP has one fewer feature than its Unix counterpart, though.
"On HP-UX it is possible to reset the GSP from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."
From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services on A-Class and N-Class servers. If your 3000 gets loving care from a consultant or service provider outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep up service levels.
The GSP can also reveal the 3000's speedometer, as profiled near the bottom of an Allegro webpage.
The gap between controlling the 3000 and HP's HP-UX Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some of the administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That lack of Unix can sometimes be a good thing, however, when a security breach opens up in the Unix world.)
But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a telnet command doesn't work. You can telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset. But you can also get someone to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. It's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a magic paper clip bent just-so.
Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.
The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.
It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.
It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, this reset can be done during business hours.
April 13, 2016
Stromasys returns to webinar lineup April 19
Emulation and virtualization vendor Stromasys returns to the web airwaves next week with an event that examines the return on investment for its Charon family of software products, including its HP 3000 model HPA. The event begins at 11 AM EST for US viewers, 5 PM CEST for Euro IT managers.
The company last did a webinar for the 3000 market in 2012. At the time, Charon HPA was still a nascent product, without the portfolio of success stories and case studies it's built in the 3000 market. The previous show explained the concepts and demonstrated administration and management of the software. The April 19 event will reach for more strategic perspectives, but will include a technical angle, too.
Worldwide Strategic and Global Accounts manager Ray LeBrun will be joined by Systems Engineer Darrell Wright on the one-hour webinar. Doug Smith is the HP 3000 product manager for the company. Smith is managing a limited-time discount offer on Stromasys services for Proof of Concept and full integration of Charon HPA.
The company promises the webinar will offer
An overview of legacy system pain points and the difficulties businesses like yours may encounter as they determine how to move forward with their legacy systems. Learn how your organization can improve the ROI of your legacy systems while also minimizing risks of unplanned downtime.
Stromasys says that space is limited for the webinar. The event includes information for Digital and Sun systems as well as the 3000. Registration is online, which yields a confirming email that provides login instructions for the GoToWebinar event.
April 11, 2016
Yes, Virginia, there is MPE at the Terminal
One of the first HP 3000 migration success locations might have hung on to an MPE/iX app since its story was introduced by the vendor. A lively discussion popped up last week when Don Seay asked on the 3000-L mailing list about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualizer software. The chatter included updates on the work to cross the 2027 hurdle for MPE/iX use, as well as reports on the speediest settings for Charon.
Seay was emailing from an address at VIT.org, the legacy location of Virginia International Terminals. It's the port authority for all shipping in Norfolk, Newport News and environs. A shiny website handles just about all of the data requests at portofvirginia.org. But there's still data being fed to VIT.org, and Seay's request seems to hint that an application continues to work there. We're checking in with him.
Taking a full-on approach to a migration is a typical opening strategy, but there are sometimes good technical reasons why apps remain on 3000 hardware. This didn't seem likely when we first heard about the 3000 and VIT in 2002. HP was promoting the practices and concept of retiring 3000s during that time, the first full year after Hewlett-Packard's announcement it would leave the 3000 marketplace.
VIT’s assistant IT director at the time, Clark Farabaugh, said at HP World 2002's migration roundtable the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.” That summer, IT began to migrate at VIT. The organization took delivery of a HP 9000 rp8400 server to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” We took note of the report of 13 years ago.
Even though Farabaugh described TurboIMAGE as “the fastest database I’ve ever seen,” it was moving toward using Oracle on its migrated system. Three IT staffers — VIT said it was doing all the work in-house — were trained in database admin for Oracle.
The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The IT director said the migration project will take 12 to 18 months to complete using the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.
A baker's dozen years later, it's a surprise to see that perhaps something on MPE has continued to lift bits of the cargo of terminal data at VIT. A datacenter manager and IT execs do need to keep everything online, though. If a 3000 survived the HP-UX shift for this long, it's bound to have a better reason than "we don't really want to change things."
Does MPE/iX still exist in the field? Some in your community feel that asking about that is akin to asking about Santa Claus. But yes, at Virginia, it seems there's still MPE at the Terminal. If we're reading the messages right, it's doing more than a fairy, too.
April 08, 2016
Hardware's emulation puts software at ease
In the earliest days of the 3000's Transition Era, advocates for MPE/iX formed the OpenMPE user group. But the first campaign for these engineers (and a few businesspeople) was for the emulation of MPE itself. The ideal was that if MPE/iX source code could be turned over to the community -- since HP had no real interest in the future of the 3000 -- then the OS and its subsystems would be pushed onto newer hardware.
The ideal was open source for MPE/iX. That campaign assumed plenty of change was in the future of 3000-based software. The reality that formed about compatibility of software is illustrated in the everyday experience of Charon users.
One checked in this month with a summary of how smooth his software slipped into the Charon HPA environment. The emulation that paid off was virtualizing the RISC hardware. The caliber of the solution made things easy for Jeff Elmer.
The report was sparked by a question about whether the Speedware 4GL suite was in production in a Charon site.
I can say that since what is emulated is the PA-RISC hardware and not MPE, it seems unlikely that there would be any software incompatibilities. Everything we use (multiple third-party tools plus in-house COBOL/IMAGE software systems) just worked. It really was true that no one would have noticed a difference unless we told them.
The single item that we had to modify was in our backup job stream. We had a tape rewind command in the job that was no longer needed and which the emulator at that point (in 2013) did not understand. The "fix" took less than 60 seconds when I removed that clause from the job.
In summary, I would expect Speedware to work without incident but I couldn't speak to what combination would provide optimal performance (that is, which class HP 3000 should be emulated or what physical hardware should be under it). We spent a long time testing the emulator without charge before we proceeded with the purchase. I would think the possibility exists that Stromasys would extend a similar courtesy to you so that you could find out first hand with your data in your environment.
In fact, there's a Proof of Concept arrangement that Stromasys uses today to introduce its product for this kind of evaluation.
April 06, 2016
Stromasys reports aim at speed, and help
The fine art and craft of tuning an Intel-based server to mimic HP's 3000 hardware has evolved. The Charon HPA emulator has been in production shops for more than three years. In the beginning, the software's demands on hardware were outlined in a table of preferred servers. Or in calls to a product manager. The latter has always produced more robust performance than the former. A recent string of messages on the 3000-L showed why. They also showed that a 3000 jobset that ran three times faster, after "setting power management to dynamic."
Performance tips on the L about selecting and tuning for the best hardware have included the following advice
Set other settings for performance
System Isochronous Mode enabled
Hyper-thread off or 1
Intel Speed Step enabled
If this set of instructions doesn't make much sense to a prospective user, it illustrates why Charon HPA is a fully-guided product by now. Customers and prospects buy services from Stromasys to deploy this solution. There's no other way. Downloadable freeware copies left the marketplace last year.
Emulating a legacy hardware server to run enterprise-grade applications is not a hobbyist's mission. Stromasys product manager Doug Smith says the customers have been better served with engineering-driven integration insights. He's got success statistics to prove it.The nuances of installing and integrating Charon for the success include networking deployment advice. Ray Legault, a systems manager at Boeing, shared these insights when another manager asked him about the impact of networks on Charon.
I did not perform any tests over the network. My actual servers are 1,800 miles away. In Linux, I make sure my ETH1 is set correctly.
ethtool -K eth1 rx off tx off sg off gso off gro off txvlan off rxvlan off
To avoid having to redo every time you reboot, just add this line to the bottom of the ethtool file:
post-up ethtool -K eth1 gso off gro off
So it looks clear that knowing Linux's ethtool will be an essential skill of integrating Charon, too. Expert services are now crucial for the product. That's why it's become a solution for the serious user, one trying to eliminate the need for 15-year-old HP hardware.
April 04, 2016
Working to Set MPE's Future to Forever
When a 3000 manager asked about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, the question evolved quickly. In just a few hours, MPE experts were talking about how long the OS could keep running. The detour of the 2027 CALENDAR intrinsic came up. It turns out the community experts are already working on that.
Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative, whose success story with Charon was part of our 2014 reporting, told the readers of the 3000-L that he's pleased with the way the Stromasys product cut out HP's MPE/iX hardware. The words "run MPE forever" were part of his message.
We used HP's 3000 hardware for 30 years. We've been using the HPA3000 emulator in production since December 2013. Our users would have never known the difference if we had not told them.
We had a 969KS 100 and went to a 2-CPU A-Class on the emulator. Performance is essentially identical but all concerns about "ancient" hardware went away. (Our RAID array hard drives were older than our web developers). Charon is running on a 1U "off the shelf" Proliant server under the Red Hat Linux environment (if we didn't have a DLT8000 and a DDS tape drive attached to it, all that it would take up in the rack would be the 1U). We run our disaster recovery version of the emulator in another location under VMware on OmniCube hardware, although we have never used it for anything other than testing.
"Based on our experiences we would recommend it to anybody," Elmer said. "You could run MPE forever with this setup and over time your performance would only improve as you put newer, faster hardware under it." Whoa, forever? It's the promise of virtualized servers that emulate antique hardware. But MPE/iX has that calendar problem that'll rear up at the end of 2027, right? Not so fast there, said one MPE expert.When Denys Beauchemein said that forever really meant December 31, 2027, Robelle's Neil Armstrong begged to differ. "That doesn’t stop the system from running, and a lot of issues can be handled at the application level quite easily," he said.
There are people working on such things at the OS level. I’ve been reducing the dependency on CALENDAR in all our software as well. By reducing the number of calls to CALENDAR, this helps mitigate the impact, of course, and adding options to change the result of a call to CALENDAR directly after a call are being considered.
It is an interesting problem.
Beauchemein retorted with the viewpoint of the IT manager who needs to be away from MPE/iX, since it's old.
That is fantastic news. Now I need to find my abacus and see if I can get them to refurbish it along with my slide rules.
Has anyone here even booted a 3000 for December 31, 2027 and see what goes on at the virtual stroke of midnight? Unfortunately, I do not have one handy.
All that Armstrong could offer in reply about a Jan. 1, 2028 bootup was "Yes, it’s been done. Nothing catastrophic happens."
He is right, nothing catastrophic happens. But what does happen?
SETCLOCK allows a manager to revise such a future date and time, but only up to December 31, 2027. It won't accept a higher date; it reports "out of range" if you try. MPE/iX continues to run. After midnight SHOWTIME will give the wrong result, year 1900. But if your application doesn't care about a time stamp (which is unlikely in a business computer) this doesn't matter. SHOWTIME will show Jan. 1, 1900. If days of the week matter, by setting the system date to Y2K, the day of the week will align with the correct day for 2028.
One of the sharpest of the MPE minds, Vladimir Volokh -- who co-created MPEX -- has given us a deep dive on that set of CALENDAR problems. He reports he's done that 2027 boot 10 years ago. In our conversations, his opinion has been that someone in the community will find a way to reroute MPE/iX to a future in 2028 and beyond, relying on current dates.
Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir added when we talked about this a few years ago. MPEX can do operations with dates—because unlike COBOL, or even the first language of MPE, SPL, MPEX has a DATE datatype. "If you have MPEX," he said, and here we could hear a wink, "and who doesn’t—DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."
Last week's exchange on 3000-L shows there's already work underway on getting beyond 2028. The thing about an abacus is that it does still work. Ours hasn't needed to be refurbished since we bought it in 1989. Unlike an abacus, MPE/iX has a purpose for being an everyday tool when the software has close ties to specialized business logic. It has a better reason to keep working forever—however you define that timeframe.
March 30, 2016
Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch
This month marked the 150th anniversary of General Mills, the benevolent cereal giant that started its business just after the Civil War milling flour. The maker of Wheaties, Gold Medal Flour and Play Doh, the company known as the Big G got a rousing eight minutes of celebration on the CBS Morning News this weekend. When the report turned to Wheaties, it triggered a memory of one special era for the HP 3000. MPE/iX once managed a giant boxcar-load of operations for the food company, a firm so large it acquired fellow 3000 customer Pillsbury in a 2000 deal that teamed century-old rivals to make the world's fourth-largest food company.
Powerhouse was an essential part of the Pillsbury legacy, but the reach of the 3000 was even deeper at General Mills. Mark Ranft, who operates the Pro 3K consultancy, said his time at the Big G covered the years when core corporate functions were controlled by a fleet of 3000s.General Mills was glad to point the way to lifting the 3000 into a higher rank than Unix. In the period where The Unix Hater's Handbook was making the rounds, IT Manager Mike Meinz booted out HP-UX from General Mills' datacenters after a brief fling. In language of the era, Computerworld said that General Mills "tried Unix, but it did not inhale."
"There is a panacea of thought that you have to have Unix," Meinz said in the article. "You don't have to have Unix."
General Mills went so far as to pull an HP 9000 out of the IT lineup and move its warehousing application over to its HP 3000s. The company was just into the process of converting those Classic 3000s to PA-RISC models. The vendor was taking steps to position the 3000 as a less-proprietary choice. "Not only is the HP 3000 open," Meinz said in the ad, "but it's an excellent, easy-to-use transaction-processing system for business-critical operations."
The headline that provided too-rare coverage of the 3000 in Computerworld enjoyed a joke at the expense of Unix. "Cheerio to Unix, cereal giant says," noting that the 9000 was chosen at first because it was the only platform that could host a preferred warehouse system. General Mills bought the source code for the application and did the porting. "What followed became a testimonial to MPE's portability," the article said. Meinz said he had anticipated the porting project would take six months, but it only took two. And much of that time was spent developing enhancements rather than actually porting it."
March 23, 2016
Putting a CPUNAME on HPSUSAN's profile
The MPE is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by ownership of an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX. When a copy of MPE is moved onto a Charon virtualized server, it must come from one that's been assigned to one of HP's 3000s.
We reached out for clarity about this when a major manufacturer was looking into replacing HP's 3000 iron with Charon licenses on Intel systems. After the MPE/iX software is turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.
So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the Charon emulator? Mc Rae explained.
The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist.
In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.
However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the Charon emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.The U in HPSUSAN stands for Unique, as in System Unique Serially Assigned Number. Mc Rae said that HPSUSAN is one of a kind for HP-built 3000 systems. But SUSAN doesn't designate an MPE/iX license, even though MPE is licensed via hardware ownership.
Mc Rae explained to us, and to any Charon prospective user, "MPE hardware and software was created before the technology of virtual systems and emulators, in the 1970s. Licenses were based on hardware ownership."
This sounds familiar. HP once compared the licensing of MPE/iX to license plates issued for a car. They could not be separated, these numbers and the car that was the HP 3000 iron. (Let's just put aside the common practice of those metal-plate days, when they'd give you a new number after your plate was older than 8 years in Texas.)
In 1999, HP was busy suing Hardware House and a few other resellers over the resellers' separation of HPSUSANs from HP's 3000 hardware cars. The House was taking other PA-RISC servers and pressing valid HPSUSAN numbers onto the non-3000 iron. People went to jail. Lo-jacks were ordered for ankles.
Thanks to the passage of 17 years' time, an HPSUSAN number can now move to a USB thumb drive plugged into a Charon Intel- or AMD-based server. Those license plates can travel to a newer model of car. The emulator's HPCPUNAME, however, can only be designated as an A-Class or N-Class system, according to HP's knowledge. That'll likely be a reason to contact all software vendors whose products operate on the replaced HP 3000 iron.
You see, vendors use a combo of HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME to control licensing. Products such as Infor's MANMAN or PowerHouse not only want to read HPSUSAN -- which you can move to Charon -- but also HPCPUNAME. If you're moving off a Series 979, for example, "979-100" isn't an emulated system under Charon. No 979-100 for HPCPUNAME. You've got to get license permission from your software vendors to enable an A-Class or N-Class HPCPUNAME.
The HPCPUNAME on the Charon system may not be set to 979, Mc Rae said. "Based on the Charon HPA/3000 family, it is assumed that the HPCPUNAME will be set to an A-Class or N-Class CPUNAME," she said. "For example: HPCPUNAME = SERIES e3000/A500-200-50. As far as I know, Charon can only emulate A- and N-Class systems." That's true: a Series 9xx model isn't on the HPA/3000 product list.
The silver lining in this cloud is that you're only doing this contacting and CPUNAME-changing once. Moving to an A-Class or faster CPU from a 9x9 system is the last time you'll be changing from an unsupported CPUNAME to something included in the Charon product line.
In short, independent software vendors are going to have to be contacted, if they've licensed their products with the HPCPUNAME-HPSUSAN combo on a Series 9xx. Contacting your software vendors about a system upgrade is a fair business practice. But it's more than the right thing to do. Series 9xx users headed to the emulator look like they need that refresh to boot up their indie software.
March 21, 2016
Free software worth the time to track it down
It's entertaining and heartening to discover someone who's new to the HP 3000 and MPE. Fresh users tend to run in the hobbyist lanes of the IT race these days. Sometimes, however, they can ask questions that uncover values for the existing managers of the MPE server.
That's been the case with Michael Kerpan. He's just discovered the new freeware simh emulator engine for creating MPE V Classic HP 3000s. Kerpan is just pursuing this as a hobby project. "I'm not retired, but I'm also not in the IT business at the moment," said, "though I do maintain my SF club's library catalog server, which is a Linux box."
On the HP 3000 front, his box is a Windows server running simh, but Kerpan wants more than just the stock MPE V Fundamental Operating System to use. Kerpan specifically asked about the old Interex Contributed Software Library. The CSL started out as a swap-tape built from reel tapes that attendees at conferences brought along. Drop off the programs you wrote on your reel -- or eventually, DAT tape -- and pick up a compilation of such contributed software when the conference adjourned.
The CSL dropped off the radar of the 3000 community once Interex went bankrupt. The collection of programs wasn't even listed in the organization's bankruptcy assets. In some places out in the community CSL tapes still exist, but trading them hasn't been a compelling pasttime. However, MPE contributed software, now called open source and freeware, still exists. Knowing where to track it down is often worth the effort, if managing a 3000 is still your job.The biggest sources of contributed freeware live on three servers with public access: 3k Associates, Client Systems, and Fresche Legacy (formerly Speedware). The first company is an Internet-savvy company from as far back as the early 1990s; its founder Chris Bartram wrote the first non-HP email application, NetMail/3000. The 3k website has dozens of programs.
In terms of number of programs, the Client Systems-Speedware servers are right in the running. They're the licensed sites for HP's former Jazz public server content. About two dozen or so programs, plus some UDCs and scripts, are available for downloading. Without a doubt the Speedware server is better organized and uses a cleaner interface. HP forced these companies to install a vast EULA on the front end of these collections. You must click through it each time you access. Annoying, but just about toothless by now.
Other locations for freeware include Allegro Consultants and Beechglen. Those companies include products they've built to sell and use in their own labs work. Some of the for-sale titles have gone free now there's less market for 3000 software. There's also freeware available through AICS Research, the QCTerm free terminal emulator. A 3000 Classic emulator in software, attached to an emulator of the HP 2392 terminal, represents the ultimate in live-forever status for the legacy of MPE. It's something like the mighty state that Gandalf occupied once his body -- that hardware -- was gone forever.
Live-forever is also a promise of the Stromasys Charon emulator for the final generation of up-to-date 3000 boxes. As for the CSL, it's bound to live forever, but in locations as mythic as anything in Lord of the Rings. Perhaps we'll see a return of the king of contributed software.
March 18, 2016
Big files get zipped, moved on HP 3000s
A computer manager who's new to the HP 3000 is looking for CSL files this week. The Contributed Software Library is just an oasis to this IT veteran, something shimmering in his future that holds a highly useful thicket of utilities and more.
Someone in the 3000 community is bound to connect our new user with this CSL, for one reason: he's looking for MPE V programs to supplement his discovery of the emulated Classic HP 3000, simh. That's the MPE V-ready version of a virtual HP 3000: what amounts to a CISC skin for a 3000 on top of the simh code. Whenever the newbie connects with a CSL resource, if they've got their files on a 3000 they're bound to need to send about 24MB to him. That's going to require zipping them.
The act of zipping to compress for a transfer is an essential in 3000 management. Although the code for compressing files on HP 3000s is more than a decade old, like a lot of things on the system, it continues to work as expected.
Tracy Johnson, who manages the Invent3K server operated by OpenMPE, noted he's using the MPE/iX Posix shell's compress and uncompress. "It creates a file that ends in capital Z. Seems the compressed format is compatible with both GNU-zip and Winzip programs or any other Unix/Linux machine."
Lars Appel, who ported the Samba file sharing tool to MPE, offers a comprehensive answer. He points to an HP 3000 Web starter software kit that resides on a development server, open to the public.
Lars explained in a post a few years ago:
You can pick up the InfoIP zip/unzip programs (in a tar file) at my area in the Infocorp server. The link in that webpage that contains the zip/unzip programs is
Transfer it to the 3000 in bytestream or (fixed) binary format and then unpack with :/bin/tar "-xvzopf FILENAME". Place the two programs where you like; I typically have them in /usr/local/bin or (with uppercase filename) in a group or directory that is part of my HPPATH settings.
The webpage also contains a tar.Z file with /usr/local/bin/gzip
(gzip -d decompresses; creating a symbolic link gunzip is also useful)
March 14, 2016
Upgrade bargains on 3000s remain in play
"We still have units that are licensed and salable," said Pivital Solutions' president Steve Suraci. "We still have customers occasionally looking to upgrade."
Prices for even the largest of HP's MPE system line are being quoted below $10,000, and in some locations, a deeper discount than that. Like the goods sold in the basement at the legendary Filene's, the word cheaper comes to mind—because the pedigree of each 3000 system's MPE license is sometimes the most important element. (Healthy disks are pivotal, too.)
Bonafide machines have valid HPSUSANs. It's essential for moving MPE apps and utilities during an upgrade. In the scruffiest days of the 3000 resale history, HPSUSANs were being slapped onto HP's L-Class hardware with rogue software, making a 3000 out of a cheap 9000. People went to jail over that episode from the end of the 1990s.
But even a valid HPSUSAN is not the same thing as a proof of license. A continuous chain of ownership paper trail makes for a fully-licensed system. Such a license can be important to the customers who care about keeping auditors happy. That level of validation isn't required for a support contract, though, since HP's long been out of of the MPE/iX business.
March 11, 2016
New 3000 simulator looks back, not ahead
Community members on the 3000-L newsgroup have been examining a new entry in the emulation of HP hardware. However, this simulator creates a 3000 under Windows that only runs MPE V. The MPE version of SIMH — a "highly portable, multi-system simulator" — is a Classic 3000 simulation, not something able to run PA-RISC applications or software.
Some 3000 users are embracing this software though, maybe in no small part because it's free. It's been more than 15 years since HP supported MPE V and the CISC-based systems that launched the 3000 line starting in 1972. One of the experts in PA-RISC and MPE/iX computing, Stan Sieler, briefed us on what this freeware simulator can do, and what it cannot — in addition to not running MPE/iX.
Currently only Charon from Stromasys runs PA-RISC. Thus, the SIMH runs only the Classic HP 3000. At the moment, it’s an old version of MPE V (Q-MIT, release E.01.00)
And, the machine probably has no networking support. It probably has some kind of serial datacomm support, but I haven’t looked at that yet (all my use has been via the simulated console, LDEV 20).
I’ve put several hundred CM programs on the “machine” to see which will load and run. Many won’t, because they use newer features (e.g., FLABELINFO intrinsic which came out on the T-MIT with the Mighty Mouse).
So, you ask, can you put a newer version of MPE V on the emulated 3000?
The answer is, I don’t know. If I recall correctly, the machine isn’t emulating (yet) the “Extended Instruction Set,” but the authors claim MPE has a run-time emulator for them, so perhaps that won’t be a problem.
It comes with a version of MPE V, if you download the two packages that the release notes file mentions.
It’s fast. On my Mac, it runs CPU bound stuff about twice as fast as a 400 MHz HP 3000 would.
This is classic software running on classic hardware, so it's strictly for the hobbyist. Or someone who still has MPE V apps running their company. The software is downloadable from Trailing Edge in a pre-compiled .exe file.
The discussion has already generated 40 messages on the 3000-L, easily the biggest discussion of the year.
March 09, 2016
Powerhouse MPE futures clouded in silence
Users of Powerhouse have a mailing list, much like the one that HP 3000 owners and managers have enjoyed for decades. Powerhouse-L has traffic on several flavors of the Cognos creations. It's that range of product platforms that gives readers a chance to compare.
The news for MPE users of Powerhouse is that there is no news. This isn't a fresh take on the future of Powerhouse, Quiz, and the other products like Axiant which remain in use in the homesteading marketplace. Ken Langendock, a consultant in the market, asked on Powerhouse-L about the future of the products. He added that getting a response from Unicom Global, the owner of the products, has been difficult for his boss. It's not a good sign when a customer cannot get multiple calls returned.
Langendock was plain-spoken about which Powerhouse he needed an update for. A webcast from the vendor on March 4 didn't include Powerhouse futures by the 30-minute mark, so he pulled the plug on his viewing. He said MySQL support was high on his list of needs.
"The HP version to me is dead," he said. "I expect nothing more to happen on that version." That tracks with the reality of 2016 management from Unicom. When the software changed hands at the start of 2014, hope for changes to licensing and features rose in the MPE user base, but not for very long. Unicom owns scores of products by now, using a model that runs smoothly for Infor, owners of MANMAN.
Ownership of a product includes a paid support option, but not much will change for the 3000 world. An update from Bob Deskin, longtime Powerhouse product manager who consulted with Unicom in 2014, made no mention of MPE/iX after he reported his contact with Unicom.
We've reached out to Russ Guzzo, who heads the company's communications efforts and led the integration of Powerhouse into the company, but didn't get a reply to our question about, as Landendock put it, "doing something with Powerhouse."
"They assure me that they are continuing to develop and support PowerHouse," Deskin said. "I’m told that they are in catch-up mode because of the volume of support issues that have been reported."
They asked me to pass on the following concerning current releases which tells me that they are indeed continuing to develop and support PowerHouse.
For PowerHouse 4GL and Web, the current Windows version is 8.41U, and for Axiant 4GL, 3.4u. They support Windows Server 2012, MS SQL 2012, and Oracle 12c.
For PowerHouse 4GL and Web on Unix and Linux, the current version is 8.43G build 3350.101.It supports RHEL 7 and Oracle 12c. This is still a G version because they couldn’t find anyone to beta test the U version. It is a fully branded UNICOM version and is compatible with the Windows 8.41U and Axiant 3.4U even though it might seem otherwise. They still plan to have an 8.43U version soon.
The OpenVMS current version is still 8.40G and while 8.40U is still planned, there are major support issues on this platform.
If you'd like more information, here are the contacts:
UNICOM client services department at: Powerhouse.email@example.com or call 818-838-0606
For technical questions (may require an active support agreement):
Powerhouse.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call within the US toll free 800-866-6224; outside the US 973-526-3888
I’ve always found that providing support to UNICOM customers has always been their top priority.
March 04, 2016
3000-L breaks silence with DTC primer
On the verge of four weeks without a new message, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup delivered a primer on the control of DTCs on MPE/iX networks. A longtime contributor to the community set up a question about using these venerable devices that connected HP's terminals and other devices to a 3000.
I have multiple HP 3000s sharing one DTC. My problem is, which one controls the DTC? In the event of a power cycle, there is a race between them for which 3000 will download the new configuration. I need system A, my A-Class, to be in charge. However, systems B or C are most likely to download first, leaving me with the manual step of unplugging the network from B and C, power-cycling the DTC, and then waiting for the A-Class to download the configuration. Is there anything that can be done to just leave the A-Class in charge?
Tracy Johnson replied, "It's always been a crap shoot. I'm of the opinion the first HP 3000 to notice the DTC needs downloading will do the job. Which usually means the less busy machine." As it was just the first answer on the newsgroup, there was still a need to do unplugging.
"For example," he added, "if you have a test machine on the side nobody's using, I would simply unplug the test machine's network cable until the DTC was reset. Since there will be no other machine in control, the regular machine will do the download. When complete, I'd plug the network cable back into the test machine. However if both machines are in production and you have users active on both, you'll have to make a decision."
Lalley came back with an answer of his own, at least to eliminate the travel from chair to server.
"On the DTC's I guess it could be possible to do it without leaving your chair, if you TELNET to the console on B and CDTCCNTRL (has to be run from the physical console) to stop the DTC subsystem, then restart it."
Mark Ranft at Pro3k had another idea.
Back in the good old days, we used DTC Switching - a feature that allowed a DTC prompt to appear at a terminal. The user entered 'C HPA' to connect to host HPA. I believe you could set a default system. Initially DTC Switching was only available if you configured and downloaded the DTC using OpenView DTC Manager software running on a PC. Later HP set up NMMGR to allow DTC Switching.
The Communicator for that release may have more details, but I only entered the MAC of the DTC on the one system that was supposed to download the DTC. The other systems would have the DTC name, but not the MAC. This allowed the system to have printers and other devices accessible on the DTC without concerns about which one downloaded the configuration.
Of course, the location of that MPE Communicator took all of 41 minutes to dig up. Barry Lake pointed at HP documentation (now hosted outside HP's baffling website) that covers Enhanced Host-Based DTC Management Functionality in Chapter 3. Plus, a manual on Configuring and Managing Host-Based X.25 Links.
Not too shabby for a mailing list that's more than 20 years old, but still manned by dozens of experts. It's the kind of expertise a good third party support provider offers—as usual, better than HP's today.
February 26, 2016
21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L
The slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.
However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.
"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."
Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.
"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."
Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.
"I left my previous employer in Boise and I moved to a Microsoft shop, whose mainframe was HP-UX," Wallace said. "However, in 2015 we migrated off HP-UX and onto SQL Server on Microsoft Server 2008. We do health insurance and the purchased software, Trizzeto, was moved to MS SQL servers."
Another registered user keeps up with the community, but he can imagine a future where he'd be back on the MPE/iX front lines. "We're totally out of the 3000 business," said Ted Johnson of Wake Forest University, adding a sad-face emoji. "But I love seeing the 3000-L posts and keeping up. Who knows — maybe they'll get rid of me one of these days, and I'll end up back on a 3000."
The 3000-L, hosted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where the late Jeff Kell launched it the early 1990s, holds more than two decades of traffic. 10 years ago the list was big enough to measure a signal-to noise-ratio, but by now it's almost entirely signal. When John Burke was a monthly columnist for the NewsWire who summarized its content in net.digest, he rounded up the following help in just one month's communications. For a 3000 owner managing a homesteading shop, the 3000-L's tips still carry some value.
• Do you want to know when a particular account or group was created? LISTACCT and LISTGROUP are no help. But “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME,3” for the account or “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME /GROUPNAME,3” for the group tell all. And then some.
• The number of sectors reported by the REPORT command for a group or groups is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes very inaccurate. Running the program FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and issuing the SYNCACCOUNTING command will fix this problem.
• In case you were wondering, despite many requests for the enhancement, TurboStore will NOT append store sets to tape. Well, it might if you use the proper incantations, but it is unsupported and highly dangerous because under certain circumstances you could overwrite a previous backup without knowing.
• Speaking of things you cannot do that you might like to do, the ALLOW command is not persistent across sign-ons unless you use the extremely dangerous “ALLOW @.@; commands” version. This is another example of an enhancement that has been requested for years, but now will never happen. Fortunately, there are a number of options, for sale and free (MPEX, CSL, etc.).
• CI integer variables are signed 32-bit entities. So be careful if you are doing some wild arithmetic in your CI scripts.
• Here is a little trick when using Apache’s indexing (for example to keep track of documentation) to index file displays. You can override the default ascending sort by name by appending “?N=D” to the url. Instructions on changing Apache’s default behavior are available on the Web.
• If you are trying to program VPlus applications and are interested in working examples programmed in your favorite language, look in the group HP32209.HPPL89 (which should be on every FOS tape). This group contains source code for the ENTRY program in a variety of languages including COBOL, Fortran, Basic and Pascal.
• To see the firmware (aka PDC) Revision of a system (CPU): Run cstm, and at the cstm > prompt, type ‘map’ and note the Dev Num of a CPU and then type ‘sel dev DEV_NUM’ (e.g., ‘sel dev 41’) and then type ‘info’ and then type ‘il’ and look at the output for the ‘PDC Firmware Revision’. Easy, huh? Thanks to Guy Paul of HP for this tip.
• SPFXFER will allow you to write to disk (undocumented “feature/bug”). But don’t do it, because SPFXFER cannot read the disk file it creates! Doing this could lead to a big oops.
• While it would certainly be a nice to have, MPE/iX CI scripts have no provision for inline comments. Sorry, don’t even bother trying.
February 24, 2016
Bringing a First 3000 Love Back to Life
Stories of HP 3000 longevity are legend. Less than 10 years ago, Paul Edwards could report on a Dallas-area customer who was running a Series 70 system in production. Paul was circumspect about who the lucky company was — lucky because they were still leveraging a system HP stopped selling in the late 1980s.
We heard from a longtime 3000 lover in Buffalo recently who wants to turn back the calendar on his Series 42 system. By his system, we mean that literally: Matthew Bellittiere took personal possession of the same system which he learned MPE upon in the early 1980s. The 42 was a server that considered a DDS tape drive an upgrade. Reel to reel was the standard backup peripheral for any computer HP first sold during the early half of the 1980s. HP gave the Series 42 its debut in 1983.
Bellittiere waited awhile to rekindle his old flame. About 20 years ago, he took the Series 42 into his home, but only this month is he working on getting it up to speed. A system that is 30-plus years old, that hasn't been started in 10 years: some might think this is scrap, or worse. But listening to his request, we hear a man who's finding a long ago sweetheart, rescued from the mists of time.
This HP Series 42 is the first HP mini mainframe that I started on around 30+ years ago. I arranged many updates over its active life. Some of the updates include increasing the memory by exchanging the 1/2 meg cards with 1-meg boards. I upgraded to the HP670H disc drives, and also to the DDS tape drive. In 1996 the company upgraded to a Series 947, and HP did not want the 42 back. It was going to scrap, so I requested it and it was given to me. I have had it ever since with plans to get it up and running.
I had to ask: Is the Series 42 project a hobby, or a work system? "Yes," Bellittiere admitted, "it is more of a project for me." But he needs the help of MPE V experts in our community to bring his old flame back to life.
Bellittiere understands there are special procedures required for a server whose discs are its newest parts (circa 1990, so 25 years old already). "My first question: does it need any special treatment before powering up?" he asks. "I think any internal memory will have been lost long ago. It has been at least 8 to 10 years since being powered up."
The components that die soonest in a 3000 are usually the power supply and the internal battery, although the disks are often not far behind. "I am not sure of the power up routine — can you help with some ideas?" I said we knew some 3000 experts with MPE V, CISC-generation hardware savvy. He replied with some hopeful praise aimed at his community.
"I am glad that you are still out there. I would not know who else could help me."
The Series 42 was a noble steed, one of the genuine workhorses of the 3000 line. HP used it like a team of draft horses in its labs. I took a tour of the company's disk drive manufacturing plant in the late 1980s — in the days when HP still built some of the world's most dependable drives in the industry, in Boise, Idaho. A wall stacked with Series 42s was doing burn-in testing for the 7973 drives that were already a mainstay in 3000 shops. At five-plus years already, the Series 42s looked like tiny tugboats, computing craft like ships whose decks was peeling but whose hulls were still buoyant.
I hope there's an MPE lover out there who's got advice for Bellittiere. The wisecracks are easy enough about boat anchors or semiautomatic target practice. People said the same thing about F-150 pickup trucks for awhile, too. My son Nick bought his first F-150 right after cut its lines on the 3000, when that truck was 22 years old, an age Nick hadn't yet achieved himself. People live and work in our world who find old tech a delight. Send your help and advice to Matthew via email, or at 716-536-3298. Let him see a colon prompt from a server introduced before fax machines were common office tools.
February 19, 2016
How hot plug disks can replace DDS offsite
I need to find an alternative to DLT and DDS tapes for offsite storage. Sure, there's DS2100 and Jamaica drives. But a few $35 300GB Ultra SCSI drives would hold a lot more data with less points of failure. I'll set up a BACKUP_VOLUME_SET and use the internal disks to do store-to-disk backups of the system.
I've always used my A-Class and N-Class systems with fiber-attached disk. Are the internal disk drives hot-pluggable?
Jim Hawkins, IO maven for HP 3000 systems at HP, replies with details.
There are multiple layers of changes for actual hot plugs or swaps to work.
- You need the disk HDD to handle this electrically.
- You need HDD physical carrier and physical interface to comply.
- You need the system physical interface and receptacle to comply.
- You need your Host System Bus Adapter (HBA) to electrically support this.
- You need the OS to be aware enough of the HBA to not get flustered by absence of the device and deal with any notifications from the HBA of the activity.
Given that the N-Class disk cage has a screw-based cover and the HDD carriers have no quick release levers (as compared with HASS/Jamaica or VA7400) I would state definitively that there is no hot-plug intention.
At the same time, the SCSI bus is pretty low power and low voltage, so it would be generally not-too-unsafe to experiment. But you're also close to AC inputs and they are not low power.Hawkins explored the not-too-unsafe scenario with theoretical possibilities.
Might you be able to pull/push a drive where you've closed the volume? Likely it would work, but there may be all kinds of noise and stress on the SCSI bus which may not be well handled. However, I think each disk is on its own HBA channel which isn't shared with anything else, and so unlikely to abort someone else's IO.
This takes us to the last issue: mechanical wear.
These connectors were likely intended for more or less permanent mating of two components. Very likely they have a limited number of cycles that they are specified to hold-up. I've seen connectors that are specified for fewer than 25 cycles before you lose gold contact material. This is okay for normal HDD where one might replace one or two per slot in a system lifetime, but not sufficient if you're doing nightly back-ups and swaps. Connectors, where there is an expectation of a high number of pull/replace cycles, have special designs.
Now a little good news here is that the N-Class was still pretty much old-school HP design, so likely they didn't pick up something cheap that saved them .2 cents per unit on gold plating. No idea though if the HDD connector is a 10-, 100-, 1000-cycle part. Your system, your risk.
Consultant Mark Ranft points out that the HP design for 3000s seems to make the servers and components good candidates for exceptional mechanical wear tolerances.
It is especially helpful to understand the concept of mechanical wear on the connectors. HP always had excellent and innovative hardware engineering on their HP 3000 servers. Remember, you can drop them off a building and still self-test them.
The Unix N-Class appears to allow hot-pluggable drives.
The actual power supply and the fans are in the front of the N-Class. The power receptacles in the back have internal cords that lead to the front.
February 12, 2016
How to get specific about IP access for PCs
I want to give a 3000 a static IP, so I can permit a user to access the HP 3000 from that PC with that static IP. Is there a way to force a particular user ID to use a specific IP address?
Tracy Johnson replies:
A simple logon UDC should suffice:
IF HPREMIPADDR = "aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd" then
ECHO Evil message here.
Bob Schlosser adds:
You can set up a logon UDC that checks that the var HPLOCIPADDR is equal to the device (PC) that you want them to use. Something like this:
IF "!HPLOCIPADDR" <> "123.456.789.321" change "123.456.789.321" to
your IP address
Using this, we verify that the user is on the correct (assigned) IP address, and log them off if not.
Chris Bartram, who's created e-mail solutions for the 3000 at 3K Associates, and hosted Web servers since early in the 1990s, adds:
The following is an excerpt from system UDCs I use on my HP 3000s that might give you some ideas.
The "VALIDATEIPADDR" call in this UDC calls another command file that actually does a validation of the logging-on user based on data in a control file to determine if he/she is allowed to log onto the system from the specific host/IP address they are coming from.
The variables the UDC sets will work whether the logging on user is coming in via Telnet or NSVT (or hardwired or via a modem).
The TELLOPs also leave a nice log on the system console (and log file) of the login, including where they came from, and what protocol was used to access the system.
setvar _network_node ''
if bound(hpstdin_network_node) then
setvar _network_node '!hpstdin_network_node'
setvar _na ''
setvar _at 'HARDWIRED'
if bound(hpstdin_network_addr) then
setvar _na '!hpstdin_network_addr'
elseif bound(hpremipaddr) then
setvar _na '!hpremipaddr'
if bound(hplocport) then
if !hplocport=23 then
setvar _at 'TELNET'
IF BOUND(HPSTDIN_ACCESS_TYPE) THEN
SETVAR _AT "!HPSTDIN_ACCESS_TYPE"
IF BOUND(HPSTDIN_TRANSPORT_TYPE) THEN
SETVAR _TP "!HPSTDIN_TRANSPORT_TYPE"
IF "!_AT"="TELNET" THEN
SETVAR _TP "TCP/IP"
SETVAR _TP "SERIAL"
IF BOUND(HPVT_CLIENT_VENDOR) THEN
SETVAR _VND " (!HPVT_CLIENT_VENDOR)"
SETVAR _VND " "
TELLOP LOGON VIA !_AT USING !_TP !_VND
setvar _node ups(ltrim(rtrim("!_network_node")))
setvar _addr ups(ltrim(rtrim("!_na")))
if '!_node'<>'' then
tellop !_at, IP: "!_addr" Node: "!_node"
tellop !_at, IP: "!_addr"
if !cierror<>0 then
echo ** NODE/IP CONTROL FILE CORRUPT **
February 10, 2016
Linux box feeds Series 918 for daily needs
HP never designed a smaller PA-RISC 3000 than the Series 918. The server that was released in the middle 1990s helps untold 3000 sites keep MPE/iX in the production mix. While surveying the customer base to learn about the 2016 state of the server, James Byrne of Hart & Lyne reported that a 918 at the company processes data FTP'd from a Linux system. The reason for sticking with MPE/iX, Byrne said, is the state of today's toolset for Unix and Linux. We'll let him explain
By James B. Byrne
Our firm has been running its business applications on HP3000s since 1982/3. First on a time-share service, and then on our own equipment. Our first in-house HP 3000 was a Series 37 ("Mighty Mouse") running MPE IV, I believe. Anyway, that is what my little brown MPE software pocket guide tells me.
We subsequently transitioned to a Series 42 and MPE V, and then a 52, and then to a Series 925 and MPE/XL, which soon became MPE/iX. Then through a 935 to our present host, a Series 918LX running MPE/iX 7.5.
And in all that time we ran the same code with the same database. We still can produce reports of transactions going back to 1984.
Presently the HP 3000 runs the greater part of our online transactions and handles all of our billings and payables. Due to changes in our business model, our main business operational application is now provided by a service bureau. Twice each working day a separate process, written using the Ruby on Rails framework, scans the PostgreSQL database, extracts all unbilled items, and produces a transaction file that is then forwarded via FTP to the HP 3000. Once the transaction file is transferred, the same FTP process triggers a job on the HP 3000 to process that file into invoices.
Our intent is to move off of the HP 3000 and onto Linux, moving away from proprietary solutions to open source computing. This includes bringing our operational software back in-house and off of the service bureau. We are actively developing software in pursuit of this strategy. However, the progress toward a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped.
There are many reasons for this but the main one is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the Unix-Linux community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s.
There are exceptions, of course. Git as a version control manager is head and shoulders above anything I was exposed to on the HP 3000, or any other platform of my personal knowledge, whatever may have existed elsewhere. Likewise Perl, Bash and Ruby are far superior to MPE's native command scripting language. And the sheer variety of software tools available for Linux dwarfs by several orders of magnitude that which was ever provided for the HP 3000. Even if you could afford the 3000 tools.
But for online transaction processing and speed of development, not to mention stability and reliability, nothing in the *nix world that I have encountered even approaches the HP 3000. PostgreSQL is certainly a more then adequate replacement for IMAGE/SQL, but the open source rapid development tools are a different story.
February 08, 2016
Newer XP storage works for HP 3000s
HP 3000 systems often use antique disks for storage and as boot drives. No device HP has integrated in a 3000 server is newer than 2003 in age, and even some later-generation disk arrays have design dates that throw back to more than 10 years ago. (We're looking at you, XP12000.)
Thankfully, there's newer storage available to HP 3000 sites. The XP20000 and XP24000 can be integrated with HP 3000s. We know of a couple of support and resale companies which do this work. Pivital Solutions continues to support 3000 sites, including integration like this. Newer storage can assure more confidence in the HP-built versions of the 3000. Older hardware gets dinged during datacenter audits, after all.
Other companies that don't write 3000 support contracts are able to connect these XP arrays. One of the other providers calls these newest StorageWorks devices "amazing storage devices for HP 3000 servers." HP put out an end-of-life notice for these arrays' XP12000 predecessor more than two years ago.HP's 3000s are not listed among the supported systems in the quick HP datasheets for these arrays. But there's nothing like field reports to give a manager the accurate state of 3000 storage. "We just sold and integrated two XP20000 and XP24000 systems over the holidays," reports one reseller.
It's not ridiculous to want to attach these storage beasts to a datacenter that includes HP 3000s. The XP24000 maxes out at 1.98 petabytes, can handle up to 64,000 LDEVs, but can start as small as 1 TB. The XP20000 goes as high as 413 terabytes. HP's list isn't complete, but it says the following operating systems and hosts can share in the XP24000/20000 storage:
- IBM AIX
- Sun Solaris
- Linux - IA2, Red Hat
The chassis on the XP20000 is listed at under $14,000 for a refurbished model on one website. As a shared device across a heterogenous datacenter, these XP units are the newest edition of the StorageWorks lineup. Moving parts are the highest risk elements in homesteading a 3000, like any other system. In the right datacenter, these can help keep MPE/iX systems in the mix.
February 05, 2016
Number, Please: Finding the 3000 Set
When I started in this line of work in 1984, writing about the Hewlett-Packard community, I had a directory. Literally, a perfect-bound directory of HP staff that worked in the company headquarters and labs in California. HP shared it with me as HP Chronicle editor, updating it every year. When someone's number at HP came up missing, you'd call up company HQ and ask for the division operator. It was the 411 of the middle 1980s. It's obvious the 3000 world needs something similar today.
As it turns out, the community does have it. The most dynamic directory resource is the 3000-L, still in use this month to locate information about contacting experts. What makes it powerful is the wetware behind the bits. Knowing which of the 3000-L posters are customers, rather than consultants, is one example of the power of that wetware.
As the week began, Bob from Ideal Computer was searching for Brian Edminster, he of Applied Technologies. Bob slipped a message under the door of 3000-L, then got an answer back about a current email address. I followed up today, just to make sure Bob got something useful. Brian's on the lookout for consulting opportunities, as well as longer engagements.
Yesterday Al Nizzardini was seeking an email address for Vesoft. A couple of replies on the L misinformed Al that Vesoft doesn't use email. That might have been true 10 years ago, but the address email@example.com lands in the offices of Vladimir Volokh and his team. Vladimir far prefers to use the phone, but he's old-school enough to enjoy an in-person visit, too.
In another update, 3K Associates and Chris Bartram are now at 3kAssociates.com. Bartram, one of the very first of the 3000 community to set up shop in the Internet, sold his two-character domain name 3k.com for a tidy sum. "We continue to sell and support our entire like of HP 3000-based software products from 3kAssociates.com," he reported on the L.
The community is moving outward like a starburst, all getting older and ever more dispersed. But the 3000-L remains a good place to post a "number, please" request on how to find someone who knows the 3000. If you're like me and archive all those messages (more than 9,000 over the last 10 years), you can search your email client and find the latest communique from someone like Brian. Many of us don't include phone numbers in our email signatures, but the email is always there.
And if you don't have 10-plus years of emails archived, the server at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga does. It hosts the L, as it has for two decades, and you can search it via the Web.
If you're counting up such things, more than 450 people still subscribe to 3000-L today. There's also a directory of vendors and consultants here on the NewsWire site. If you're offering services or solutions to the community, I'd be glad to take down your number.
February 03, 2016
MPE site sizes up Linux distro for Charon
When we interviewed one HP 3000 manager who's homesteading, James Byrne had a question about the kind of Linux that's used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. Byrne's heart rests in the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps, a thing Charon can help make possible. There's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary solution, though, no matter how stable it is.
There's another issue worth looking at in his organization, Hart & Lynne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward there have to meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter there. Nobody wants to be caught in the vendor-controlled blind alley again.
Bynre's got a problem about about something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system and is therefore Open Source software.
Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."
KVM users have strong feelings about hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License that many open source solutions utilize.Byrne says that "Charon-HPA runs on ESXi vmkernel, which VMWare claims is not derived from Linux." Then he explains why that's a problem for his adoption of Charon.
VMware is presently being sued by Linux developers for violations of the GPLv2 with respect to the Linux kernel. It is alleged that VMware is in fact using GPL code but are not providing the source for their derived vmkernel, as is required by the terms of the GPLv2.
VMWare is thus attempting to benefit from Open Source projects through misappropriation of public goods for private profit, and attempting to assert proprietary rights over the work of others. In short, they are not a company we wish to deal with, either directly or by proxy.
(Below, VMware's overview of the architecture of VMware's ESXi architecture.)
Regardless of what happens between VMware and those Linux developers, VMware doesn't have to be deployed as part of Charon HPA, according to a Stromasys product manager. VMware is a commonly used component, but it's not mandatory.
This alliance of Linux and MPE was considered beyond a dream back in the days when the HP lab for MPE was closing. A fully open sourced OS acting as a cradle for a legacy OS first created in the proprietary era? Cats and dogs living together. It says something nice about the flexibility of Linux, a trait that's a byproduct of its open source development community.
But the alliance also says something about MPE/iX and its continuing value. Stromasys believes as much, investing in R&D not even HP could get into its budget to give MPE/iX a way to boot up on Intel hardware. Extend the value of your apps with fresh hardware, the vendor says. To this day, even HP-UX won't jumpstart on Intel systems—unless they're Itanium servers. X86-Xeon won't work with HP's Unix.
That enduring value of MPE and the 3000's PA-RISC architecture is something Byrne sees clearly after decades of managing 3000s. "The real problem with the HP 3000 is that it just works," he said, "and so every other issue gets precedence above migration."
February 01, 2016
Loyalist, laggard, loser: who are you now?
When 2016 arrived on our calendar, we looked for signs of the 3000's present and its future. A survey of frequent 3000-L contributors was answered by about half of those we polled. Among that group we found half of these IT pros — selected to be sure they owned 3000s, not just consulted on them — have plans for MPE/iX in their companies in 2016 and beyond.
If you're still using HP 3000s here, getting on to 15 years after HP announced the system's "end of life," then who are you? Among your own kind, you're possibly a loyalist, devoted to tech that's still better than the alternatives to your company. After all, almost 5 percent of every Mac user runs their systems on Snow Leopard, an OS released six years ago and decommissioned by Apple in 2013. Some experts in the community say it runs faster on the newest Macs than any other OS release, though.
The glove on this page came from a Mac conference of 2006, when Snow Leopard was three years away. Maxtor was sure we'd be losing files unless we backed up to their disks. They gave us a set of three instead of a pair of gloves. The way things turned out, Maxtor lost its company status that year, purchased by Seagate. The Maxtor brand went dark in 2009, the year Snow Leopard made its debut. The OS got a small update this month, though, to keep the door open to a newer OS X.
Your 3000 loyalty may label you a laggard. That's one way to describe somebody who's among the last to migrate somewhere when anybody who's savvy has already departed. Tough word, that one. It can inspire some dread and maybe shame about holding out. Or holding on. If the vantage point and the capabilities of MPE/iX in 2016 suit you, though, laggard is just a way to segregate you from someone else's visions.
The implication and suggestion is that laggard would mean loser. Nobody will actually use that word while identifying advocates for old tech. It surely doesn't fit when your applications are solid and cannot be replaced by a migration project priced at more than a full year's IT budget. There's also the matter of keeping IT headcount lean. The most expensive parts of running a datacenter are the people. That's why cloud solutions are getting airtime in boardroom planning. MPE demands fewer heads.
"We're still using our HP 3000s," said Frank Gribbin, running the servers for the law firm of Potter, Anderson. "It's just too useful a tool to do without."To be accurate, some of the datacenter managers who shared their 2016 status said they're on their 3000s because they're sticking to something they'd rather replace. HP poisoned the well for proprietary systems, one said, and extending MPE/iX use at Harte & Lyne Limited would be "simply shoveling money out the door that is better spent on moving off the platform entirely."
That said, in a moment of optimism this user of the Powerhouse platform on the 3000 said "Keeping the HP 3000 and Cognos software going on Charon has its attractions. Frankly, I never expected an MPE/iX emulator to see the light of day, and for that reason alone I am interested in seeing it work."
Byrne might think of himself as a laggard, and look like a loyalist -- but his loyalty is to the product, rather than its makers. He shares his tech strategy and his insights at length, though, and it's pretty clear he's only lagging because there's nothing better that fits the company's needs and resource capacity. Sometimes that's budget, and sometimes it's people. Watching somebody wire MPE/iX into a significant Linux shop shows he's not lagging, but looking forward. And back at his MPE, regretting the loss of HP loyalty. It makes everyone who's endured from 2001 onward a loser, or at least a victim of a loss.
There will be losses out there in the MPE world in 2016, right here and in some 3000 sites, too. Enduring them is the opposite of being a loser. And if you're lagging at a leap into a migration, there are probably reasons that satisfy your flight plans.
January 27, 2016
Keeping up lets you receive what you give
We've been checking in on how companies are keeping their MPE/iX servers up to date. One element is consistent in successful updating: continuing maintenance contracts for the software that's in production or development use. It's the heart of a healthy body of IT resources.
In one recent story we followed up on Reflection, the Attachmate HP 3000 terminal emulator product. Things have changed in PC desktop environments, since Microsoft has been hawking its Windows 10 update automatically. To get the latest Reflection version from Attachmate, keeping up on support is required. It's a paid enterprise to work on making changes to software like Reflection to support new environments such as Windows 10. Not many software solutions update themselves, said Birket Foster.
"Even free, open source software has programmers that are paid," he said when we checked up on Reflection updates. MB Foster has sold many copies of the product over the last 25 years. "Even for open source, there's some support and other positions also being compensated if these volunteers are working for a university or a large company like HP."
Foster says yes, there is an upgrade fee to bring Reflection up to date. "For customers that have been using the software for 10 years, they might want to remember that there is a cost to keeping the software in sync with the Microsoft changes," he said. "Continuous development is required and the programmers need to be paid."
One alternative to Reflection terminal emulation is Minisoft 92, from the company of the same name. CEO Doug Greenup said his product's got Windows 10 support, but even more interesting is the fact that it's got as many as 25 sites using the Charon emulator. Moving from HP's 3000 iron to Charon is a complimentary relicense at Minisoft, without a fee — so long as there's a current support contract.
Greenup says, "In the past couple of years some of our customers have moved to the Stromasys platform. Off the top of my head it's in the 20-25 range."
As long as they are current on support we allow our customers a no-cost license transfer on their software. They just need to provide us with the new CPU information for licensing purposes. These transfers are handled electronically and so are very quick and easy to implement.
Long ago when paper was the primary medium for sharing stories, one editor used an apt metaphor to describe ongoing support. In the publishing business of that day, that support was a subscription, an annual payment to ensure the resources remain available. "Subscriptions are the meat on the bone of any magazine," said Sy Safransky of The Sun. Support is the meat on the bone for software customers, especially for products that are meant to keep MPE/iX on duty with so little attention required.
January 25, 2016
VMware solution assists Win10's 3000 debut
Windows 10 is making its way into HP 3000 shops. Earlier today a manager had loaded up Win10 and then discovered that Reflection, the terminal emulator built for HP 3000 access, wasn't working anymore.
"My Attachmate Reflections v126.96.36.199 does not work — it has an error when trying to start," said George Forsythe. He wanted to know about any available updates for the former WRQ product. It's not a former product, but Reflection for HP, as it's known today, is a Micro Focus product. Last year Micro Focus bought Attachmate, the company that purchased WRQ.
The short answer is version 14.1.543 (SP4), according to Craig Lalley. It's a matter of an update, but a mission-critical connection might demand a faster solution. One well-known program that aids Windows migration of 3000-attached desktops was mentioned by Neil Armstrong, developer of the Robelle data utility Suprtool. VMware can have your back if you're taken a PC onto Win10 and something critical like the 3000 connection stops running, he said.
This is why I've "virtualized" some key environments that are used for development. If something like this comes up, you're not stuck with a critical problem at a key moment.
Supported software is sometimes built with customized routines to use desktop OS modules. That means it can stop working when a desktop environment changes. There's profound changes in Windows 10. Forsythe reports the AICS freeware terminal emulator QCTerm, built for the 3000, still works on Win10, even while his not-quite-fresh Reflection didn't.
Armstrong said the reliance on using VMware to preserve stable desktops comes with a cost. You can't ignore updates to the virtualization engine.
Once something like [a desktop OS release] is stable and set up, you just turn off all updates and back it up. Of course, the weak point then becomes if VMware doesn't work with whatever OS update is currently going on. But there seems to be enough resources and typically there is a solution on hand, as long as you keep that software up to date.
Micro Focus is maintaining Reflection, but one 3000-L member reports the upgrades are no longer free. Older versions of Reflection work with Win10, according to Steve Cooper of Allegro, "with only a few nuisances that can be worked around."
Cooper was using version 10.0.5 of Reflection. When we last checked, that's software more than a decade old. Apparently the extra value of later releases is offset by their compatibility challenges. There's a lesson in there about older software, like QCTerm and elderly Reflection — and MPE/iX — being a more stable solution, even in the face of change.
And if Windows 10 is software that's too new to behave well on a PC connected to a 3000, there's a way to stay on a prior release and stop the "upgrade to Windows" reminders. Paul Edwards, consultant, board member and OpenMPE volunteer, offered this advice.
For those of us who really want to stay on Win 7 for a while and not be reminded to upgrade to Win 10, there is a tool available from www.ultimateoutsider.com/downloads. It is GWX Control Panel. The control panel has a status page to tell you whether the “Get Windows 10” app is running, whether it is enabled, whether the Win 10 files have been downloaded to your PC, and if so, how much room the files are taking up on your computer. If the files are there, the control panel can remove them for you. This is much better than modifying the registry.
I have installed and run the GWX Control Panel. I had it delete the Win 10 logo, folders, and files (6 GB). I had no problems with my PC afterwards. And no Win 10 reminder.
January 22, 2016
A 3000, awaiting replacement, still at work
If the above headline sounds like your homesteading situation, then you're an interim homesteader. Or a wannabe migrator, which can amount to the same thing if the pain of retaining a 3000 and MPE is low. In the hospital they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. Nobody says 0, unless they're deep into morphine. There's usually some.
At Cerro Wire, the pain level must be not more than a 2, but the 3000 is being targeted for replacement. As part of our survey of the 3000 managers who speak up on the 3000-L, we got a report back from Herb Statham. He's led the 3000 computing at the manufacturer based in Alabama, with operations elsewhere in the US, too. Statham notes that the MPE server at Cerro continues to work. It's something like staying on your job even after you've been laid off, because they can't find a replacement yet.
Uncommon for an employee. Commonplace among interim homesteading systems. Statham, who was hiring for 3000 operations as recently as 2014 -- and had a contract 3000 expert at work until October — reports that Intel-based systems are preferred now at Cerro.
We are still running an A500 box at Cerro Wire. The game’s afoot to replace our current business applications with ones that are Intel- and Microsoft-based. I do not know when the final decision will be made, but the HP 3000 just keeps chirping along. I am trying to get “semi-retired” to only work two or three days a week, until the “new and better” system is in place.
Intel had prospects earlier at Cerro, in a different capacity. Statham was public about a 3000 emulator's chances there, even before the Stromasys Charon software had a big footprint. Cerro was going to be a classic 3000 manufacturer pushing their MPE apps into a long-running role. Leaving the HP hardware behind looked to be important, but other apps on other platforms were already working there.Some IT managers call this situation "floating." So long as the MPE applications don't fall short, their cost of ownership and low need for attention keeps them running. A turn-off date at the start of 2016 becomes a midyear close-out, and then that depends on how soon replacement apps on Windows get integrated. Any nagging pains about relying on an environment now in its fifth decade of useful life are offset by the Tylenol of low costs and stability.
It works for companies that don't see massive growth coming soon. At Cerro, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company, business has been good. Back in 2014, just before the help-wanted call went out, the pressure to migrate was low.
In profile stories from 2014, we heard this report.
Statham has no pressure from Cerro management to replace the applications that are successful at running the company. With ample spare parts, independent support and storage consulting, and his own source in hand, he needs only the green light from Dell to move forward. Specifics on pricing and performance are still in play from Stromasys, at least from his vantage point. A 1.5 version of CHARON HPA/3000 was announced late last year, promising increased performance. But meeting the speed needs of an A-Class would be no challenge for the CHARON lineup.
This veteran of 3000 deployment and management has little desire to send his company toward an application replacement that might end up with Cerro "spending millions of dollars." There are many years left for MPE/iX, and his company is an all-HP shop, with the exception of a couple of Dell monitors on Statham's desk. He can see a long future for the app the company has fine-tuned to its business.
The CALENDAR intrinsic roadblock is the only thing he can forecast by now. He's not sure how HP might react to an independent fix for that issue, a date challenge that's still 13 years away. (Of course, now it's 11-plus years until the December 31, 2017 deadline)
"If we could ever get this 2027 thing out of the way, you could run your applications indefinitely, so long as you’ve got someone to support them," he says. "My only concern is HP themselves, in the event that someone said they had a patch to the operating system. You wouldn't have to worry about the year, because there was some type of workaround."
There's a number of ideas in there, from relying on MPE doing its job 11 more years (not out of the range of possibility) to seeing an independent lab develop a 2027 workaround (also not impossible, so long as community experts don't do more than semi-retire) to HP getting in the way of this kind of lifespan extension. There's zero pain to the MPE's creator in letting the OS keep working. It doesn't require much pay by now. That's the sort of thing that makes some migrations wannabes, or at least keeps them floating in the future.
January 21, 2016
Taking a Charge at Transition's Costs
Changing your IT infrastructure might become more critical in 2016. Hardware is older, especially the hardware HP built and sold to run MPE/iX servers. One solution is to migrate to a new OS environment. Another refresh for IT might come from emulating the PA-RISC servers with Intel-based servers. But in either case, some software will have to come along, a move to help contain transition costs.
License transfer practices come into focus during these projects. While moving from MPE/iX to another OS, most shops would like to keep what's been working, if the software's got prospects to grow along with IT's needs. In some cases that's possible, because the vendor has put in its work to adopt a new platform. A couple of middleware providers have done this. MB Foster and Minisoft both reached out to HP-UX users coming out of their MPE/IX environments. Minisoft's Doug Greenup reported this week that Summit Information Systems Spectrum users — whose vendor is now Fiserv, post-migration — headed to HP-UX when leaving the 3000 credit union application. Their target was Eloquence, the database designed to embrace IMAGE applications into an SQL world.
"We have quite a few Eloquence customers," he said, "more then 100. Many of the Fiserv Credit Union customers moved from MPE to HP-UX and use our ODBC driver for Eloquence." Minisoft's also got an ODBC for IMAGE product. That's an example of a cross-platform development strategy, something to keep costs under control. When your existing vendor does a version of your product for a migration target, that's fortunate. It's even more fortunate when you're not expected to re-license the product.
Last week the Minisoft ODBC for IMAGE product became the target of a competitive upgrade campaign. MB Foster says it will let a Minisoft ODBC customer switch to UDALink for MPE/iX for the price of a support contract. We took note of that campaign, a classic move from the days when new MPE/iX software was being sold in a market active enough to support multiple vendors for a single product like middleware. Going into competition, and retaining customers in the face of it, smacks of moxie in a market that's quiet and stable by now. It helps if your product has feature differences, so a 64-Bit ODBC driver, and the ability to use Suprtool's Self Describing (SD) Files, are getting touted in that offer.
Both vendors say they support Windows 10 with their middleware. No matter how much grief the new Microsoft environment is causing, it's still a certain part of IT futures. Windows 10 support is essential to keeping a 3000 current with the latest PC clients tapping IMAGE/SQL data.
Vendors in the 3000 market had to go where new system sales were happening, though. For MB Foster, its HP-UX version of UDALink is preserving investments at a site where the biggest single group of 3000s was migrated. At the same time, this site is using Minisoft's middleware on HP-UX, too. The situation at the college group looks like a lesson in preventing extra costs in a transition. Migration has plenty of prerequisite costs.There are no more MPE/iX computers in service at the Washington Community College Consortium, a group of 34 organizations once run by 3000s. The college collective turned off its 3000s in 2012, giving over the services to Unix systems built by HP. Minisoft's middleware works there for the Unix servers. So does the MB Foster software. The educational organization didn't have to re-develop its hundreds of reports it built over years of 3000 services.
"They use UDALink Reporter for UNIX (formally DataExpress) for reporting on their HP-UX systems," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "We converted DataExpress from the MPE version to the Unix version, so that the college could continue to use the hundreds of host-based reports they created over the years. They also are using it well for bulk extracts, offloading data."
The cost of the software for a fresh platform was not a show-stopper there, which seems to be the case for 3000 vendors who serve with middleware and key utilities. Database management, data extract software, middleware: much of it can be moved to something like the Stromasys Charon emulator, or even a new OS, for little to no charge. "Preservation and continued use of reports created on the 3000 was key to the conversion of UDALink Reporter on MPE to UDALink Reporter on UX," Whitehead said.
Minisoft's product made a move to contain costs, too. "Some of our MPE customers have migrated over the years to the HP-UX platform, running with Eloquence," Greenup said. "So long as a customer is on a current product support contract we allow them to "swap" or transfer licenses at no additional cost."
Even where there are what amounts to administrative charges — the equivalent of HP's license $432 transfer fee to move an MPE/iX instance from one kind of iron to another — many vendors make these minimal. Everybody's budget is important, but I find it interesting to see IT managers squeezing costs so hard that a $125 per month support fee, or $1,000 one-time to administer a license change, gets scrutiny. Yes, that's about $125, or less than my U-Verse TV bill.
This is corporate IT we're talking about here. The minimums shouldn't be that low. There's money needed to be spent on Windows turnover, yes. But a corporate server needs a budget bigger than a TV bill.
Redevelopment costs a great deal more than that, of course. One month's work might not be enough to bring hundreds of reports into an HP-UX environment; it might take much longer. In a case like that, the $1,000 looks like a better option than three months of an IT pro's time, at around $25,000.
Both Minisoft and MB Foster help to enable Charon HPA emulation projects, too. Those kinds of transfers don't require a new license, something that the new-ish owners of Powerhouse can't embrace yet. Containing costs with support-based license transfers is a forward-looking move. Forward is a direction you'd expect vendors to focus upon. IT changes often. It shouldn't be more expensive than absolutely necessary.
January 20, 2016
Pricing, Value, and Emulating Classics
Editor's Note: Yesterday we ran a story about the impact of proprietary software lock-in, as reported from a manager's office where HP 3000s still do their work. Amid that story was a quote about predaceous pricing (love that word), the act of outre increases to the cost of emulator MPE server solutions because of upgrade charges. It's blocked several adoptions of Charon HPA, even among managers who love the ideal of non-HP hardware that keeps MPE apps alive. Tim O'Neill wrote the following editorial, prompted by our article. Although companies do need to generate capital to keep supplying software, the matter of how much to charge for a shift to an emulator remains a flash point.
Editorial by Tim O'Neill
James Byrne brings up important point about proprietary software running proprietary hardware: it enabled predatory pricing, both by HP and by third parties.
At this stage, it appears that Charon could be bought affordably, but the problem is the third parties' still seeing the opportunity to gouge existing customers.
This is why businesses become former customers and change to shareware and open source operating systems and databases, e.g. Linux and open database systems like Postgres. There are still costs as a part of such a change. They might need to hire more in-house staff to do what HP and third parties used to do for that one huge cover-all price. It might not be wise to entrust critical applications to shareware, but are customers avoiding doing so?So the huge predatory prices were not without value. This is not to say I defend them.
That said, it is still shameful that at this point, third parties are unwilling to honor their customers' long history of loyalty, by requiring emulator relicensing. These third parties should realize that they might realize longer-term benefit by keeping their customers, not driving them away.
It would be interesting to compute the price and valuation of HP stock since the point just before they announced the death of its MPE business, through the split in 2014. One might be able to say that the company's value has fallen without MPE. It may fall further when OpenVMS is eliminated and when HP-UX is not marketed, not enhanced, not written for any CPU other than HP's own Itanium, and not licensed at prices that are fair to customers.
January 19, 2016
It's becoming an MPE Server, this HP 3000
Hewlett-Packard stopped building 3000s in 2003, cutting off a product line in the belief that users would leave the server. But after thousands of them did just that, thinking there would be no more MPE/iX servers to be purchased, an emulator emerged. After more than four years, it might be changing the concept of what is an HP 3000. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies wonders what's the future for the system that delivers MPE/iX apps.
"It seems to me that it's almost more accurate to call these beloved hosts 'MPE/iX' systems," he said, "rather than 3000s, since — eventually, at least — no one will be running 'original' HP hardware."
We have asked around the community about how this concept plays out. James Byrne, 3000 manager at logistics provider Hart & Lyne, offers one view on what makes up his idea of a device to use MPE/iX.
There's more at stake at his shop: software migration patterns, a way to ensure what's running on HP-built hardware operates on a fresh MPE/iX server. Pricing for a key 4GL-reporting tool — you'll know which one — got in the way at Hart & Lyne. MPE's the keystone there, but Byrne says his company won't tie itself to a single-vendor system in the future.
I consider our systems to be MPE/iX rather than HP 3000. The hardware does not really matter to us any more, since most of the rest of our critical infrastructure is already running on commodity Intel 64 bit boxes. We simply keep two or three of everything running on different 3000 hosts most of the time, and have them continually cross checking each other. That approach has covered us well in the one or two serious incidents we have experienced these past 15 years since HP gave up on the 3000.
If the Charon emulator was priced in the same range as a used HP 3000, and ran on Linux, and used KVM virtualization, then we would in all probability move to it as an interim step, if only to escape the aging hardware MPE/iX is running on.
I believe those conditions are unlikely to all be met, so we do not consider the emulator as a possibility. We still would have to deal with the issue of Powerhouse licensing fees. The last inquiry we made with respect to Powerhouse provided a price that was startling to say the least. We would even entertain moving to Powerhouse on Linux as an interim step, if the price were not so exorbitant and the product supported PostgreSQL. However, when last we looked Powerhouse only supports proprietary databases, so again it is not even a consideration.
Those examples are representative of why we are never going back to proprietary software: predaceous pricing and technological limitations dictated primarily by marketing. Whatever we write for ourselves in future, we are not going to be held to ransom if we wish to move it from one system to another.
January 18, 2016
The GSP makes the A and N worthwhile
It's a powerful part of an HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. The Guardian Service Processor (GSP) is the maintenance control console commanding the ultimate class of the server to reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the 3000. Consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech has noted the GSP has one fewer feature than its Unix counterpart, though.
"On HP-UX it is possible to reset the GSP from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."
From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services on A-Class and N-Class servers. If your 3000 gets loving care from a consultant or service provider outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep up service levels.
The GSP can also reveal the 3000's speedometer, as profiled near the bottom of a webpage from Allegro Consultants.
The gap between 3000 and HP's HP-UX Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That lack of Unix can sometimes be a good thing when a security breach opens up in the Unix world.)
But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a telnet command doesn't work. You can telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset. But you can also get someone to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. It's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a magic paper clip bent just so.
Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.
The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.
It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.
It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, this reset can be done during business hours.
January 15, 2016
Competitive upgrading lives on for 3000s
In the 1990s, HP contracted to send its ODBC middleware development to MB Foster. The result was ODBCLink/SE, bundled into MPE/iX from the 5.5 release onward. The software gave the 3000 its first community-wide connection to reporting tools popular on PCs. HP decided that the MB Foster lead in development time was worth licensing, instead of rebuilding inside the 3000 labs. Outside labs had built parts of the 3000's fundamental software before then. But ODBCLink/SE was the first time independent software retained its profile, while it was operating inside of the 3000's FOS. Every 3000 running 5.5 and later now had middleware.
Other ODBC solutions were available in that timeframe. Minisoft still sells and supports its product. That's one reason why MB Foster's running a competitive upgrade offer for users of the Minisoft middleware. The upgrade was announced yesterday. 3000 owners who make the switch from Minisoft for IMAGE ODBC to Foster's software will get a full version of UDALink for the cost of only the annual support payments.
This kind of competitive offer was one of Minisoft's sales tools while it competed with WRQ for terminal emulation seats. There was a period where NS/VT features were not a part of every Reflection package, but were a staple in the Minisoft MS/92.
Foster's ODBC software has been extended to use 64-bit ODBC drivers, embrace Suprtool's Self Describing Files, and more. UDALink was a part of the migration that the Washington State community college consortium pulled off in 2011 when it moved 34 systems to Unix. The vendor has continued to develop to make a state of the art middleware solution.
Almost as notable: seeing MB Foster compete for business like vendors did routinely in the 1990s. The upgrade offer tells us that there are 3000 sites out there still looking to extend their development cycles. UDALink is also built for platforms other than the 3000, but any outreach to capture MPE/iX customers is news here in 2016. Chris Whitehead is fielding the calls and emails for the upgrade offer, which runs through June of this year.
January 14, 2016
HP's 3000 now at $149 until Sunday
Google is happy to trawl the Web for HP 3000 news, a search that I've had in place for the past 10 years. I receive a lot of notices about horsepower of auto engines (the HP) and a few about printers. But today a link showed up that features a computer called the HP 3000, currently selling for $149 plus shipping.
There are a few unique and important qualifiers. To start, this is an HP3000 model with an Intel server, literally a PC powered by an Xeon X3330 CPU at 2.8 MHz. That's a quad-core processor, though, and the box is already loaded with 4GB of memory. (It's a start, but nowhere near enough RAM to power software such as, for instance, the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator.)
In short, this is an HP3000 built by Hewlett-Packard that can run MPE/iX, but does not use PA-RISC. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has not restricted the use of "3000" to the PA-RISC servers well-loved by the MPE community. Over on the HP Inc. side, there's a large-scale printer also called an HP 3000.
This HP3000 running a Xeon chip has another, less significant qualifier. It's being sold by a New Zealand owner on TradeMe.co.nz, "Where Kiwis Buy and Sell." And the shipping options don't go beyond Auckland, or the North and South Islands.
However, this TradeMe model might be something that could be shipped to the 3000 stalwarts Ken and Jeanette Nutsford. The former chairs of SIGRAPID and SIGCOBOL still live in NZ, when they're not gadding about the globe on their epic cruise calendars. Their total mileage easily runs into the hundreds of thousands. Trans-Pacific flights are embedded in their history. So perhaps the 6,693 miles to the US is not completely out of reach, in a hop. The Nutsfords travel regularly to the US, and this PC looks like it would be cargo-bay ready.
Yes, you could file this article under clickbait. It's an online auction after all, and $149 is only today's price. However, if you consider your systems to be MPE/iX servers by now, rather than the Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC 3000 hardware that hosts that OS, this is technically a server that can run your apps.It will require an installation of the HPA emulator, which at last report started at $9,000 for A-Class power. The combination can be compared to A-Class boxes that sell for under $2,000, but those include few options to increase speed. The A-Class had a 2-CPU model running at 220 MHz. There's genuine, hard limits on RAM.
You don't have to go to New Zealand to get this kind of HP3000, although this one looks ready to boot up and run. This ProLiant blade-caliber box does illustrate how much hardware remains in the world that can run MPE/iX software. If a manager's concern is the reliability of the HP hardware that's at least 12 years old -- the last server was built in 2003 -- this leaps over that hurdle to homesteading.
January 13, 2016
Using Store-To-Disk for Backup Preservation
By Brian Edminster
Second of two parts
Yesterday I outlined some of the powers of the Posix program pax, as well as tar, to move MPE/iX backup files offsite. Here’s a warning. There are some file types that cannot be backed up by tar/pax while also storing their attributes: ;CIR (circular) and ;MSG (message) files (and possibly others. I haven’t tested all possible file types yet. Also, there is an issue with tar that is a fairly well known and has been discussed on the 3000 newsgroup. Occasionally it does not un-tar correctly. It is unclear if and when this was fixed, but I’d love to hear from anybody that might be in the know, or which specific situations to avoid.
Regardless of these limitations, I’ve found a simple way around this. Use store-to-disk to make your backup, then tar to wrap it, so as to preserve the store-to-disk files’ characteristics, before shipping the files off-system. Later, when you retrieve your tar backups and un-tar them, you’ll get your original store-to-disk files back without having to specify the proper ‘;REC= , CODE= , and DISC=’ options on an FTP ‘GET’. I’ve been doing this for several months now on several systems, and I have not had any failures.
If you have a version of STORE that has compression, use it to reduce the size of backup. If not, use the ‘z’ option in the tar/pax archive you create from your store-to-disk backup. Do not use both. They don’t play well together, and you may end up with a larger tar file.
But what about the tar archive size limit of 2GB? There’s an easy way around this as well, as this limit is common on early Unix and Linux systems. Just pipe the output through ‘split’ to create chunks of whatever size you want. Below, there's simple examples for both directions.
Below, Figure 2 is an example of a ‘cksum’ created of the files as they’re stored on the NAS.
As both the hashes and #bytes shown in each file are the same as on the MPE/iX server — we know the backups are transferred correctly. The same technique can be used ‘in reverse’ to verify that when FTP’d back to the FTP server, they’re still intact.
When un-taring this backup, ‘cat’ the pieces together and pipe it through tar. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Yes, there is a known issue with the MPE/iX Posix shell’s built-in cat command. But I’ve so far been unable to successfully use the external cat command to successfully cat either. Here’s how this should work for a 2-chunk tar backup:
sh>/bin/cat ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa ./CS1STD1.ustar.ab | tar -xfv - *
Unfortunately, for me at least, it always throws an error indicating bad format for the tar files.There is a work-around, however. Note that while ‘cat’ing the tar ‘chunks’ didn’t work using the internal or external cat command, untar with multi-file option does work. Even though it gives a minor error messages, files were returned to proper store-to-disk format, and the recovered store-to-disk backup is intact and has been used to recover the desired files. To do this, use tar like this:
sh>tar -xfv ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa *
Also note that when using tar in this way, it will ask for the name of the 2nd-nth component tar files, as it finishes reading each prior piece. You must give the filename and press return to continue for each. I believe that it should be possible to script this so that it’s fed the filenames, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.
Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies, a 3000 consultancy serving MPE/iX sites in contract and ongoing engagements.
January 12, 2016
Backing Up Your 3000 Backup Files
By Brian Edminster
Once store-to-disk backups on the 3000 are regularly being processed, it’s highly desirable to move them offsite — for the same reasons that it’s desirable to rotate tape media to offsite storage. You want to protect against site-wide catastrophic failures. It could be something as simple as fire, flood, or a disgruntled employee, or as unusual as earthquake or act of war.
Regardless of the most pressing reason, it really is important to keep at least some of your backups offsite, so as to facilitate rebuilding / recovering from scratch, either at your own facility, or at a backup/recovery site.
The problem comes in that the MPE/iX file system is far more structured than Unix, Windows, or any other non-MPE/iX file system-based storage mechanisms. While transferring a file off MPE/iX is easy via FTP, sftp/scp, or rsync, retrieving it is problematic, at least if you wish the retrieved files and the original store-to-disk files to be identical (i.e., with the same file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type, and so forth).
What would be optimal is automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.For FTP transfers between late-model MPE/iX systems this retrieval is automatic, because the FTP client and server recognize themselves as MPE/iX systems. For retrieving files from other systems, HP has made that somewhat easier by making its FTP client able to specify ‘;REC= , CODE= , and ;DISC=’ on a ‘GET’:
If you do not specify the ‘buildparms’ for a file being retrieved, it will default to the file-type implied by the FTP transfer mode: ASCII (the default), binary, or byte-stream (often called ‘tenex’ on Unix systems). The respective defaults used are shown below:
What follows is an example of automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. And this is yet again where Posix comes to the rescue, via the venerable ‘tar’ (Tape ARchiver), or ‘pax’ archiving utilities.
‘pax’ is a newer backup tool, designed to be able to read/write with tar format archives, newer ‘ustar’ format (that includes Extended Attributes of files). At the same time it has a more ‘normal/consistent’ command syntax (as Unix/Posix stuff goes, anyway), plus a number of other improvements. Think of it as tar’s younger (and supposedly more handsome) brother.
A little known feature of most ‘late-model’ tar and all pax commands is the ability for it to recognize and utilize Extended Attributes. These will vary with the target implementation platform, but for the tar and pax commands included with releases after v5.5 of MPE/iX this capability is not only present — but contrary to the man command’s output and HP’s Posix Command Line manual, it’s the default! You use the -A switch to turn it off, returning tar to a bytestream-only tool.
While not externally documented, via a little experimentation I’ve determined that the following series of Extended Attributes value-pairs are in the MPE/iX Posix implementation of a tar or pax ‘file header’ for each non-Posix file archived:
MPE.RECORDSIZE= value in bytes
MPE.BLOCKFACTOR= integer value
MPE.RECORDFORMAT= integer value (0=unstructured?)
MPE.CCTL= integer value (0=nocctl)
MPE.ASCII= integer value (0=binary, 1=ascii)
MPE.FILECODE= integer value, absent for ‘0’
MPE.FILELIMIT= value in bytes
MPE.NUMEXTENTS= integer value, may be absent
MPE.NUMUSERLABELS= integer value (0=no user labels), and
MPE.USERLABELS=[binary content of user labels]
Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies, a 3000 consultancy serving MPE/iX sites in contract and ongoing engagements.
January 08, 2016
Calculating Classic Value of 3000s
The market price for HP 3000s on the used market can hover between $1,500 and $3,000, using quotes from Cypress Technology. Jesse Dougherty just posted an offer for an A-Class single-CPU system at the low end of that range. Licensing such a 3000's MPE is usually a second step. If it's a replacement 3000, there's a chance no upgrade fee would be involved.
But for the company that's seeking a fresh 3000, determining the market value with license gets to be trickier. HP 3000 gear is available from Pivital Solutions and other resellers, systems that ship with license documentation.
What's a license worth in 2016? We found a classic price point for MPE/iX in the archives of 3000 news from the winter of 2007. It was a year when HP support was still available in full-on versions, so HP was selling something it called the Right to Use License. This was the means to upgrade a 3000, and the extra power could cost as much as $89,000, less the current value of your MPE system. Business manager Jennie Hou explained.
There seemed to be confusion in the marketplace on how customers could ensure they had valid e3000 systems. We’re putting a product back on the price list to enable this for the 3000. We’re really doing this to accommodate customers who need to upgrade their systems.
Client Systems was called out as the resource for the software upgrade, but that outlet may not be online in the market anymore. Midrange five-figure HP pricing for a server whose manufacture had halted more than three years earlier marked the final time the vendor put MPE/iX on its corporate price list. It's something to measure against when calculating licensed HP hardware value against the cost of virtualized HP 3000 gear.About a year ago, Stromasys updated us with a base-level price for its Charon HPA line. $9,000 would get you the software needed to boot up MPE/iX in an A-Class power range. The HP iron on the used market may sound less costly, but it depends on the price of the license.
HP put out stout language to encourage buying license upgrades. "Using MPE/iX on original, upgraded, or modified hardware systems without the appropriate right-to-use license and/or software license upgrade from HP is prohibited.” The language wasn't in the original MPE/iX license that most customers hold now. HP explained that it was implied.
In the late stages of the previous decade, licensed 3000s carried some extra value because they qualified for HP support. But paying five figures for any of HP's 3000s today might be a stretch, because that solution won't ever get faster.
That's probably not the case for virtualized 3000s. It would require a replacement of the Intel PC hardware, but a Charon install could get faster by boosting CPU speed and cores. Threading matters less, because lots of 3000 software doesn't use multithreading.
When a manager looks back at that $89,000 from nine years ago, and then sees a server selling for less than five percent of that, the mid-point with a future built-in would be a virtualized 3000. More costly than the license-to-come HP iron. Less expensive than relicensing MPE/iX -- if there were anyone around to do that.
January 07, 2016
TBT: Client Systems wanted, or missing?
In a routine check of what's available to help 3000 managers, over the holiday break I poked into a few Web locations to see where HP's Jazz papers and software were still hosted. Links from 3k Associates to those papers came up empty when they directed to the Client Systems website in late December. From all reasonable research, it appears the company itself may have gone into the everlasting shadows.
Many 3000 customers never did business directly with Client Systems, but the company had a hand in plenty of official 3000 installations. The vendor rose in community profiles in the late 1990s when HP appointed the firm its lone North American HP 3000 distributor — meaning they stocked and configured systems destined for companies around the continent. Thousands of servers passed through the Denver offices, each assigned the unique HPSUSAN numbers as well as the official HP CPUNAME identifiers that made a 3000 a licensed box.
That official license became a marketing wedge for awhile. We'd call it an edge, but the company's claim that re-sold 3000s from anywhere else could be seized by the FBI was designed to drive used systems away from buyers. There was never anything official about the FBI claims passed along by the company then. But in the era of the late '90s, and up to the point where HP pulled its futures plug, buying a 3000 included a moment like the ones from WW II movies: "Let me see your papers," an HP support official might say.
This was the strike-back that Hewlett-Packard used to respond with after widespread license fraud ran through the marketplace. By 1999 lawsuits claimed that a handful of companies had forged system IDs on PA-RISC hardware. A low-end L-Class box could be tricked up as a high-end 3000, for example. To push back, after the HP lawsuits were settled or had rulings dispensed, Client Systems started Phoenix/3000, something like an automaker's official resale lot.
Client Systems did lots of things for the marketplace much more laudable, operating a good technical services team that was upper-caliber in its depth of hardware knowledge. At its peak, the company provided 3kworld.com, an all-3000 portal in the days when portals were supposed to be important on the Web. The company was a partner with the NewsWire for several years, as we licensed our stories for use on the free 3k World website. 3kworld.com folded up, but the current clientsystems.com site still has Jazz tech information available, at least as of today.
Over the last two weeks we've received email bounces, even while the website is online. The whois information points to one physical address of a personal injury attorney's practice in Seattle. Our phone calls have gone unreturned, and we're not the only ones. Pivital Solutions, one of the last standing official HP resellers in that time when such things existed, still serves 3000 customers with hardware and support. Pivital's president Steve Suraci also has searched to find a light on."I tried back in the September timeframe to get in touch with anyone there that would answer the phone," Suraci said. "I left messages and re-tried for weeks and finally gave up on them." He wondered who might be picking up the pieces of whatever the company was doing at the end."
It can be tricky to confirm a death notice for a company. Unless the principals deliver the news, a demise can be creeping. Suraci said he was reaching out to buy something that only Client Systems ought to be able to sell: a license upgrade, even in 2015.
I had a customer that was looking for some hardware that I was have trouble sourcing. I was also looking into the possibility of purchasing an upgrade license for a customer for TurboStore to the version that included the ONLINE option. When you don't get a call back on something that should be easy money... it probably means a bigger problem!
The website's reappeared recently, so perhaps this is a Mark Twain moment (reports of my death have been exaggerated) for Client Systems. It's the phone calls that look like they confirm the fading lights. One other pertinent address in the whois file lands at a single-family house in Colorado. To be honest, so does the address for the NewsWire, but we've always been a home-based business and never needed warehouse and office space. Stories and papers don't take up that much space.
Things were so much different back in the time of FBI threats. One meeting at that Denver HQ included some arch banter between us about relative size of companies. The NewsWire was, it appeared to one staffer, "just a lifestyle business." Guilty: The NewsWire has been a part of our lifestyle a long time. Hard to think of it any other way when the office is on the other end of your single-family home. We all laughed, some more than others. This week it's looking like lifespan, instead of lifestyle, is what could be measured. Nobody's dancing on a grave yet. We're not a community that embraces loss.
January 06, 2016
Emulation's bones bared, speeds boosted
The year 2015 marked significant changes for the virtualization stable at Stromasys. The company now sells five products in all, providing emulation of processors from HP, Sun, and three off the Digital lineup: PDP-11, VAX and Alpha. Those last two Digital models represent the most mature virtualization software from the company. Homesteaders might consider what's being done with those models as a target for futures of the HPA product.
Stromays is making no predictions about whether the Barebones feature in its VAX version of Charon will emerge in Charon HPA. But the newest release for the oldest product line will strip down what's required.
CHARON-VAX Barebone brings the same security and peace of mind as traditional Charon solutions -- but with a Linux microkernel embedded in the Charon software. Barebone uses only the essential components of the Linux OS, increasing your datacenter's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.
It seems that reducing the need to manage Linux would be a good selling point for Charon in any of its platform versions. "CHARON-VAX allows customers to easily create and deploy new virtual VAXs," product manager Alexandre Cruz reports. "It uses a stripped down Linux version (with GUI) that saves the hassle of host OS installation, configuration and licensing."
This streamlining is not a part of the Charon HPA model yet, but the newest 3000-ready release will make the Intel-based emulation of the PA-RISC faster.In 2015, Cruz told us that CHARON-HPA version 1.6.1 features:
- A 15 percent CPU performance increase
- A new Network Configuration Utility
- Updated Sentinel drivers
- Support for Primary / Secondary (Backup) licenses
- Increased limit in the number of controllers from 6 to 8 in CHARON-HPA/4040
2015 also marked the debut of a Charon version for companies using SPARC-based servers. SPARC emulation was a target of the Charon product line since the earliest days of public announcements about the HPA software.
CHARON-SSP allows Sun Solaris applications that ran on SPARC systems to remain working with no change. As a member of the Oracle Partner Network, Stromasys makes it easier for Sun customers to move to CHARON-SSP on an Oracle x86 server. CHARON-SSP offers different versions, designed for 32-bit and 64-bit machines, from 1-24 CPUs. CHARON-SSP is available for Linux and VMware.
Stromasys calls its product line "classic system virtualization." Classic sounds better than legacy, and certainly better than proprietary. There's something about lines that get cleaner, as their bones get bared, that leads to the label of classic.
January 05, 2016
Migrating 3000 Data from Spoolfiles to Excel
I need assistance with putting an output spool file from MPE/iX 7.5 into Excel or other readable format. The file is generated by Query, then processed by Editor, then sent to the printer. Instead of printing it, I want to put it into a readable format.
I do not have QEdit or any smart tools on MPE, so my approach thus far has been to move the file to a PC before doing anything. However, that carries with it the initialization sequence for the printer to which the job is spooled. The job is set up to print on a PCL 5 laser, which means it has hundreds of lines of control before the data starts.
Tom Moore replies
I would put commas in between my columns (in the query, or using Editor). I FCOPY from the file to a new file with NOCCTL to get rid of carriage control byte. You could also remove the PCL 5 lines by subset in the FCOPY command. Depending on the data, I would use EDIT3000 to change all " ," to "," and all ", ","," to compress the file, removing the spaces before and after the commas inserted above, then save the file for download to the PC.
I would also consider using ODBC to directly extract from the IMAGE database, rather than Query and all the subsequent steps. The HP free ODBC driver would do the job very well.
Birket Foster of MB Foster notes
Not only did we make that free ODBCLink/SE as HP's lab resource from 1998 to 2006, but we have continued to develop the ability to work with data in all kinds of file formats. We do supply 32- and 64-bit versions for ODBC to the HP 3000.
UDALink-MPE was designed for the HP 3000. We provide data in several different formats including XLS for Excel, XML, CSV etc. We can have a discussion about what you are trying to do with data; perhaps UDACentral is the right product for your challenge and we can organize a demonstration for you.Charles Finley adds
There seem to be at least three steps to what you are trying to do.
- Remove the headers, footers and perhaps page numbers from the report.
- Remove the ff or CNTL characters from the text file.
- Import a space-delimited file to Excel.
There are any number of different scripting tools that can do this including various Unix tools. Here's a reference to an Excel solution that might get you started. In fact, if it were my problem to solve, I would likely do it all with Excel scripting.
John Hohn replies
- Output to a delimited file (tabs, pipes, etc).
- Download to your laptop or PC or wherever Excel is running
- Start macro recording in Excel
- Import/format the delimited file, save as .xls
- Turn recording off, save macro
Set the Excel file to auto-execute the macro every time the Excel file it's opened, i.e., re-input/format the delimited file. Then you can, for example, schedule delivery of a new version of this delimited file whenever you'd like, to your server. When people open it they would automatically get the formatted version of the new data.
Connie Sellitto of Hillary Software suggests
Hillary Software has a product, byREQUEST, which does just this.
It has the ability to suppress headings on pages after the first, and define the type of data in the columns (text, numeric, dates in various formats). It can remove blank pages and leading and trailing blank lines. It can even call an Excel macro to make the headings a different font, background color, etc — anything you'd want to do with a macro. In addition to Excel, byREQUEST can create a PDF file, Word, csv or Text.
December 31, 2015
Throwing Back, and Looking Forward
We'll be taking tomorrow off to celebrate the new year. But first, some HP news.
Hewlett-Packard employees are still having meetings around the 3000. They are employees retired from HP, mostly, and the meetings are not at the HPE campus. Before you get too excited about a wish for a new business prospect for the 3000's new year, I should say these are reunions of a sort. A holiday party happened for CSY happened just before Christmas.
The revelers from that party included some people still working for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Corp. But it was a way to look back, and in one of our Throwback Thursday moments it give us a chance to savor people who made the 3000 what it once was. The wishes are for what might still be.
The meeting was wrapped around a brunch held on the Monday before Christmas and held in Cupertino. Arriving at 9AM in Cupertino to enjoy the company of people with MPE savvy must have felt like a throwback. The notice showed up on Facebook, sent among 43 people with a lot of names you'd recognize from community leadership and tech savvy. "Just seeing all your names makes me happy," one CSY veteran said.
Like the HP3000 Reunion of 2011, people couldn't attend who wanted to do so. One said he was going to reschedule a meeting of his with today's HP so he could rejoin his comrades. Plenty of throwbacks in CSY work for other companies by now. Somebody else in the 3000 community wishes that current HP employees could work in the service of MPE. It won't be among HPE's New Year's Resolutions, but the sentiment illustrates where the 3000 could travel next year.
"Hopefully 2016 will bring renewed rational decision-making by the new folks running the new HP," says 3000 customer Tim O'Neill, "and they will once again concentrate on making excellent hardware matched with software that gives customers reason to buy HP. Maybe they'll bring renewed emphasis on MPE/iX homesteading on Stromasys, instead of a purposeful blind rush towards alternatives."
It's possible that HP, now morphing into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, might have changed enough to be a company the 3000 community would want to associate with it. While looking over the replies to the holiday CSY party, I saw names of good people. Top HP executives were not among these retirees, although Winston Prather chipped in good wishes.
Good things can happen in 2016, but even Tim O'Neill knows that HP hardware running MPE will not see any reunion with the customers who held it dear. Not unless it's a high-powered ProLiant running the Charon emulator.
"HP could announce HP-UX 12.00 running on HP hardware, even if the HP hardware has Intel CPU in it," he suggests. Right now, HP-UX is destined to an 11.4 release for the rest of its lifespan. The vendor isn't moving to Intel hardware with HP-UX, just NonStop. VMS is heading for independent ownership.
O'Neill adds that "Some people I know are buying HP components like blades or storage, but not whole systems. For example, they buy HP blades then run VMWare on them. Curious customers could ask "Why buy HP if you are not running HP software?"
The reason for buying HP hardware speak to the changes in IT management. To celebrate the future with HP, you probably won't be concerned with its invented-here operating environments. Linux, Windows, all the successors to MPE from the commodity world are driving replacements. If the sting has left your cheek from a slap delivered more than a decade ago, then a 2016 with HPE products in it will not be a pipe dream. If Winston's name didn't make you shudder, you've moved onward.
The calendar always moves onward, after all, but the 3000 community tends to remain — even as it does its own morphing into new work. The Christmas meeting "shows why the old HP was so special," one 3000 vet said in a Facebook reply. "Long after CSY and the HP3000 are gone, co-workers are still getting together. What a testament to Dave and Bill's HP."
Happy New Year to you all. We will look forward to new developments, technical or otherwise, in 2016.
December 30, 2015
3000's '15 was littered with crumbs of news
It's the penultimate day of 2015, a date when summary and roundups prevail in the world of news. The year marked some milestones for the NewsWire, some losses of the community's oldest treasures, and one major breakup of an old flame. Here's a breadcrumb trail of stories of extra note, retold in the final stanza of the 3000's 43d full year serving businesses.
Checks on MPE's subsystems don't happen, do they? — We learned that HP's subsystem software doesn't really get checked by MPE to see if it's on a valid HP 3000 license. "None of HP's MPE/iX software subsystems that I've ever administered had any sort of HPSUSAN checks built into them," reported Brian Edminster, our community's open source software resource. Licensing MPE is a formality.
Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s — A new SAN-based service uses storage in the cloud to help back up HP 3000s. The HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data.
NewsWire Goes Green — After 20 years of putting ink on paper and the paper into the mails, we retired the print issues of the NewsWire and went all-digital. We also marked the 10th anniversary of service from this blog and waved a proud flag of history to celebrate our founding Fall of two decades ago. We miss the print, but you won't miss the news. Bless the Web.
Patches Are Custom Products in 2015 — HP licensed the MPE source code five years ago, and just a handful of elite support companies are using it to create customized patches and workarounds. If your support provider doesn't have a source license, it may be time to spruce up your provider chain.Still Emulating, After All of These Years — Several sites where the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator is working reported the solution is as stable and steady as ever, while others continued to emerge in the community. Even a 3000 using antique DTCs could be bought over to the light side of Intel-based virtualization.
N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000 — The bottom-end price on the top of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware line approached the same number as the server. A $3,000 N-Class 3000, and later a $2,000 model, both appeared on the used marketplace. A fully-transferred license for a server could lift the prices, of course, for a persnickety auditor.
Big companies still use the HP 3000 — A reader asked for proof that large companies were still relying on the 3000, and we discovered more than you'd expect 12 years after HP stopped making the server. Publicly held companies, too.
Work launches on TurboIMAGE Wiki page — Terry O'Brien of DISC started up a new project to document TurboIMAGE on Wikipedia, an effort that drew summertime attention.
MANMAN vendor wants to run datacenters — Infor is still managing MANMAN support for 3000 sites. The vendor is encouraging all of its customers to turn over their datacenter operations to them.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise trots out security in opener — The old flame that spurned the 3000's future ran into another kind of split-up when HP cut itself in two at the end of October. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise got custody of business servers and the support websites split up as HPE became the new name for that old flame.
Returning to Software, After Services — The most primal of the HP Platinum Migration partners, MB Foster, started to turn its focus onto data migration software for sale. The future of UDACentral lies in becoming a product that integrators and consultancies can buy, and customers can rent by the month. The CEO says the year to come will mark a rise in the percentage of software revenues for his company, where migration service has been leading sales for years.
December 28, 2015
Hello, who's still out there? Permanent 404s
2015 has seen comings in the 3000 world, but more goings. Some MPE veterans have signed off of the 3000 mailing list, headed to retirement or the new work on commodity platforms like Linux or Windows. There was a singular departure, too, as Jeff Kell passed away after leaving a legacy of the mailing list-newsgroup of HP3000-L.
Kell was so notable that the iconic tech website Slashdot devoted a front page article to him late last month. Tracy Johnson reported that "I cobbled together a few links from the 3000 mailing lists and managed to get a Slashdot headline accepted for Jeff. The message below is Slashdot's report."
Congratulations, your Slashdot submission was featured on the front page! Every day we review hundreds of submissions, but we can only post a few to the front page.
There have also been also the comings, goings and migrations of Web resources. Stromasys posted a case study about one of its new 3000 emulator customers. There have been other outposts that have gone quiet, or at reported missing, during this year. One of the temporary absences was one portal to the NewsWire. Another community resource is unavailable this week. Client Systems's website is off the radar, notable because it's the resting place for the HP Jazz resources including MPE utilities and tech reports.
In the meantime, those Jazz resources remain available on the Web at the HP Migration server of Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware. Heading to hpmigrations.com/ HPe3000_resources/HP_jazz/ gets you third party utilities, software, as well as a link to Papers and Training. Speedware licensed everything that was stored on Jazz when HP closed off its server at the end of 2008.We're still on the lookout for the whereabouts of Client Systems, a company that once licensed the stories of the NewsWire. Those were the days when the dot-com boom hadn't gone bust yet. Client Systems was the exclusive North American HP 3000 distributor, during the era when Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise business needed somebody to prep and ship servers loaded with MPE and subsystem software.
While the clientsystems.com domain is pointing at a Network Solutions "website not available" parking page this week, it may not be a permanent goodbye. We know about these misdirections. Back in October, 3000newswire.com landed you at a parking page operated by rascally Russians. The front door to the NewsWire these days is our blog page. However, access to the stories of 1996-2005, presented as printed issues and online updates, became limited to our search engine.
Our Latest News list of links to our blog articles fell out of service during that domain name theft. 3k Associates caught the cold that caused the NewsWire's sniffles, as 3k.com got hijacked for a little while. Those Latest News posts get created at 3k.com. 3k's domain theft meant our main domain went missing awhile.
It didn't look good. It's common to see such a domain theft go un-recovered, so we were happy to see 3k.com get back into its rightful hands. 3000newswire.com never got snatched, but we found a couple of community members who wondered if we were still around. When I mentioned to Vladimir Volokh our front door was being barred, it looked like everything we had was hijacked. His wife Anne, helping me with a story about masters who were improving MPE manufacturing software, sent her condolences.
Vladimir told me about the hijacking of your website--incredible! I'm wondering what developments will follow regarding the 3000 Newswire, if any. What a story!
Anne wasn't the only one who figured we'd gone offline. Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill worried for our health, too. These are too-common comings and goings on the Web, but you can't be certain what they genuinely mean until there's an obituary, or an email. (We'd say a phone call, but that's so 1995.) In the weeks when Chris Bartram of 3k did his mighty work to wrest his domain back from the Russians, it looked like the NewsWire was out of business. Or at least to anybody who doesn't use our 3000newswire.com/blog address.
3k is making a Web move now, a byproduct of seeing value rise in Bartram's two-character domain name. He's been one of our most precious resources here at the NewsWire since before our beginning. In the years before we started our news service, 3k Associates used our business communications expertise for data sheets, advertising, even Interex conference giveaways.
You'll still be able to say hello at 3kassociates.com, Bartram told me today.
The folks wanting to buy 3k.com want it for something un-HP3000 related (I don't know what). But the fact that it's a 2-letter domain name (which they haven't allowed for many years) makes it valuable. DNS appraisal services appraise it as high as six figures.
I went looking for 3k.com resources while I researched Command Interface scripts, since scripting has become a topic of interest to 3000 members. Either they've got 3000 scripts like JCL jobstreams they need to replace, or there's a desire to automate things so less management is required. The 3000 always needed less hand-holding than other servers. But people are the expensive resource today, so as they retire and interim help takes their place, automation keeps things running. In a new era where a veteran's :BYE doesn't mean goodbye to MPE, scripting can minimize maintenance.
There's been more permanent goodbyes to the Hewlett-Packard stewardship of 3000 information. Oh, you can get hits for HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's hpe.com site. But they're a collection of the StoreEasy 3000 storage gateway, or network switches. The HP 3000-24G-PoE+ Wireless Switch comes closest to matching a 3000 search.
The byproduct of that HP goodbye is that some links from the up-and-running web resources like 3kassociates and hpmigration.com point at missing Hewlett-Packard pages. So it continues to go, these resources which help 3000 homesteading or assist in migrations. I give thanks for our sponsors, who keep us from going all 404 on you. The lesson to carry out of here is that appearances on the web can be deceiving -- or as we noted earlier this month, reports of a death can be exaggerated. Instead of wondering, you can call, all '95-style.
December 22, 2015
Studying the Scripts for HP 3000s
A recent question on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup asked for help on scripting. The question aimed at the automation prospects through terminal emulation programs. Does Minisoft/92 script, a manager asked. Of course, and Tracy Johnson replied to give details as well as an example.
Minisoft scripts are plain text files with a file extension of .s92 and can be assigned to function keys f1 through f12. We use the keyboard mapping config menu to map it to Type "Script". Once you choose "Script" a blank box appears below where you put the magic words DO SCRIPT followed by a path including the file name.
Last week, the use of scripts also surfaced while talking to Birket Foster about data migrations. A client of Fosters runs five scripts to clean up phone numbers during a transfer of data. Being able to reach for the scripts improved the quality of data, and the work was automatic. the power of scripting reminded me of a fine column written for us by Ken Robertson. Its subject was an introduction for Unix administrators to the use of shell scripts. But the writing was the kind of operational lore that can make a 3000 look more powerful to an admin new to the 3000. Robertson wrote about it for the Newswire.
The marvels of scripting lie deep in the roots of MPE. When HP expanded the OS to MPE/XL in the 1990s, it added the Posix shell, which extended the 3000's scripting potential. The MPE/iX command interpreter has a generous command set, pushing the shell into the realm of a true programming tool. Its ability to evaluate expressions and to perform IO on files allows the end-user to perform simple data-processing functions. The Command Interpreter can be used to solve complex problems. Its code, however, is interpreted, which may cause a CI solution to execute too slowly for practical purposes.
For the average task, the MPE scripting language is easier to read and understand than most Unix scripts. For example, command line parameters in MPE have names, just like in regular programming languages. Of course, there are several script languages on Unix and only one on MPE. On Unix you can write shell scripts for any of the many shells provided (C shell, Bourne shell, ksh, bash, etc). Although there is also a Posix shell on MPE, most scripts are written for the CI.
A command file can be as simple as a single command, such as a Showjob command with the option to only show interactive sessions (and ignore batch jobs):
:qedit /add 1 showjob job=@s 2 // /keep ss /e :
You have created a command file called SS — when you type SS you will execute showjob job=@s
On MPE, the user needs read (r) or execute access (x) to SS. On Unix you normally must have x access, not just r access, so you do a chmod +x on the script. This is not necessary in MPE, although, if don’t want users to be see the script, you may remove read access and enable execute access.
Structure of a Command File (aka CI script)
A script is an ASCII file with maximum 511 byte records. Unlike Unix, the records may contain an ASCII sequence number in the last 8 columns of each line. The command file consists of 3 optional parts:
1. Parameter line with a maximum of 255 arguments:
parm filename, length=”80”
2. Option lines:
3. The body (i.e., the actual commands)”
In MPE scripts, there is no inline data, unlike Unix ‘hereis’ files.
Notice in the example above that parameters are used with an exclamation (!), as opposed to the $ in Unix. The same is true for variables. Parameters are separated by a space, comma or semicolon. All parameter values are un-typed, regardless of quoting.
In a typical Unix script, the parameters are referenced by position only ($1, $2, $3, …). In an MPE script, the parameters have names, as in the function of a regular programming language, and can also have default values. In Unix you use $@ for all of the parameters as a single string; in MPE you use an ANYPARM parameter to reference the remainder of the command line (it must be the last parameter).
Here is a script to translate “subsys” and “err” numbers from MPE intrinsics into error messages. The subsys and error numbers are passed in as parameters:
setvar subsys hex(!p_subsys)
setvar error hex(!p_error)
comment the hex conversion allows for negative numbers
comment the #32765 is magic according to Stan!
setvar cmd “wl errmsg(#32765,!subsys);wl errmsg(!error,!subsys);exit”
As you can see above, the Setvar command assigns a value to parameter or to a new variable. But there are also system pre-defined variables. To see them all do Showvar @;hp. To get information on variables, do help variable and to get help on a specific variable, say hpcmdtrace, do help hpcmdtrace (set TRUE for some debugging help).
In most MPE commands, you must use an explicit exclam ! to identify a variable: build !filename
However, some MPE commands expect variables, and thus do not require the explicit !. For example, Setvar, If, ElseIf, Calc, While, and for all function arguments, and inside ![expressions].
Warning: variables are “session global” in MPE. This means that if a child process, or scripts, changes a variable, it remains changed when that child process terminates. In Unix you are used to the idea that the child can do whatever it likes with its copy of the variables and not worry about any external consequences.
Of course having global variables also means that it is much easier to pass back results from a script! And this is quite common in MPE scripts.
Options allow you to list the commands as they are execute (option list), disable the Break key (option nobreak), enable recursion (option recursion), and disable help about the script (option nohelp).
The script body below shows active process information. This example shows many of the commands commonly used in scripts: If, While, Pause, Setvar, Input and Run. Other commands you will see are Echo, Deletevar, Showvar, Errclear.
WHILE HPCONNSECS > 0 IF FINFO("SQMSG",0) PURGE SQMSG,TEMP ENDIF BUILD SQMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG FILE SQMSG=SQMSG,OLDTEMP SHOWQ;ACTIVE >*SQMSG SETVAR PINLIST "" WHILE FINFO("SQMSG",19) <> 0 INPUT SQLINE < SQMSG IF POS("#",SQLINE) <> 0 THEN SETVAR PIN RTRIM(STR(SQLINE,47,5)) SETVAR PINLIST "!PINLIST" + "," + "!PIN" ENDIF ENDWHILE IF FINFO("SPMSG",0) PURGE SPMSG,TEMP ENDIF BUILD SPMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG FILE SPMSG=SPMSG,OLDTEMP SETVAR PROC "SHOWPROC PIN="+"!PINLIST"+";SYSTEM >*SPMSG" !PROC WHILE FINFO("SPMSG",19) <> 0 INPUT SPLINE < SPMSG IF POS(":",SPLINE) <> 0 THEN ECHO !SPLINE ENDIF ENDWHILE PAUSE 30 ENDWHILE
In most Unix scripts, if a step fails, you check for an error with an If-conditional and then take some action, one of which is ending the script. Without an If, the script continues on, ignoring the error.
In MPE, the default action when a step fails is to abort the script and pass back an error. To override this default, you insert a Continue command before the step that may fail. You then add If logic after the step to print an error message and perhaps Return (back 1 level) or Escape (all the way back to the CI).
continue build newdata if cierror<>100 then print "unable to build newdata file" print !hpcierrmsg return else comment - duplicate file, okay endif
You can set HPAUTOCONT to TRUE to continue automatically in case of errors, but this can be dangerous. The default behavior at least lets you know if an unexpected problem occurs.
December 17, 2015
TBT: When 2006 Meant 2008 to 3000 Owners
Ten years ago this week, our community was anticipating overtime news for retaining their 3000s. The year 2005's late December marked the HP announcement that the long-running "end of life" date for the server was being delayed an additional two years. After four years of telling customer that the promised end-of-2006 closing of Hewlett-Packard support was indelible, HP erased its plans and added 24 months of HP support availability.
The timing of the news included a message all its own about the 3000's expected life. When a full day-plus elapsed with nary a customer comment, we reported
As for the relative silence from the customer community, this might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. Much of the world is already making plans or departing for R&R. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, well, 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change the options for 2007.
We'd heard all of that year that "2006 means 2006." But by the week before Christmas, 2006 meant 2008. The impact was mixed among the community. The companies who had invested heavily in migration looked up with some dismay at an extended deadline that meant those projects had an extra two years to complete. The homesteading customers who relied on HP's support to justify homesteading breathed a sigh of relief.
But it was the community's vendors who took the bullet for the rest of our world. Platinum Migration Partners were working to fill their project calendars. Some had hired on extra contractor and staff help to service an expected rush of migrations leading to the end of 2006. There was a serious glut of experts during 2006 because of the change. In the homesteading sector, independent support providers looked up to see HP moving the goalposts on the support game. Rather than having a 2006 when expiring HP service contracts could be replaced by indie agreements, the year to come was still more than two years removed from a mandate to switch to third-party support.
HP always like to call the finale of its support program the 3000's End of Life. Prediction of the server's death were like the notices of Mark Twain's demise. That icon of humorists said in 1897, to set the record straight in The New York Journal, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." HP could not be certain even the end of 2008 would be the new end of life for the 3000.
"HP intends to offer basic reactive support services for e3000 systems through at least December, 2008," the company's fact sheet reported. There was the intention part of the statement (no promise) and then the qualifier of "at least." Four full years had elapsed in the migration era by the end of 2005, and Hewlett-Packard had no firm idea of how long its customers would spend using a system whose lifespan was exaggerated — in the wrong direction. As it had for many years, the 3000 was getting short-changed.The year 2005 was the first for the Newswire's blog, so this extension of HP's plans was good news in our office. Rather than starting the Independent-Only Era in just 12 months, it turned out we wouldn't begin that period for another five years. End of 2008 would become End of 2010, an extension not as notable because it was not the first revision of HP plans.
We had the foresight or luck to consider the HP fact sheet to be a piece of history that we'd better preserve ourselves. The company's been scoured and sliced so completely by now that any mention of HP 3000 takes deep detective work to find on the HP Enterprise website. There's printers over in HP Inc with that designation. In 2005, the 3000 extension notice was on an all-3000 page that included migration success stories along with updates about licensing MPE's source code.
When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties -- if partner interest exists at that time -- to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.
We spent the next several weeks dissecting the HP announcement for clues about its meaning. Since 2006 no longer meant 2006, extra study of the most current HP strategy was in order. I wrote at the time
As for the third-party MPE source licensing offer, it’s real, but it’s hard to say when it will be extended, or to who. Or what will be in the license. HP's said, "HP intends to license major portions [italics ours] of MPE/iX source code to qualified providers for the purpose of helping them support their customers." Right now HP doesn’t have to open up the source code to anybody until December, 2008, when the vendor is currently scheduled to end all its HP 3000 support. It could be later than that, according to HP. They say they keep listening to what customers want to keep buying (if you overlook the fact that the customers wanted to keep buying 3000s in 2001 -- just not enough customers to keep HP interested in building them.)
As for the support business, guarantees got an extension. Sort of.
HP will remain in the support business in 2007 and 2008, but it will be “basic reactive” support, unless you need mission-critical enterprise level support. Basic reactive gets you HP’s repairs, but nothing proactive. And the vendor’s “6 hours from call to completion” guarantee isn’t part of the basic reactive service, according to Murphy from HP Services — ultimately the arbiter of how long HP will remain in the support business.
It was something to ponder during a lull in business for the community. This news was dropped on the Monday of Christmas Week. Not exactly the most effective and productive time to announce a new lease on life for a mission-critical server and its OS. But for the owner of a 3000 hoping to wring out as much time as possible on a stable platform, HP's change looked like a holiday gift.
December 15, 2015
Faster firewalls and free jobstreams for MPE
We are trying to set up HP 3000 to HP 3000 communication via NS and FTP. The traffic is going through a firewall. We have it working, but the speed is too slow. We are getting 2-3 Mbps throughput on HP transfers. PC to PC transfers through the firewall are 22 Mbps. I checked that the LAN switch port on the 3000 is set to 100 - Full duplex.
I am being asked what are the the HP 3000 packet sizes or MTU. Where can I find and set the packet size?
Donna Hofmeister replies:
HP says, in the NMMGR Reference manual:
The Network Segment Size field specifies the largest packet (including all data, protocol headers, and link level headers) that will be sent by the LAN device. The only reason for entering a value smaller than 1514 is to make better use of memory for those systems where it is known that upper layer services will always send shorter messages. Note that whenever packets larger than the network segment size are sent, they will be fragmented to the network segment size, thus incurring fragmentation overhead at the source and assembly overhead at the destination node.
Default value: 1514 bytes
What the above is not saying is that for most systems, setting this to anything other than 1514 will result in abysmal network performance. It’s much like a 100 megabit system acting like it's configured for 10 megabit -- because the system is busy fragmenting packets to fit into whatever number you've got.
On MPE, the tcp headers are stored in those 14 'extra' bytes. Regarding your tcp timers, click on the Allegro link here and react accordingly.
There used to be a CSL program that managed 3000 jobstreams. Now that there is the JOBQ parameter for MPE/iX, our site hasn't used that program in years. Maestro was the jobstream solution you paid for. What was that CSL program?
Connie Sellitto replies:
We used STREAMER from a CSL tape: It was customized for our company’s passwords, and allowed you to schedule a job for a different day, any time. It also allowed variable parameters.Stan Sieler adds:
I think most of these programs from the CSL were aimed at terminating jobs for various reasons.
Perhaps you meant MASTEROP, which is still available for free from our Allegro website. We didn’t write it, but its creator Carl Kemp kindly gave us permission to put it on our website. Additionally, there’s OCS Express, which we maintain.
Can I use a PC instead of a Console on A- or N-Class HP 3000s?
Gilles Schipper replies:
Sure you can, but ...
If you want to use the primary console port, you would need a serial port on your PC, along with an appropriate terminal emulator such as Reflection or Minisoft’s MS/92. Or, you could connect to hp3k via the built-in Secure Web Console port and TELNET. Only the very earliest versions of A/N-class models lacked a SWC port, perhaps only just the earliest A400 models.
Tracy Johnson adds:
We use a PC connected to the NIC on the GSP all the time. You may have noticed one of the RJ-45 ports is labelled "10-Base-T Console LAN". That's it. Of course you'll have to configure it at the Control-B menu.
For a LAN, the darn thing is slow at scrolling, too. It must be tied to the baud rate of the serial port.
We no longer use the serial port. Funny thing is they both echo the console at the same time. But only one at a time takes keyboard input. (You would have dueling operators at two keyboard vying for control.)
And if you want a LAN on your PC you'll need another NIC on it.
December 10, 2015
Virtual resources, real costs: VMware, Cloud
While doing stories on the Tomorrow of IT, virtualization of resources and platforms comes up a lot. In fact, the most popular choices for virtualization represent the today of IT for anyone budgeted for change. But for the company still tied to the traditional datacenter model, hosting an app on a cloud server or even virtualizing a processor might look like more distant futures. Their costs are very real, though, figures that represent a long-term investment that 3000 managers might find new.
Stromasys stories about the Charon HPA emulator for 3000 CPUs often feature VMware. The company's product manager Dave Clements says that VMware isn't essential to eliminating a physical 3000, replacing HP iron with a virtualized MPE server. A lot of the Charon customer base ends up using VMware, though.
Cloud has its costs to calculate, too. "A pretty good sized virtualized server in the cloud costs about $1,000 a month," Clements said. "We don't discourage it, but we don't sell it, either. We can do [cloud virtualization] but truth be known, it's not high on our list."
Budgets vary a great deal, and so $12,000 might look like a cost for a physical server where you only pay for it once every five years. A price for any virtualized software solution or a service could look out of reach for a smaller customer — plenty of those in the 3000 world — or a bargain for the big players (there are large corporations still in the 3000 user base today, too.). "Crazy expensive" is a phrase that's been tied to VMware. The company has a cost of ownership calculator that's educational, but even a five-server license is $16,000. Those dollars buy an IT manager the flexibility to host any array of platforms, though.
There is a small set of Charon users adopting VMware, according to Clements. "VMware is not a requirement for Charon," he said. "Most of our customers are on physical platforms. If VMware is available it can be used, unless there is a customer requirement for direct access to a physical device, like a tape drive."
VMware has a cloud product line, too. Clouds come up in many stories in 2015. While interviewing Birket Foster for a story about Application Portfolio Management, he made this case for walking away from physical hardware costs.
Virtualization can be physical, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, or systems installed at Rackspace. Or it can be logical, like VMware as a platform for hosts, or Charon ready for MPE. Blending all three of these is the future of HP 3000 installations. The more virtualization you employ, of course, the more complex the solution becomes. Last week, HP customers and executives testified to keeping tech solutions simple.
If we were to own a fleet of cars or trucks, there'd be a fleet manager sitting at the table. They'd be able to tell me the current mileage on each of their cars, when the next oil change was due, and what it's costing them to maintain each car. Ask somebody the same kind of questions, about a server or anything in their IT fleet, and they have no idea. That's one of the reasons why as soon as they virtualize, they typically get to reduce the cost of their IT infrastructure by 30 percent, maybe as high as 60 percent — just by virtualizing.
Simple plus low-cost always had a price to offset though: paying people smart enough to make it reliable. "The hardware used to be expensive, and the people were cheap," Foster said. "Now, it's just the opposite."
What's offset these people costs are the standardizations for applications. Custom programming was a common choice while the 3000 was on the rise. Now applications can be considered off the shelf. Replacing a custom application with these off-shelf apps is a non-simple project. Most companies need help to do this. They engage virtual people — short-term consulting — to transform an app from custom to common. Then they can invest in the new datacenter tech: virtualization, with the blinking disk lights off in a co-located cloud datacenter.
At MB Foster, the company has an AWS version of its UDACentral software available. "We allow people to be able to migrate data through the cloud," Foster said. "A couple of times a year we test a new version to see how well UDACentral scales. We send a command to AWS to go from the two-processors we normally use to 128. We rent them for the two hours we do the testing. Building a server for that kind of test would be a lot of money invested, and not being used."
That's a physical expense, against virtual promises and opportunity, applied to real-world applications and workloads. There's a reason that the scope of virtualization is broad. Whether it will work in a datacenter's tomorrow is "it depends," but it seems like a test of the prospect is worth an investment — whether its virtualizing hardware to run MPE, or getting away from datacenter servers altogether. The former is the route for a homesteader, the latter a path made possible by migration.
December 07, 2015
On MPE Chatting, B-Tree Plants and More
How we can chat on the HP 3000 system with the other users who have logged on?
Lars Appel replies:
You can try the TELL and TELLOP commands. For more information see :HELP TELL or :HELP TELLOP.
When I run dbutil.pub.sys, and type the command set MYDB btreemode1=on I get the message “Database root file must be at least “C”4 for SET <db> BTREEMODE1=O." Why can’t I set my btree mode?
Rene Woc replies:
Before you can “set btreemode1,” the database has to have Btrees. You add Btrees with “addindex MYDB for all (or specific master datasets)”. This command will also set root level to C4. To use “addindex” your system needs to be at least on TurboIMAGE version C.07.xx. So how do you find out what version of IMAGE you have? Use the version command in QUERY.
I need to take some groups off of the mirrored drives, and add (move) other groups onto the mirrored drives. Is it as simple to use the altgroup command and specify the volume set?
[Editor’s note: “mirrored drives” is a straw man that has nothing to do with the problem or answer.]
Craig Lalley and John Clogg reply:
It is simple but not that simple. What you need to do is create a temporary group on the target volume set. Copy files in the group you want to move to the temporary group. Delete the source group. Create the new group using
Note that it is a two-step command. Then rename the files from the temp group to the newgroup. John Clogg also noted that another approach would be to STORE the files, and restore them once the group was relocated. That way you could preserve creation and modification dates, and creator ID.I have inherited a HP 3000, and I was trying to clean off an old TurboIMAGE database. I did a purge @.data and it purged about 100-plus files. However, it did not purge everything. They can’t be purged, even when logged in as manager.sys. The error that I get is CIERR 45, Privileged File access. I have tried to release it with no luck either. Any suggestions?
Steve Macsisak and Denys Beauchemin reply:
You can purge TurboIMAGE databases using the utility DBUTIL.PUB.SYS and the command PURGE (database name). The database name is the name of the root file, the one without numbers at the end. The command will purge all the datasets of the database. There are a few other ways to do this, but this is the most obvious.
[Editor's Note: Vladimir Volokh reports that if you have several databases, you must run this several times. Using MPEX, you can purge everything, so long as you are a manager of the account. All databases, all non-databases, everything will be purged with purge @.groupname. purge@.data (ispriv) will purge only databases in the group.]
I have two device numbers I don’t want to be in use and assigned to users on the network. LDEVs 5 and 6 are available for use and we don’t want them to be. Is there some place to configure these out of use?
Gilles Schipper replies:
Simply add these devices as network printer devices (id=hptcpjd path=none) in sysgen. This will prevent them from being used by any logon session.