May 17, 2013
Many Different Ways to Move Your Console
There's been plenty of change in the 3000 manager's life over the last 10 years. Some of it might involve changing the location of HP 3000s from one part of the IT shop to another. Users and support experts have discussed the many ways to adjust a 3000 console's location. The method you choose depends on budget, experience and technical skills depth.
Kent Wallace, a 3000 manager for Idaho-Oregon healthcare delivery system Primary Health, needed to move his 3000 console:
I was asked to move the console another 10 feet (more) 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 this RS-232 cable?
Reid Baxter of JP Chase offered the most direct answer, for those willing to modify cables. "Pins 2, 3 and 7."
Tracy Johnson of Measurement Specialties added:
In addition to what Reid said, you can also get a 3-pin mini-din extension cord and extend the other end.
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.
(Schipper wrote us a great article on setting up such a web console.)
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.
Jeff Kell, curator of the 3000 newsgroup where the advice appeared, added the last word and a little joke:
The internal one isn't really "secure" — it's plaintext telnet. The GSP "documents" some secure access mode (ssh? https?) but I could never get it to work on our A-Class. Maybe it's an HP-UX thing.
The external web console was the really insecure "secure" web console. It used a secret decoder ring :-)
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May 16, 2013
Old and Grand, and Still Worthy of Salute
One week before my latest birthday I was sharing hope about an aging icon. “She’s a tank,” I said to my sister Tina. We said this often to one another about my mom, who was 87 when she passed away late last month. Death and perhaps the afterlife comes to everything that is vital, endearing and revered. Ginny Seybold, born in the era before radio was king, died peacefully in her bed. She was vital in heart and mind until nearly the end. All of us – brother Bob, Tina, older brother John, my bride and partner Abby — we all desired more years from mom.
But in a few hours from now I will board a jet to fly to Toledo, the place she gave birth to us, and put on the black suit I reserve for occasions of joy (my kids’ weddings) and of sad times. I will give a eulogy and certainly cry through it, just as I am at this very moment I’m creating these words. My mom taught me to read, gave me the first words of countless ones that I would learn to ride like fresh breeze throughout my life and hers. For more than a decade I would work and tinker at a novel, while she was devouring everything her Irish favorite Maeve Binchy wrote, until I could finally finish mine and send it to her, just like the hardbacks I’d buy because she wasn’t getting out to the library as easily. But when a novel would arrive, she’d scamper through the book like she would dance across floors from the 1930s up to her 80th birthday. My mom outlasted expectations of her vivacity.
Since I am her boy, I can use a comparison with a bold stroke. In that outlasting, the push of the tank of her heart, she resembled the computer I have written about for more than half my life. People expected the 3000’s demise many years ago. Now with an emulated version selling and shipping, for the 3000’s relations and disciples, Charon has become the kind of tank that Tina and I marveled at when we visited mom in the Franciscan Care Center.
Tina found that resting place for our mom, relentless and persistent in locating a spot where Ginny could receive the attention to both her heart and her body. The former was strong in spirit, the latter holding out as well as anything created before FDR became President.
I think we all have someone older in our lives who we wish would last forever. For some, this might not be a person they love as a friend or a member of their birth family. People who die like Roger Ebert of the film world, or Steve Jobs of our own industry, or Dr. Suess of everyone’s childhood, they all leave holes in our hearts too. This is the first way I reply when everyone, so kind even if we don’t know one another well, tells me they’re sorry for my loss. “I have a hole in my heart now,” I say. I tap my chest and I can say no more at that moment. Loss is like that, a fog that seeps in and whiles away time as you remember why you loved whatever or whoever you did, their perfection and the parts that were very human, very imperfect.
Like you and your community, I owe my mom a lot. She believed in beginnings and taught me to question and debate and express my imagination. Not always with the best of examples. But as my counselor and friend Jim Hoadley says, “She was a teacher, you know — she taught you how to show compassion.”
I know it’s not the same thing to love a computer’s ideals and elegance, to revere the struggle of years when our community had to learn compassion about the imperfections of the 3000’s creator. Even still, we had our memories that remain beyond the death of the Bill & Dave HP. The times that Marc Hoff of HP, taken by cancer, would give out his home phone number on the back of business cards, or swear to eat a new MPE release tape if it came out with a bug in it. The times that Bruce Toback or Wirt Atmar would make us chortle or fume, and then become richer and smarter through the miracle of the newsgroup, before they were claimed by heart disease. For me, the quiet confidence and spark of revival from Danny Compton in Texas, who took a discarded Maestro software tool and created ROC Software – so many years after he got a death sentence at age 8, and then outlasted the forecast by more than 30 years to build a family, products, and then a company.
For my own family in this sad week, I try to think of the joy that I saw in mom’s face, especially on the night of her 80th birthday party, one my bride created for a pip of a mother in law. Ginny was vivacious, at her very best. She was lively in her later chapters, like the night I saw her dance on roller skates at age 52 with us grown kids, or that night she banged a tambourine onstage in her new home in Vegas, 80 years old and smiling through way too many choruses of the Beatles’ “They Say It’s Your Birthday.” My mom, turning around to look at the cover band playing in that faux Irish pub inside a casino. Turning as if to ask, “Surely you must be done?” And the band looking back at this marvel of a pip, maybe saying, “Wow, I hope I can do that at 80.”
There is so much more to write about endings and the afterlife, a life where I’m sure mom now dances on the legs that she lost in her final years. I only know that words fall short of feelings about long relationships of love. There is one word I will invoke at her service this Sunday, the first Sunday after everybody’s Mother’s Day. The word is pip, and my mom was one. A word with more than one definition, just like my mom. Pip, an excellent person or thing. Pip, a crack of a baby bird’s shell. Pip, a small, hard seed in a fruit. They say that a person never dies if they live in our hearts and minds forever. So I’ve got her in there, and deep inside my heart, too. Here’s to anything old that has become grand. As the British say in salute, pip-pip.
May 15, 2013
Virtualization, Emulation and the Cloud
At the recent meeting of Charon HPA/3000 experts, prospects, and allies, a question emerged from Steve Cooper of Allegro, who wanted an update on the cloud-based capabilities of Charon for 3000s. “Technologically it’s a slam dunk,” said Stromasys General Manager Bill Driest (above), adding that the implementation on Charon VAX and Alpha versions has been tested and implemented for about eight customers so far. Others have been working with a perpetual license for the product in their private clouds.
"We know some customers who have bought a perpetual license are running it in a private cloud environment," Driest said at the recent HP 3000 Training and Social Event. "How we're going to monetize that market is something I think the people in this room can help us with."
The company was represented at last year's VM World virtualization conference. "Cloud is a growing part of our business," Driest said. "We had a full cloud demonstration, live, and up and running. We're able to provision a machine on the fly. We had two different sized VAXes, two different sized Alphas. We're trying to assess the market for this. How big is that subset?"
For manufacturing applications, "You need to be close to the wire, and you're not close to being in the cloud. For certain HIPAA data [in healthcare], it would need to be a private cloud without a public cloud. We've tested, we've sized, we've done some of the cost models. Today, if we want to sell a perpetual unlimited license we get the money up front. In a cloud model it might be a 3-year, $1,000 a month kind of thing."
Stromasys is looking at how cloud implementations of its product change the dynamics of how the company goes to market. "We are very interested in the conversation, but not from the technology perspective. It works and the customers are starting to ask questions about the cloud for certain sets of apps. They say 'I don't want an emulator, I want you to take the whole thing.' But we're not sure from a business side where we divert some of our resources -- on how we market it, how we price it, and how we sell it."
Is an HP 3000 customer more applicable to this kind of virtualization, where a customer only wants to run an application, without datacenter investment or on-site IT management? "I don't think we have a clear understanding of that yet," Driest said. "From the technology side we're there. But is the world ready for emulation and the cloud on legacy systems all at once?"
Today, Stromasys sales are 40 percent direct to customers, and 60 percent through a reseller channel that includes HP. Some "boutique VARs" know niche products. "Someone's in the MANMAN market with a 3000, and these VARs focus on that," Driest said. "The emulator comes as part of their normal work."
An HP 3000 support provider asked about how that channel could help him help his customers, 135 sites running HP 3000s. "So they don't keep dropping off every July fiscal cycle."
"Well, we could start with my card," Driest said, drawing a gust of laughter from the support company as well as the room full of the 3000 ecosystem players.
May 14, 2013
HP's 3000 virtualization was MOST-ly done
Nineteen springtimes ago, HP was offering an operating system to run alongside MPE on the same hardware. To say that HP's Multiple Operating System Technology was virtualization might be an overstatement. But the unreleased product gave Unix and MPE equal footing in a single hardware system. MPE was the cradle that Unix would rest in, much like Linux is the cradle where the PA-RISC virtualization rests in the Stromasys Charon product. The only reason it was not released might have been the horsepower demands on the hardware. MOST was not starved off the price list by a lack of HP desire from the 3000 division. But the daring of its engineering was on a battleground between HP's own products.
I worked on external communications for MOST for Hewlett-Packard in the spring of 1995. It was one of the biggest assignments I took on during the months that led up to creating the 3000 NewsWire. The audacity of putting a venerated OS in as a bootstrap system for HP-UX apps led me to believe HP was exploring every prospect to win any customer who was veering toward the market's magnetic pull of Unix.
HP showed off external specifications for MOST to key partners in '95. The product was scheduled to emerge in the fall of that year on Series 9x9 and 99X PA-RISC systems. These were the highest horsepower 3000s in the HP stable. MOST was to begin with two partitions, one for MPE/iX and the other for HP-UX. Or, a customer could run two separate instances of MPE on a single server. MPE was to be the primary partition, controlling the uptime of the hardware.
In one sense, this product wouldn't have been a 3000 -- because half of it would be dedicated to running Unix apps and processes. Independence, a white paper on the product stated, "is especially important, as the co-dependencies between the different OS should be as small as possible."
MOST might have been ahead of its time in hardware requirements, but it reminds me of the virtualization that nearly every operating system enjoys today. The Stromasys Charon lineup, the VMware partitions which run Windows, Linux, and Mac OS all at once -- all of these flow from the concept that drove MOST. Well, there's a major difference. HP didn't release MOST, even after a beta test period and surveys that showed most of the customers saw it as an evolutionary path to heterogenous computing.
"The future path is almost impossible to foresee," HP's briefing stated. "Windows or OS/2? WARP? Unix or NT? Once proprietary, but now open systems?"
The software would have realized the founding principle of PA-RISC engineering: "Eventually, any PA-RISC operating system will be able to operate concurrently and independently on the same hardware platform."
HP delivered on some of these promises many years later, employing its Superdome designs for high-end servers with flexible partitions. This was not strictly emulation, because the native hardware remained the same. It's a sad piece of history that by the time Superdome was rolled into the markets, MPE/iX was not an environment supported on the high-priced server.
The OS came closest to its rightful place as keystone of HP's business computing strategy with MOST, however. HP said that it "is a natural complement to the four strategic directions of the HP 3000:
- Reinforce HP 3000's strengths in mission critical OLTP environments
- Superior integration in a multi-platform environment
- Provide an evolution to client/sever computing
- Deliver innovative applications and services
The Hewlett-Packard of 1995 was looking for a way to "let customers add, test and develop new applications without purchasing a new Unix box." That might have been the downfall for MOST. A successful server, steered by MPE but also able to run Unix apps, would surely have been a roadblock to more HP 9000 server sales. HP bet hard on Unix in that era, a play that now seems to have run out of step with the Windows and Linux choices of today.
May 13, 2013
The magic code for licenses HP never sold
The meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum May 10, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than eight years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server.
But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.
Charon HPA product manager Paul Taffel uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC or Mac hardware. It's called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?
In short HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.
The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It made more sense than a jackalope. But the process to earn one of these licenses is not well known yet, which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.
Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.
However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.
This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At the Stromasys training event, general manager Bill Driest said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- or what the classic 3000 customer would call emulation.
"We're here to help preserve the software investments that you've all made," Driest said. "We've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. For 14 years we've had this tagline that keeps coming back: preserving the investments we've all made across these hardware generations."
So to recap, you contact HP's Software License Transfer department. You tell them you want to do an intra-company transfer. And instead of the $500 that HP said this emulator license would cost eight years ago, it's $400 -- the same fee HP wants to collect on any MPE/iX system transfer. You need to have a 3000 license to begin with, of course.
You don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems. Stromasys cannot sell you one. But a copy of MPE/iX does exist in the freeware download, model A202. It's just not licensed, because you attest you won't use this freeware for commercial use when you run through configuration. The licensed copy of MPE/iX in freeware -- the holy grail of open source pursued by OpenMPE for more than nine years -- is as much a mythical creature as an emulator license. This isn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers that it never did sell. But at least the previous one got into testing before it was killed off. More on that tomorrow.
May 09, 2013
Socializing can lead to contained footprints
Our friend and columnist Scott Hirsh just called to confirm he'll be at tonight's Stromasys HP 3000 Social at the Tied House. I took the walk over there today, because it's just down the street from the Caltrain Station as well as the terminal for the San Jose light rail. Buffalo burger is today's special.
But what's more special is the range of 3000 sites who'd be Charon HPA/3000 prospects, if only they knew how to focus on fitting into a new server paradigm. One site that Scott visited out in Union City, Calif. was discussing available IT datacenter floor space. "How are you fixed for that?" says Scott.
"Well, we've got this big system in the back of the datacenter we have to keep running," the IT manager says, explaining the server keeps significant parts of the company running. Even though Scott is out there in Union City to help the manager with Dell solutions, he's curious about what this box is.
"We're pretty sure it's an old HP 3000," the manager says. Scott's invited him tonight for some beverages and heavy appetizers, but there's been no RSVP yet from Union City. If you're in the area, come by tonight, or tomorrow at the Computer History Museum. You might find a way to free up floor space while you don't have to throw your critical MPE applications overboard.
Hope to see you tonight over a pint. You never know what opportunity might bloom, like those curbside flowers growing out of a beer cask on Villa Street at the Tied House.
May 08, 2013
Who'll Be Social and Train, and Why
We've been hearing from 3000 community members who are on the way to the Stromasys HP 3000 Social and Training. The official RSVP list is at Stromasys, but we've gotten some notice from people who want to ensure they meet up at the Tied House brewpub -- Thursday evening (tomorrow!) or at the Computer History Museum Friday 10-4.
On the same day I got notice from Doug Smith -- a 3000 consultant and developer and support provider -- that he'll be at the Stromasys event, HP tried again to wrap up the lifespan of Windows XP. The company that gave up on MPE and the HP 3000 might be just as misguided about XP's future as MPE's. It seems so simple to HP.
Let’s face it—reminiscing about old software programs 20 or so years from now won’t bring about nearly half as many warm memories as that 1967 Pontiac Firebird of your youth.
You could say that updating business software is akin to changing your toothbrush after it’s seen better days. Can you imagine running Windows 98 on your home PC? Then why would you fight tooth and nail, stubbornly looking into a variety of contingency plans and options to hold onto Windows XP?
The why of holding on is obvious. Smaller companies -- and some surprising large ones -- cannot make a good business case for putting their Firebird of a business server up on blocks. The math on an emulator solution, supplied in good stead with support for MPE and indie software tools -- holds up against projects that start in six figures and take at least a year to deploy.
The Tied House and the Computer History Museum will be places to learn why that toothbrush (the HP hardware) might be old, but the fresh toothpaste (MPE) is still worthy of plenty of extra years. Doug Smith thinks so. So does Walter Murray, who developed HP's COBOL products for the 3000 before exiting Hewlett-Packard to manage 3000s for the state of California. Then there's the contract programmers, and more, simply off our heads-up emails.There's Scott Hirsh, for example. He's the former chairman of SIGSYSMAN and said "Hey, why not stop at the pub and meet some people." Scott, a former Newswire columnist (Worst Practices) is now a storage expert at Dell. He started out managing 3000s for Rosenberg Capital Management in San Francisco, about 15 years before HP started bundling Windows XP.
Bruce Hobbs and Mike Watson are making the trip to the Training on Friday, flying up from Southern California and Colorado, respectively. Just for the day, to see the software in action. There's an opportunity to help out a customer or two, one who's got their own software, no license hurdles and little desire or budget to buy that disruptive toothbrush.
Tom McNeal will be at the Tied House tomorrow evening. He's a veteran of the kernel project when the first 3000 multiprocessor platform was released, in 1991. Tom's adding the brew pub visit to a busy night. You might be similarly inclined. "I thought I'd send this, which is signed by all the folks that worked in that lab."
We also had a dinner party commemorating our kernel product, and that was a lot of fun. Frank Ho was the project manager, and I worked on the memory manager, which was primarily developed by Marcia McConnell. The other, going clockwise from Marcia, were Simon Cutting, Peggy Chen, Craig Hada, Hung Nguyen, Kim Rogers, Vijay Bajaj, Dave Rubin, and Satya Mylavarabhatla. As far as I know, Marcia is the only one still working at HP.
Martin Gorfinkel, creator of 3000 software Fantasia for printing and an advocate for the community, says "I still get support calls for Fantasia. "Mostly I would like to have my editor and Fantasia for my own use. All that should work nicely within the limitations they place on the freeware emulation." He added that he needed to get a new PC to load it. The newest PC he had was about five years old. Gorfinkel will be at Friday's training session.
It's not tough to imagine that between a free pub evening and free lunch at the History Museum -- places where you can meet with 3000 legend Stan Sieler, who says "I'm hoping to be at the Thursday social, and present for most of some or most of Friday -- a 3000 user could network with people who've had firsthand experience with emulation, or are ready to share stories about how they hope Charon HPA/3000 will help them in an interim for migration, or as a hot archival system for MPE data.
I hope to see you there. I'm brining a fresh toothbrush, just to commemorate another run of years with something built as well as the toothpaste that's MPE.
May 07, 2013
Emulator's days are not so early after all
"It's early days," say more than a few community vendors about the lifespan of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. They point to a lack of reference accounts. Some note that no third parties are engaged to teach and train and support the virtualization solution. Even the vendor acknowledges the performance of this 3000-on-Intel magic needs to surpass the power of a 4-way N-Class system.
But it's not early according to Adager's CEO Rene Woc. We tried out the accepted wisdom and found him pushing back on the popular view. It's misguided, by the reports he's getting from customers small, medium and very large. He reached out for a Yogi Berra quote to guide his outlook. "The future ain't what it used to be," Yogi said. That's especially apt when customers are gathering license data for your software, to be used on Charon. Or when they share their intentions, which is to keep MPE software running well into that future. How different it is than it used to be.
These are customers getting information about Adager's license transfer plan. "It's just another MPE machine," Woc reported. "We are treating the emulator just like HP3000 hardware."
As has been well-chronicled by now, there's no technical issues in this complete emulation. "Our customers didn't come across any issues," Woc said. Given the reputation of the Adager labs -- a tight-knit group that uncovered the last, corruptive bug in IMAGE and alerted HP to spark a repair -- "no problems" means Charon runs as expected.
Adager charges a $975 license transfer fee to move software from one HPSUSAN number to another. The software does not cross check with an HPCPUNAME, so moving the HPSUSAN to the emulated server, plus that transfer fee, covers the extent of Adager's operations. This is one vendor that 3000 users don't have to work out a license with. One of many (like Minisoft) who see continuing business coming out of emulated 3000s.
"It's to Stromasys credit they've been able to distribute this news about it," Woc said. "Our customers have made the decision to go ahead with it. It's beyond testing. It's between decision and testing, and then putting it to work. We've gotten very encouraging signals, and not necessarily from hobbyists. From actual companies that are at different stages. People have moved on from testing to ordering their license transfers [from us].
"People have called to order a trial Adager license" as a result of Charon HPA/3000 testing, he added. "At this stage it's taking off. As far as tangible results right now, I think it has a good psychological effect. People feel comfortable knowing that they're not facing a closed future."
Yogi's comment about the future that "ain't what it used to be" was a darkening one in the old days of software and systems. A computer fell out of product lineup, then the vendor ended support. The customers fled and the independent software community curtailed support. Now the future includes many years of 3000 production for these license transferring customers.
And Woc said that customers include some very large corporations, because Adager has always been in shops very large and very small. Robelle is on the Stromasys bandwagon too. These kinds of software products don't make up applications off the shelf. But to be honest, software off the shelf has not been the 3000's specialty for a long time. Ecometry and MANMAN aside, and a few dozen Amisys sites -- the 3000 keeps working on customer-written apps. Only these tool providers, like VEsoft and its MPEX -- need to agree to licenses for Charon. The rest of the solution is code a customer owns because they're built it themselves.
The emulator product "takes the pressure off in the sense that MPE cannot be continued," Woc said. "It will run on the latest and greatest Intel hardware." He added that VMware, part of the solution, "is a fully supported product. From that point of view, I think people feel confident they have an option -- knowing also that the [off the shelf] 3000 applications have very little development. The shops that depended on Ecometry and the like know they will still have an engine to keep running their business."
If the economy fully recovers, some of these emulator sites will move ahead with migrations. "We will see. If they can still handle their business, even after that, they may just stay. If a new business model comes up, like mail order became ecommerce so many years ago. It's so hard to predict." These days are early for some application users. For others, it's a matter of scheduling an emulator product that's a small fraction of the cost of a migration -- both in capital cost as well as the price of disruption of what's not the future, but today.
May 06, 2013
The Kind of License that Still Matters
Licensing doesn't matter to most of the homesteading community anymore, according to a long-time consultant, former HP SE and board member of the Interex and OpenMPE user and advocate groups. There's an important distinction to be made about what Paul Edwards believes about the 3000 manager. The licenses that matter are the ones that permit the use of supported products.
That puts HP's MPE/iX licenses on the heap of casual concerns while running a 3000 operation in 2013. Hewlett-Packard arranged for a $500 emulator license transfer. The deal was set up six years before an emulator would ever go live on a customer's product site. But the HP license is missing permissions for the Hewlett-Packard subsystem software, some of it still essential. The COBOL II compiler and TurboStore/iX are the most common products among those subsystems.
"Theoretically, the cast of lawyers at HP thinks MPE has got lots of value," Edwards said. "But Joe Computer User, running a 3000 in a little company somewhere, really doesn't care. He'll never see an HP rep who's going to come out and find he doesn't have an MPE license. He'll run whatever applications he's got -- Amisys, something written in Cognos or Speedware, whatever it is -- he'll run that the way it is."
The value of an HP 3000 MPE license seems to be dropping. Edwards, who saw more than a few companies using multiple 3000s on a single license back in the 1980s -- and said he "looked the other way" for the benefit of the customer -- said he bought his latest HP 3000 for less than $500. And with that purchase, a valid license for a 3000 that could be transferred to an emulator. Or sold at a price. Last week the 3000 community saw one of the first open requests to validate an MPE license. By itself, sans hardware, apparently.
It probably happens all the time, but Cypress Technology was putting together a resale that needed a valid HP 3000 license. The wording on the message on the 3000 newsgroup might have been hurried. But the point seemed to be about documentation of the license transfer, not the 3000 system.
I am looking for an original purchase order or invoice showing a sale of one HP 3000 or 9000 box that is dated before August 16, 1994. I'm just looking for the paper showing the sale from HP to whoever, it does not matter the buying entity. I don't need the hardware, license, or rights to anything. The PO or invoice must have one of the below boxes on it and be dated before August 16, 1994. $350 offered.
What followed was a list of six HP PA-RISC workstations and servers, headed up by a Series 918. "I would think some old timers on this list that don't throw anything would have to have something like this. Email me if you have it. I only need one proof of sale."
Proof of sale is one of the chief requirements for an HP Software License Transfer. Although when you think about that date, it's 19 years ago. Maybe it's remarkable that a proof of selling a 3000 -- just an invoice, PO, or a letter -- would be worth that much nearly two decades later. It's likely that this kind of request just shows there are a few Joe Computer Users who care about licenses.
Licenses for independent software, especially the key utilities like data exchange tools or database managers, fall into a different class of respect. These are products still maintained through support by the creator, unlike the 3000 or MPE. Edwards added that if an audit of a homesteading site raised questions about the nature of the MPE/iX license, a manager could rightly say, "Listen, they don't even make this computer anymore." Active development and support are the watchwords for licenses that matter, for much of the community.
May 03, 2013
Goodie box delivers 3000 skills, tools
Howard Schelin started his HP 3000 career in Miami migrating. It was 20 years ago, and The Miami Herald had to make a move -- away from IBM and onto the 3000. There was much for Schelin to teach the IT department then, and the Interex user group catalogued all of what was needed. This week a generous box of that reference material and software arrived at our office, because the offices of the Herald are moving along, just like the 3000.
In a few weeks the Miami Herald will be relocated to a new building about 15 miles southwest of 1 Herald Plaza. As in any move, there is a lot of material that gets pushed to the curb. I am sending you items that will not be making the trip to the new location.
The box as big as a Ram Truck battery had a reel of tape on top, a release of the Interex Contributed Software Library from the days of the early '90s, when DAT cassettes were still a novelty to the user group. But then there were a hearty stack of the familiar boxes that contained software treasures created by fellow managers of 3000s, then given away for the community to use.
Now the HP 3000 is making its migration away from the Herald, Schelin says. "The HP 3000 stay at the Herald is drawing to a close, as its last application is on schedule to be migrated to the cloud by April, 2014. I have been an avid reader of the 3000 NewsWire for many, many years, and I hope you find a home for the enclosed material."
Considering that some of these programs and proceedings continue to be useful tools for the homesteader -- and are difficult to locate -- he's probably right. Maybe not so much that 1993 lab handbook on Managing a POSIX HP3000 System, although the lab was taught by MPE legend Jeff Vance. But the Catalog of the CSL for that year, printed and bound, is a working collector's item.The goodie box includes eight years' worth of technical papers on CDs, some discs so classic that the boxes advise the user to be sure to have Windows 3.1 to look at the material. But the DDS tapes -- the lingua franca of 3000 data -- start in 1997 and run through 2004. By 1998 there was a Freeware account of software, added to the Contributed Software Library. As Michael Hensley explains in the 1999 Supplement to the CSL Catalog, indexed by name and by keyword
When HP added Posix to MPE, creating MPE/iX 5.0, it became possible to port many popular "Unix" utilities to MPE. Since it was possible, many people started to do so, and then made these utilities available via the Internet. When HP was asked about providing C++ on MPE, HP suggested downloading the GNU G++ product via the Internet. I sarcastically asked if they had actually tried it, over a typical-at-the-time 9600 baud modem.
As a penance, I decided to make these utilities available via tape. Although most people now have access to fater Internet connections, the size of the downloads has grown ever larger. I think the tape will continue to be useful for some time to come.
By the time Schelin and the Herald IT staff were gathering these resources, the HP 3000 was moving into its open source era. The specifics of CSL programs that worked for MPE V (the Classic 3000 OS) as well as XL were being supplemented by the Posix/Unix offerings. (Click on the image at the left to see who was writing the software in the era, and what's available on the tapes.) It was one of the richest times for software on the platform. Y2K was sparking interest and renewed investment in the 3000. We were growing the 3000 NewsWire on the wings of that interest.
These resources have outlasted the user group that marshaled them. In time, the hardcopy delivery seemed unneeded. The Proceedings of the final HP World Conference in 2004 remain shrink-wrapped. But Interex went out of business the following summer. And all of that Internet resource went dark. OpenMPE has gathered some of this online, but good fellows like Schelin keep adding to the community's assets.
I'd be glad to make Howard's desire come true, and let this material work its magic in other shops where 3000s will be working for, as Hensley said, "for some time to come." We can also hope that this classic resource goes to live in the cloud in the future, just like that final HP 3000 application at the Herald. Email me if you'd like more detail of the contents, and I can pass them along. Via US Mail, just like they were delivered in the 3000's classic era.
May 02, 2013
Congrats, Pivital on 10 years an HP VAR
Ten years ago this month the HP 3000 community gained its final official reseller. Pivital Solutions stepped in to sell HP 3000s, even though Hewlett-Packard only intended to manufacture the computers until the end of October, 2003.
In fact the final HP sales of the 3000 crept into 2004, including deliveries and back inventory. Pivital took on the spot because the company had confidence the 3000 user base would be needing official and trained support for many more years to come. An official place in the HP authorized reseller lineup would enhance what the company had been doing for years already.
That extra service has translated into new resources, even recently. Pivital is one of the few holders of a license for the source code for MPE/iX. Support companies use that resource to create workarounds and even custom patches.
In 2003, we wrote:
Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci hears the tick of a different clock than the one which HP has been counting down for 3000 sales. Less than six months before new HP 3000 sales will end at HP, Pivital is ramping up its efforts as the newest authorized reseller of the servers in North America.
Pivital has taken over the system integrator spot in HP’s 3000 hardware channel that’s being abandoned by Dimension Data. Suraci said that Dimension released much of its 3000-capable integration staff which Pivital was working with, and Pivital saw an opportunity emerging from the situation. It may seem to be late, but Pivital sees its entry as early in the lifespan of the 3000 customer
“Strategically, we know there’s going to be long-term homesteading customers on the HP 3000 out there,” the CEO said. “Even HP is attesting to a quadrant of the market where people will homestead forever. That is a big portion of the customer base which we deal in today.”
The company had built up a practice of offering the application and then extending MPE support to customers using the GrowthPower ERP application, moving on in the late 1990s to expand its customer base beyond ERP sites. “We found we were becoming more involved in the other business aspects of these companies,” Suraci said, leading to partnerships with Minisoft and Cognos, for example.
But as of late last year, “we felt we no longer had Dimension Data as an outlet to move 3000 hardware to customers. We needed an outlet to sell hardware and get the deals done.”
National hardware partners couldn’t interest Pivital in becoming part of their folds, and HP was willing to let the 18-person firm with operations across several US states take over the reseller spot from Dimension Data. Suraci said selling 3000 systems to customers is only the start of what Pivital plans to do with its new prospect. Selling the last round of new hardware to sites which need to upgrade from older models lets Pivital position itself for support business in the future, as well as other hardware sales.
HP has announced it will continue to make N-Class and A-Class CPUs, IO and network cards, peripherals and memory available for new sales during 2004, though Suraci said the vendor hasn’t released specifics of how that aftermarket will work with the authorized channel. The support business that flows from hardware sales looks to be a more reliable prospect for revenues for Pivital. Suraci wants HP to see the company as a contender for any third-party 3000/MPE support partnerships HP may launch in the years to come.
Value Hidden, and Uncovered
This morning I came in to find our backup job stalled. Abortjob was ineffective, as was abortio. I ended up rebooting the system. While coming up, I got the “defective sector” message with “FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT has an extent with unreadable data.” The file is now locked and I need to use FSCHECK to unlock it. How can I determine which drive this extent is on? I have a good idea which one it is, but I’d like to be 100 percent sure before I replace and reload.
Stan Sieler replies:
FSCHECK’s DISPLAYEXTENTS command may help. Note that, if I recall correctly, it displays logical unit numbers, not exactly LDEVs.
I ran checkslt on the MPE/iX 7.5 SLT and it failed. It failed on a DDS-2 drive on two different systems but passed when a DDS-3 drive was used. The MPE/iX 7.5 SLT is on a 120-meter DDS-2 tape. Is this usual?
Michael Berkowitz replies:
What makes you think you don’t have two bad DDS-2 drives? When we had them, we went through them like water, replacing them every couple of months. They are bad news from the word go.
But how can I have two bad DDS-2 drives?
Gilles Schipper notes:
Not surprising at all. I once experienced the following situation. Our customer had a disk crash. Fortunately, it happened just after a full backup. HP replaced the faulty disk drive and we proceeded to perform a system reload from the just-completed backup that had been to a DDS-2 tape drive.
As soon as we mounted the tape (on exactly the same tape drive that created it), we received a console message indicating AVR error on LDEV 7. I knew right away we had a problem. HP returned to replace the tape drive with another DDS-2 drive. Still no joy. We recommended replacing the drive with a DDS-3 tape drive. As soon as this was done, the reload proceeded without further problems.
The bottom line is stay away from DDS-2 drives, as far away as possible. From this experience and others, I have concluded that the DDS-2 drive is, to put it mildly, flaky.
May 01, 2013
Who Will Come to the Emulator's Party
Next week the Charon HPA/3000 emulator will have what one vendor calls its coming out party in North America. The software performs the miracle of making low-cost PCs act like HP's PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Just describing that technical ability widens the eyes of 3000 homesteaders, veterans and some vendors.
On the evening of May 9, we'll get to see some of the eyes of people who want to drop by and gaze on each other over a beverage at the Tied House. The next day will reveal who's doing the closer looking at this software solution. Training will commence at 10. Lunch is included. Cooperation and imagination will be optional entrees on the day's menu.
One HP support company called the other day and said they're promoting Charon as a viable path for a homesteader's future. "I feel like I've been hawking the Stromasys product myself awhile," said Chad Lester of the MPE Support Group. Another company in Austin, the Support Group Inc. that serves the MANMAN and ERP customer, has a strong belief in the future of Charon HPA/3000.
But so far, we've only heard of one company that's engaged a third party software vendor in an instance of emulator production use. Cognos is working at the Australian insurance firm where Warren Dawson has testified to us, as well as to the European HP users who attended an event similar to next week's. IBM's Charlie Maloney, a veteran of many Cognos days, has started looking for an IBM PR rep to talk with us about licensing Powerhouse for emulator use.
Technical ability will need to be married to software property rights for this software to make an impact. We're hearing ample talk from MPE/iX software vendors about license support. Robelle's going on record as a Charon supporter. VEsoft wants to work with customers who'd like to run MPEX, Security/3000 and Audit/3000 on the emulator. HP has an emulator license for the product, legally operable so long as a currently licensed 3000 is being turned off to transfer its license to Charon.
More than one vendor with plenty of 3000 software ISV connections believes it's early days for the emulator's commercial merits. It's up to the homesteading customer to arrange all license arrangements to move their software utilities and applications to a PC-Linux host for virtualized MPE/iX hosting. It will be a good sign if some customers arrive at next week's event who have third party apps, such as MANMAN, Ecometry or even Amisys, and they need to arrange the arrival of their software. Some software vendors are waiting to hear about their emulator needs on this unlimited platform.Of course, nothing is really unlimited in the world of computing. Right now Stromasys says it's hard at work to ensure its highest tier of virtualization software can match and exceed the power of an HP-built N-Class. Even Itanium endured these kinds of early days, many months of them, while it weathered its debut. It was a couple of years before any Itanium powered computer could keep up with the sleekest of PA-RISC processors.
It won't take that long for Charon HPA/3000. A virtualization simply mimics the hardware's architecture, instead of the task of retaining emulation while offering a new instruction set.
Expect the crowd at the Tied House to revel in the return of a 3000 community that hasn't met in North America since 2011. There will be the top executives from Stromasys to make the taps flow at the brewpub, then pour on the technical details and new horsepower developments the day after in training. Hundreds of HP 3000 customers have been contacted about the event. It will only take a handful of commercial applications -- maybe as few as two -- to come to the emulator's party and make it a hit.
April 30, 2013
How to Shift a 3000 from FTP to SFTP
I have a script that uses FTP to send files to a site which we open by IP address. We've been asked to change to SFTP (port 22) and use the DNS name instead of an IP address, and I don't believe the 3000 supports that. Does it? If so, how?
Allego's Donna Hofmeister replies:
If you are going to use DNS, you must have your 3000 configured for that. It's easily done.
However, if you've never done anything on your 3000 make it act like a real computer (oh -- that's right, it is a real computer and fully capable of using DNS), this can turn into a can o'worms.
For 'DNS lite', it's probably simplest to:
1. copy hostsamp. net to hosts.net
2. edit hosts.net to make sure it has
18.104.22.168 name <--- where 22.214.171.124 and name are corrected to the system you want to connect to
4. edit nsswitch.net to have this line:
hosts : files[SUCCESS=return NOTFOUND=continue]
With this done, the 3000 sorta kinda acts like it's using DNS (because it's looking the the hosts file for how to translate 'name' into '126.96.36.199')
Tony Summers provides a caveat:
One warning. The upgrade from FTP to sFTP (or SSH FTP etc) can involve more change to your scripts that you expect.
What we do for FTP (originally on the HP 3000, and now on the HP-UX server) is build a text file with the commands (the sample below, edited)
user USERNAME PASSWORD
get /export/002_iccm_extract_1161.csv ICR21161
The file is then presented to the FTP client. On the HP 3000 it was something like....
RUN FTP.ARPA.SYS < FTPT0070 > FTPS0070
Then both the output file, FTPS0070, and any JCWs set by the FTP program were inspected to test the success of the FTP session.
Connected to xxxxxx.co.uk
220 Welcome to FTP service - xxxx.
331 Please specify the password.
230 Login successful.
200 Switching to ASCII mode.
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV. 550 Failed to open file.
In particular, the 3-digit status codes were analysed, looking for error codes like "550".If you do something similar in your FTP scripts, then all I can say is welcome to a very different world.
Karsten Brøndum adds:
Here's a completely different approach.
Depending on your skills in the Java area there is a nice LPGL package called ftp4j (which requires Java 1.4 or later) that i have used a couple of times. (By the way, ftp4j will do both SFTP and FTPS). I've found it way easier than to fiddle with files with text files containing commands, especially when it comes to error handling.
April 24, 2013
Program for legacy with a legacy dev tool
Good tools don't always survive bad times. When HP pulled its plug from the 3000 dynamo, popular development tools began to slide. One of our favorite COBOL legends and 3000 consultants, Bruce Hobbs, was looking for ways to connect to the legacy community for such a dev tool, Programmer Studio.
"I have a vague recollection that you published something awhile back regarding the demise of Whisper Technology, and the situation for anyone now interested in using the Programmer Studio product," Hobbs said. "Could you please point me in the right direction?"
The genesis of Programmer Studio comes from the days when HP was still buying print ads for the HP 3000 in the general computer industry trade press. Ads that astounded the installed base -- like the one at left -- because they were so rare, and resonated so well with the established consumers. The 3000 had giant corporations using it, something HP had to admit from time to time while it labored to create a business computing market for Unix. Whisper popped up often when we surveyed the legacy developer community in December. This is unsupported software, but it's still in use at the occassional programmer's bench, such as the one that Michael Anderson operates at J3K Solutions.
I was never much for purchasing tools for development. However, since the late '90s onward, I used Programmer Studio from Whisper Technologies as a "character based" editor. In the latter years of working on MPE, the languages I used also included Java, Perl, and SQL.
(In a bit of circular technology, the Robelle programming tool for the HP 3000, Qedit for Windows, also knows a lot about Suprtool -- since Supertool is also a Robelle product.)
"But today I don't use the HP 3000 much any more, nor Windows," Anderson added. "For years Programmer Studio kept me tethered to Windows as my favored editor. Recently I've started using JEDIT on Linux. JEDIT doesn't know how to access the HP3000, so for that I still use Windows along with Programmer Studio."Authors and creators tend to dig in with their tools. Hobbs asked about Programmer Studio because of its reputation, but he understood the software had not survived the HP purge.
But for that matter, that kind of afterlife is where other 3000 software resides today. The developer of the Programmer Studio has moved on to other things, according to the Whisper Technology founder Graham Wooley. In 2009 he said
Unfortunately Whisper Technology is no more. As the developer, Greg Sharp had looked after Whisper and Programmer Studio by himself for the last three years, but he has now moved on to other things and the company has now closed.
The UK's Whisper built and promoted the Programmer Studio PC-based toolset, then sold it as a development environment which understood exchanges with the 3000, but could also be used to create programs under Windows. Robelle responded promptly with a Windows version of Qedit, and for more than five years the 3000 ecosystem had a lively competition for programming tools.
Survival is one of the better measurements of quality, but good technology sometimes has to succumb to business issues and investment strengths. Such was the case for HP's business with the 3000 and MPE. Like Programmer Studio, MPE is no longer supported by its creators. Unlike Programmer Studio, MPE has third party support, as well as an emulation engine being sold this year. These things are markers of survival.
An experienced 3000 developer like Hobbs probably won't care much about support for a programmer's tool. Wooley's company was a lively bed of 3000 ardor in the 1990s. At one point, he placed a bet with Adager's Alfredo Rego. Wooley was so concerned about HP's treatment of the 3000 in 1993 that he wagered with Rego that HP wouldn't advertise the system -- mostly as a prod for HP to do so. Wooley lost his bet, happily, when Hewlett-Packard put ads in both US and European publications for the 3000 at the 11th hour of that year.
An abandoned but beloved product is usually passed along from one user to another, with each exchange marking another step into the public domain. HP's been vigilant about MPE to keep the OS out of this sort of drift. People admire it in the same way that Programmer Studio advocates praise that product.
The difference is that you'll still be able to buy support for MPE from independent professionals, some of whom have a source code license for the software. Adager is on that source code holder list. So are the indie support firms Pivital Solutions, Allegro Consultants, Beechglen Development and Terix. They are all eating their Wheaties, surviving into our new era.
April 22, 2013
Comparing Costs of Staying for 5-10 Years
Last week's CAMUS online-phone RUG meeting included a comprehensive exam of staying on MANMAN for at least another five years. The proposal, outlined by Terry Floyd of the Support Group, showed a cost exceeding $40,000 a year to keep running an HP 3000 with the ERP application plus crucial support for hardware and all software.
His estimation, for a Series 939 low-end system with 30 users' worth of MANMAN (all numbers are annual)
Hardware support - $5,000
MPE/iX support - $2,000
MANMAN application support - $10,000
Support for vendors of third party software - $10,000, on average
Electric power and cooling - $12,000
Including miscellaneous costs of $3,000 yearly, that's a total of $42,000 to stay on MANMAN each year. "That doesn't even include salaries," Floyd said. "These are costs directly related to MANMAN." One user pushed back on the third party software support costs, saying the estimate was low.
One way to cut back on these costs would be to run MANMAN on the cloud, Floyd said. This development, if it ever emerges for the MANMAN community, would be via the Stromasys emulator, which sits in a Linux cradle. Linux is even supported by the HP Cloud, a newcomer to the virtual server vendor lineup. (HP-UX is not supported). The cloud reduces hardware-related expenses and wipes out electrical, versus a cost of $200 a month per user.
(Stromasys officials on the call said they thought Floyd may have been referring to one of the possible options for people wanting to migrate off the 3000. There's been no testing or instances of the emulator running from a cloud service yet.)
So while looking at the numbers and the state of 3000-based cloud options, one of the larger points that Floyd made in his review is that MANMAN, even today on current 3000 hardware, could remain a viable place to stay with manufacturing IT -- so long as the ERP instance has up to date modifications for interfaces and integration, properly documented so they don't become tribal knowledge. Plenty of MANMAN sites have modified their application. Mods are part of the MANMAN Way.
"Interfaces and integration are certainly the best places to spend dollars on improving MANMAN," Floyd said. But the cloud is not free, just a lot less costly. Estimating a 30-user implementation -- plenty of the remaining MANMAN sites are small -- he still came in at $6,000 a month. That's $72,000 against the $17,000 plus the expense of purchasing the 3000 and its storage devices.
"You're spending a heck of lot less than that just for the electricity," Floyd said of the cloud solution.
Of course, most companies running MANMAN -- or nearly any other application -- have long ago paid off capital costs for hardware. The costs that remain fixed are the OS and application support ($12,000 in Floyd's estimate) plus the third party software support at $10,000.
Let's see, $22,000 plus that $72,000 is $94,000 yearly. You're up in the cloud in this picture, running a virtualized 3000 server. The license for that virtualization software and its support fee varies, but nobody is reporting much under $10,000. It's a big advantage when you consider the emulated 3000 will operate many times faster than a Series 939.
So someone who stays by rising to the cloud will be up in the $100,000 annual range for five years, annually, using the solution with the longest lifespan (virtualized OS, virtualized hardware) with an application that's just about the most senior in your community. Factor in the costs of purchasing MANMAN over 10 years and you'd add $25,000 yearly. (This is, of course, another cost that most MANMAN sites have paid off long ago.)
But even if you're able to do computing from the cloud, "IT costs do not go away," Floyd said. "Even if you're in the cloud, for any manufacturing company, better utilization requires an IT function." That IT function is a programmer for ongoing development of modifications, at the least. FORTRAN programmers might be hard to find in the middle of nowhere, Floyd added. Lots of US-based manufacturers using MANMAN operate in such small towns, to keep labor costs contained.
The counterpoint of all that expense of working to stay on MANMAN? "The biggest cost of leaving MANMAN is data migration and implementation of the new system," Floyd said. You would retain the cloud costs, the OS and vendor support costs in this scenario -- while the MANMAN site must pay for SAP, or Oracle, or some other ERP solution.
When calculated with this much detail, "It's not a crazy idea to think of staying on MANMAN another five or 10 years," Floyd said. Mobile connectivity will demand bandwidth that might not exist. "MANMAN is cheaper to operate than either an on-premises replacement or a cloud-based replacement. Inertia is the driver, especially if you're retiring in the near future."
The companies using MANMAN aren't retiring, of course. They face a cost to select, acquire and implement and migrate data to a replacement ERP system from "hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars," Floyd said. "Why did all those companies leave MANMAN? Ten years or so ago, they might have had management with some high ambitions."
Or did they really leave because their users lacked a basic understanding of MANMAN, so relied on tribal knowledge in the organization -- "and then they forgot the way their were going things the way they were. And then a couple of really key users left. And you wonder how this stuff works, and why it works like it does. If you change the heck out of MANMAN and didn't leave a good trail, there's no way you could keep track of why you did that modification."
But after more than three decades in the field, there just aren't many bugs left in MANMAN. The 3000 sites that tracked their mods, can keep knowledge of their implementation documented, can keep a FORTRAN developer available somehow -- these are the sites that have added up the costs to stay on an app that was first released in the 1970s, even it hasn't been changed in more than 15 years.
April 19, 2013
Where Everybody Knows Your CPUNAME
The iconic TV show Cheers splashed a theme song about the fictional Boston tavern every Thursday, way back in the 1980s. It was a drinking outpost "where everybody knows your name, and they're all so glad you came." If attendance works out well for Stromasys at its HP 3000 Social -- four weeks away -- they're likely to have the same sort of turnout. The Tied House will be a place where everybody knows your name because so many will be familiar to each other. That's what more than three decades of community gives you.
This week the blue and white postcards arrived in mailboxes announcing the combination of Social and Training May 9-10. We found one in our mailbox, but word of the event is spreading beyond the reach of the US post. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft called to report he'll be at the Tied House. Neil Armstrong, developer and curator of Suprtool, has also been tracking the event closely.
These VIPs of your community will be joined by people experienced in 3000 matters who seek a way around aging HP hardware for MPE. And there will be some stopping by to see the names that they know and meet new ones with something in common. Everybody there will be listening for news about licensing. Right now this is a rare brew that prospects are thirsting for if they want to emulate a production machine.That postcard doesn't share much of the agenda for the meeting, some details of which are revealed at the Stromasys RSVP webpage. (The whole thing is free, by the way, right down to the heavy appetizers where everybody knows your name.) More to the point, it doesn't reveal the strategy that will drive your feet to that bar where everybody will know your name. Your interest in the emulator is assumed. Knowledge and experience and boasting and whining, laced with humor, were always the prime reasons for attending an HP 3000 user group event. In the absence of a user group, this kind of gathering will have to provide those usual incentives. Expect a lot of "we migrated awhile ago, and here's how it went" along with "we don't want to, and here's the license and support issues we need to solve."
The technology is not an issue. The training on May 10 will prove that to anyone who hasn't seen a demo yet, and the take-home freeware A202 version will give attendees an easy way to do a proof of concept.
Will the system administrator who's moving away from Powerhouse -- slower than expected -- be at Tied House, or the Computer History Museum the next day? Stromsays is keeping track of the RSVPs. Such an attendee would be interested in how the licensing is going with IBM, the keepers of the Cognos products. Powerhouse users have recent memories about investigations about their licenses, with demands for upgrade fees.
We've begun the effort to get Charlie Maloney of IBM, formerly of Cognos, to tell us anything about licensing Powerhouse for the emulator. No comment yet, after about a week of attempts. But Charlie is busy being the Software Sales Representative at IBM Software Group, Information Management, so he might need repeated attempts. I'll keep trying.
I anticipate that if the Tied House and CHM are filled with more than tire-kickers who want to talk about an emulator in demonstration, they'll get down to license discussions. An IT analyst up at a higher education institution said if license fees to move to the emulator match the annual HP 3000 hardware maintenance contract, it's a deal-breaker.
The issue that would destroy the cost-neutrality concept would be software licensing fees. To save costs during our migration to the ERP software, we let software maintenance lapse on all of the utilities that were permanently licensed -- that is, all of those that would continue to run without a refreshed license key each year.
It almost sounds like utility vendors on that system haven't earned a dime during the migration. Taking those utilities onto the emulator, sans support, is only even remotely possible if the emulator is stopgap on the way to a migration. We'll leave it to the reader to judge if its fair.
Migrating customers will look at these license vs. support tradeoffs and see the challenge of staying with MPE. They've made the decision to stay with hardware that demands a support contract of significant investment, but at least their software licenses have no surprises. It doesn't mean the software is anything close to free, since the 15-20 percent application support fees are in place. All that IBM, nee Cognos, will charge for its 8.49F Powerhouse is Vintage Support.
The tough part for that analyst is that his Powerhouse license is 8.49E, not F. The F version had all of its platform-upgrade fees removed, we learned. The way from 8.49E to F is as uncharted to me as Maloney's reply.
There's always the possibility that customers who know each other's name could get together to arrange a group negotiation with such upgrade-fee vendors. Stromasys won't do this officially; it's up to the emulator customers. As for those utility support dollars, they ought to be going to the vendors if those utilities are key to keeping a production system online. That's the 3000/MPE tradition: guaranteed uptime.
We hope it's a rich brew of license and support insights at Tied House, blended with the eye-opener of the training that includes a Linux cradle for the emulator the day after.
April 17, 2013
HP hardware: bargain, but needed now?
It's an interesting time for 3000 hardware these days. Prices have dropped severely for unlicensed HP iron. Meanwhile, there's a no-cost way to use a computer to run MPE/iX, thanks to the Charon HPA/3000 emulator, Model A202, freeware edition. Times are plentiful for ways to run MPE software, if the license is not much of an issue.
The HP-brand hardware is flowing so freely that I had a reseller ask if I wanted to buy an N-Class at an astounding price. Nothing that the rest of the public couldn't get off eBay. However, in that offer anybody would have to come up with their own license for MPE/iX.
Nothing's perfect this year about acquiring an MPE server. On one hand you have the option of real HP iron, power-hungry but the genuine engine. However, the HP-badged boxes need disks and memory and components in reserve for real support, the kind of items that a system manager would scavenge from things like an $1,800 N-Class. A support contract for MPE, as well as the hardware, is part of that equation. If you've got an MPE/iX license, let's just say it's about a $2,000 investment, plus the ultra-important hardware-MPE support contract purchase.
And you need that MPE/iX software support no matter what you're doing, unless you've got enough experience to be selling those services yourself.
The bottom line on an emulated, virtual HP 3000 is higher, unless you're freewaring it. You can expect there are nominal consultants -- retired but available -- who'd use the A202 to discover bug fixes and workarounds. The better ones will have the real HP iron, running tiny, 9GB LDEV 1 disks. The beefiest drive you can put in a 3000 is 146 GB.
But I have to admit, I thought for awhile about that offer of an N-Class for under $2,000. It was a kind of a "get it while you can, the price won't be better than this" sort of decision. For a production or a development shop, it's likely to be different. A manager could figure that a 5-figure cost to acquire Charon emulator software, plus support for it, could be balanced against the cost to maintain a stable parts depot. Emulation installs mean that hardware support goes way down, to about $100 a year for a typical Intel-Linux box. But adding any kind of 3000, emulated or iron, to our offices would be news. Operating my own MPE system has never been a part of my 28 years of working in our community.
People who know MPE very well might say they're not surprised. I have generous readers who correct the flubs in syntax that show up here. But in those decades of writing and reporting about the HP 3000, I have never worked for a company which owned one, including my own company (since 1995). However, that doesn't mean that there haven't been days when I felt I could make use of one. Just the other day, Vladimir Volokh said "you wouldn't have written that, if you'd had a 3000 to use and test that command."
As close as genuine 3000 iron ownership ever came, I think, was when used 9x7s were everywhere and the Newswire was roaring along in the Y2K era. Our net.digest tech editor John Burke bought one of those 9x7s -- for a song -- and since he was an editor of ours at the time, that was enough for me.
My first 3000 publisher, Wilson Publications, used dial-in timesharing access to a Series 42 in 1984 to produce The Chronicle. The terminal access came via PC 2622, the software later known as Reflection. It ran a typesetting program that generated our printed galleys down at Futura Press in Austin. But within four years we worked on the bleeding edge of desktop publishing, using tiny Macs and a LaserWriter and a 5GB shared disk that crashed as often as MPE/XL 1.0. And so the HP 3000 became a subject, rather than a tool we used ourselves.
I am a little surprised that nobody has yet picked up that N-Class 220, even unlicensed, that Cypress Technology offered via eBay. It seems quite the bargain for somebody who wants genuine HP iron. But for a tinkering editor, or someone who wanted to check a command or syntax or filesystem processes, the freeware A202 might do.
We're still here if any owner or reseller wants to spread the word about hardware, via a modest ad. I'd love to hear when that N-Class sells. It's the lowest price I've ever seen for one of these models. Only something free, but without the ability to work in production, could be considered less expensive.
April 16, 2013
Why There are Always Parts Available
Last week on the 3000 newsgroup, HP hardware supplier Cypress Technology was offering an N-Class HP 3000 for $1,800. Cypress was even including an option to custom-configure the server at that price. The 3000 was selling without a license that could be transferred. But even this kind of investment would make an adequate disaster recovery system, given that it has a copy of MPE/iX already loaded on it. Even more useful would be the parts from the server -- a value at $1,800.
The Cypress box is a single 220MHz CPU with a 1.5Mb cache, 4GB total memory, a 9GB boot disk drive (how quaint; just a bit larger than a $7 thumb drive of today) and a 147GB main storage disk drive.
Hewlett-Packard once told the 3000 community that the vendor could provide custom legacy support through 2010, but the offering would depend on parts availability and the age of the HP 3000. But older systems might have parts which are no longer on the HP warehouse shelves.
But no matter how old the HP 3000 might be in your shop, you can be reasonably sure that spare parts will not prevent you from keeping it working. Five years ago this month, Wyell Grunwald offered a "practically free" HP 3000 on that same 3000 newsgroup. All that Grunwald wanted was the cost of shipping to send the 200-pound server onto its new home.
After one quip about this early '90s server making a good bookend, another community member said they could use the system for parts. Imagine, an HP 3000 PA-RISC server built in 1990 — yes, 23 years ago — still has parts available in your community.
The key word in that last sentence is community. Even when HP runs out of HP 3000 parts, the community can carry on the supply. This group got a lot of longevity when it invested in the HP 3000, as well as durability. The word "tank" is part of Grunwald's 922 description.
You can't overlook how underpowered the Series 922 is compared to any other HP 3000. After all, the entire PA-RISC line only started to ship in 1987, and only in significant numbers a couple of years later. Code-named SilverFox Low at its introduction, that Series 922 was a very early model 3000, just three systems off the start of the PA-RISC line.
The harsh numbers: This HP 3000 has just five percent of the horsepower of the smallest Series 979 or HP's smallest N-Class server. And now, there's an N-Class out on the used market, selling for less than a beefy laptop, albeit without license.
While you would not want to carry a lot of computing on a swaybacked steed of a 922, the fact that it remained a parts repository 18 years after it was built might give a homesteader some comfort. HP warned everyone starting out in 2001 that 3000 parts were going to become scarce in five years' time. So long as your community stays connected and communicating, the Hewlett-Packard support expertise in MPE is likely to get scarce long before many 3000 parts disappear altogether.
April 15, 2013
SM for Everyone!
By Bob GreenVladimir Volokh of VEsoft fame called us to pass on an interesting story.
He was doing MPE system and security consulting at a site. One of his regular steps is to run VESOFT’s Veaudit tool on the system. From this he learned that every user in the production account had System Manager (SM) capability!
Giving a regular user SM capability is a really bad thing. It means that the users can purge the entire system, look at any data on the system, insert nasty code into the system, etc. And this site had just passed their Sarbanes-Oxley audit.
Vladimir removed SM capability from the users and sat back to see what would happen. The first problem to occur was a job stream failure. The reason it failed was because the user did not have Read access to the STUSE group, which contained the Suprtool "Use" scripts. So, Suprtool aborted.
“Background Info Break”
For those whose MPE security knowledge is a little rusty, or non-existent, we offer a a helpful excerpt from Vladimir’s son Eugene, from his article Burn Before Reading - HP3000 Security And You – available at www.adager.com/VeSoft/SecurityAndYou.html
When a user tries to open a file, MPE checks the account security matrix, the group security matrix, and the file security matrix to see if the user is allowed to access the file. If he is allowed by all three, the file is opened; if at least one security matrix forbids access by this user, the open fails.
For instance, if we try to open TESTFILE.JOHN.DEV when logged on to an account other than DEV and the security matrix of the group JOHN.DEV forbids access by users of other accounts, the open will fail (even though both TESTFILE’s and DEV’s security matrices permit access by users of other accounts).
Each security matrix describes which of the following classes can READ, WRITE, EXECUTE, APPEND to, and LOCK the file:
• CR - File’s creator
• GU - Any user logged on to the same group as the file is in
• GL - User logged on to the same group as the file is in and having Group Librarian (GL) capability
• AC - Any user logged on to the same account as the file is in
• AL - User logged on to the same account as the file is in and having Account Librarian (AL) capability
• ANY - any user
• Any combination of the above (including none of the above)
Whenever any group is created, access to all its files is restricted to GU (group users only).
As Eugene points out above, account users do NOT have Read access by default to a new group in their account. This was the source of the problem at the site Vladimir was visiting. When the jobs could not read the files in the new STUSE group, the system manager the wielded the MPE equivalent of the medieval broadsword: give all the users SM capability.
ALTUSER PRODCLRK; CAP=SM,IA,BA,SF,...
This did solve the problem, since it certainly allowed them to read the STUSE files, but it also allowed them to read or purge any file on the system, in any account.
What he should have done was an Altgroup command immediately after the Newgroup command:
ALTGROUP stuse; access=(R:any;a,w,x,l: gu)
or specified the correct access when the group was built:
Since the HP 3000 runs in a corner virtually unattended (except for feeding the occasional backup tape), we often forget many of the options on the commands that are used sparingly. Neil Armstrong, my cohort in our Labs, often does a Help commandname to remind himself of some of the pitfalls and options on the lesser-used commands, NEWGROUP being one of them.
April 12, 2013
Stromasys Social meets at historic brewery
The free HP 3000 Social next month on May 9 -- prelude to the first free Stromasys Training Day on May 10 -- will take place in a private section of the Tied House Brewery and Cafe at 954 Villa Street in Mountain View. The official Stromasys webpage for this spring's Social+Training event promises heavy appetizers and free drinks at the Social, starting at 6 PM.
The Tied House website reports that the bistro is the 4th oldest microbrewery in California, and Silicon Valley’s original microbrewery. The cafe and brewery share the same building, with the Clubhouse mug wall on one side and the brewing operation on the other. After pouring 10 million pints since 1988 -- and sending a coaster into space with NASA astronauts -- Tied House beer awards include Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from the Great American Beer Festival, plaques from the World Beer Cup, and First Place Gold from the California State Fair.
The microbrewery is a 5-minute drive from the Computer History Museum on Shoreline Drive, where the Friday May 10 training takes place. A free lunch will be served during the 10-4 training that day. You can make your reservations for the Social -- as well as the next day's training on the world's only HP 3000 emulator -- at the Stromasys event's webpage, www.stromasys.com/hp3000eventStromasys will give away a signed copy of the MPE/iX Administration Guide by Jon Diercks at the Social, according to the company's webpage. Vladimir Volokh contacted the 3000 Newswire and has offered copies of the classic MPE book by Eugene Volokh, Thoughts and Discourses on HP3000 Software. The book includes a chapter MPE security myths. Those chapters, as well as an article on POSIX System Management with VESOFT's MPEX written by Stromasys product manager Paul Taffel, are online at the Adager website. Training attendees will leave with Personal Freeware copies of the Stromasys emulator. Other prizes and giveaways may appear between now and the next four weeks.
The greatest prize, of course, will be the chance for 3000 community members to see one another in person. These are rare events -- the last one was the HP3000 Reunion in the fall of 2011. I'll be on hand and hope to see you at the Social as well as the Training the next morning.
If you're coming in from outside the Bay Area, it appears that the Hotel Strata and the Hampton Inn and Suites seem to be the nicest hotels that are convenient both to the Tied House and the Museum. If you're planning to avoid using a car -- that's my scheme -- the Mountain View Caltrain Station is less than a mile from Tied House. And for any visitors via air, Caltrain runs trains that end up at San Francisco's Airport (via BART) as well as the San Jose airport (via a 12-minute bus ride.)
April 09, 2013
Good tools making an impact, then and now
By Brian Edminster
I was always jealous of shops that could afford good tools.
Let me explain. Awhile back, I read about HP's history of trying to launch a successor to IMAGE. It was supposed to be called HPIMAGE. It was supposed to be slicker than... well, it was supposed to have all the ability to dynamically index and/or restructure your data that a modern SQL relational database managment system allows, without losing the speed and robustness that makes TurboIMAGE famous. I can recall a few times that having the ability to dynamically restructure a database (while it's in production!) would have been handy. (See: zero downtime)
Then again, a well designed database in a stable application normally shouldn't need that sort of thing with any sort of regularity. Lately, I'm seeing the need to re-structure/alter indexing as a symptom of not knowing your data's demographics and/or designed usage patterns -- especially as the application's data volumes grow.
This need to restructure is also a side-effect of trying to use a single database both as an operational data store (current data only, for day to day production), as well as for research/reporting data warehousing -- where the data is relatively static, but may go back years. Again, that's lazy design. Don't try to make a sports car have the hauling capacity of a truck. You'll end up with neither.
What changes we did need to make, were done with:
1) DBUNLOAD/DBUTIL, PURGE/DBSCHEMA/DBUTIL, CREATE/DBLOAD -- if we were poor (and couldn't afford Adager or other similar tools), or
2) DICTDBU/DBUTIL, PURGE/DBSCHEMA/DBUTIL, CREATE/DICTDBL. This allowed unloading to a tape or disk file -- so if we had enough free space, we could skip using tape, and it was much faster! Also allowed simple re-structuring of the database.
We could do the adding, moving, deleting, and changing the type of datasets; and adding/removing paths, and/or re-arranging order of items in a set. Unfortunately, this was only present if we were lucky enough to be users of Dictionary/3000, or the HP Customizer technology products like MM or HP's Financial software.
3) Best and fastest of all, Model 2 Adager. This even allows transforming the data types, in addition to adding new elements or sets.
But there are still very useful tools that remain on any HP 3000 which still has Predictive Support. Tools you might not know you’ve got.
The Predictive Support files in the SYS account include two very useful tools. While auditing the content of a system, I found :
PSQUAD.PRED.SYS (yep, that's a March 1992 'CM' version of Quad, the customizable editor credited as being developed by Jim Kramer of Quest Systems and Kenneth Stout of Summit Information Systems). It's no QEDIT, to be sure. But Quad sure beats having to use EDIT/3000.
There’s also PSUNLDDB.PRED.SYS and PSLDDB.PRED.SYS. Believe it or not, these are re-named versions of DICTDBU and DICTDBL!
To use these,
- copy PSUNLDDB.PRED.SYS to DICTDBU.PUB.SYS,
- copy PSLDDB.PRED.SYS to DICTDBL.PUB.SYS, and
- copy DICTCAT.PRED.SYS to DICTCAT.PUB.SYS
Okay, perhaps moving these files is bordering on unintended use, and not considered kosher. In that case, set a file equation for the catalog (file dictcat.pred.sys=dictcat.pub.sys), and alter file and group security so you can run the files as they sit.
Either way, this gives you a tool that beats DBUNLOAD/DBLOAD for database capacity maintenance and manipulation — if should you be unfortunate enough to not have the proper tools like Adager, or even DBGeneral.
April 08, 2013
Stromasys to get social to train for Charon
The creators of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator are rolling out their community carpet in earnest next month. Stromasys is hosting a HP 3000 User Social on Thursday, May 9 -- one month from tomorrow -- and then training at the Computer History Museum the next day, on May 10.
There is a free lunch. In fact, there's a free social on the evening before the training, starting at 6, where refreshments will be on hand, along with 3000 community members. If you couldn't make it to the first HP3000 Reunion in September 2011, this looks like another chance to reconnect in person with your community.
At the HP3000 Reunion in 2011, the event included drawings for copies of Jon Diercks' MPE/iX Administration Handbook. Harris said she's reaching out to Diercks to include his book in the event. It's a rare item. In addition to being the only book devoted to HP 3000 management, the Handbook is listed on Amazon as a $228 item.
Postcard invitations promoting the event are going into the mail within a week, Harris said. You can RSVP at a special webpage www.stromasys.com/hp3000event
It seems likely that a copy of the Personal Freeware Edition of the HPA/3000 emulator will also be available for pickup at the event. A European gathering of emulator prospects included copies of that software, freeware which turns any Intel Core i7 PC/laptop into a 2-user HP 3000, with some help from VMWare and Linux.
We'll have more Social-Training details as they emerge. These odd-numbered years have been good for 3000 events. CAMUS, the ERP-MANMAN users group, is hosting its virtual RUG meeting on April 17 (via phone and webcast). CAMUS' Terri Glendon Lanza also said the group would be glad to consider supporting this Spring's User Social, too.
April 05, 2013
Living a Privileged 3000 Life without SM
By Brian Edminster
After reading the article on the safe and prudent use of privileges from yesterday, the subject touched a nerve with me. I've seen too many HP 3000 sites which have SM (or PM) capabilities assigned to production account users. They don't need it, and it adds risk and insecurity to a 3000. Along the same lines of error, PM is granted on insufficiently secured groups where production programs reside.
That first mistake is usually an instance of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly, usually due to laziness or ignorance. But the latter is a sign of careless security, or ignorance. The misuse of MPE/iX privileges is often triggered because application programmers are too lazy (or ignorant) of ways to properly design their applications. They could use the incredibly powerful and finely granular security provisions that MPE/iX allows to avoid this.
At the least, they could instead have used a lockworded copy of what is commonly known in the 3000 community as the 'GOD' program. This lets the manager who invokes it temporarily gain 'SM' -- much like the 'su' (superuser) command in your favorite flavor of Unix does. If something with finer granularity is needed, perhaps this is an opportunity for someone to port at least the concept of 'sudo' to MPE/iX.
Sudo is a Unix tool that is designed to allow specific non-super-users restricted (and optionally logged) access to commands that normally require 'su'. In MPE/iX parlance, it's a way to allow specific users restricted and logged access to commands requiring more than regular 'vanilla' user capabilities. My take on this is that proper use of MPE/iX's privileges would make a "SuDo/iX" unnecessary, but your mileage may vary.
You might ask, what's the harm of allowing SM to an application user who is normally 'captive' within a logon, no-break UDC that forces the user into the application, and logs them off on exit? How about the admin (who shall remain nameless, even though they're retired now) that accidentally did a 'Purge @.@.@;Yes' -- except they were thinking they were logged into a test server, not one of the production machines.
And as for regularly changing passwords to application databases, auditors are usually talking about "user application access" passwords. From a best practices perspective, these shouldn't be the actual database passwords, but rather should be values stored in a table of authorized application users and their respective privileges.
That said, if you find yourself with a need to regularly change the physical database passwords, put that call to the DBOPEN routine (or retrieval of the password to be used for it) into a XL library. That means recompiling the library, not the application, when the passwords have to change.
And lastly, if your system has to be that tight, you probably shouldn't store user application passwords in clear-text in the database, either. Instead, apply a one-way hash to the value when it's initially stored. Then, any time a user supplies their password, it's run through that hash again and compared with the stored value. If they match, the passwords match.
The folks at Beechglen have a callable 'MD5' hash routine just for this purpose. Look for heading about 'MD5 Checksum' at "http://www.beechglen.com/mpe/data-encryption. In poking around the Freeware section of Beechglen's site, I saw they have a program called 'su' that is essentially a more controlled version of the old 'GOD' program. I haven't used it personally, but anything that allows more granularity of control in granting access and power is a good thing.
April 04, 2013
Privileges litter the path to passed audits
Yesterday we studied the ways that migrated HP 3000 data can become forgotten while making provisions for an audit. Since some HP 3000s work as mission-critical servers, these active, homesteading systems must weather IT and regulatory audits. The 3000 is capable of passing these audits, even in our era of PCI, HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley challenges — all more strenuous than audits of the past.
However, establishing and enforcing a database update procedure is a step onto filling the gap in the security of an MPE/iX system. HP 3000 managers should take a hard look at how their users employ System Manager (SM) privileges. (Privileged Mode, PM, and System Supervisor OP should also be watched. Overall, there can be 21 capabilities to each user.) In their most strict definition, those privileges can expose a database. Hundreds of users can be created at Ecometry sites; even seasonal help gets SM users, according to one consultant's report, users which are seldom deleted after the holiday has passed. One site had a script to create new users, and each had PM capability, automatically.
VEAudit from VEsoft, using its LISTUSER @.@ (CAP("SM")) filter, can give you a report of all of the SM users on your HP 3000. You can even ask for the SM users where password="". (Now there's a good list to find: SM users who have no passwords.) There is no MPE command that will do such things, we are reminded by VEsoft co-founder Vladimir Volokh. Even after more than three decades of his business as a 3000 software vendor, he also offers consulting on MPE operations and management, and still travels the US to deliver this.
Privileges are often a neglected aspect of 3000 operations, especially when the system's admin experts have moved on to non-3000 duties, or even to other companies. (Then there's the prospect that nobody knew how to use privileges in the first place.) Some SM users have disturbed the integrity of 3000 databases. It's easy to do accidentally. A creator of a database can also update a 3000 database — a capability that can foul up a manager's ability to pass some audits.
If you are worried about arbitrary access via QUERY, you can "disable subsystem access" via DBUTIL. This will, of course, only disable the access on QUERY.
Some less-adept auditors can also demand that a database's password be changed every 90 days. It's quite impossible to do, considering the database password is built into every application program.
So a database's security might be compromised through SM privileges, but it depends on the meaning of "update." This term can be construed to be as restrictive as using DBUPDATE to change an entry. It can also refer to UPDATE access DBOPEN MODE 2.
To get very specific, an update can mean that the modify date has been changed in the file label of one or more IMAGE-related files. In a very general definition, an SM user can update the database simply by way of a restore from tape. (OP privileges permit this, too.)
Auditors sometimes ask broad questions, the sort of inquiry that fits better with the everyday use of HP 3000s in an enterprise. But for MPE/iX experts, "update" means any kind of modification capability.
So you can answer your auditor's question and say "no, SM privileges don't permit any of our users to update a database in another 3000 account." This answer is true, to the extent that the auditor's concern is about changing data — not just making a minor date change or using DBOPEN MODE 2. For auditors without MPE/iX and IMAGE expertise, well, they might not go so far in their examinations.
As for the SM user's ability to muck up an IMAGE database, it’s a mistake that is not difficult to make. An SM user who obtains a database password can corrupt an IMAGE database just by using the restore command. We’ve heard a story that such a user might explain, "Oops, I thought I was signed onto the test account."
It's important to make a system fool-proof, because as Vladimir says, "fools are us."
April 03, 2013
Decommissioned data forgotten in migration
"It's the most forgotten piece of the migration puzzle," said Birket Foster while he recently led a webinar on best experiences with 3000 transitions. "People are not always remembering that at the end of the day they want to shut off the old 3000."
What Foster means is that even after removing data -- the most essential 3000 and company resource -- project managers need to track what data they must keep to satisfy an auditor. Many companies will still need long term access to historic data. That's either a 3000 and its services that can be outsourced from a third party, or maybe even an emulator virtualization of a 3000, perhaps based in a cloud. Some audits demand that the original 3000 hardware be available, however -- not an Intel-based PC doing a letter-perfect hardware emulation.
After the Great War, the returning soldiers were not welcomed as productive citizens ready to return to work. This kind of veteran was called The Forgotten Man, from Golddiggers of 1933. Perhaps the information in aging 3000s is marching in the same kind of veteran step.
Managers have to consider if they want to move their forgotten 3000 data after a migration, or leave it in a searchable format -- several questions to consider for an auditor's satisfaction. Many 3000 sites we've interviewed have a 3000 running for historical lookups. This is the sort of task that would meet the needs of an audit.
"We often remind people who are migrating that even through the classic steps are assess, plan and execute, there's also decommissioning," Foster said. "So you can shut off the box."
Organizations which must meet extra-stringent requirements -- such as healthcare service providers facing HIPAA, or corporations bound by the Sarbanes-Oxley laws, or even credit card-processing merchants -- bear the greatest burden of auditing. For example, those PCI credit card audits are performed by PCI Qualified Security Assessors. One of the only companies, among the 302 listed as QSAs, which is likely to hold tribal knowledge of HP 3000s is Forsythe Solutions -- which once was a Systems Integrator for the 3000.
Archival 3000s have been an important part of the air travel business, due to the use of credit cards to process transactions. A few years ago, one consultant reported out on the 3000 newsgroup that more than a dozen MPE/iX systems demanded archives for old data.
"We have 21 HP 3000s," said Mark Ranft, "and 18 of them are the largest, fully loaded N4000 4-CPU 750 systems you can get." In 2010, he said, "We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly."
And perhaps less costly with a good plan for decommissioning data, drawn up by experienced providers of daa migration services. Shadow 3000s run in the community with little to do but wait for an audit from one of those 302 QSAs. There's enough shadow resources needed to demand power, lightweight adminstration, and support contracts for these servers -- the budget that might help to defray the costs to decommission.
On the other hand, shutting off these systems hasn't become urgent in many homesteading sites who are transitioning. What might make it matter more are the systems a responsible 3000 IT manager will leave behind for the next pro who takes the job.
April 02, 2013
CAMUS schedules Spring webinar for April
The ERP and manufacturing user group CAMUS will host its every-springtime user group event on April 17, including discussion about the future of MANMAN led by community advocate and 3000 veteran Terry Floyd of the Support Group.
Terri Glendon Lanza, the founder of the Ask Terri ERP and manufacturing consultancy, has announced the call-in and PowerPoint meeting, which will begin at 10:30 Central US time. After an hour of talk and questions about the upcoming years for one of the oldest MPE applications -- still running in several hundred companies -- 3000 homesteading advice starts at 11:45.
Steve Suraci, owner of support and systems provider Pivital Solutions, talks first about Resources for Homesteading. Tom Bollenbeck of Ideal Computer follows up, on the same topic, at 12:05.
The user group's traditional and lively Talk Soup puts a signature on the meeting, which is free. An open discussion is scheduled to start at 12:25. You sign up at the Sign Up Genius website.
Up for discussion: MANMAN Modifications, and a possible CAMUS give-away. "Help us outline contents, actions, or a submission list for modifications with financial assistance from CAMUS," Lanza said in her April 2 announcement. "We could talk about the emulator during the open discussion if you want. Everyone is welcome."
Details for the webinar phone-in and log-on will be emailed to registrants prior to the meeting. You can send questions to Lanza at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 630.212.4314.
CAMUS is also prepared to help support a springtime in-person 3000 Social and Stromasys Training event. This is allegedly being held in May, but we're waiting on final confirmation from Stromasys. Once again, the Bay Area's Computer History Museum in Mountain View has been proposed as the setting.
"CAMUS would consider helping sponsor events whenever it may happen, spring or fall," Lanza said. The user group was one of the sponsors the HP3000 Reunion, held at the Museum in September, 2011.
March 29, 2013
Hope floats today for a 3000 resurrection
As a former Catholic altar boy, I learned a lot about resurrection during Springs in the 1960s. But the headline above isn't early April Fool's blasphemy. Some 3000 users -- more than a dozen, like disciples -- believe that an emulator in their market is a reason to believe in the server's revival.
They're somewhat correct, but how accurate is a revival of MPE/iX, versus the hardware to host it? Stromasys has accomplished the latter miracle with Charon HPA/3000. Servers as common as bottled water are running MPE/iX today, in production environments or proving the concept that PA-RISC systems have come back from a state of doom. Some are even succeeding with untested chips from AMD, somehow, rather than the approved Intel processors.
We've just approved a comment here on our blog that invests the emulator with these regenerative powers. HP would need a revival of its spirit to start to sell proprietary servers again, but at least there's powerful spirit among a few customers. None of them are paying HP any longer for the 3000. We'll get to that in a minute, and how it affects the salvation of critical MPE/iX applications. But to that prayer:
I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.
This manager doesn't want his name or company mentioned, but I assure you he's real and in charge of several HP 3000s. Third parties provide MPE and 3000 support at his site, and he runs HP's final low-end model of 3000, an A-Class. Although this is the season of miracles for hundreds of millions, marketing MPE/iX would demand a change of ownership at Hewlett-Packard. To kick-start it, people like our manager above would have to become customers of HP once more. The company took a conservative view of "customer" and "owner" five years ago this month. Nothing's changed there yet.
The issue of enabling Intel hardware to host MPE/iX is settled. Over and over, we've heard that the emulator runs the 3000's OS just as well as HP-built iron, the boxes HP stopped building nearly 10 years ago. The big rock to roll back is the status of software ownership. Many of the largest software companies take a dim view of operating their programs on fresh hardware. At least without any notice of the shift in platform.
Some companies -- and the 3000 veterans know who they are -- want a license fee upgrade if there's significant performance boosts on the new platform. The change that triggers this is the HPCPUNAME. Unless it still reports "Series 929" or somesuch, this emulated installation is a newer 3000.
Other software vendors are simply delighted their products will continue to work at customer sites. A customer site, however, is often defined as a company which pays a regular fee to maintain a relationship with the vendor. There's a lot of dropped-support software running out in your community. Vendors always have to live with this. Now there's a new wrinkle with the change of platform.
"If I was a paying customer of a software vendor, I'd keep quiet about using the emulator," one vendor said. He added that he's got no problems with his own customers using Charon. Any company prohibiting a switch "would be stupid, because you'd be losing revenue."
Earlier this week, however, I heard a statement that's true. "There's no application company yet which has approved a license for running software on the emulator." There's one story of Cognos permitting Quiz to run on a production emulator at an Australian insurance corporation. Warren Dawson, who plunged into the emulation pool, got it arranged by his Cognos reseller. Who's dealing with IBM these days, since Big Blue bought Cognos long ago.
IT managers can be lured into beliefs that run afoul of the computer vendor's catechism, however. Some managers believe they own their software once it's abandoned by the vendor. HP made its case that MPE/iX will always belong to HP, and always did, even while people were buying support from HP in 2008.
At a user meeting that year, the business manager of 3000 operations at HP Jennie Hou made HP's position clear.
Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP will cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exits the 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."
Several years ago, a European Union judge gave an advisory on a case about PC software. The judge said if a company walks away from a product, anybody has any right they'd like to use it in any way. There's a lot of defining to do to arrive at "walks away." It was only one judge. But things are changing very quickly in the world of intellectual property.
To see the cross that such hopeful disciples bear, look at what I wrote five years ago, after hearing HP's statement and seeing the slide below.
We were writing about independent support and source code -- which at the time wasn't released. Now MPE/iX source is in the hands of seven companies. One recently reported they'd used their source to create workarounds for support customers -- just the limit HP hoped for the use of its MPE/iX source.
I wrote in 2008
It's a mystery how HP can give any significant use of MPE/iX to third parties in the years after the vendor won't offer services for the 3000 community. A third party owns nothing under these rules, but should build a business model and employ experts on this basis? Risky business, that.
A third party will just have to hope to rely on access to MPE/iX source. And nothing else but hope. In any contract no better than a typical customer's, a support firm would own nothing but that Right To Use what HP owns. Support for the third party support supplier for MPE/iX from HP? Shut down, by 2010. Support suppliers could consider that deal a sketchy foundation to build a business upon.
The 3000 community can only hope that's not HP's intention for support providers: To make any alternative support for the 3000 community remain sketchy. HP retains its ownership, but the intention of this 2005 announcement was to "help partners" do support business. Here's that HP 2005 statement, as a reminder of Hewlett-Packard's intentions.
"When HP no longer offers services to address basic support needs of 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."
You generate partner interest with customer purchases, now that HP's made hardware emulation legal. Then you step out of the way and let licenses evolve. For the disciples, the back half of that resurrection is a revelation they must arrange on their own.
March 28, 2013
OpenMPE's afterlife lives on a live server
Eleven years ago this spring, OpenMPE was calling itself OpenMPE Inc. and proposing a business around the HP 3000. The organization was just getting on its feet, led by Jon Backus, a consultant and systems manager who ran his own business and took the first steps toward advocacy for the computer HP was cutting from its futures.
The hopes and dreams of a shell-shocked community of 3000 lovers came to the window of OpenMPE. But even in 2002, the group of volunteers' founders knew the holy grail was hardware to replace the boxes HP would stop selling in about 18 months.
A petition, in the form of customers' Letters of Intent, got presented to HP during that year's Interex 3000 Solutions Symposium.
The document is asking customers if they would support the new organization’s mission to enhance and protect the HP 3000 community’s lifespan, though software development and creation of an emulator that mimics the HP hardware on Intel processors.
And after a decade, the community got its emulator. The software that's now making ripples in the calm pond of 3000 use emerged from hard work at Stromasys, to be sure. But OpenMPE laid the first tracks to demonstrating user interest, as well as an MPE license for emulated 3000s. The HP license is one of the few that were written specifically for the emulator. (Minisoft has announced another.) The other evidence of OpenMPE's work is an HP 3000, hosted at the Support Group in Texas, where it holds software that still matters to MPE managers.
OpenMPE pays a nominal amount to maintain this server inside a hardened datacenter. That's evidence there's still a trace of business going through OpenMPE, although the Support Group volunteers more than a payment can cover. (That's the way volunteers roll, after all. Nobody got paid a dollar for working with OpenMPE, although there was plenty of pay-outs of public scorn.)
But host software on an HP 3000 and you become one of the beacons across the inky landscape of MPE in 2013. One customer wanted a copy of GCC, the Gnu C Compiler that's the bootstrap code for all 3000 open source riches. Mark Klein created an MPE/iX version of GCC to enable printer and file sharing, Internet addressing and advanced networking, perl and so much more on a 3000.
One source for GCC is on Brian Edminster's MPE Open Source server, a repository of free software. But he tipped his hat toward the OpenMPE beacon while answering a question posted on the 3000 newsgroup.
There are several third-party software support providers that could help -- you can find 'em through searching the 3000 newsgroup. And there's also a few of us that are keeping copies available for download on sites of our own.
I have a site that has it as part of a 'OpenSSH sftp client' install (which also happens to include perl as well). But at the moment, probably the best place to get GCC for MPE/iX is from a site that's a partial copy of the old 'Jazz' server at HP.
The direct URL is: http://www.openmpe.com/jazz/MarkK/gnuframe.htm
As the page notes, GCC was ported to MPE by Mark Klein. The community owes him a debt of gratitude for this, even thought the latest version available isn't quite so current anymore. In spite of that, Mark's work has made it possible to port quite a bit of software to MPE.
Klein volunteered his hours to create the MPE GCC, and more than 30 people volunteered their hours through nine years to make OpenMPE a player during the darkest era of the 3000 -- those springtime months of 2002 when it was so easy to hear the HP user group Interex trumpet the "migrate, and soon" message that HP was hawking. Plenty of sites did, although not nearly as soon as HP hoped. During that era, however, HP got to be instructed about how to curtail business for a business computer community -- hearing all the things it overlooked for the transition, denoted by OpenMPE's volunteers.
March was the time of year when OpenMPE volunteers ran for elections, starting in 2002. Although there are just three directors at the group now, it still has its friends in places like Measurement Specialties, where former director Tracy Johnson manages 3000s and a shadowed OpenMPE server. Or at Applied Technologies, where Edminster supports the ideal of free software that drove OpenMPE during its first year. Or out at the datacenter building in Texas, where the live 3000 still dishes out software that homesteaders find useful, once they search for it.
March 27, 2013
3000's endurance replaced easier than yours
System managers who are in charge of HP 3000s might be concerned about the endurance of their hardware. Those who use systems built in the 1990s feel lucky as their 3000 disks keep spinning and the data flows into and out of servers like the Series 929. This is the smallest of the 9x9 3000s, installed in many places as the best 1990s value for entry-level computing.
More than a dozen years later, these 3000s remain on the job. Senior management in these companies might want to ride the lucky tiger as long as they can, to forestall the expense of transitions. However, there's an IT element much tougher to replace than an 18GB drive, a power supply or a processor board.
During an interview this week, a manager who inherited a 929 preached the gospel of newer hardware. It's a problem that has a solution in the wings, as Stromasys makes its way into the homesteading market with its CHARON emulator. This manager said running MPE/iX on Intel PCs sounded "loopy," but he hasn't dismissed HPA/3000. He did look away from a component even more essential than hardware. While that HP iron might go down, the manager going down can also be a major issue. The knowledge of the 3000 is like gold at most homesteading shops, even if management doesn't have a golden budget for the server anymore.
Birket Foster of MB Foster likes to call this the "lottery factor." What if a 3000 manager's circumstances changed overnight, like in winning the lottery? A big annualized jackpot could mean a retirement, and a homesteading company would need a replacement. In-house training before such a change could prepare a company for the day that its 3000 expert goes down, even while the hardware hums along.
This manager's major concern "over anything else, is that I have a super hardware failure, and I can't get any support or replacement parts for my 3000. And while it's down, I'm out of business." Many companies run their HP 3000s around the clock, every day of the week. During the interview, it was suggested that even getting sick could amount to the same concern. That's not in the cards, he answered.
He did have a plan for succession, something a lot of 3000 users haven't formed. The company would hire somebody to come in and learn the 3000 operations over six months, before the IT manager might retire. This can be a difficult situation to engineer as a contingency. If you're not ready to retire, you would find it tough to approach your senior management to say, "let's hire up some IT expertise and make it 3000-ready."
This difficulty becomes a reality at any company where a migration has been "put on the back burner" for 4-5 years, one manager said. Another noted that migration was taking a lot longer than planned, and still another in that confectionary company said migrations have been discussed ever since HP triggered the end of its plans for the 3000. It's money that people are not forced to spend immediately, says Foster. So they don't.
"It's money versus risk where most people end up," he says. "At some point, though, they want to know how much risk they're really facing. It's not really about the hardware risk," he added. In some cases, even a Series 929 could handle twice the business load that it shoulders every day, if sales rocketed. The most critical point of failure is the 3000 expert at the company. Outside help to manage MPE applications, as a backup resource, can mitigate that risk. But it's got to be trained to know your business processes today -- even if senior management sees the 3000 as a less-than-golden resource.
Learning to step in for a manager who goes down, like one at a Florida insurance group did in 2010, takes time. This might be a period where transition planning -- not a migration, but selecting a replacement app -- could mitigate risk over a longer term. The IT pro who knows MPE/iX is the golden goose in these fables.
March 25, 2013
Searching for help in all the right places
Today a long-time 3000 site in the candy business called to find out if anybody was available to help with a little contract work. Maybe about two or three years' worth, because that's how long it would take this 3000 stalwart to pull out of their existing 3000 applications.
They've already pulled out of some. Oracle Financials now takes the place of an MPE/iX app, for example. But while Oracle is more popular with the market's experts, the in-house software that it replaced performed better.
The search for 3000 expertise led us to recommend a couple of favorite webpages. The OpenMPE contractor-consultant page has added new consultants in the last few weeks. Over at LinkedIn, the HP 3000 Community is fast approaching 600 members. And while LinkedIn would like the employer prospects such as our candy company -- and its Call Center, Order Entry, Order Fulfillment and Sales Audit apps, all running on N-Class servers -- to pay $295 to list a job opening, it's not needed. You can start a discussion in several places for free about an available job.
Three months ago we dipped our line in the water to attract two dozen applicants with 3000 experience in just under 36 hours, using the redoubtable 3000-L mailing list. We heard from long-time consultants, independent contractors, and even 3000 pros who thought their current company's use of MPE/iX looked a little shaky.
LinkedIn will take on any discussion in the 3000 Community group, regardless of whether it mentions jobs or not. It's hard to describe how many of the nearly 600 are available for work there, but it's not a miniscule percentage.
There's also an HP 3000 Jobs subgroup, which is part of Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine out on LinkedIn. Apply for the Bill and Dave's membership (it's free) and the Jobs subgroup is open to your offering and your seeking, too. Bill and Dave's is another 780 members big, and it's got lots of retired HP 3000 expertise in there. You never know who will want to take on an outside contract, after leaving the good ship HP.
March 22, 2013
AcuCOBOL's bench is a means to transition
COBOL-only 3000 sites have been working with the same set of tools for many years. HP closed its languages lab early in the previous decade, so Hewlett-Packard's brand-name source code managers and the like were last enhanced sometime late in the 1990s. That age doesn't matter very much to the strategy of homesteading. Suppliers such as Robelle have enhanced editors like Qedit in the interim.
There are options for improving COBOL development and managing application maintenance and creation. COBOL has many experts and advocates in the 3000 community. One of our favorites is Alan Yeo; his company ScreenJet created an interface between the 3000 and the development toolbench from Acucorp, AcuBench. Yeo has been a realist about the transition of AcuCOBOL toward a melding with Micro Focus COBOL. It's taken a long time so far -- AcuCOBOL hasn't achieved its melding in more than four years of plans and work on the project.
But the state of an AcuCOBOL-Micro Focus meld doesn't change one axiom: better COBOL project tools will help a 3000 site which is migrating. Micro Focus acquired AcuCOBOL's expertise and its customers in 2007, and first talked about a Project Meld in 2008.
"If you're COBOL shop and you're on the HP 3000," Yeo explained, "and you wanted to move to a very structured and complete environment -- where you've got a lot of development tools, debugging tools -- then the Micro Focus environment wouldn't be bad. But as of this minute, they haven't got anything that's as good as their AcuCOBOL GUI product."
Yeo was quick to praise this AcuBench IDE solution. It's software whose current data sheet looks minted from 2009, and states that it supports Windows environments as current as Vista. However, Yeo's ScreenJet software supplies a VPlus to ACUCOBOL-GT and AcuBench Conversion module.
This VPlus conversion tool kit extracts screen information from a VPlus formfile and delivers it as ready-made GUI screens to the AcuBench IDE (Integrated Development Environment), as though the screens had been created initially in that IDE.
A 3000 site moves to AcuBench and AcuCOBOL as part of a migration -- essentially a lift-and-shift project. The AcuCOBOL-GT compiler is engineered to adopt MPE/iX aspects such as COBOL II extensions. "That was the beauty of the AcuCOBOL stuff," Yeo said. "You could develop anywhere and run anywhere." The software outputs industry-standard COBOL, starting with COBOL code already driving HP 3000 applications.
Micro Focus has advanced software for development managing and team organization, some acquired from Borland (another company assimilated into the Micro Focus lineup.) As an example of the scope of some of these products, the AcuBench IDE offers drag and drop techniques to further enhance application screens, to employ additional GUI elements such as Radio Buttons, Check Boxes and List Boxes.
In contrast, a product such as Micro Focus Caliber includes components used to author applications, visualize both user cases and process flows, and simulate user interaction. These tools, which are next-generation software for most 3000-centric developers, can relate such visualizations to application requirements. A review module in Caliber is essential to letting business stakeholders discuss and collaborate on such visualizations.
Business stakeholder discussions can help bring IT to the boardroom table. Collaboration to create and improve applications feeds the value of an Application Management Portfolio, and APM makes apps shine as key assets.
March 21, 2013
Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?
Out on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, managers have been apprised this spring of an offering from Beechglen Development called Triple Store. The essence of the advice is sound. Make multiple backups, because it's risky to rely on just one tape -- and too time-consuming to simply make multiple tapes.
(Not a part of the LinkedIn Community for 3000s yet? Join us -- we're well on the way to being 600 members strong.)
Triple Store proposes a primary copy goes to local user volume storage on your 3000. The secondary local copy goes out to a Linux Appliance, as Beechglen calls it. There's a third copy that goes into SSD storage in a cloud which Beechglen hosts offsite.
You can look over the pricing in a single-page datasheet from Beechglen, but it's that Linux Appliance that might be the newest wrinkle in a multi-copy strategy. This particular application encrypts the backup and applies compression. Secure FTP (SFTP) can pass the backups from standard HP 3000 73GB user volumes to this Appliance. For those who unfamilar with the appliance concept, it is a separate server powered by Linux and loaded with an application dedicated to backups.
Brian Edminster, our backup advisor for 3000 operations, keyed in on the Triple Store's appliance, too.
The greatest novelty is having a Linux-driven appliance to act as a secure intermediary. It appears to be to sending backups ultimately to one's own Network Attached Storage (NAS), off to Beechglen's cloud, or onto SSDs (which are being used as the removeable media). I already do backups for the systems I administer in a similar way.
Edminster said that he does a Store-To-Disk, usually to a separate user volume dedicated to holding backups; then he does an FTP or SFTP of this disk-backup to a NAS device, "where it's backed up by an enterprise backup tool."
Not addressed -- but implied in the marketing piece for Triple Store -- is the mechanism for recovering a backup from the backup appliance archive (or from SSD or cloud to the appliance, and then to your 3000).
Sure, you can just FTP/SFTP it back to the 3000's file system, should you need a backup image that's no longer on your user volume. The problem seems to be that won't preserve the MPE-ness of the Store-To-Disk backup files. Unless you take special steps, you might lose the MPE/iX filesystem characteristics of the backup -- making it difficult to restore from without additional processing. Not good.
I've been looking into simple ways to do this (preferably an FOS-only solution), and have been experimenting with a number of methods.
In the weeks to come, we’ll look forward to a report from Edminster on how to do this sort of multiple store using a limited amount of non-MPE software.
March 20, 2013
Emulator connects to terminals, POC efforts
What was restarted as a pilot project more than four years ago at Stromasys is now a full-fledged product. The CHARON-HPA/3000 operations inside Stromasys are receiving continued investment, according to company officials. The emulator is a proof of concept project at several companies who've contacted us, but it's a full-fledged software solution at the vendor which created it.
The software's starting to caper through springtime on laptops and low-cost desktops across North America and elsewhere. One manager who briefed us about the POC work at his site said he put up the A-202 Freeware edition on an HP desktop with an i3 Core Intel chip. The desktop came off eBay with a $150 price tag. The demonstration yielded "a sigh of relief I could hear across the room." Top IT managers are happy to see a way for MPE applications to run onward into the future, independent of HP-built servers.
Installing the emulator software and setting it into service requires an ability to know how to put an IP address into a terminal emulator, in order to connect over a network. Any A-202 freeware users who have limited networking skills are presenting special support needs to Stromasys. The company says it's working in a couple of directions to find a method to help such users in a cost-effective manner.
Stromasys has two versions of the HPA/3000 documentation, one for the A202 Freeware Edition and one for the Demo-to-Production Edition. The company is restructuring these documents to turn them into User Guides, an upgrade from the comprehensive collection of notes available at the moment. Fortunately there are very few issues that only concern Freeware users, so having to spend time supporting freeware users — with advice and instruction that doesn't benefit the vast majority of its customers and prospects — has not been an issue.
Product manager Paul Taffel is at the nexus of this springtime growth. "The momentum is certainly building," he said, "and it really is fulfilling to talk to users who had no hope of finding a solution like CHARON, and to be able to show them such a high-quality product."
The HPA/3000 edition of CHARON will have a fresh release this spring, "and we have also started working on some major enhancements to improve our high-end performance."
Every 3000 manager uses either physical terminals, or a terminal emulators running on a PC (or very rarely on a Mac) to connect to their HP 3000. "This doesn't mean that they're running old-fashioned applications," Taffel said. "It's still the way that everyone who uses an HP3000 connects users to it."
Some sites may use fancy network connections to allow users running PC-based programs to access information stored on the HP 3000, without using a terminal emulator. But pretty much everyone uses software like Reflection or Javelin to open up a terminal emulator window when then need to log on to the system to issue commands or start up programs.
There are very few users still using serially-connected physical terminals (which require a DTC to connect to an HP 3000). Almost everyone who is using Reflection, for example, uses it to connect to their HP 3000 over a local network.
Contrary to our earlier reports, Stromasys believes the HPA/3000 will work with DTCs, although it hopes an enterprising user to try to hook one up and report their findings. And while Alan Yeo has reported that CHARON won't work with DDS tape drives, Stromasys says that's not true.
"My home test system — that $1,300 one — has a DDS-3 drive built in," said Taffel. "Warren Dawson (our first user) built his test system with a tape drive, but then decided against building one into his production system."
VMware can demand some close management in a few cases. When the CHARON Freeware Edition is run inside VMware on a laptop, users normally connect to the virtual HP 3000 machine by running Reflection on the same laptop. Despite the fact that Reflection and CHARON are running on the same physical PC, you connect them to each other using the network. If your laptop is plugged into a wired-network, Windows is provided with an IP address on the network -- and you must configure your virtual HP 3000 to have an address on the same network. When you do this, Reflection can talk to CHARON with no problem.
In VMware, things get much more complicated if your laptop is connected to a network using a wireless adapter. Stromasys has solved the problem of connecting Reflection to CHARON using a laptop connected to a wireless network.
If that laptop isn't connected to any network (wired or wireless), then connecting Reflection to CHARON requires yet another solution. This configuration is also being documented as part of the User Guide.
Freeware users of HPA/3000 are providing opportunities to solve problems such as wireless access points from inside VMware, and document it for the greater good of the 3000 community. Freeware users expect support for their experiments with emulation.
March 18, 2013
Still Patching After All These Years
HP solved the problems of the 3000 and MPE with patches, revised software which Hewlett-Packard still distributes today. Probably not as seamlessly as it did while the company supported the system. But just as inexpensively: MPE/iX is one of the only HP operating systems with free patches. The still-engineered and fully-supported OS lineup requires an HP support contract to retrieve patches, even the critical ones.
Patches resurfaced in my reporting this afternoon while I interviewed a consultant to a large site, one where 22 HP 3000s once ran altogether. Today it's a couple of N-Class servers. He was feeling good about the chances for a Stromasys emulator there, partly because the customer is already running on MPE/iX 7.5. The final generation of the OS is required to run the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.
"We got away from using Large Files, too," he added. "I think HP never did fix that corruption bug in those." That would be the >4GB corruptor, discovered in 2006 by Adager and finally fixed in '07 by HP's IMAGE/SQL labs. The repaired software required a millicode patch, the first one HP'd written for the 3000 in 16 years. You can get that patch via HP's Response Center website. But that's not how most 3000 managers are getting these patches today.
The number of HP contract-holding 3000 administrators has dropped since the 2007 date of patch MILNX10A. Most people are calling into HP's support line, then plowing through the confusion that arises when you ask for something related to HP and a 3000.
"If one has a functioning support center logon, then yes -- you can download the patch via the Web," said one indie support provider. "I find most people need to call the support line. I always tell them to take their patience with them, as it can be challenging to get past the initial call handlers. ("No…my 3000 is not a printer…") You’ll eventually get to the one (?) person still handling MPE patching requests."
We are told, by Allegro Consulting's Donna Hofmeister, that "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person"
MILNX10A is important enough to patch, especially on a 3000 that's got databases that are still growing. One traditional advisory in the 3000 community is that "there are three things that can happen when you apply a patch, and two of them are not good." So that limits an administrator's gusto for patching -- but this corruption problem was a big enough deal for HP to label that patch critical.
The patch repairs access to any in-house applications that have used Large Files, or do a sort with a temporary file that can exceed 4GB. If your app has not been modified since March 30, 2000, it's safe. That's when HP introduced the Large File feature.
Large Files has been engineering which HP worked to remove from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the 3000 converted to Jumbo files, much better engineered. Jumbos were at work where our consultant was arranging an audition for the emulator.
MILNX10A is not stageable because it requires a installation job. It is most easily installed by using HP's autopat. Autopat, at its conclusion, will say "stream this.job." A couple of blinks later, milli.lib.sys (and friends) is updated.
MILNX10A won't be enough to fix this corruption problem. HP's repair also requires MPENX11A. Unlike the millicode patch, MPENX11A is not stageable, as it is a patch that requires a reboot. A manager can use Patch/iX to get the patch staged and schedule a reboot.
If you don't know if you should apply this patch, contact your support provider. If you're patching, pay attention to when you run 'unpackp.' We'd love to hear any experience you might have while navigating the free phone support from HP for these patches.
March 15, 2013
Freeware emulator user reaches for support
In one of the greater gifts to the 3000 community, Stromasys has unleashed software that permits a 2-user HP 3000 to appear on the hard drive of a PC anywhere in the world. The Charon software could replace consultants' aging 3000 systems immediately after a download and install. These consultants could then demonstrate this emulated 3000 to homesteading companies. A sale to the company might take place.
However, the HP 3000 rose to its highest peaks with the benefit of other emulation, decades ago. The server's oldest software employed proprietary terminals. When PCs displaced terminals because of those desktop computers' industry standard and flexibility, one software product made it possible: terminal emulators. WRQ shipped Reflection. Minisoft distributed MS 92. More than a dozen years ago, a freeware terminal emulator, QCTerm, rolled out of the labs at AICS Research.
When these emulators emerged, prospective customers had questions during proof of concept testing. During the years while that era's emulation was proving itself, tech support was a call-in experience. I don't recall how a company might handle a technical support call from a non-customer. At Adager, the tech team was often contacted about how to repair IMAGE/SQL databases. That kind of call would earn a non-customer some advice, because that's a full-service model being preserved by some vendors.
And freeware? It didn't exist in anything but the most rudimentary bulletin board system-driven downloads for PCs, or the Interex swap tapes for MPE software.
Terminal emulation is still with us, in the form of entrenched applications that rely on linking to a Reflection, MS 92 or something else like QCTerm. Now there's a second level of emulation in the Charon solution. It's not clear yet how the markets, the customers and the vendors of freeware will handle this kind of inquiry.
On one hand, it seems obvious that a software company couldn't really be expected to support freeware users 1-to-1. There's not enough revenue to support that expense. However, 3000 emulation is trying to prove its worth this year. It's going to need some of that personal attention for dug-in 3000 managers and consultants.
This afternoon we got a call from a consultant who'd run up against this emulator-to-emulator handshake. Did I know, Dan Miller asked, how to achieve a connection to a 3000 using Reflection and Charon?
We've never pretended to be that smart here, but we know people who can answer that question. Dan got a referral, and we hope to catch up with the answer to his question. He had many others for Stromasys last fall, and must've gotten answers enough to start his proof of concept installation for his client. He might be trying to get a serial connection -- bereft of any outside network -- in step with the emulator, but that might not be true. Dan's is the first question we've seen about Reflection and Charon.
These days, tech support for freeware is handled by user communities, email, SourceForge message boards, explicit user guides -- the kinds of advice channels which can't really walk you through an installation. We don't know where the future is on freeware and support, but it's an interesting aspect of this year's emulation debut.
March 14, 2013
Advice on reductions helps manage risk
Most managers of 3000s cope with the same challenges seen on other platforms: fewer resources, layoffs and retirements, aging hardware. Yes, even in the marketplace of HP's Itanium or Windows servers, hardware gets older. Not like the 3000s, those boxes which will, by this fall, be at least one decade old.
If the server is built well, if the budgets hold up, if the headcount doesn't shrink, enterprise server owners won't have to manage any risk. What're the odds of that? Since you'd probably admit that you can't dodge all of those, MB Foster held a Wednesday Webinar yesterday to outline the stategies for how to cope with less.
Any special demands for the 3000 didn't come up during the 1-hour webinar. It didn't need to be highlighted, because the elements of risk management are universal. It's just a matter of degree. Do you have an aging workforce, or is the company thinking of using younger IT pros? There's a career retirement trend out there for the professional who can afford it. Foster said 5,000 people born between 1945 and 1960 retire every day. That's ages 53-68, probably the largest slice of 3000 managers.
The odds are stacked against implementing change without a complete plan. Even an optimist would shudder at figures that MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster shared from the Standish Group. By that group's research, 90 percent of the replacements of ERP systems will finish over budget, behind schedule -- or be scrapped altogether. That slender slice of orange in the pie chart represents the lucky companies who got what they wanted, on time and in budget.
Of the ones that finish, companies are averaging about half of the functionality they pursued with their change. Swapping in an off the shelf app for 3000 application could well overlook customizations for spreadsheet interfaces, for example. "And the spreadsheets weren't part of that IT system, they were part of what the user base used," Foster said.
A company is likely to be just one merger or acquisition away from doing more IT with less resources. The 3000 has built-in restrictions that can leave it serving more computing than intended: storage, memory, capability to connect with the latest peripherals. But even the migrated customer can benefit from a plan to mitigate risks.For example, Foster said a company needs $100,000 on average just to deal with planning for the challenges related to a merger. An application portfolio plan, which starts with a professional assessment, can help a company determine not only what they should do, but what they can stop doing.
"It gives people an opportunity to look at all of the processes in their business," Foster said of a portfolio project. "It helps standardize business practices, so the best ones move forward in a merger."
One newer trend in business is analyzing key performance indicators. The HP 3000, or a replacement, can be delivering data needed to access these KPIs. "You pull that data out of your database and put it into a dashboard," Foster said. You can get ready access to that data by using a data mart -- or as Foster said, "putting your data in a fishing pond instead of an ocean." These data marts are fed by an Operational Data Store, or a data warehouse.
Data warehouses are far from new strategies. The 3000's app family was developed for warehouses as far back as the middle 1990s. But a much newer concept, cloud, also harkens back to 3000 roots. "The cloud is a just a modern version of the service bureau, Foster said. His partner in the webinars Chris Whitehead added that using the cloud "is an effective way to mitigate some of the costs and fewer resources you will have if you've gone through a big round of layoffs." Foster took note that using best of breed applications connected through the cloud still demands you assign an "application of record" to each customer datafile. It could be shipping, billing or a CRM system, but you must decide.
One segment of the webinar held special meaning for the 3000 site which is homesteading. Complete plans on how to weather reductions of resources include plans for aging hardware.
"You can figure out what hardware can go away," using a portfolio plan in an era of cutbacks, Foster said. The estimation should be based on the hardware's business fit, its stability and quality, and its maintainability. Mean Time to Recovery of Operations is "the other side of your disaster plan, understanding the cost of recovering. This helps determine how long a company could afford to be off-line if a system failed.
Mergers help define movement, but the rise of mobile computing also will tax aging resources. "You'll have to think about how mobile fits into your picture. Maybe some of your operations don't have to be done with a web browser. A shipper could look up a status over a smartphone.
But that fishing pond, the reservoir that spills out of a classic data warehouse, delivers insights that can begin with 3000 data. Any 3000 customer who's thinking of moving off the platform will benefit from creating these ponds out of their oceans of data.
"There's a real benefit of being able to have replication of data that exists on an HP 3000 into a seperate repository," Whitehead said. "You can redirect all of the users to that environment on say, Oracle or SQL Server, so they can do their reporting. It facilitates the transformation if they do make the change in ERP -- and stops individuals from hacking away at the production environment, too."
March 13, 2013
CHARON sets 3000's future
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.
By Alan Yeo
Third of three parts
If you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.
So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.
Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.
I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."
My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair.
They are certainly not giving HP 3000 users a get out of jail free card by giving it away. If you're using old HP 3000 hardware and versions of MPE/iX, then the upgrade to a modern CHARON-HPA/3000 server should be no more effort or cost than you would have incurred upgrading to the appropriate A- or N-Class HP 3000 (if they were still available).
I think the free personal 2-user edition is going to be of great service to the HP 3000 community, as it will enable a large group of people to still keep their hands on an HP 3000 — so they will still be available to provide support into the future.
Times they are a-changing
It's perhaps apt to compare this event in Frankfurt with the Ratingen event some nine years earlier, and realise how much has changed, and how much hasn't. Nine years ago if you read the Ratingen review, we got lost and drove around in circles. Today everybody has satellite nav, and probably on their iPhone, smartphone or tablet, none of which existed nine years ago. Nine years ago HP had a large support organisation at Ratingen and a huge production and software centre at Böblingen near Frankfurt. It's now all gone! Just shut down, or outsourced to Poland and Bulgaria.
Nine years ago HP was a big company in Germany; now it's just a few sales offices. Nine years ago there were a bunch of people in Ratingen wondering what the future of the HP 3000 was. On our February night in Frankfurt we finally got the answer: Hello CHARON!
As a final note, I did go back and read my old Ratingen piece from 2004. I'd concluded with "The meeting closed with the normal good-byes — but there was more than a sense that the paths of many of us, which had crossed if only infrequently over the last decades, might not intersect again as we set off in new directions." This has proved unhappily true. However, the upside of the Stromasys event was that as we departed, with freeware copies of an HP 3000 on a CD in our bags, I had the feeling that this time many of us expected to meet again in the future.
By the way, for those of you wondering why the Stromasys emulators are called CHARON: the legendary Charon is the ferryman over the river Styx, carrying you from your old life to the next. I'll leave it to your investigation to work out how Stromasys is derived from that legend.
Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion.
March 12, 2013
Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He now points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement.
By Alan Yeo
Second of three parts
I think the most important thing I realised at this event is the CHARON HPA emulator isn't a piece of technology that allows you to do a direct replacement of your current old HP 3000 with a piece of new hardware, by just doing a store and restore. The best way that I think I can describe it is: imagine that HP had just launched a new range of HP 3000 systems called the "B" and "O" Class to replace the "A" and "N" and that these new HP servers would only run MPE/iX 8.0.
That 8.0 analogy doesn't quite apply, as the emulator ships with the final 7.5 version of MPE/iX. But you have to use the supplied 7.5 version, not your own, and if you are on anything earlier then you can think of this as an operating system upgrade as well as a hardware swap. So you probably are not going to get away with a STORE on your old system and a RESTORE with "KEEP" unless where you are coming from is an incredibly simple environment.
Whilst your CHARON box can retain the same HPSUSAN, it can't retain the same HPCPUNAME — and it is almost certainly is going to be running a later version of MPE/iX for most homesteaders. So you are going to have to do a good inventory of what software and third party products you are running; if they will run under 7.5; and possibly how to re-install them — especially if they have any components that hook into anything in SYS.
That means you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. But your reward could be improved performance.
How fast is it? The CHARON product manager Paul Taffel was very open about where the current sweet spot for performance of the CHARON emulator lies, which currently is anything up to the size of a low end N-Class. However they expect this to improve -- and unlike with the real N-Class hardware that officially topped at a 4-CPU system, using the Intel-based servers will enable Stromasys to create 6-way, 8-way and potentially even bigger CPU systems.
One interesting thing was pointed out that hadn't struck me before: we have been used to CPUs getting faster and faster, but these days that isn't quite so true. Most of the new boxes deliver high-quoted MIPS by adding more and more cores, rather than the individual cores getting any quicker. For an emulator that uses two cores to emulate an HP 3000 CPU core, this means there is actually a ceiling on performance. That's the performance from each core. So it might well be a while before commodity Intel hardware can match a high-end HP 3000.
In reality I don't think raw performance is going to an issue for anyone who's homesteading on older hardware. Looking at the great table of relative performance created by Wirt Atmar at his AICS Research site, you would have to be running a heavily loaded 9x9 or 997 for this emulator to struggle. That's not to say that there wasn't one company at the Stromasys event that said it was beta testing the emulator for such a requirement.
Next time: Accommodating tape technology and NAS, and summing up CHARON and where it takes the HP 3000.
March 11, 2013
HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt
It was nightime, it was snowing and we were on foot, walking to our restaurant. Not a format for an American HP 3000 gathering perhaps, but we Europeans are a hardy bunch with the prospect of a good meal, beer and wine in the offing. It was February 5, 2013, and once again I was in Germany for an HP 3000 event. The last time had been nine-plus years earlier for the final official European-Middle East-Africa, Hewlett-Packard-organised event. I reported on it at the time in the Newswire, "After Malta founders on rocks, Ratingen rolls." Hence the borrowed title of this article.
Sheltering under a Virtual Umbrella
This time it wasn't HP who had organised the event, but rather Stromasys, the company who nearly a decade after HP sold the last HP 3000 is gearing up to supply new HP 3000s, albeit they are emulated servers. To be truthful it wasn't a pure HP 3000 event. Stromasys have been supplying emulated DEC PDP-11, VAX and Alpha emulators for nearly a couple of decades, and the event was for vendors and customers of those platforms as well as for those interested in the new HP 3000 emulator. But it was interesting to contemplate this situation in the same manner HP via acquisition had gathered together all these platforms under one company umbrella (I could have done with one of those umbrellas on our snowy night.) As HP are abandoning these users, Stromasys are gathering together the users of those computers under a new emulated umbrella.
The event was a combined introduction to Stromasys and their emulators, plus twin technical tracks, one for the DEC people and one for the HP folks. Those attending the HP 3000 track — approximately 20 had made it, from Finland in the north, Greece in the south, Slovenia in the east and Ireland in the West, in addition to those from more central European countries, and a couple of us from ScreenJet in the UK. In the group there were a few familiar faces from Ratingen, nine years earlier.
For the HP 3000 attendees, it was an opportunity to find out from Paul Taffel — the 3000 veteran is now Stromasys's resident HP 3000 expert who had flown in from California — how the development and testing of the HP 3000 emulator was going. How the first live and beta test sites had gone over, and for most to get our hands on a copy of our own personal freeware copy of the emulator.
A refreshing thing these days was the candor with which Stromasys talked about where they are, how they got there, and where they are going.It wasn't a case of saying they have a magic wand that will solve everyone's problems. Instead it was a frank presentation of where they have gotten to in matching the performance of the real HP 3000 models, and where the real issues are going to be in moving from a real HP 3000 to an emulated one.
Going Live Down Under
On the practicalities of moving a live production HP 3000 to the CHARON emulator, we had an on-line presentation from Warren Dawson of Hannover Life Re in Australia. It was 2 AM Australia time and Dawson had stayed up to share his experiences of moving his company's applications from a 20-plus-year-old HP 3000 947 system to the emulator, and their reasons for doing so.
I won't go into much detail, but some interesting bits for me were that the emulator route was taken quickly after an attempted migration to SQL was taking too long and was cancelled, and a couple of serious hardware failures that took too long to resolve. Both salient points that the wise heads in the HP 3000 community have been trying to get over for a number of years. If you're doing a migration, do a "Lift'n'Shift." Changing any more than the absolute minimum in a migration introduces risk and delays. Save the changes and enhancements until you are safely migrated. And just because there is lots of second-hand HP 3000 hardware around, it doesn't mean the bit you need is available where it's needed, or when it's needed, or that you are going to get up and running again before it starts to impact the business. Your homesteading, plan (and budget) should be for the worst case scenario — not to hope and pray for the best case.
Dawson was also clear that he needed and received the support and assistance of his third-party HP 3000 software vendors to make the transfer.
He was enthusiastic about the support he had received from Stromasys, whose beta test program he'd joined. I got the feeling that he might well have gone live ahead of the curve that Stromasys were anticipating. He was also very pleased with the performance of his new HP 3000, reporting that many procedures were running nine times quicker. Although to be fair, coming from a 947, even a genuine HP lowest-end, crippled A-Class would probably have done the same kind of performance lift.
Next time: The most important thing to realize about Charon HPA/3000.
Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion.
March 08, 2013
Change your clocks, all the time
The US will roll its clocks forward by one hour this weekend. That means it's time to anticipate the questions about keeping 3000 clocks in sync, for anyone who hasn't figured this out over the last several years. US law has altered our clock-changing weekends during that time, but the process to do so is proven.
Donna Hofmeister, whose firm Allegro Consultants hosts the free nettime utility, explains how time checks on a regular basis keep your clocks, well, regular.
This Sunday when using SETCLOCK to set the time ahead one hour, should the timezone be advanced one hour as well?
The cure is to run a clock setting job every Sunday and not go running about twice a year. You'll gain the benefit of regular scheduling and a mostly time-sync'd system.
In step a-1 of the job supplied below you'll find the following line:
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
Clearly, this needs to be changed.
If for some dreadful reason you're not running NTP, you might want to check out 'nettime'. And while you're there, pick up a copy of 'bigdirs' and run it -- please!
Also, this job depends on the variable TZ being set -- which is easily done in your system logon udc:
SETVAR TZ "PST8PDT"
Adapt as needed. And don't forget -- if your tztab file is out of date, just grab a copy from another system. It's just a file.
This job below was adapted from logic developed by Paul Christidis:
!TELLOP ALL MPE SYSTEMS
!TELLOP ==SETTIME -- SYNCs SYSTEM CLOCK W/ TIME SERVER !
!# from the help text for setclock....
!# Results of the Time Zone Form
!# If the change in time zone is to a later time (a change to Daylight
!# Savings Time or an "Eastern" geographic movement), both local time
!# and the time zone offset are changed immediately.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see an immediate
!# jump forward to the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see no change.
!# If the change in time zone is to an earlier time (a change from
!# Daylight Savings to Standard Time or a "Western" geographic
!# movement), the time zone offset is changed immediately. Then the
!# local time slows down until the system time corresponds to the
!# time in the new time zone.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see a gradual
!# slowdown to match the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see an immediate forward jump, then a slowdown until the
!# system time again matches "real" Universal Time.
!# This method of changing time zones ensures that no out-of-sequence
!# time stamps will occur either in local time or in Universal Time.
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME A-1
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
!if hpcierr <> 0
! echo hpcierr !hpcierr (!hpcierrmsg)
! tellop NTPDATE problem
!tellop SETTIME -- Pausing for time adjustment to complete....
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME B-1
!setvar FallPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 10 AND hpdate > 24)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 11 AND hpdate < 8))
!setvar SpringPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 4 AND hpdate< 8)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 3 AND (hpdate > 7 AND hpdate < 15)))
!# TZ should always be found
! if hpday = 1
! if SpringPoint
!# switch to daylight savings time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]-1
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
! elseif FallPoint
!# switch to standard time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME C-1
Mark Ranft of 3k Pro added some experience with international clocks on the 3000.
If international time conversion is important to you, there are two additional things to do.
1) Set a system-wide UDC to set the TZ variable. (And perhaps account UDCs if accounts are for different locations)
TZ = CST6CDT
2) There is also a tztab.lib.sys that needs to be updated when countries change when or if they do DST.
ACCOUNT= SYS GROUP= LIB
FILENAME CODE ------------LOGICAL RECORD----------- ----SPACE----
SIZE TYP EOF LIMIT R/B SECTORS #X MX
TZTAB 1276B VA 681 681 1 96 1 8
# @(#) HP C/iX Library A.75.03 2008-02-26
# Mitteleuropaeische Zeit, Mitteleuropaeische Sommerzeit
0 3 25-31 3 1983-2038 0 MESZ-2
0 2 24-30 9 1983-1995 0 MEZ-1
0 2 25-31 10 1996-2038 0 MEZ-1
# Middle European Time, Middle European Time Daylight Savings Time
<< snipped >>
March 07, 2013
Enterprise Failure: Selling to the Consumer
COBOL expert and 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs shared a story with me this week about selling straight to a product's users. That's the way HP 3000s moved into tens of thousands of companies during the 1980s. Back in those simpler sales days IT directors -- we called 'em DP managers in the day -- did the selecting and purchasing of corporate computer assets.
The sale happened in the office of the head computer honcho. This person was the consumer, if you will, of the product being offered. More than anything, they wanted something that would work and be a joy to use. (Joy being a relative term, considering it was the 1980s and ENQ/ACK was still a big part of what we called datacomm. Not networking, which was an even deeper black art.)
The story Mr. Hobbs shared was from the world of Apple, where a blogger took note of Why Nobody Can Copy Apple. In summary, Apple wants to sell directly to the user of its computing solutions. The mobile arm of this vendor now has a large footprint in corporations because of this. People are Bringing their Own Devices to the office. It's enough of a phenomenon to trigger a recent webinar on the topic from MB Foster.
However, current enterprise computing sales -- the kind that displaced the 3000 -- take place in an office outside of DP Departments (as we used to call them in the '80s). Corporate Purchasing began to buy systems, or the perhaps the selection happened in the Office of CFO. These officers were accountable to the cost of what they purchased, more so than how reliable or flexible or value-driven systems behaved. This is what put Intel PCs and Windows onto so many desks, long after the users curtailed all manner of love for these affordable choices.
This is the kind of technology selection that's gotten developers and IT administrators removed from decisions. Now IT must present its applications as a portfolio of assets, just to win a place at the boardroom table. No vendor cares less about enterprise-driven sales than Apple. And yet somehow the company has made itself a permanent resident in the plans of corporate IT. BYOD proves that consumer sales work.
You don't talk for long about Apple's culture without invoking Steve Jobs these days. It's a lot like the Bill and Dave stories that once cradled any Hewlett-Packard business computing discussions. Jobs had this to say about selling directly to the user of any computing device.
What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and if enough of them say ‘yes,’ we get to come to work tomorrow. That’s how it works. It’s really simple.
With the enterprise market, it’s not so simple. The people that use the products don’t decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused.
We all have sad memories of 3000-using companies who were hounded away from MPE by confused corporate purchasing departments. In the realm of the most price-driven organization, government, coming in just 8 percent lower in a bidding contest will earn a sale of something less worthy.
So the 3000 can sometimes earn its owner -- the technologist who still tends to it -- unfair emnity. "Our HP 3000 lives on here, to the immense annoyance of all those who do not understand and love it," said one DP Manager who talked to us on background. "I am personally hated because of my association with it, and viewed hereabouts as a dumb cluck with a degree in useless knowledge."
But corporations don't make products great. Consumers do that, especially when they recognize what they need and delight in getting it. Even when it's different, like Apple or the HP 3000. It doesn't take long to get to the passion then, those moments where the consumer uses the word love on an inanimate object.
March 06, 2013
Emulator earns exam for test databases
An HP 3000 manager is exploring the option of using the Stromasys emulator to host archived test databases as well as an inventory of vehicles and parts. If Stromasys could supply its software, the system could emulate an A500 server installed recently to replace a vintage Series 996.
The 32-year veteran of 3000 programming and management said he'd consider it "a rise in my personal stock if I could go to management and say the emulator could replace TurboIMAGE, VPlus and Pascal programs onto Intel hardware and mass storage.
"If that were true, and we could make it happen for $25,000, we might become a Stromasys customer," he said.
Their app tracks reliability and maintainability of vehicles. Reports have been created using Query and a few dozen customized Pascal programs. One portion of the application is still live: several parts and equipment databases for a warehouse operation. "They still have parts coming in and going out," the manager said.
The HP 3000 is also hosting data that's been static for more than three years. "We're required by regulation to have a way to bring it back online, or keep it there," he said. That 3000 archives hundreds of IMAGE databases that haven't been converted to Oracle.
"There's no new development," he said. "We do not have any COBOL, either,"
However, the situation at the testing center could be tailor-made for the emulator. There are virtually no third-party tools or apps to license, and the application that's online runs off basic HP FOS software, with the exception of those HP Pascal reports. Switching to Intel-based MPE can provide hardware security, so long as software licenses don't get in the way.
He convinced his managers to buy a used A500 HP 3000 several years ago, but the computer requires an ongoing maintenance contract and has had its problems over the last year. It would have been easy to make the case for an emulator while that server was experiencing problems, but the solution wasn't released at that time.
Mass storage support has become a lure for an emulator, too. A disk failure in that Series 996 was on a list of items for this manager to resolve. Emulation could tie newer storage into the system.
"I could have an IMAGE database, and Query files. That's incredible."
Third party solutions like the emulator have seen a rise at the center since HP's decline in the 3000 business. While HP provided support, "As we got to know more, and HP got cheaper, the amount of hand holding from them seriously declined," he said.
March 05, 2013
What Triggers a Need for New Tools?
Editor's note: One of our 2013 projects is exploring the range of development tools that are waiting on the other side of a move off the 3000. I checked in with Alan Yeo, the founder of ScreenJet and a provider of VPlus transition and modernization tools. He's also offering a Transact for non-3000 platforms, TransAction. More than a decade ago, Yeo wired up an interface from the Acubench COBOL suite into his ScreenJet software. The Acubench technology was acquired by Micro Focus five years ago, as part of absorbing the products and customers of Acucorp into the Micro Focus COBOL tool lineup.
By Alan Yeo
If you're developing on the HP 3000, most of the tools that are available do just about everything that is needed. They don't need to be that much better. Remember, if you're cutting code on the 3000 it's either batch code or it's got a UI. If it's got a UI, it's either home-grown or VPlus, and none of the new tools are going to buy you a lot more than existing tools will for that stuff.
Some old tools did integrate with source version control software — but not a lot of people were doing that on the 3000. There are a ton of tools available for the 3000 that people never used, because they could make do with the simple ones. They didn't get into trouble; they were a lot more professional because they could concentrate their knowledge in a smaller area.
I don't think a better development environment would trigger a migration. Who uses dev environments? Techies. The days when the techies in companies decided and led the choice of software solutions ended about 20 years ago. So there has to be a business need to migrate or implement something new. If a company is in a mindset of going somewhere, the protection of application assets by using new tools is an important point. What you've got available to protect that application investment has value.
Unfortunately, the terms migrate/migration have been mangled in their usage over the last decade. To me, a migration is when you take what you have and move it to a different platform (maybe with some changes on the way) or make a change in the base technology as a result of the migration. Buying a different package/applications isn't a migration.
Sure, you may have moved some of the data. But it's rather like buying a new phone and transferring your old phone numbers. You haven't migrated from one phone to the next. You have bought a new one, and binned the old one.
However, having said that, is there a business need to migrate, or a business need to junk what you have and get something new? Then yes, what tools are available in the new environment, what the applications are written in, how easy are they to maintain, how easy to get people with the needed skills — all these things are part of the equation.
As far as better tools for COBOL tools, if you're a COBOL shop, then moving to a better toolset than just a line editor makes a lot of sense. Something with a built-in debugger, for example. Would I use something like the latest COBOL tools to develop something new with a UI? No. Been there done that, and I've been locked into proprietary products that go away. No, COBOL is great for back-end processing, but it isn't a UI product, regardless of how many bells and whistles you hang on it.
And that's from someone who still thinks COBOL is the best app development language, especially for apps that need ongoing maintenance, development and support.
March 01, 2013
Next weekend, it's all in the 3000's timing
Editor's Note: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2AM local time around most of the world next weekend. A lot of HP 3000s run around the clock to serve companies, so a plan to keep the 3000 on time is essential. The founder of the HP 3000 open source repository MPE-OpenSource.org, Brian Edminster, offers a plan, some experience, and a sample jobstream to help get you through our semi-annual time change.
By Brian Edminster
Here's an important implementation note for anyone that wants to put up a 'time synchronization' client on their HP 3000: Do not use it to adjust for spring and fall time-changes! Use a job that runs on the appropriate dates/times to do a 'setclock timezone=' command. I have an example below that is a derivative work from something originally posted by Sam Knight of Jacksonville University, way back in April, 2004 on the 3000-L mailing list.
I've updated the job to be more readable, to account for a 'looping' effect that I found in the fall from running on a fast CPU, and to run at 2AM -- the 'official' time that time-changes apply. I have this job set to be intiated by 'SYSSTART.PUB.SYS' on server bootup, and then automatically reschedule itself each Sunday at 2AM.
I'd suggest doing whatever sort of time synchronization necessary before this runs each weekend - so the time corrections complete before this job runs.
Here's the spring and fall time change jobstream code. You can use this and modify it for your specific needs. Note that it's set up for the Eastern US time zone. (That's the TIMEZONE = W5:00 -- meaning the number of hours different than GMT -- and TIMEZONE = W4:00 lines.) Modify these lines as necessary for your timezone.
!setvar Sunday, 1
!setvar March, 3
!setvar November, 11
!if hpday = Sunday and &
! hpmonth = November and &
! hpdate < 8 then
! comment (first Sunday of November)
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W5:00
! TELLOP ********************************************
! TELLOP Changing the system clock to STANDARD TIME.
! TELLOP The clock will S L O W D O W N until
! TELLOP we have fallen back one hour.
! TELLOP ********************************************
!elseif hpday = Sunday and &
! hpmonth = March and &
! hpdate > 7 and hpdate < 15 then
! comment (second Sunday of March)
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W4:00
! TELLOP *********************************************
! TELLOP Changing the system clock to DAYLIGHT SAVINGS
! TELLOP TIME. The clock jumped ahead one hour.
! TELLOP *********************************************
! comment (no changes today!)
! TELLOP *********************************************
! TELLOP No Standard/Daylight Savings Time Chgs Req'd
! TELLOP *********************************************
!comment - to avoid 'looping' on fast CPU's pause long enough for
!comment - local clock time to be > 2:00a, even in fall...
!while hphour = 2 and hpminute = 0
! TELLOP Pausing 1 minute... waiting to pass 2am
! TELLOP Current Date/Time: !HPDATEF - !HPTIMEF
! pause 60
February 27, 2013
Some version management required
Like the old saying of "some assembly required," the more current demands of application development will require version management, at the least, for 3000-bred apps. They are mission-critical programs, and we've not heard terrific reports about off the shelf replacements for 3000s during a migration. It's possible and has been accomplished, but many more stories are in our files concerning existing code, working on a new platform.
If you're moving code away from a 3000 to another platform, some version management is the minimum you will require. More likely, the solution will integrate a compiler suite with Windows Studio tools. There's something on the market called COBOL Studio from ATX II Tecnologias de Software, S.A. More familiar targets would include the Visual COBOL for Visual Studio, from Micro Focus.
What does it look like when a 3000 is doing more beyond a good programmer's editor? Perhaps like the story that Walter Murray -- who moved from HP's languages lab to a job managing 3000s for the California Corrections System -- shared with us.
For version management, I use HP SRC. I have one master library and one person responsible for keeping it in sync with what's in production. We archive not only the source, but also the compiler listing, object file, and executable, each time a new version is migrated to production. We also archive job streams, UDCs, tables, and so on. We have separate libraries for personal use and projects.
That last part might be just as important as any other Murray mentioned. Good developers have a yen for creating programs, and the ones you'll want to attract will have personal projects. The most broad minded companies set aside time for the code creators to work on these projects.
You never know when some personal coding will yield a breakthrough that can be applied to a mission-critical roadblock. But without management for version changes, the chain of succession for a development team is much weaker.
Murray had other recommendations for the coders who will stay on the 3000 to homestead. (After all, SRC is an MPE/iX tool.) He likes to use Quad, but notes that
the only bothersome limitations with Quad are that it doesn't handle files with variable length records (of which we have very few any more) and the search is case-sensitive (which leads us to avoid lower case in COBOL source code except for comments).
For debugging, I use XDB (HP Symbolic Debugger/iX). It's well worth the time spent learning to use it, even if it's not as good as HP Toolset as a symbolic debugger for COBOL.
February 26, 2013
All Star year may be on horizon for 3000s
This is the story of two Tims, one who you may know and one you probably don't. But they have something in common. Tim Duncan and Tim O'Neill have enjoyed success over long careers with underrated groups. They're both seeking additional years providing their fundamentals at a great value. And they're both optimistic about unsung but praiseworthy futures.
Tim Duncan is a man with fans. The two-time MVP for the San Antonio Spurs is called the Big Fundamental in his basketball career. This Tim can be easy to overlook at awards time in the NBA, because his game is based on superior execution of the fundamentals. Passing. Blocking shots. Rebounding. Scoring. All without flash to call attention to his efforts. He makes success, selflessly.
Tim O'Neill makes his first appearance in public in this month's printed Newswire. He's been managing HP 3000s since the system was only seven years old. He came to his work by way of a career in math and statistics. He is reaching out for more years for his 3000 by way of the new emulator. His organization, a test facility for the US military, has sustained itself using only the fundamentals: IMAGE, VPlus, Query, plus some HP Pascal.
Both Tims are looking for extra years in what they do well. Making memorable minutes on the court. Making MPE do its work quietly, providing the best value.
Like the HP 3000, Duncan's Spurs are being overlooked. They lack the youthful dazzle of teams from LA or even Oklahoma City. But like the 3000, it's a group he leads that's been elite for an extraordinary period. Duncan's Spurs will earn a playoff spot this year for the 16th straight season. There's been nothing like it in sports, not even the New York Yankees. But alas, unheralded today.
O'Neill wants to extend the value of his expertise, like Duncan. His systems run without software problems, thanks to the fundamentals of MPE. He'd like to keep running that environment without a need for HP-built hardware. The ability of the emulator to lift MPE into Intel hardware? "Incredible," he said while he learned about its particulars.
The ability of a 36-year-old power forward to stay among NBA leaders in blocking shots, rebounding, making points and minutes happen? Some might say incredible, but they'd probably have to live in Texas. In the wider consciousness of the basketball world, his team and effort are considered old.
But as all of us in this community get older, we believe there's no fundamental flaw in being old. A friend and former Newswire columnist, Scott Hirsh, is working for Dell this year, after providing mass storage savvy with a half-dozen other vendors. Before that, Scott was the SYSMAN Special Interest Group leader. He says with humility, "These days I'm usually the oldest one in the room" when companies seek their tech futures. "I used to be one of the youngest."
At the same time that the HP 3000 is considered one of the oldest servers in the datacenter's room, it is gaining one of the younger technologies in the enterprise. The 3000 hardware has been virtualized. And as anyone who's had hardware dropped by a vendor knows, virtualization can extend the months and years of service for a server environment. Digital's servers got this virtualization during the past decade. Virtualized servers are among the bedrock elements in a modern IT architecture.
At Tim Duncan's workplace, the extra pass to the open shooter becomes a bedrock element. On the Spurs' end of the court, a team effort makes for what the experts will admit is basketball the way it was built to be played. No single player needs to overwhelm an opponent. The Spurs practice a "good to great" habit in delivering the ball to a shooter. What they all covet isn't stardom. It's winning.
At Tim O'Neill's workplace, simple and elegant designs that have served for three decades are at the bedrock of tests and tracking. The subjects are military vehicles, the fundamentals of modern defense. All he wants to do is keep MPE working. He says any hardware that keeps his environment winning will get the job done.
You don't find many customers who can tease apart the 3000 success to say that it's the software that made the system a winner. But like "good to great," the software that represents the 3000's fundamentals makes a winner.
This month Tim Duncan earned a spot on the NBA All Star team. He was overlooked for the award in 2012 for the first time. "I thought those days were over for me," he said this year, a reasonable belief at age 36.
In the same way, many IT architects think that MPE's days as a fundamental are over. Tim O'Neill thinks otherwise. He's not ready to put in a purchase request yet for the emulator, even while it sounds incredible. But if he does, his procurement department will have it easier in one respect than when it bought 3000 service recently. They need to take the low bidder. There's nobody who can virtualize 3000 hardware other than Stromasys.
It will be a marvel to watch a 30-year-old application take its place on the IT court of today, on an emulator. Much like a marvel of watching Duncan pass the ball the length of the court, like a touchdown pass to the end zone in football. There's nobody else in the game who can make that play turn into points more often.
In a few more months we'll know if Duncan can repeat his championship success. He already has four titles, an elite number in the NBA. But if his Spurs sustain their "Drive for Five," he will be the player with the greatest number of seasons between first championship (1999) and the last.
Watching a fundamental All Star regain elite status is fun. It's the kind of game that makes being a Spurs fan, or a 3000 reporter, such an incredible experience during 2013.
February 25, 2013
Forms? Are we still talking forms in 2013?
Well yes, we are. The HP 3000 is still attached and networked to printers which produce forms, based upon what we've heard out of the homesteading customer base. Much like the overall "paperless" dreams of the 1990s, using forms in some format remains a constant for companies.
It's not an inconvenience to IT. There's been multi-platform solutions in the market for MPE/iX, and other allied environments, for nearly two decades. Some companies have helped to eliminate the need for such software since the start of the PA-RISC era. Hillary Software comes to mind with its byRequest lineup. It works on reports to what seems like any platform, including the BYOD devices. The object with byRequest is to eliminate the need to ship off paper, and thoroughly automate the distribution of electronic files.
You can employ any form created on printer with byRequest. It re-creates and fills in these forms, and it adds fax (needed for US government communications) and email distribution.
Indeed, there are workflows where the customer expects to receive paper. The dead-tree practice tends to involve paying and receiving revenues, especially billing. One of the 3000-friendly apps which handles this has gotten an update to add features.The 9.0 release of Minisoft's eFORMz has been rolled out, adding a web app for managing and configuring its print monitor configs and processes. Minisoft calls these toolkits in the software, a product that was long-ago revived to employ Java for easier multiple-platform support.
The software, whose major elements run on a workstation under Windows (including 8) and Macs (including Mountain Lion OS), has added support for high-res Postscript plus older-school tech: Zebra barcode label printers.
There's also a new job scheduling feature in 9.0. "Schedule the time and date for any print or email process to execute," the product's release reports. "Process your larger print files and/or bulk emails during slower periods."
Minisoft has also added new archiving capability to eFORMz, which could be useful for storing anything that's still got to be printed. But by the same token, there's a transFORM add-on module for byRequest. With more than one solution available to 3000 managers, this must be an accepted practice in the MPE marketspace. We edge ever closer to paperless, but it might be like the horizon. Seemingly nearby, but always just out of reach.
February 22, 2013
Where You Can Check for 6 and 7.x
All 3000 customers have MPE/iX installed, but the operating environment comes in three flavors. In the homesteading world of 2013, two of those three will need to be served up by your community's comrades.
Last week 3000 manager John Watson -- one who says he worked for HP for awhile -- asked around to see who had a copy of MPE/iX. He was after a version 6.x or 7.x. If that request was for a 7.5 release, it's easy to obtain. In fact, the Stromasys freeware HPA/3000 emulator can be downloaded with a 7.5 MPE/iX included. No subsystem software, of course.
But the earlier MPE/iX versions? Ask your neighbors, because there's no official way to get that software. Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci, whose company was among the very last to be an official HP 3000 reseller, confirmed the comrade-swap situation. Pivital continues to support 3000 sites, as its primary business. But that won't make the earlier MPEs any more available, by the book.
"HP has made no provisions for this situation that I am aware of," he said. "My guess is that this customer will easily come across what he is looking for. But we would not be able to legally provide it to him."
Resolving this problem is not as simple as moving up to 7.5 from other releases, for reasons that anyone managing a 3000 would know well.HP built the 6.5 release to accomodate Large Files features that were needed by Amisys/3000 healthcare customers. The 7.0 release included support for the new PCI IO bus. These releases tend to have been frozen in place around the homesteading community. Customers are loathe to change these, because things remain stable if they do not.
You've got to be careful about which MPE/iX SLT you use from another system, too. "I just recently got a 939," said Watson, "but the SLT tapes I have from 2006 have been cut from a different model. I think patch MPEMX90 should have been applied before cutting the tape."
Without the patch, his 3000 "just hangs a little about you try start norecovery," he said.
Problem? What problem? When the community decides HP is done with the 3000, it can share what's needed. And nobody needs to know who has helped.
February 20, 2013
One decade later, change remains complex
I just retired the pages and stories of the latest Newswire printed edition, our 137th. It's always a celebration day when the pages go onto the press for each print edition. But print, plus one monthly Online Extra email update, used to be all there was to the 3000 Newswire. There's been so much change since February of 2003 -- in your community, not just in the Newswire -- that I went back to look at what was crucial one decade ago.
To my surprise, the message from HP was mixed with migration as well as emulation. HP held a Webcast for C-Level staff at their customers' companies. About 70 people arrived online, but it didn't look like a lot of them were CFOs, CIOs, or any of the other Cs. There was a lot of talk to explain how HP got to its decision to drop the 3000 off its lineup. In 2003, every HP message was based upon future directions they believed customers would take. But the company also acknowledged some sites wouldn't ever migrate -- or take so long that HP would not be supporting the server by the end of a migration.
Yes, migrations are still underway. HP predicted that correctly.
In 2003's February, 18 print articles got the reporting done, along with another three articles' worth of Online Extra. In the month of 2013 that led to our printed date, we published 22 articles. A decade later we're one article up on our report count. But the news appears five days a week now, instead of once every 30 days, with one extra day of Online Extra.
How could the news stay so constant, given the reduction of installed 3000s over 10 years? Well, this has been an era full of migrations, as well as the transitions to sustain which the homesteaders have pursued. The migrations are as complex as ever. The homesteading has new wrinkles to write about, like that emulator. But like the change factor of migrations, it turns out we were writing about emulation during 2003, too.
Here's a current report from a customer who's been working on a migration for about six years now. We just heard this on the day we sent off February, 2013 -- or as we say in publishing, Volume 18, Issue 2. The launch date for this project was 2007.
We worked on system configuration and data clean-up/migration during all of 2008, and went live with the first module (H/R and Payroll) in January 2009. We went live with the Finance module (my area of support) in July 2009, and with another critical module in January 2010. A very aggressive implementation schedule. The modules still on the HP 3000 are our telecommunications system and our computer user tracking system.
"Of course," our correspondent added, "the general economic meltdown that occurred in 2008 affected our entire process. It affected the ERP budget as well as the organization's general budget." He went on to say the organization had to stop hiring temp workers to do office tasks while regular workers were in training. "It made an already hard process even harder."
When I thumbed through our pages of 2003, I didn't find any reports like that. Nobody had a current migration project to summarize. Early 2003 was a planning and deciding era, one that would last about another two years before projects genuinely began. Although building 3000s and selling them was going to end eight months later, everyone figured they had at least until December 31, 2006 to get projects finished.
And as it turned out, HP's support end date was extended another four years. Like a lot of migration projects. We talked to the Interex Advocacy Manager Deb Lawson in that issue, and the user group estimated 25 percent of all companies had not made a decision to migrate by early 2003. "Many [of that group] aren't going to migrate at all," she said, "while some will eventually migrate, just not in the short term."
It was a much larger pool in that year, of course. 25 percent of the customer base would've represented 5,000 servers that hadn't decided to migrate yet, if at all. Interex estimated that out of a 25,000-machine base (as estimated by IDG), 77 percent would be underway in a migration by the end of 2004. Nothing moved nearly as quickly as expected. Including the arrival of an emulator.
A hardware replacement for the 3000 boxes was a keen need, according to Lawson. "The biggest need for the 3000 base is a hardware emulator and getting the 2006 date extended," she said. I know HP is aware of those two huge needs."
A decade later, the Stromasys emulator is only now marking its first year of availability. Just like migration got extended or stalled, key elements of Charon HPA/3000 were delayed.
Hewlett-Packard could only go to the brink of devising a license for MPE/iX on any unbuilt, unstarted emulator. A plan to have Intel-based emulator license terms announced in February, 2003 had slipped from the “early in 2003” promises made in the fall of 2002. We believed "HP’s commitment to its homesteading customers shows no apparent signs of slipping."
But that depended on what part of HP you could see. The 3000 division was doing what it could, although it was 2004 before any license plan emerged. But in the HP legal division, decisions were made that held up key technical data that could have made a 2004 license relevant in a few extra years, at most.
And for anyone left in our community who believes OpenMPE didn't have an active role, they can look to our story about that Webcast's homesteading message. HP's Mike Paivinen, working out of the 3000 division, said "We’ll continue to work with OpenMPE to understand the needs of the users they represent.” HP said it would hold teleconferences with some of the homesteading community, to “better understand how customers expect to use their 3000s after HP’s end of support date." The division's last GM, Dave Wilde, said he wanted OpenMPE "to have the lead on this" emulator license issue.
Migrations got compared to homesteading, especially their costs, during that Webcast. Staying versus going was a choice that triggered an HP statement that "many HP 3000 owners have discovered those two curves have already crossed, or will be crossing very shortly." But out on the migration road trip three months earlier, HP said that migrations would cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, unless customers were moving Powerhouse or Speedware apps to HP's Unix. Nobody could say they were spending that much to homestead.
For the HP 3000 customer hiring their first Oracle DBA in a migration effort, HP was advising that a sharp question ought to be asked. "Ask them about data structure differences [between IMAGE and Oracle], automatic masters, have them draw the map for you," said a manager from one of HP's Platinum Migration partners in 2003. " If they don't understand, you don't want them working for you."
That's because just like the situation in 2013, the migration changes were going to be costly enough to trigger scrutiny from the C-level. Birket Foster of migration partner MB Foster said back then that customers "need to start planning from the end, like on what date does it become too risky to say on the 3000? You probably should have started last year. A lot of folks haven't got a grip on when they should have actually started."
A decade later, some people still want to know about how to manage MPEX use, track the latest improvements to Suprtool, or even get support for 9x7 systems. We reported on all of that, too. The complexity of changes led me to advise in an editorial that even measuring twice, before taking one cut at migration, might not be enough. Carpentry experience was a pretty apt allegory, until we mentioned that getting a fresh piece of wood to create a baluster rail was easier than a restart on any migration.
I looked back on our Volume 8, Issue 5 with a fond gaze, admiring a list of more than two dozen sponsors and 50 percent more pages. But there was no blog in that February, or its sponsors, to keep everybody up to date. A lot less was available to report on migrations. But the conclusions about change weren't going to shift. It would take longer than expected and cost more than planned, most of the time. The 3000 story is no less complex today, even after we've all taken a decade's leap in expertise and technology.