March 12, 2018

Momentum moves towards Museum meeting

CHM displayDave Wiseman continues to pursue a 3000 user reunion for late June, and we've chosen to help invite the friends of the 3000. One of the most common sentiments from 3000 veterans sounds like what we heard from Tom Gerken of an Ohio-based healthcare firm.

"It was really sad seeing the HP 3000s go away," he said, talking about the departure of the system from Promedica. "I really liked MPE as an operating system. It was the BEST!"

The last HP 3000 event 2011 was called a Reunion. A 2018 event might be a Retirement, considering how many of the community's members are moving to semi-retirement.

Wiseman says that he's in retirement status as he defines it. "It's working not because you have to,"he said in a call last week, "but because you want to."

Most of us will be working in some capacity until we're too old to know better. That makes the remaining community members something like the HP 3000 itself—serving until it's worn down to bits. The event this summer will be a social gathering, a chance to see colleagues and friends in person perhaps for the first time in more than a decade.

The weekend of June 23-24 is the target for the 3000 Retirement party. We're inquiring about the Computer History Museum and a spot inside to gather, plus arrangements for refreshments and appetizers. There will be a nominal cover fee, because there's no band. Yet.

If you've got a customer list or a Facebook feed you'd like to spread the word on, get in touch with me. Spread the word. Email your friends.

No matter whether you have a contact list or not, save the date: one afternoon on the fourth weekend of June. Details to come. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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March 09, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101

Newswire Classic

By Scott Hirsh

Ledger-bookAs we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.

What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.

As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.

In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”

You wouldn’t build a house without a design and plans, you wouldn’t build an application without some kind of specifications, so why do we HP 3000 system managers ignore the need for some kind of consistent logic to the way we organize our systems?

A logical, adaptable, documented account structure is a huge time saver in many respects. As most of us now manage multiple systems, we have no time to waste chasing down lost files, working with convoluted file sets, struggling to keep access under control or reacting to full volume sets.

I once had a conversation with a co-worker who was an avid outdoorsman. He was discussing rock climbing and I asked him about exciting rock climbing experiences. His reply: “In rock climbing, anything exciting is bad.” I would say the same thing about system management. By getting your account structure under control, you build a solid system management foundation that translates into much more pleasant work.

If this were a “best practices” column, we would discuss the best ways to clean up your system’s account structure. But this is worst practices, so let’s look at the no-nos.

No naming standards,
bad naming standards

Oscar Wilde once said, “Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative.” Do you think he was referring to HP 3000 system management? If so, not much has changed since Oscar’s day.

• In one account the jobs are located in group JCL. In another account, group JOBS. The developers keep “special” jobs in a group you never heard of in the critical application account. And just to make things more interesting, all your so-called “production” jobs are kept in an account called JCL, containing all kinds of groups, including “TEMP.”

By having consistency across accounts I control, I can easily find what I need when I need it. If jobs are always in the same group across accounts, I can LISTF @.JOBS.@, etc. Backups/recoveries are easier, updates are easier, training new operators is easier. Sure, consistency is boring, but we must resist the lure of adrenaline.

• I’m going out on a limb here, but my guess is that your UDCs, the few you have left, are in a different place in every account. Why is that? And your system UDC (singular) is located in the SYS account, right? Because it’s the SYStem UDC, of course! Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have another, non-SYS account for globally accessible files. What’s the catch? The system UDC file needs to be in the system volume set, for obvious reasons (learned that one the hard way).

• An MPE file name consists of a whopping maximum of eight characters. That should make every character count, right? So why do jobs that live in a group called JCL or an account called JCL all start with the letter J? File that under the department of redundancy department.

• We manage the systems, so we make the rules, right? Wrong. If we want the rules followed, if we want the best rules possible, we must get input and buy-in from all the others who will be expected to honor our rules. Ignoring users when it’s time to develop naming standards and other system policies is a classic Worst Practice, and a good way to ensure continued chaos. And don’t forget that upper management will need to be involved when a little “gentle” persuasion is required.

Scott Hirsh is former chairman of the SIG-SYSMAN Special Interest Group.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:51 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2018

2028 patching begins to emerge

Beechglen Communicator CoverBeechglen Development has announced a new 2028 patching service. The services are aimed at customers using Beechglen for HP 3000 and MPE/iX support. According a PDF document hosted at the Beechglen website, the software modifications to MPE/iX are authorized through the terms of the HP source code license that was granted to seven firms in 2011.

Several 3000 consulting and support providers have an ability to serve the community with revisions to extend 3000 date-handling beyond January 1, 2028. Several of them were on a CAMUS user group call last November. Beechglen is the first company to employ the date repair services through a set of patches. One question is whether the patches can be applied to any system, or must be customized in a per-system process.

The software alterations seem to include changes to MPE/iX, not just to applications and surround code hosted at a 3000 site. Doug Werth, director of technical services at Beechglen, said in a message to the 3000-L mailing list, "While it isn’t quite “MPE Forever” it does extend the HP 3000 lifespan by another 10 years."

The strategy was outlined as part of a document called the Beechglen Communicator, formatted and written to look like the Communicator tech documents HP sent to MPE/iX support customers through 2007. 

The Year >2027 patches have been developed as enhancements under the Beechglen Development Inc. MPE/iX Source Code Agreement with Hewlett-Packard. As provided in this agreement, these patches can only be provided as enhancements to MPE/iX systems covered under a support agreement from Beechglen Development Inc.

The three pages of technical explanation about the patches is followed by a list of third party software companies who have products "certified on Beechglen-patched MPE systems that their software is Y2028 compatible." Adager and Robelle products are listed as certified in the Beechglen document.

Adager is one of seven companies which hold an HP source code license for MPE/iX. Pivital Solutions is another, along with support companies Terix and Allegro, and three other software firms. The companies have a restriction in their use of MPE/iX. As the Beechglen document states, the alterations have to be in service to existing customers. HP released the code to keep 3000s in service, to the extent that the license holders have the technical ability to employ the source.

In 2008, as MPE/iX source licenses were discussed by HP and parties like OpenMPE, Adager's CEO Rene Woc noted a license to source is just the first step in fixing 3000s.

Having access to source though a license doesn't automatically make a license-holder a better provider of products and services, he said.

You cannot assume, even with good readers of source code, that the solutions will pop up. A lot of the problems we see these days are due to interactions between products. So the benefit for the customer would be based more on the troubleshooting skills that an organization can provide.

"Each system applying these patches should be evaluated for customer and third party code that calls the CALENDAR intrinsic directly," the Beechglen document says in an Application Considerations section.

We've reached out to Beechglen to learn what testing these Year >2027 patches have passed through from outside users and sites. HP distributed MPE/iX patches after its software had passed a beta test from more than one testing customer running a 3000. HP testing worked inside the realm of its own support customers, too. No one could beta test an HP patch unless they were already an HP support customer.

OpenMPE hoped to be a test organization for patches in the era after HP closed its labs. The project didn't emerge beyond the discussion phase, in part because there were no dedicated tech resources to do the testing.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2018

An Opening for MPE's Closing Numbers

OpenMPEHeaderTen years ago this month OpenMPE was holding one of its last contested board elections. Spring meant new questions and sometimes new people asking them. The advocacy group launched in the wake of HP's 3000 pullout notice never had a staff beyond its directors. Once in awhile a 3000 expert like Martin Gorfinkel would be contracted for a project, but most of the time the six to nine volunteers from the 3000 community debated with HP on every request, desire and crazy dream from a customer base stunned into transition.

Directors operated on two-year terms, and those elected in 2008 were the last to serve theirs in the era when HP operated an MPE/iX lab. While the lights were still on at HP, there was some hope homesteaders might receive more help. OpenMPE was in charge of asking, but could report nothing without HP's okay.

OpenMPE never pulled from a deep base of volunteers. Most elections featured the likes of nine people running for seven seats, so a long list of losing candidates was never part of the results. The ballots came through from members of the group via emails. Here at the NewsWire I counted them and had them verified by a board committee. In the biggest of elections we saw 111 votes cast.

OpenMPE Links
OpenMPE's 2009 patch proposal

The 2008 election revolved around source code licensing for MPE/iX. The vendor would report the last of its end-game strategies by November, and the end of HP's 3000 lab activity was to follow soon after. Support with fixes to security problems and patches would be over at the end of 2008, and that made the election important as well. There was no promise yet of when the source code might be released, to who, or under what conditions. It looked like HP was going to shut down the MPE/iX lab with beta test patches still not moved to general release.

Getting candidate positions on the record was my role. I dreamed up the kinds of questions I wanted HP to answer for me. HP only promised that by 2010 customers would know whether source would be available and to who. A question to candidates was, "Is it acceptable for the vendor to wait until the start of 2010, as  it plans to do now?"

The question was more confrontational than the volunteers could ask. HP controlled the terms of the discussion as well as the content. Hewlett-Packard held conference calls with volunteers for the first five years of the group's existence, but the calls stopped in 2008. 

Fewer than 30 people ever served on an OpenMPE board. The list was impressive, but keeping good talent like consultant and columnist John Burke or Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci was tough. Directors like that always wanted more out of HP than the vendor would provide: more transparency, more resources. Of the final three to volunteer, Keith Wadsworth was the only one ever to ask the board to consider if OpenMPE should continue to exist. His election in 2010 gave him the platform to demand an answer. During the next year the directors dwindled to three. 

The group was finally granted a license for MPE source, but it had little else as an asset. There was a $10,000 fee due to HP in 2010 for that license which the group couldn't pay. It also didn't have developers who'd polish it toward any productive use among 3000 customers. That source code was like metal stock without a drill press to shape it, or even an operator.

Staffing resource was always an issue. The group did its best work when it pointed out the holes HP had left behind in its migration strategy for customers. A license transfer process would've never surfaced without OpenMPE's efforts. As of this year, license transfers are the only remaining HP 3000 service a customer can get from HP Enterprise.

Springtime in the 3000's Transition Era replaced the summers of Interex advocacy. During the spring hard questions would be asked in public of people whose mission was getting answers and making promises. HP always gave a nod of thanks to OpenMPE but never portrayed the group as the keystone to the homesteading experience. After awhile the group began to hope HP would find a gracious way to contribute source code to the community.

A limited number of licensees was all the community would ever get. As he ran for his board seat in 2008, Tracy Johnson said that it was fruitless to tell HP a 2010 deadline for source news was unacceptable. Even while customers continued to drift away, HP held all the cards, he said.

It is apparent HP cares not one wit whether OpenMPE declares any decision "acceptable" or not, and making such declarations isn't going to gain any friends at HP.  We're more like a public TV station that needs a telethon every once in a while to keep us going.  But there's only one donor with the currency (MPE) to make it worthwhile, and that is HP. The one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other.  Everything else hinges on this.

Third parties were supposed to negotiate their own separate contracts for support tool licensing. Testing the beta patches thoroughly using OpenMPE volunteers was proposed and Johnson signed off on it. The volunteer group couldn't line up testing resources, which didn't matter because HP didn't release the beta patches for tests beyond HP's support customers. Nobody even knew for sure if patches were something customers desired.

"Addressing the question of testing," Wadsworth said 10 years ago this spring, "although the OpenMPE board members and  members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to  conduct such testing."

Higher-order proposals—like un-crippling the final generation of 3000 boxes—went unpursued, too. It seemed like HP was shutting down this product line. Why give customers the rights to full use of their servers at shutdown? "This type of change  would not only add new breath to the e3000, it would add new life to a platform that is being shut down," Wadsworth said in answering a candidate question. "So because of the unlikelihood of this happening I do not think it is a direction that OpenMPE should concentrate resources on at this time."

Source was released and licensed in the spring of 2010, and the group did the advocacy for the transfer of licenses, and to include an emulator clause in that license transfer. By the end of the effort, funding came from loans and contributions from the board members." The group's chairman Jack Connor, the next to last leader, said "the contributions showed their commitment to the OpenMPE concept."

That concept changed constantly over the almost nine years of the group's existence. It began with the desire to get HP to open up source code and technology about a server it was discontinuing. Then the mission was the creation of a 3000 emulator. MPE/iX licensing issues, as well as necessary but overlooked HP procedures for migration, because the longest-term mission.

HP's Dave Wilde, the penultimate HP 3000 business manager, said that OpenMPE was an important part of HP’s planning for a post-2008 ecosystem for the platform. Springtime elections offered hope that the ecosystem would flourish. 



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

February 26, 2018

Overview compares emulation strategies

MBFA Emulation OptionsMB Foster has put some of its Wednesday Webinars online for streaming. A link to a web page leads to a form for input of your name and email, and eventually a return message gives a link to the streams. The company has a lot of firsts to its name for transition training, and this might be the first delivery online of 3000-specific advice since HP's migration broadcasts of 15 years ago.

Much of the online content wraps around the MB Foster product line: UDACentral, UDASynch, and MBF-Scheduler all have webinars. One broadcast, though, promises to be one of the first overviews of emulation strategies. These are the ways customers can re-host HP 3000 applications. Virtualization, using the Charon HPA solution from Stromasys, is the ultimate solution discussed in 45 minutes of presentation.

"I don't think there's anybody else in the marketplace that's given an overview of the emulators," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "It's been up to each individual company to decipher what they can and cannot use."

He's right, and the webinars from early this year and the middle of last year give a broad overview of what emulation might look like. It's an interesting term with many definitions, according to our overview. For some planners, this word means getting away from MPE/iX-based hardware, creating a shell on a Windows or Unix host where MPE/iX apps run. The infrastructure and surround code changes, along with databases and services like job streaming. A more current solution, from Stromasys, gives modern Intel hosts a Linux cradle, where a PA-RISC lookalike runs existing MPE/iX code, infrastructure and all. Nothing changes except the hardware in that emulation.

CEO Birket Foster said some of his customers have deployed the Charon emulator. A few on the call said the overview was helpful in understanding the options for emulation.

The link to the emulation show is available by following the MB Foster link to its email-collection page. One pass through what the company calls HP 3000 Emulation Options (free signup required) has about 45 minutes of review including slides. The Stromasys information shows up at the 34:00 mark of the show, which includes summaries of EZ-MPE, TI/Ordat, and Marxmeier's Eloquence database — the latter a TurboIMAGE lookalike.

The goal of most emulation is to keep changes to a minimum. Charon does the most complete job of limiting change.HP helped emulation become virtualization for 3000s. Emulation of HP's hardware on Intel came to our community after Stromasys re-engineered code for PA-RISC boot up. HP gave help directly to the company to complete the project after a long pause on HP's part.

Along the way toward explaining how Stromasys became a part of the MB Foster customer experience, there's a comment about the help OpenMPE provided in the effort. After OpenMPE's eight years of lobbying and negotiations, HP in 2010 ultimately made a source code license for MPE/iX available to the market. Seven companies licensed it. Stromasys (called SRI at the time) was not a licensee, though. The code was important to support providers, of course, companies like Pivital Solutions

Adager and Ordat -- the latter the European supplier of the IMAGE wrapper technology mentioned in the webinar, the former the market leader in IMAGE tools -- were among the software development companies, along with healthcare application vendor Neil Harvey & Associates. Pivital Solutions, Allegro Consultants, Beechglen Development and Terix got right to the source code in support of their HP 3000 customers.

The licenses delivered code that couldn't be used in the marketplace until January 1, 2011, the first day that HP no longer offered HP 3000 support services. HP described the read-only licenses as a means for "delivery of system-level technical support."

Whatever the benefits of source code might be for the market—workarounds are a big plus for tech problems on the 3000—emulation in it's least-changing definition doesn't have a link to MPE/iX source.

The link between MPE/iX and the Charon emulation lies in its unique ability to run any code built for the 3000 hardware on Intel systems. OpenMPE opened its quest in 2002 for post-HP 3000 use by hoping for an open source version of MPE. Open hardware arrived instead, using the Stromasys product, an emulation of the iron that HP stopped building in 2003.

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

February 23, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: Check on LDEV availability

Is there a way to have an HP 3000 jobstream check to see if a tape drive (LDEV) is available? I am not seeing a HP system variable that seems to list the status. I can see via a SHOWDEV that the device is available or not. I just need a jobstream to be able to do the same.

Roy Brown replies

We use a utility,, that we found in our ORBIT account alongside Backup+. We use this, in a command file run as a jobstream, to check that tapes are mounted ready for our nightly backups, and, in the backup job itself, to eject them when complete.

Tom Hula says,

It's been awhile since I've messed with the 3000. I have a utility that I received from Terry Tipton many years ago that does that checking. It is called CHKTAPE. So if the tape drive is dev 7, I have CHKTAPE 7 in the jobstream and then check for the results in CHKTAPE_RESULT. We are looking for a value of 0, but here are all the results:

0 - Tape is unowned, online, at BOT and writeable
1 - Tape is unowned, online, at BOT and write protected
2 - An error occurred.  Probably an invalid device number
3 - Device is not a tape drive
4 - Device is owned by another process
5 - Device is owned by the system
6 - Tape is not online
7 - No tape in device

Terry has a reminder that the program must reside in a group with PM capability. I have been using it on all my backups since without any problems. Let me know if you are interested in getting a copy of this utility.

Alan Yeo adds,

We use the little ONLINE utility from Allegro to put a tape on-line, or back on-line; we use it to put automatically back on-line to do a verify after the store.

Donna Hofmeister replies

Here's a scripted solution to the question. MPE has the best scripting language of any OS. Thanks, Jeff (Vance)!

The following will return CI variables that can be easily used in a job:
parm tape=0,entry=main

if "!entry" = "main"
 if "!tape" = "0" or "!tape" = "?"
   echo ![basename(hpfile)] [tape_ldev_num]
   echo              req.
   echo ![basename(hpfile)] is designed to check the 
   echo !desired tape
   echo   device to see if a write-enabled tape is mounted and
   echo   available for use.
   echo The boolean variable _TAPE_READY will be returned.
   echo The string  variable _TAPE_LABEL will be returned, if available.
 if numeric("!tape")
   setvar _ct_tape !tape
   echo ERROR: The parameter "!tape" is not numeric
 file sdtemp;rec=-80,,f,ascii;temp
 if finfo("*sdtemp","exists")
   purge sdtemp,temp
 showdev !_ct_tape > *sdtemp
 if hpcierr <> 0
   echo !hpcierr   !hpcierrmsg
   escape !hpcierr
 setvar _ct_tape_ready false
 setvar _tape_ready false
 setvar _tape_label ''
 xeq !hpfile !_ct_tape,process < *sdtemp
 if _ct_tape_ready
   setvar _tape_ready true
 if _ct_tape_label > ''
   setvar _tape_label _ct_tape_label
 deletevar _ct_@
 purge sdtemp,temp
 reset sdtemp
elseif "!entry" = "process"
 setvar _ct_eof finfo(hpstdin,'eof')
 while setvar(_ct_eof,_ct_eof-1) >= 0
   input _ct_rec
   if numeric(word(_ct_rec))
     if pos("AVAIL    (W)",_ct_rec) > 0
       setvar _ct_tape_ready true
     setvar _ct_tape_label   repl(str(_ct_rec,43,14),' ','')

In a job, it might look something like this:

!chktape 7
!if not _TAPE_READY
! tellop No Tape is mounted
! setjcw jcw=fatal

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

February 21, 2018

HP's Enterprise reports a rising Q1 tide

HPE Hybrid IT Q1 2017
Source: HPE reports. Click for details.

As her parting gift to incoming CEO Antonio Neri, HP Enterprise leader Meg Whitman left him with one of the best quarters HPE has posted in years. While the company that makes systems to replace the HP 3000 posted 34 cents a share in profits, its revenue from server sales rose by 11 percent, along with gains in storage revenues (up 24 percent) and datacenter networking gear (up 27 percent).

The increase in server sales has been a difficult number to deliver ever since HP stopped supporting the HP 3000. The gains came in the computer lines driven by Intel's chips, not HP's Itanium processors.

An analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy was quoted in the Bay Area's Mercury News as saying "If this is what HPE will look like under new CEO Antonio Neri, investors, customers, partners and employees will be pleased.”

The results came from the final quarter of Whitman's leadership, though. The company is raising its quarterly dividends to almost 12 cents a share, a 50 percent increase, to return money to shareholders. HPE will be buying back its stock throughout 2018 as well. The stock price rose to $18.35 on the report, which beat analysts' estimates of 22 cents a share in profits and $7.1 billion in revenue. HPE's Q1 2018 revenues were $7.7 billion.

Industry Standard Servers—the type of computer system that can drive the Stromasys Charon virtualized MPE/iX environment—came in for specific mention in HP's conference call with analysts. ISS contributed to the overall growth in servers, according to Neri. 

He also commented on the change in US tax laws benefiting HPE ("we have more flexibility in using our overseas cash") and then explained how his HPE Next is going to shift the culture of the corporation that was once ruled by the HP Way.

Neri, the first career-long HP employee to become CEO since Lew Platt in 1993, architected and initiated HPE Next. "It's all about simplification, innovation and execution," he said in a Q&A session with analysts. "I'm pleased with the first quarter performance where we executed well with no disruption. This is an opportunity for me as the new CEO to establish a new culture as we transform the company, and to really architect the company from the grounds up with a clean sheet approach. And this is going to change the culture of the company."

What I learned is the fact that you can push more, you can do more. And the organization is actually very excited about what we’re doing, because this is an opportunity to improve the way serve our customers. So it is very critical initiative for us and we are confident we’re going to deliver not only the improvements in our cost savings but also the way we work and employee productivity. And most importantly that should reflect in our business performance and our customer satisfaction.

Neri said HPE will also be re-investing at a higher level in employee 401k accounts, and assisting in more degreed education "so employees can fulfill their visions in our company as they progress in their careers."

Neri started at HP working in a call center for customer support during the 1990s. Whitman remains on HPE's board of directors after retiring from the corporation's CEO job.

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

February 19, 2018

Relief at Finding One Another is Real

Missed-youIt can be difficult to round up a collective of HP 3000 and MPE users. Even the CAMUS user group society meeting of November was dominated by vendors, consultants and non-customers. I began long ago to classify consultants as customers. They're representing a company that needs expertise but can't put an expert on the payroll. During the call one consultant spoke up saying he was doing just that. A representative from Infor was asking how many of the meeting's attendees had MANMAN installed.

After awhile Terry Lanza, who'd organized the meeting conducted on a widespread conference call, asked "Is there an HP 3000 user group still going, or has that kind of folded?" Doug Werth of Beechglen replied, "The user group doesn't really exist much. It's just the HP3000 Listserv."

Even the 3000-L, where the L stands for Listserv, has many moments of absolute quiet. People are curious, reading what's been up there for more than 25 years. But it can be weeks between messages. The Quiet Day Count stands at seven right now, after an exchange about groups residing on multiple volumesets.

That's why it's encouraging to see people like Lanza and Dave Wiseman bring efforts to bear on finding one another. Wiseman, who's hosted some 3000 gatherings over the very-quiet last five years, still has his eye set on a 2018 3000 meeting. He's looking in specific at two dates for a meeting in June: Saturday the 16th or Friday the 22nd. That could be a meeting in Cupertino, or a gathering out on the California coast in Santa Cruz, he says. I'd be voting for that Friday (flights are cheaper on Thursdays) with time to enjoy California for a couple days afterward.

Get in touch with us via email, or better yet with Wiseman, to show a preference. ( or +44 777 555 7017)

The overwhelming emotion I see and hear during meetings like that CAMUS call or an in-person event is relief. "I thought I was the only one left out here running a 3000," someone said during the CAMUS call. You're not, and gatherings reinforce your good stewardship of an IT resource. They might also provide an update on what to do next. It could be virtualization or a migration. Real world experience flows easier in person. You can also learn what you might have missed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:18 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 16, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: Deleting Bad System Disks

As HP 3000s age their disks go bad, the fate of any component with moving parts. Even after replacing a faulty drive there are a few software steps to perform. Wyell Grunwald explains his problem after replacing a failed system bootup disk

Our disk was a MEMBER in MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. I am trying to delete the disk off the system.  Upon startup, the 3000 says LDEV 4 is not available.  When going into SYSGEN, then IO, then DDEV 4, it gives me a warning that it is part of the system volume set — and cannot be deleted. How do I get rid of this disk?

Gilles Schipper of support provider GSA said that INSTALL is something to watch while resetting 3000 system disks.

Sounds like your install did not leave you with only a single MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET disk. Could it be that you have more than one system volume after INSTALL because other, non-LDEV 1 volumes were added with the AVOL command of SYSGEN — instead of the more traditional way of adding system volumes via the VOLUTIL utility?

You can check as follows:


If the resulting output shows more than one volume, that's the answer.

He offers a repair solution as well.

The solution would be as follows:

1. Reboot with:


2. With SYSGEN, perform a DVOL for all non-LDEV1 volumes


4. Create new SLT.

5. Perform INSTALL from newly-created SLT.

6. Add any non-LDEV1 system volumes with VOLUTIL. This will avoid such problems in future.

If you do see only one system volume with the LVOL command, the only thing I can think of is that VOLUTIL was used to add LDEV 4 to the MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET after the install.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:43 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2018

Wayback Wednesday: An Armload of Value

Snow with A-ClassOn a February afternoon in a Silicon Valley of 2001, the HP 3000 realized its highest order of invention. The PA-RISC processors had been powering the server for more than 13 years, and HP was working on the next generation of systems. Y2K was already one year into the rear view mirror and the lineup needed a refresh. HP responded by giving the customers a server they could carry under their arms.

The first A-Class model of what HP called the e3000 came into the meeting room of the Interex Solutions Symposium under Dave Snow's arm. The audience was developers, software company owners, and the most ardent of 3000 customers. The box was the realization of a low-cost dream about the 3000s. The installed base had been hoping for hardware that could keep the 3000 even with the Intel-based hardware powering the Windows business alternatives.

Snow was a little out of breath as he came to the front of the meeting room in the Sunnyvale hotel. He set the 3.5-inch-high server down and caught the eyes of people in the crowd, lusting for the computer. "No," he said, "this one is already spoken for in the labs." Like in the older days of Hewlett-Packard, the company created a tool its own engineers wanted to use. He said the computer was the result of a challenge from a customer the year before: "bring a 3000 into the Chicago HP World show you could carry under your arm. It's a portable computer, although it does weigh a bit."

A-ClassCPUsThe A-Class systems cost thousands less per year to support than the Series 9x8 and 9x7s they replaced. HP told resellers A-Class support would be $415-$621 a month for systems running up to 65 percent faster than the older models. But HP also horsepower-throttled the servers in a move to preserve value for the most costly servers already in the market. The HP-UX version of the A-Class was more than twice as fast.

Snow borrowed one of the few that were testing-ready from HP's MPE/iX labs on that day. In a movie of 5 minutes, Snow leads a tour of the advantages the new design offered over the 9x9 and 99x 3000s. HP pulled the covers and cabinet doors off to show internal hardware design.

HP introduced the speedier N-Class systems just a few months later, and so the market had its ultimate generation of Hewlett-Packard hardware for MPE/iX. The 2001 introduction of the A-Class—a computer that sells today for under $1,500 in some price lists—was part of the reason for the whiplash when HP called off its 3000 futures just 9 months after that February day. When the Chicago HP World closed in that summer, it was the last expo where HP's slides showed a future of more innovations.

These 14-year-old systems have been eclipsed by the Intel hardware, but running a virtualization system. The Stromasys Charon HPA is running MPE/iX production applications on servers even smaller than that A-Class. HP had the idea of making its computers smaller. It was up to the virtualization concept to make them both smaller and faster.

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

February 12, 2018

MPE/iX keeps propelling relevant history

Professor KanzbergAt a recent meeting of HP 3000 managers running ERP shops, the present conditions and futures surfaced during a discussion. The MANMAN users, running an application on 3000s that hasn't seen an update in more than a decade—like their servers and OS—marveled at the constancy in their community.

Things change slower than expected. A monolithic application like ERP is the slowest of all to change. MPE/iX and its apps are proof: the history of technology is the most relevant history. History makes migration a requirement.

Ed Stein is a board member of the CAMUS user group. At the meeting he said the past three years have not removed many members. The 2028 CALENDAR replacement process caught his eye.

"I chuckled when I read a NewsWire article in 2015 and thought, 'Hey, how many of us are going to be around in 2028?' Well, most of us who were community members in 2015 are still members now," Stein said. "There's a future for those still running on MPE. If you don't like the hardware, then there's Doug Smith [from Stromasys] telling you how to get over that issue. MANMAN could be around in archival use 10 years from now—if not in actual production use."

Stein read that article about the CALENDAR intrinsic's shortcomings and decided he'd plan ahead, just to check off one more crucial challenge to the 3000's useful lifespan. 

"We want there to be a CALENDAR fix sooner than later," Stein said. "Because later, the talent might be retired or gone to fix this thing. We're looking at this as more of an insurance policy. If by chance we're still on this platform 10 years from now, we're going to be okay."

The platform's history is responsible for HP's continued standing in the business computer market, after all. Professor Melvin Kranzberg (above) wrote a set of laws to show how we relate to technology. MPE's relevance is more proven with every subsequent development.

Rule 5 among technology historian Kranzberg's rules: All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant. The laws read as a cheat sheet for explaining our era that includes Facebook, Google, the iPhone—and yes, cloud-based ERP replacements for MANMAN.

From an article in the Wall Street Journal published just after the MANMAN meeting:

The Cold War led to the buildup of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them anywhere on Earth. That led to the development of a war-proof communication system: the internet. Many related innovations subsequently seeped into every aspect of our lives.

But does that mean we owe the modern world to the existential contest between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R.? Or was that conflict itself driven by previous technological developments that allowed Hitler to threaten both nations?

Without prior historic events, how could ERP become a system built upon Salesforce and served up from cloud-based computing resources? No MANMAN or HP 3000 success drags back the entry date for the ERP replacements in the cloud.

The 3000 owners preparing for their migrations continue to prove the worth of their investments from the 1990s in MANMAN. 

"You're not alone here in the MANMAN arena," said Doug Werth of Beechglen at the meeting. "MANMAN is still a fairly small subset of companies that are still running HP 3000s. I'm really shocked to say here in this year that there are that many people running HP 3000s. But you're not alone here."

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

February 09, 2018

Using a PURGEGROUP to clean volumes up

Empty file cabinetIs using PURGEGROUP a way to clean up where groups reside on multiple volume sets? I want to remove groups from Volumesets that aren't considered HOMEVS.

Tracy Johnson says

The syntax for a command on group PUB.CCC might read


Denys Beauchemin says

The ALTGROUP, PURGEGROUP and NEWGROUP commands act on the specified volumeset after the ONVS keyword.

The HOMEVS keyword is used to specify in which volumeset the group is supposed to reside and where the files will be found in a LISTF or FOPEN.

If you have the same group.account existing on multiple volumesets and they have files in them, the entries on volumesets—other than what is in HOMEVS for that group—are invisible. If you want to get to them, you need to point the group's HOMEVS to that volumeset and then you can get to the files.

If there are no files in the group.account of other volumesets, it's not a big deal.

Keven Miller says

You could review the volume scripts available that were once on HP's Jazz server. 

Take care in using  the PURGEGROUP command. You can have files existing in the same group name, on separate volumes—which makes mounting that group a problem. So make sure the group on the volume is clean of files you might desire before the PURGEGROUP.

HP's documentation for the PURGEGROUP command has a similar warning.

In the two pages devoted to PURGEGROUP, the manual says,

Do not attempt to purge the PUB group of the SYS account. The public group of the system account, PUB.SYS, cannot be completely purged. If you specify this group in the group name parameter, all non-system and inactive files are purged, which seriously impairs the proper functioning of the entire system.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2018

Living with what's still working in MPE

Classic-carsSome functionality of MPE/iX will be outliving its accuracy. That's the situation with the CALENDAR intrinsic, which now has less than 10 years of correct capability remaining. Few 3000 support and development companies can reach inside MPE/iX source, and of those, nobody's going to fix the original intrinsic.

"There is no fix inside the CALENDAR routine," says Steve Cooper of Allegro. "There is no pivot point in the CALENDAR routine. It's returning a number from 0 to 127. It's up to the program to decide what to do with that. Or you live with it."

On the latest technical conference call, some companies with access to HP's MPE/iX source were on the line. "If you want to fix the banner when you log in, then you need the source code for MPE," said Doug Werth. "If you want to fix the program that's printing the wrong date on a report, then you need the source code to your program."

To be clear, even having MPE/iX source code won't give CALENDAR more years of accuracy. Werth said that fixing MPE/iX—something the source code companies like Pivital at least have enough license to attempt—isn't an open subject, either. "There's a lot in that HP licensing we're probably not allowed to talk about," he said, speaking of Beechglen.

Chevrolet ApacheLooking the other way and living with what's still working—that's genuinely possible for a 3000 that's not calculating time between transactions. "For this group of people," said CAMUS board member and 3000 manager Terry Simpkins, "if they're still using MANMAN transactionally, they're going to care. If you're in an archive mode where all you're doing is looking up things that happened in the past, not so much."

Many adjustments for declining functionality will come by revising application code. "You can intercept the call to CALENDAR, but the program will be expecting a 16-bit return value in the CALENDAR format," Cooper said. "There's nothing you can do with CALENDAR's value at that point."

The 3000 has been here before. The last time there was a lot of company, as 1999 turned into 2000 for computers from every vendor. CALENDAR won't kill MPE/iX—in that way, it's unlike what the community did for Y2K remediation. 

Allegro was one of the companies that gave 3000 managers date management tools to help get applications beyond Y2K. "I lost a lot of sleep between 1992 and January, 2000," he said. "I'm not losing sleep over this one."

"If you don't have source, and it bothers you, then there are solutions," he added. "The rest of it is cosmetic and you ought to be able to look past that. If you have your application source code, by all means it's simple."

Werth said, "I still have a customer with an application that is not even Y2K compliant. Every year they set their calendar back to the year where the day of the year lines up with the current day of the week. So Wednesday November 16 is still Wednesday, November 16. The year is just wrong."

"There may be some things you just have to live with. You run a report and it says it's 1909 instead of 2037. You live with that. Where it's critical, you figure out a fix for it. Where the applications are having problems, there's plenty of people who will be available to help fix it." 

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

February 02, 2018

Simplifying MPE/iX Patch Management

NewsWire Classic

By John Burke

Patching-machineEven though Patch/iX and Stage/iX were introduced with MPE/iX in 1996, these HP tools are poorly understood and generally under-used. Both are tremendous productivity tools when compared with previous techniques for applying patches to MPE/iX. Prior to the introduction of Patch/iX and Stage/iX, system managers did their patching with AUTOPAT, and you had to allow for at least a half-day of downtime. Plus, in relying on tape, you were relying on a notoriously flaky medium where all sorts of things could go wrong and create “the weekend in Hell.”

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

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

Why should you care about Patch Management? Studies and surveys suggest that 50-80 percent of all HP 3000s will still be running by 2006-2009 – even HP now agrees. Keeping a system running smoothly includes knowing how to efficiently and successfully apply patches to the system. HP has committed to supplying bug fix patches to MPE/iX and its subsystems through 2006, including two PowerPatches per year. [Ed. note: The process continued through 2008.] There may also be new functionality added, either to support new devices or in response to the System Improvement Ballot (SIB).

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

• Qualify all patches in a set of patches;

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

• Selectively apply patches from a PowerPatch tape; and,

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

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

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

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

Steps in staging

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

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

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

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

A PowerPatch usually comes with some patch-specific documentation – make sure you have it available before you start.

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

How to apply patches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if something goes wrong? If you have problems after successfully rebooting your system and you want to back out your patches, simply run STAGEMAN and use the SET command to make the Base the active stage, reboot your system and you are right back where you started. Suppose you cannot even boot the system successfully after setting the stage? Simply boot to the ISL prompt and use STAGEISL (see Fig. 3 below) to set the active stage to BASE, reboot and, again, you are back to where you started.

Figure 3: Using STAGEISL to recover from a SYSTEM ABORT due to a bad patch

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:41 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 31, 2018

What to do when there's no HP patch

PatchesPatches and workarounds will be a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get patches if you want 'em. You may want a workaround instead.

A custom workaround is a more reliable repair for something that's not operating correctly inside MPE. The very last round of patches which HP built were not tested to HP's standard. By now there's no more HP work for new repairs.

Some independent support providers know the 3000 as well as anyone left at HP. Some of the biggest and best-connected vendors have a license for MPE/iX source code, because a patch isn't what most customers want. Such a thing has to be tested, and a lot of production 3000s are under lockdown today. Changes are not welcome.

Enter the indie patching potential for MPE/iX. Binary patches are much more of a possibility when source code is in the hands of a support company. There were seven licensees who got MPE/iX source back in 2010. Working with a support firm that's got source is one step closer to a custom patch.

The path to patching can be tricky for some owners. "MPE folks are very reluctant to patch," said Donna Hofmeister, former OpenMPE board member. "The HP-UX folks are often desperate to patch."

It’s been 10 years since OpenMPE wanted to administer patches, post-HP, and HP hasn't released this software into the wild yet. Back then patches were nearly in the wild, and definitely free; a 3000 owner could call the Response Center and get a PowerPatch tape or a link for a download at no cost—if they could find a Response Center rep who understood what a 3000 was. 

Hofmeister says she's confused about the current state of IT management. "It's probably a gray-beard/hair thing, but I've always worked in shops where keeping your mission critical servers under support was essential — both to upper management and to the auditors."

"More and more now, it's this 'it's running fine, leave it alone' management attitude. It more often than not winds up biting the company in the rear. I don't know how IT managers keep their jobs when it's their decisions that halt production for days, weeks, or months at a time."

HP decided to charge for patches in 2011 by forcing customers into full support agreements, and "in the long run, this is part of why HP-UX has stagnated, and is probably on life-support at this point," Hofmeister says.  "If they had, say, created a "subscription" support level that only provided patch access, I think their ecosystem would be healthier (albeit not robust)."

Those beta release patches have become the stuff of some legend. Several 3000 support resources said they don't have betas. One said he didn't even know of any. The general-released patches are on hand, though, and owners will share catalogs of them for some informal supply of the software. One system expert said "I was hoping to get them online someday—when I wouldn't get into trouble."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2018

Locating patches is now a personal search

PatchworkTen years ago the threads between MPE/iX patches and Hewlett-Packard were intact. The vendor stopped developing the fixes and additions to a 3000's abilities. But owners were assured that the software would be ready for download. A call to HP's Response Center would continue to connect customers and patches.

None of those facts are true by now. Some support providers say there's not enough HP left in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support to even know what a 3000 does. The 3000 experts who still track such things concur. Donna Hofmeister, former OpenMPE director, said "No one can get MPE patches from HPE now. There's simply no organization left to handle such a request."

In 2008 one significant patch issue involved beta release software. HP was clinging to its established testing practice, one that limited beta tests to current HP support customers. OpenMPE wanted to close that gap and become a force for good to get 3000s patched.

CEO Rene Woc of Adager proposed that OpenMPE administer the beta testing of patches caught in HP's logjam. The HP support customers were not taking a bite of the new bytes. Meanwhile, OpenMPE had pan-community service in its essential charter. Hofmeister said OpenMPE could speak for the thousands of sites which couldn't access beta patches for tests.

If it weren’t for OpenMPE, all the companies coming individually to HP for support beyond end-of-life wouldn’t have a collective voice. It’s OpenMPE that’s uniting these voices.

Spin the world forward 10 years and HP has indeed stopped issuing all patches. The software is available from other sources, however. Devoted owners and consultants are breaking the rules by sharing their patches—but only because HP broke a promise. HP tried for awhile to clear out beta patches. This week we heard some went into general release "because they had at least one customer who installed them without ill effect."

Even after more than a decade, there's still a forum where a customer can ask about patches: the 3000 mailing list. The transactions happen in private. Responsible support companies cannot say they'll distribute HP software.

Ask around, Hofmeister said, to find out who has HP's patches. There's a more reliable way to get repairs, though.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:31 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2018

Still meeting after all of these years

Sig-BAR-ribbonA personable community was one of the big reasons the HP 3000 got its own publication. The HP Unix community was more reticent during the 1980s, holding just a few meetings. HP 3000 owners and managers were a social bunch. It led to the founding of the HP Chronicle, where I first met the devotees and experts about MPE/iX. There were SIG meets, RUG conferences, Birds of a Feather gatherings, and national Interex conference attendance that felt almost automatic for awhile. Gathering in person isn't automatic for anyone now that social networks rule our roost.

There's still some desire to meet and share what we know, in person, however. Dave Wiseman is inquiring about gathering users in California this summer.

Wiseman, the founder of HP 3000 vendor Millware and an MPE veteran since the system's most nascent days, floated the idea of a "3000 Revival" in Europe in 2014. Wiseman was the chairman of SIG BAR, the informal after-hours gossip and news sessions held in conference bars. Stories swapped during the 1990s went on until all hours. I'd drift off into a light doze in a lounge chair after hours at a conference, listening all day, and then get snapped awake by something I hadn't heard. It's possible that a 2018 meeting could deliver something we hadn't heard in a long time.

Wiseman-alligatorWiseman will be in the US this June. (The picture at right comes from the 1980s, when he hauled around a floaty alligator at an HP conference hosted in Nashville). But that gator pool toy design is still in use, along with HP 3000s.) He described what a revival can amount to. The last time, he called the event an HP3000 SIG BAR meeting.

Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars….

Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretense of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bringing a booth!)

If you know anyone who worked in the HP3000 vendor community or its user groups, please contact me: ( or +44 777 555 7017)

A heartfelt reunion came together in a London pub in 2014. It could happen again. Your community still wants to meet after all these years.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:50 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: How to add disks and redesign HP 3000 volume sets

Disk-drive-platter-hp3000I am in serious need of some hardware and hardware setup redesign. Essentially, we have 30GB of disk all in the system volume set and want to add 20GB more and go to multiple volume sets. How do I do this?

This checklist can be used to add new disks and completely redesign the volume sets:

1. Perform two full system backups and verify each.
2. Create a new sysgen tape.
3. Check the new sysgen tape with CHECKSLT.
4. Copy @.@.SYS to a separate tape and verify.
5. Verify all disk drives configured and working properly.
6. Create a BULDACCT job for each new volume set with just the accounts destined for that volume set.
7. Verify that a current full BULDACCT exists on tape.
8. Shut down the system.
9. Restart the system.
10. From the ISL prompt, INSTALL.
11. In VOLUTIL, scratch all drives except for ldev 1.
12. In VOLUTIL, do "NEWVOL volset:member# ldev# 100 100" for each volume in the system volume set (other than ldev 1).
13. In VOLUTIL, do "NEWSET volset member# ldev# 100 100" for the master volume for each new set.
14. In VOLUTIL, do "NEWVOL volset:member# ldev# 100 100" for each volume in each new
15. Restore SYS account files with ;KEEP;SHOW;OLDDATE options.
16. Stream all BULDACCT jobs to create accounts structure.
17. Restore all files with ;KEEP;SHOW;OLDDATE options.
18. Spot-verify applications.
19. Once everything appears OK, run a BULDACCT.
20. Perform a full system backup.

In Step 15 watch out when you restore from a separate tape with @.@.SYS. You want to verify that tape. You'll like the feeling of knowing you can get at least the operating system back up without third-party backup software intervention. (In case you're still using a third-party tool for backups.) 

A few rules of thumb:

1. Don't mix unlike-size drives on a single volume set. This is mostly an operational consideration. Avoid having the small volumes in the set fill up first with plenty of space left on the larger volumes.

2. Put the more critical user accounts on faster, newer disk drives.

3. Set up the volume sets in a business-logical manner. In other words, put accounts in a volume set with other, related accounts, if possible.Try to clearly isolate the volume sets along boundaries.

4. If you're redesigning the disk environment and doing an INSTALL, be sure to have at least two verified backups.

5. Don't be afraid to have a volume set made up of drives configured on multiple controller paths. For example, you might have three single-ended IO controller cards (if it's an older 3000). On a few of your sets, you can have drives from each.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:49 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2018

Emulation or iron meets Classic 3000 needs

A few weeks ago the 3000 community was polled for a legendary box. One of the most senior editions of Classic 3000s, a Series 42, came up on the Cypress Technology Wanted to Buy list. The 42 was the first 3000 to be adopted in widespread swaths of the business world. It's not easy to imagine what a serious computing manager would need from a Series 42, considering the server was introduced 35 years ago.

Series 42 setupThese Classic 3000s, the pre-RISC generation, sparked enough business to lead HP to create the Precision RISC architecture that was first realized with its Unix server. The HP 9000 hit the Hewlett-Packard customer base and 3000 owners more than a year before the 3000's RISC servers shipped. Without the success of the Classic 3000s, though, nobody could have bought such a replacement Unix server for MPE V. Applications drive platform decisions, and creating RISC had a sting embedded for the less-popular MPE. Unix apps and databases had more vendors.

That need for a Series 42 seems specific, as if there's a component inside that can fulfill a requirement. But if it's a need for an MPE V system, an emulator for the Classic 3000s continues to rise. Last week the volunteers who've created an MPE V simulator announced a new version. The seventh release of the HP 3000 Series III simulator is now available from the Computer History Simulation Project (SIMH) site.

The SIMH software will not replace a production HP 3000 that's still serving in the field, or even be able to step in for an archival 3000. That's a job for the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server. But the SIMH software includes a preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image. MPE V isn't a license-protected product like MPE/iX.

Some CIOs might wonder what any MPE system, running MPE V or MPE/iX, might provide to a datacenter in 2018. The answers are continuity and economy, elements that are especially evident in any emulated version of a 3000. Old iron is on the market at affordable prices. If a PA-RISC system can be sold for $1,200, though, it's interesting to consider what a 35-year-old server might fetch. Or who would even have one in working order to sell.

Software like Charon, and to a lesser extent SIMH, earns its consideration more easily than old iron. Virtualization is so embedded in IT plans that it's a bit of a ding to admit you don't virtualize somewhere.

The deep-in the-mists tech of the ATC terminals is a big part of the new SIMH. The new capability shows off the limitations that make it obvious why PA-RISC 3000s are still genuine data processing solutions. The SIMH terminal IO uploads via Telnet using a Reflection terminal emulator are now over 100 times faster than earlier releases of the MPE V software. As a reminder of the IT world's pace during the 1980s when MPE V was king, the new, faster upload time for a one-megabyte file has decreased from 69 minutes to 30 seconds.

That's still a 2-MB a minute pace. A Simulator's User Guide shows the way for ATC setup required for successful Reflection Transfers. That's from the era when locating a Reflection client program on a 3000 was essential for moving data in many applications. That was also the era when HP was manufacturing its own disc drives in Boise, Idaho. The burn-in testing for those drives up in that factory was powered by a massive row of Series 42s. My 1988 tour at Boise was the last time I saw a Series 42 in use.

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

January 08, 2018

Searching and finding in MPE/iX with MPEX

Searching ManIt's a world where it's ever-harder to find files of value. This week a story aired on NPR about a hapless young man who mislaid a digital Bitcoin wallet. The currency that was worth pennies eight years ago when he bought it has soared into the $15,000 range. Alas, it's up to the Bitcoin owner to find their own money, since the blockchain currency has no means for recovery. Another owner in the UK a few years back, James Howells, lost millions on a hard drive he'd tossed out. A trip to the landfill to search for it didn't reward him, either.

Being able to locate what you need on your HP 3000 involves going beyond the limits of MPE/iX. Searches with the Vesoft utility deliver more results and faster than any native capabilities.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group suggested MPEX as a searching solution. "MPEX with wildcards and date parameters is what I use for search," he said, "for instance"  

%LISTF @xyz@.@(CREDATE>12/1/2017),3    


%PRINT @.@;SEARCH="Look for this"

Seeing MPEX come up as a solution for search reminded us of a great column from the Transition Era for the 3000. Steve Hammond wrote "Inside Vesoft" for us during that time when 3000s not only continued to hold data for organizations, but production-grade data, too.

Gonna find her, gonna find her, Well-ll-ll, searching
Yeah I’m goin’ searching, Searching every which a-way, yeh yeh

— The Coasters, 1957

By Steve Hammond

I have to admit it — I’m a bit of a pack rat. It drives my wife crazy and I’ve gotten better, but I still hold onto some things for sentimental reasons. I still have the program from the first game I ever saw my beloved Baltimore Colts play. On my desk is the second foul ball I ever caught (the first is on display in the bookcase). I have a mint condition Issue 1 of the HP Communicator — dated June 15, 1975 (inherited when our e3000 system manager retired). It tells that all support of MPE-B terminated that month, and the Planning Committee chairman of the HP 3000 Users Group was a gentleman from Walnut Creek named Bill Gates (okay, not that Bill Gates).

My problem is even when I know I have something, I just can’t find it. I had an item the Baseball Hall of Fame was interested in; they had no ticket stub from the 1979 World Series, which I had — seventh game no less. But it took me over two years before I literally stumbled across it.

I wish I could add some sort of easy search capabilities to my massive collection of junk like we have in MPEX.

The most commonly used is the search option in the PRINT command. But there are a couple of other ways to search that I’ve used over the years for different reasons, and we’ll look at those too.

In the olden days, when passwords were embedded in job streams, when we changed passwords, we would have to find every job with the password in it. A long, tedious task that never found all of them. And yes, the ultimate answer was converting to STREAMX, but that’s a column for another month.

When MPEX added the PRINT;SEARCH command, life became much easier and we found many uses for it. As the versions of MPEX evolved, the command gained power. The simplest form is:


This will search for any line with the word “FILE” in it — exactly “FILE”, not “file” or “File” or “fILE”, you get the picture. Easily solved with:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=caseless “file”



Either of those will get you the word “file” in any form.

You can do boolean searches:




The first returns any file that has a line or lines with both FILE and TEMP, the second looks for FILE or RUN and the third looks for files with any lines that contain RUN but do not have PRODPGM.

You can even delimit your searches — let’s say you have a tape drive that you call “DAT”. Well, doing the search


will find the reference to DAT as the tape drive you’re interested in, but as a bonus feature it will also find “DATA”, “DATABASE”, etc. By using the DELIMIT option:


you will find only occurrences of “DAT” with non-alphanumeric characters before and after it. Taking this a step further, you can right and left delimit your search



The first will files with lines containing DBSTORE but not PRODDB, and the second vice versa. You can even add the caseless option to delimited option:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=caseless rdelim “DB”

Caseless can be abbreviated “CL” and delim can be “D”.

But there’s another way you can do searches, which I found very useful - searches that I used out of a LISTF, building an indirect file for later use. You can’t do that with PRINT, because PRINT well, prints the result, showing the occurrence of the string you are searching for. Let’s say we were changing the name of a database — DEVDB to PRODDB. All I really need to know is all the jobs that have the reference to “DEVDB” — I don’t need to see the context of the string, I just need to know the files. And I need to know the fully-qualified name of the file and I want it in a file named INDFILE1.

This is where the file attributes FCONTAINS FSEARCHSTRING and FSEARCHEXP come into play. The second and last are similar because you have to state that there are greater than 0 occurrences in the file (or any value for that matter), but otherwise they all work the same.






As I said, FCONTAINS looks for the existence of that string in a file and basically FSEARCHSTRING does the same thing. But with FSEARCHSTRING, you can do :


which says you want to find a file that has any line with a minimum of three occurrences of “DEVDB”. Why would you want to do that? If you haven’t learned yet that you don’t ask that question, then we need to talk later.

The better question is why the “FSEARCHEXP” attribute? I’m glad you asked. This is the one of these attributes that lets you to a caseless search:


Note the additional set of quotes in there. FSEARCHEXP also lets you do boolean searches, but that’s just getting way too complicated!

The final question is why did I do it this way? If I was going to change a string, I would do an overnight job that found the files that needed to be changed. I would put the output of that process into an indirect file in the LISTF,6 output format (fully qualified file name). I would then use the indirect file as input for the job or process to change the string.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: How to discover the creation date of a STORE tape

Newswire Classic

By John Burke

It is probably more and more likely that, as the years pass by, you will discover a STORE tape and wonder when it was created. Therefore it is a good idea to review how to do this. I started out writing “how to easily do this,” but realized there is nothing easy about it — since it is not well-documented and if you just want the creation date, you have to do a bit of a kludge to get it. Why not something better?

It turns out the ;LISTDIR option of RESTORE is the best you can do. But if you do not want a list of all the files on the tape, you need to feed the command the name of some dummy, non-existent file. ;LISTDIR will also display the command used to create the tape.

By the way, this only works with NMSTORE tapes. For example, when ;LISTDIR is used on a SYSDUMP tape that also stored files, you get something like this (note that even though you are using the RESTORE command, if it contains the ;LISTDIR option, nothing is actually restored):

:restore *t;dummy;listdir


FRI, DEC 31, 2004, 3:22 PM


WED, MAY 7, 2003, 7:06 AM



Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:43 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 03, 2018

How to make a date that lasts on MPE/iX

January 1 calendar pageNow that it's 2018, there's less than 10 years remaining before HP's intrinsic for date handling on MPE/iX loses its senses. CALENDAR's upcoming problems have fixes. There's a DIY method that in-house application developers can use to make dates in 2028 read correctly, too.

The key to this DIY repair is to intercept a formatting intrinsic for CALENDAR.

CALENDAR returns two numbers: a "year" from 0 to 127 and a "day of year" from 1 to 366.
FMTCALENDAR takes those two numbers and turns it into a string like Monday, January 1, 1900.  It takes the "year" and adds it to 1900 and displays that. "In a sense," explains Allegro's Steve Cooper, "that's where things 'go wrong'."
If one intercepts FMTCALENDAR and replaces it with their own routine, it can say if the "year" is 0 to 50, then add 2028 to it, otherwise, add 1900 as it always did.  That would push the problem out another 50 years.
This interception task might be above your organization's pay grade. If that's true, there are 3000-focused companies that can help with that work. These kinds of repairs to applications are the beginning of life-extension for MPE/iX systems. There might be more to adjust, so it's a good idea to get some help while the community still has options for support.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:48 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Moving DDS stores to disk

Moving-van-640Editor's note: In the last two weeks 3000 owners have been asking about DDS tape storage migration and how to find 38-year-old systems. Here in the last working day for the year 2017, it seems like we're running in a time machine. Here's some help on moving old data to new media.

We're taking Monday off to celebrate the new year. Not many people figured the 3000 would have users working in that 15th year since HP stopped making the server. We'll be back Wednesday with a new story. Seems like anything can happen.

I want to restore some files from a DDS tape to a store-to-disc file. It been a while I am not sure if this is something that can be done. I need some help with the syntax.

Alan Yeo says

I think you need to restore the files from the tape and then store them to disc, as the resulting disc file needs to build a header of the files it contains.

So after restore, the store to disc syntax is something like

!SETVAR BACKUP_FILE "nameoffileyouwantocreate"
!STORE fileselectionstring;*BK;SHOW;PROGRESS=5

Keven Miller adds

There is also TAPECOPY that reads STORE tapes and creates an STD (Store to Disk) on disk -- provided the STORE is all on one tape. I have a copy of the program on my website. Look for TAPECOPY, it's a tar file.

At another location on my site you can see the Text file document, and a .wrq file for using with Reflection with Labels option, or the .std  file which is a store-to-disc.

I also have Tapecpyv, an SPL version usable on both MPE/iX and MPE/V. This SPL one is the latest.

The syntax


Reads the STORE tape on dev 7 into STD file MYSTD.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:22 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2017

2028 and beyond: This FAQ answers all

FaqAbout a month ago, HP 3000 managers, vendors and developers shared techniques on getting their MPE/iX systems a longer lease on life. The barrier of 2028 and beyond has been cleared. Now it's time to clear up some questions about the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding the lifespan of the 3000's OS.

Will my HP 3000 stop working on January 1, 2028?

The hardware itself may be worn out by then, but nothing in the operating system will keep PA-RISC systems — emulated or actual — from booting, running programs, or passing data and IO through networks and peripherals. MPE/iX will do everything it can do today, except report dates correctly to and from software and applications which rely on an older CALENDAR intrinsic.

If I don't change anything on my 3000, will the operating system know what day it is on January 1, 2028?

SHOWTIME will report that it's the year 1900. SHOWCLOCK will report the correct year.

Will all file information remain correct?

All file creation and file modification timestamps will be accurate, and files which are created will have correct timestamps, too.

So what kinds of software will be reporting the wrong date starting in 2028?

Software which still relies on CALENDAR for its date-keeping may show incorrect dates. This software can be applications as well as utilities and reporting software. Changes to source code for the programs which use CALENDAR, replacing it with HPCALENDAR, take care of the issues. If software uses internal logic for data calculations, it will continue to work correctly in 2028, so long as it doesn't rely on CALENDAR. The problem actually occurs if FMTCALENDAR is called to format the date. Unless that call is trapped, FMTCALENDAR will always produce a date between 1900 and 2027.

What about the compilers for the OS?

COBOL 85 uses the newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic. The older COBOL 66 uses the older CALENDAR. 

What can I do if I don't have source code for my applications?

Vendors who continue to serve the MPE/iX market can change the call to CALENDAR into a call to HPCALENDAR. A support provider can assist a customer, with the cooperation of the source code holders, in using the newer HPCALENDAR. Alternatively, the call to FMTCALENDAR can be trapped at run time, and the replacement routine can re-map early 1900 years into years starting with 2028.

How about MPE/iX itself? Will that intrinsic ever be repaired? How do I get SHOWTIME running correctly?

Some portions of the OS will continue to rely on the old CALENDAR, which only has 16-bit range to use. Source code license holders—the eight companies licensed by HP to use MPE/iX source—may have an advantage in bringing some OS internals into line with site-specific patches. They are site-specific because HP doesn't permit a revised version of the OS to be recompiled and distributed. SHOWTIME is likely to remain incorrect, since it uses CALENDAR and FMTCALENDAR.

What about date-dependent work like job streaming?

Applications that can be revised to use HPCALENDAR will stream jobs on correct dates. Native job-streaming service in MPE/iX will work if a command uses a request such as "three days from now." In general, the more closely a piece of MPE/iX software relies on CALENDAR, the less likely it will be to deliver accurate dates starting in 2028.

My third-party software might keep track of the date to keep running. What can I do?

Source code revision will be the most direct solution in this case. Some support companies are considering a certification service for Year 2028 operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 20, 2017

Replacement hardware archives key context

Wayback Wednesday

The replacement hardware arrived in a box that fit inside my mailbox. We bought a jumbo-sized mailbox in 1993, one big enough to let the industry trade journals lie flat on its floor. In those days our community relied on big tabloid publications to keep abreast of the future. Today the pages are digital and needing paper for news is fading fast.

MD RecorderThe Minidisc MZ-R50 showed up in great working order, a replacement for the recorder that logged my interviews in the rowdy and roiling days of the 3000's Transition Era. The Minidisc is late '90s tech that can arrive by way of US Mail. A Series 929 wouldn't fit in any cardboard box with padding. That server is 104 pounds of a 2-foot by 18-inch unit that's 22 inches high. UPS could pull it off a truck, though.

My 1997 MZ-R50 has the same age as a Series 997, and like the 3000 server, the hardware has unlocked access to archival information. You buy these things to replace failed hardware, or sometimes for parts. Only the battery had failed on the R50. That's a component likely to be dead on old 3000s, too.

I plucked a Minidisc at random to test my new unit and found an interview about how Interex decided to put distance between itself and Hewlett-Packard. I wrote about the change in the relationship in 2004, but just a fraction of the interview made it into the NewsWire.

The thing about archival data is it can grow more valuable over time. Context is something that evolves as history rolls on. In the late summer of 2004 it wasn't obvious that Interex was overplaying its hand, reaching for a risk to sell the value of a vendor-specific user group. HP told the group's board of directors that user group support was going to be very different in 2005. The reaction to the news sealed the fate of the group. It began with a survey, shifted to a staff recommendation, and ended up as a board decision.

The recorded 2004 interview now puts those views and choices in context. You'll care about this if you ever need a user group, wonder how your enterprise vendor will support customers' desires, or hope to understand how corporate resources influence partnerships.

The key interview quote that made its way into our "HP World stands at brink of changes" report was a line from then-board president Denys Beauchemin. “We’re not competing with HP,” Beauchemin said about HP World 2005. “HP’s going to be there next year. HP will scale back drastically.” The scaling back was a correct assessment. The competition turned out to change everything.

The demise of a 31-year-old user group might seem like an inevitability from a 2017 perspective. Connect is the user group serving anyone in the HP Enterprise market today. It's joined by the small CAMUS user society, the same one that discussed and uncovered the strategy to get beyond the year 2027 with MPE/iX. Membership in both groups is free. Back in 2004 those were $99 memberships, with thousands to count on.

The rescued recording from that chat with Beauchemin gave me context a-plenty to absorb.

What HP said is they have four user group events to go to next year. They're trying to cut back. They're trying to do an HP-produced show and invited user groups to attend.

HP aimed to replace its spending on user group-run HP shows with one event. Cutting back was always going to happen in the plan. Interex got notice a year before it collapsed that HP's spending was going to drop.

If we decide to do our own thing, then HP will be at HP World in San Francisco — but it would not be with the same presence they had in the past. No huge booth. They will scale back drastically. They would sponsor and endorse HP World. It's not like they're yanking the rug out from under us, not at all.

There was no rug-pulling. The deck of the Good Ship User Expo Floor was tilting hard, though. HP said it was going to do enough of a show to let user groups will share revenues from an HP Expo “to support and sustain those organizations," adding that "The user groups’ charters are not to drive revenue and profit, but to train end-users in a way that the groups can recover costs.”

The revenue and profit was the charter of any Interex show. An organization with teeth needs to be fed. Now Interex had a competitor: the vendor at its own heart. Customers and vendors had a choice to make about conferences.

They respect the independence of Interex. They really like the advocacy survey and all of the other stuff we do— which is very much in keeping with our screaming at HP, but in a nice way.

The screaming was customer communication that dated back to the 1980s. A management roundtable was a publicity and customer relations minefield starting in the 1990s. Interex considered itself an advocacy group first. The engine of its enterprises, though, was booth sales for its annual expo.

If we were to go with HP in their mega-event, the impact would be in terms of the independence of third party folks we could have at the show. 

The archival recording off my replacement hardware took note of the kinds of vendors who'd never make it onto an HP-run expo floor. Competitors in systems, in storage, in services. Interex needed those prospects to fill up a healthy show floor.

To his credit, Beauchemin and the board recognized HP was essential to the conference's survival. 

If HP were to say it wasn’t interested in going to San Francisco in 2005, then we would have an issue. They haven't said they'd do that. HP is trying to cut back on the number of events they go to — especially the ones that are not in their control.

The group used this decision process about control: First, survey members about moving closer to HP and giving up independence—and learning that 55 percent favored that move. Then the user group staff got a shot at developing a recommendation about staying independent or ceding control of the conference to HP. Finally, the board took a vote based on that recommendation. There was a short timeframe to decide.

HP World 2004 is fast approaching. We need a story to tell about HP World 2005.

It's easy to see, in the context of 2017, that a user group staff would recommend staying on a course to keep projects and jobs in group control. It's hard to see how a board would vote to oppose any recommendation of joining with HP. So there was an approval to stay at a distance from HP. Cutting across the desires of any organization's managers is tough. What turned out to be just as hard was finding enough revenue to keep the organization alive.

The exhibitors and community leaders who helped found the group already saw a show that focused elsewhere. The fate of HP World had more impact on the 3000 customers who are leaving the platform than those who staying to homestead.

“It’s all focused on migration,” said Terry Floyd of the ERP support company the Support Group. “I expect that a lot of the 3000 people at HP World will be looking for HP 9000 solutions. We’re sending someone to talk to partners on the Unix and Integrity side.”

Pursuing a bigger relationship with partners who competed with HP had a huge cost. It was a risk that the group couldn't afford by the next year. One of the most senior members of the 3000 community said the end was in sight for Interex.

“HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” Olav Kappert said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in between, maybe even Interex will disappear.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2017

Reaching for replacement systems is news

IMG_2873Replacing HP's 3000 hardware is a natural occurrence in a homesteader's life. Components and systems built in the middle 1990s wear out after 20 years of use, whether it's frequent or infrequent. I felt the same way when I checked out the stored recordings here in my offices. I've been at conferences and interviews with a recorder since 1996. I used Sony's Minidisc all the way through the middle 2000s. It was better at indexing than cassettes. Finding anything is the real magic trick once the talk or the interview is done.

A homesteader might feel the same way about their applications and data created for MPE/iX. My Minidisc recorder above that failed was built in 2001 and like an HP 3000 of that era, alas, it runs its recordings no more. I could walk away from the Minidiscs — a couple of dozen at 74 minutes each — and assure myself nothing of value would be there.

MZ-R50Homesteaders don't have that luxury because their applications are so much harder to replace. It's easier for them to replace their aged hardware. My replacement Minidisc unit that's on its way was built even earlier than the one that just failed on me. The new-to-me MZ R-50 scheduled to arrive Saturday was first sold in 1997. The one that eBay's delivering might be a little less aged than that. But it's safe to say my replacement system will be 18 years old. It's advertised as still-working. Lots of its brethren are being sold for parts only.

In 1997 Hewlett-Packard was rolling out the Series 997, a high-end server that delivered the best performance numbers MPE/iX could claim by that fall. The Series 997 sold for $327,930 for a single-processor server, including a 100-user license, 512Mb of memory, a console and a UPS. IMAGE/SQL was part of that package, but the real value there is the compatibility with the applications—the equivalent of those talks and interviews.

IMG_2874That 997 server costs as little as $1,200 for a 5-processor unit today. A homesteader will need to arrange an MPE/iX license to step into that replacement hardware. I don't need a license to run those old Minidiscs, but I don't get the same level of hardware discount, either. The $329 R-50 now sells for $71. It will, if it arrives in working shape, run these recorded bits of 3000 history above.

That's 80 percent off for the 1997 Minidisc, and almost 100 percent off for the Series 997-500. The mere availability of 1997 hardware for business or recording is a testament to good design and the willingness to spurn change.

The 997 was sold in the fall of 1997 as network-ready, something not to be taken for granted just three years after the Web emerged. ARPA Services was how HP described the industry-standard networking software. HP changed customers for each new IO slot for the card cage to increase capacity (the $950 part A1828AZ). A DDS-3 DAT tape Autoloader was $7,999.

Today's tape systems that still work for these classic beasts usually sell for under $200. The tape is a moving component, much like the Minidiscs are. Again, that they're sold at all is the miracle of us all staying connected. A simple search for "Series 997 replacement hardware" turns up parts for a Porsche. Adding "HP 3000" to the front of that search points to a web page from Cypress Technology.

In addition to being forced to pay a much greater part of my original Minidisc recorder price, I also don't have the emulation option which MPE/iX apps enjoy. There's no equivalent of the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server in the Minidisc world. The Minidisc recorder-players didn't do much calculation, although I could tag and name recordings and jockey through them using a crude thumbwheel input.

By the end of the week I'll see how well an 18-year-old business recorder has survived in the wild. It will do well to perform like an HP 3000 does after two decades. But the hardware vitality is not really news to us, is it? Oh, and the Minidisc media—that's still for sale (new) today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 13, 2017

Forbes news not fake, but it's surely slanted

Fortran-coding-formIt was an odd encounter to see the HP 3000 show up on the Forbes website recently. An article about technology and school systems mentioned the server in a sideswipe of a wisecrack. Justin Vincent, a CTO at a school software vendor, wondered aloud how 1970s computing would've handled a 20-student computer lab.

Since the HP 3000 has been a K-12 solution for more than 30 years, Vincent's article took aim at the computer. It was just a glancing blow.

When people first started talking about education technology in the '70s, technology itself was the main blocker. We simply didn’t have the capacity to scale networks. Our devices were huge, input methods were clunky, the cost of each device was prohibitive and there was simply no understanding of how to design easy-to-use K-12 software with individualized and blended features.

Can you imagine if a school district did decide to set up a 20-student computer lab in the '70s? With Hewlett Packard's first “small business” computer (the HP 3000), it would have cost the equivalent of $10 million, and the computers alone would fill up a standard-size classroom!

I was a student in a K-12 classroom in the 1970s. Instead of putting us high school seniors though advanced algebra, we could take a Computer Science course. I was eager to do this and learned that the only lab work we'd do in our parochial high school was filling out an IBM coding form (above) with FORTRAN commands. The actual IBM 029 keystrokes had to happen at the University of Toledo labs. We brought the green-bar output back to the classroom to debug our efforts.

It felt unfair to see those quotes around "small business" computer, though. The 3000 was a genuine small business solution compared to the mainframes. I also wonder how a 20-user 2000 of the late 1970s could have occupied a full classroom. Even in that day, terminals could fit on an average lab desk. The dimensions of tape drive, disk, and CPU still would leave room for students and instructors. Even the small Catholic school classrooms could accommodate a Series III with room to spare.

The writing arrived in the blogosphere by way of Forbes' Community Voice. In the 1970s this was called advertorial, the kind of copy I had to write as a young journalist to meet an advertiser's needs. By 2017 this writing is now being farmed out straight to the advertiser's staff. At least we had to label our advertorials as un-news. What might come as news is the HP 3000 is still running school administration in a few places.

Quintessential School Systems was sold into the portfolio of Harris School Solutions early this year. QSS broke a lot of ground for K-12 software systems, and at the time of its transfer in February there were still some customers waiting for their migration to the Linux version of OASIS.

The QSS saga included a long-term migration campaign of HP 3000 users. When HP cut its 3000 plans short in 2001, finding a replacement platform with no such single-vendor trap door was paramount to QSS. Well before the environment was established as a commercial choice, QSS went down a path toward Linux. The company calls this Version L, with the migrations coming away from Version H. This past year, the majority of QSS sites crossed over from the 3000 to Linux use.

Harris and QSS are in the administrative space for school software, while Vincent's firm Modern Teacher is pushing its spear of digital convergence to modernize the classroom pedagogy. That the HP 3000 would appear on the radar of a cloud-based software vendor — even as a "back in the day" reference — speaks to the legacy of MPE/iX. OASIS's days might be numbered on 3000 hardware. Other applications are going forward on the OS, though, carried by the virtualization strategy that puts "small business" computing on servers that fit onto a closet shelf.


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

December 11, 2017

Still migrating after all these years

Project-scheduleI began writing about migrations only in 2001, after HP decided that moving was the way forward for 3000 folk. I already had 17 years on the 3000 beat by then. Much has happened over these last 16 years, and yet, less than you would think in some places. Companies began in earnest to move away from MPE/iX, sometimes for very good reasons. For example, if your application vendor starts sending you end-of-life warnings for your software, it's a good time to plan for a trip away from an HP 3000.

At other kinds of companies, migration seemed to be the safest way forward. Starting sooner than later was part of the 3000 ethos, too. That ethos might be one reason why some 3000 customers were working in their second decade of departing the 3000. The apps that were not broken didn't have to replaced right away, did they?

Eleven years have gone by since I produced this 8-minute podcast about one of those customers. From the very first year of the Transition Era we knew about the Speedware shop at Virginia International Terminals. VIT was a success story HP shared with its uncertain customers. VIT made the move to HP's Unix and all was well.

However, more than four years later (in 2006) not everything was moved off the 3000. Earlier this year we heard from someone at VIT about replacing their final MPE/iX app. This year. An interesting thing happened on the way to the exit. First they found the job bigger than they could handle themselves. To their credit, their IT management saw a bigger picture. Why just have a functional migrated application? You want it as efficient as it can be.

Back in 2006 VIT thought that way. It tested its migration about 18 months later than expected. Not everything made its way through that assisted migration process. VIT must have found a way to let migration pay its way, permitting a bit of functional MPE/iX to be left alone. Our 2006 podcast talks about the Why of a migration, as well as what happens when that Why changes.

Start to finish from 2002-2017 might be the longest term of any migration. A good 3000 manager doesn't care how long it takes. They care if it's done right—and on the schedule that best suits their organization. The podcast made a point back then which continues to be true. It's your calendar that matters.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2017

Distributor seeks 3000 experts for contract

Help-wantedIt doesn't happen often, but the 3000 world has a request for experts in the employment market. Dwight Demming at National Wine & Spirits posted a notice yesterday, saying he needed two to three "HP 3000 programmers to work on a year-long project."

NWS has been a 3000 user since the 1990s, running an in-house application that tracks shipping of, well, wine and spirits. The customer has always been a forward-looking shop. A few years back the company in Oak Brook Illinois was using Hillary Software's byRequest to move its email and PDF from the 3000 to computers in the rest of the IT environment. byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application.

Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said at the time, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest will support secure FTP as well as standard FTP.

The current assignment at the company calls for programmers who are "highly skilled in COBOL, Image/SQL, and VPlus. The work can be done remotely, Demming said in his posting, "with occasional visits to Oak Brook."

The biggest payoff for the employment offer might be in the final line of Demming's post: "Possibly leading to full-time employment." That might be HP 3000 and MPE/iX work, or it might be work on a migrated platform. But a year's worth of HP 3000 work starting around 2018 is a benefit few people could have forseen back when HP turned off its MPE/iX lab lights seven years ago.

Applications for the jobs can be sent to Demming at his email address.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 06, 2017

Staying on target is tough for 3000's exiles

3000 firing squadThe perspective of tech veterans who left the 3000 community used to sway opinions of those who remained. Vendors sold services like support or software for MPE/iX. Then HP made sales difficult by striking the 3000 off its price lists. So the vendors and IT pros who couldn't make a sale or a living left our world. Some departed and remained wistful and respectful of what HP created for MPE/iX. Others have not done so. They departed and began to disrespect and mock the tech solution that made them a pro.

It makes no sense, they've now said for more than a decade, to put any more resources into MPE/iX or a 3000. Some exiles once lined up a 3000 in a cornfield and shot it up with weapons. The act was an effort at comedy. (A great actor on his deathbed reminded the world that dying was easy, and comedy is hard.) The cornfield gunfire was ruthless because those shooters were targeting a legacy.

The bullets hit the computer, but the shooters were off target. The firing squad treatment included an arsenal worthy of Yosemite Sam. A cannon missed the mark and had to be wheeled closer. The buffoons acted out a fantasy, the finale of what they called “an HP 3000 mainframe computer.” 

Those shots felt the same as those the 3000's devotees have endured in the Migration Era. The era is just about over, but so many of its exits were based on fears of parts inventories gone dry or a lack of vendor attention. Some vendors turned on their community, stoking new business by running down the old success. Those parts are rare, they say, and you can pay us to help you change your mind. HP ran aground with its strategies for computing. Now the CEO is leaving and saying that technology wisdom has a better chance of hitting the value target than business experience.

The web, social media, and even 20-year-old mailing lists have made civil speech an endangered species. It's not professional or honest to label a line of work, and those who do it, as "stupid." That ignorant distain has given us Fake News and Alternative Facts. Crackpots and nincompoops make for outlandish exiles. Building something up by tearing something else down still remains Bad Form, as Captain Hook said in Peter Pan. Misfires on migrations have turned three-year exits into 12-year boondoggles. 

I'm sitting on a story about one of those odysseys. After HP gave the 3000 a bum's rush to the business door, the exiles' potshots at MPE's value rang out. Catcalls at MPE from the 3000's exiles won't put such odysseys on course. The simple math of taking four times longer to do something than planned—well, that's a True Fact, even if it's not often told. The target for why anything happens can be tough to find. When life doesn't turn out as you hoped, and your 3000 lifetime doesn't last, taking blind shots at a legacy always looked like going off half-cocked.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2017

2028 was never MPE's end of life date

HourglassEven though it was designed in the late 1960s, MPE never had an end of life date. Hewlett-Packard chose to call its end of business deadline for MPE/iX the 3000's end of life. HP was done in December of 2010, but the end of life claim was never true. Now we've learned that not even the expiration of the CALENDAR intrinsic's accuracy, in 10 years from this month, won't make the 3000 die, either.

During the latest CAMUS conference call, a few developers and support providers made the future clear. The year 2028 would not be the moment when a 3000 would fail to boot up and run software including the MPE/iX OS. This was only the year when CALENDAR wouldn't be useful.

"I'm hearing the system won't roll over and die on January 1, 2028," said one 3000 owner during the call. 

"Correct," said Doug Werth at Beechglen. "There are some things that may stick at 2027, depending on how the code was written." Some dating features go back to 1900 for the YYYY elements of the date fields. "There are a lot of places in the operating system that still use the CALENDAR format," Werth added.

Support providers can prepare repairs for the places where MPE uses CALENDAR. The seven companies with source code for the 3000's OS, such as Pivital Solutions, can craft more elegant solutions.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group said MANMAN calls CALENDAR in the subroutine SLJDMPE, "which is used all over the place." Floyd has identified and outlined a repair for MANMAN's source code that permits the MPE/iX application to run until 2049.

Nobody has had much conversation about another alleged end of life date for alternatives to MPE/iX. Unix and its date handling routines stop being accurate in 2038. It's also true for Linux, which drives a lot of the enterprise applications that have tried to replace 3000 apps, as well as much of the cloud-based servers like Amazon's. End of life is not a phrase used in that discussion, one so prevalent that Year 2038 has its own Wikipedia page.

The latest time that can be represented in Unix’s signed 32-bit integer time format is 03:14:07 UTC on Jan. 19, 2038. The date is 2,147,483,647 seconds after Jan. 1, 1970. (Both MPE used 1 January 1900 as a start date.) Beyond that time in that January of 2038, due to integer overflow, Unix time values will be stored as a negative number and the Unix and Linux systems will read the date as Dec. 13, 1901 rather than Jan. 19, 2038. There's even a cute animation of what the cutover will look like 20 years from now.

Embedded Linux is getting some attention for its date failure situation. Linux uses a 64-bit time_t for 64-bit architectures only; the pure 32-bit Application Binary Interface would not be changed due to backward compatibility. Embedded Linux systems would then support 64-bit time_t on 32-bit architectures, too.

At least MPE's CALENDAR will continue to provide the correct date of the correct month on the first day of 2028. A pivot point might be one way to resolve that for any customer who cannot modify application source code. The modification would use HPCALENDAR as a replacement for CALENDAR.

As we expected and hoped, MPE experts are already thinking about how to resolve Y2028. That they'd be doing so here in 2017 should be proof enough that the end of life of MPE/iX is far away. That's not so for the HP 3000—although an emulated 3000 has got a hardware end of life. Stromasys Charon relies on Linux, so there's work afoot to resolve that, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: ODE's 3000 diagnostics

DiagnosticsOne diagnostic super-program, ODE, holds a wide range of tests for HP's 3000 hardware. These testing programs got more important once HP mothballed its Predictive Support service for the HP 3000 in 2006. Predictive would dial into a 3000, poke around to see what might be ready to fail, then report to HP's support engineers. ODE's diagnostics are a manual way to perform the same task, or fix something that's broken.

However, ODE includes programs that require a password. Stan Sieler has inventoried what was available in MPE/iX and examined each program for whether it's unlocked for customer use. That was back in the days when 3000 owners were still HP support customers. Today the 3000 owners are customers of third party support firms like Pivital Solutions, or Sieler's own Allegro. The locked programs remain in that state, more than six years after HP shuttered its support operations.

ODE's options received a run-through from Sieler.

Disk Firmware Download Utility 2 (DFDUTIL2)
Version B.02.21 (23rd Sep 2003)
No disks were found.

Note: Didn't seem to want a password. Since Seagate disks are so prevalent, one would expect some means of updating firmware on them ... if firmware updates exist.

Version B.00.23

Note: Needs a password

Note: although it doesn't "see" Seagate drives, you can configure them in and access them.

Version B.00.22
No supported devices found on this system.

Note: doesn't "see" Seagate drives, and you can't configure them in.

Version B.01.12

Needs a password

Version B.01.07
Please wait while the system is scanned for Fibre Channel Adapters...
No Fibre Channel Adapters were found. The test cannot continue. Aborting.

(No password requested up to that point.)

Version A.01.53

Needs a password

WDIAG is the PCXW ODE-based diagnostic program. It tests the processor of the various PCXW-based systems in the offline environment. The program consists of 150 sections, 1/150, which are organized into the following groups

1. CPU data path tests, Sections 1/6 (6 sections)
2. BUS-INTERFACE tests, Sections 7/10 (4 sections)
3. CACHE tests, Sections 11/25 (15 sections)
4. TLB tests, Sections 26/34 (9 sections)
5. CPU instruction tests, Sections 35/86 (52 sections)
6. CPU extended tests, Sections 87/101  (15 sections)
7. Floating point tests, Sections 102/134 (33 sections)
8. Multiple processor tests, Sections 140/150 (11 sections)

Version B.00.35

Version B.00.15

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

November 29, 2017

Wayback Wed: MPE gets its last millicode fix

Drywall-patchTen years ago this month HP's labs delivered its final fix for MPE/iX millicode. The patch demonstrated the last critical repair of the OS by the HP development labs. It had been 16 years since HP had to do a fix for the 3000's millicode. The 2007 millicode patch was crucial whenever a customer's applications accessed mapped files and utilized Large Files, those which are 4GB or greater in size

HP introduced the Large Files feature in 2000, just after the community had cleared Y2K challenges. The corruption could occur if any one of five out of the last six bytes of a Large File failed to transfer correctly. Corruption introduced by MPE/iX is so uncommon that the patch became essential—and a way to gauge how much the community might lose when HP's labs would close up.

The labs were ready in a way the customers rarely saw. HP announced the bug with repairs and white papers already available.

OpenMPE sought an opportunity to take a role in the repairs. OpenMPE advocates showed concern that binary repairs like this one would present a challenge to application developers who need to integrate them into MPE/iX in the future. OpenMPE wanted to do this work. The advocacy group never got its opportunity to participate in the development work for 3000 sites.

HP's repair rolled out four years to the day after the company ended sales of the 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, remained available throughout 2009 and 2010. At the time of the repair, HP had not yet licensed its source code for MPE/iX. Delivery of that source code wouldn't take place until 2011. HP's binary patches for the corruption were not done in source code.

Large Files was a feature gone sour, by HP's own reckoning. The vendor was trying to remove the code from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the system converted to Jumbo files, which are much better engineered.

One aspect of the repair that stood out was the readiness of its release. At the time of the announcement HP labeled the repair General Release, moving at a rapid clip beyond beta test status. Dozens of other fixes and enhancements for the OS remained in beta status when MPE got its farewell at HP. Those patches would've been cut off from the customers under the standard release policy. HP made the beta patches available at the end of its MPE operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2017

How dead is tape in 2017? HP thinks it's not

RIP tape backupHP 3000s have been held together with tape. Mylar tape, the sort in 8-inch reels and modern cartridges, has been the last resort for recovery. The world of MPE/iX computing survived on its backups whenever things went awry. It's easy to assume tape's dead these days. People think the same thing about the HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise agrees with the latter death notice, not the former. Tape thrives today because of Big Data.

Why would an MPE/iX customer care about newer tape? Resources like on-premise backup are shared today, here in the era where HP is read to sell a seventh-generation of Linear Tape Open. LTO isn't costly, which makes it a good fit for the always-economical 3000 world. In fact, the media is cheaper than the more common DLT tapes.

"I would still recommend LTO," says Craig Lalley of EchoTech. "I know a couple of my customers are using it. The performance will not be as high as other computers', but that's more or a CPU/backplane issue."

The MAXTAPBUF parameter is essential in using LTO, he adds. As to speed,

The N-Class 750—with a couple CPUs and a high speed fibre disc sub system that definitely helps—but it will never peak the LTO-1 throughput. It's still the fastest tape storage for the HP 3000. So the real advantage is amount of storage. And remember, it is always possible to store in parallel: two, three and four tape drives at once, in parallel as opposed to serial.

It seems that the new job for tape in 2017 is not everyday backups. These ought to be done to disk, a function supported by MPE/iX since 1998. Today's tape is there to backup the disk backups. Backups of backups are very much a part of the MPE Way.

The forthcoming HPE StoreEver MSL3040 Tape Library is designed for small to mid-sized organizations. It offers flexibility and storage capacity of up to 4.08PB with LTO-7. Hewlett-Packard is just one of many companies to keep pushing LTO forward. The standard isn't moving all that fast, though. Five years ago LTO-5 was the cutting edge for complete data protection and secure, long-term retention of business assets.

Using LTO devices for backups of backups on-premise is straightforward for anyone who's created a virtual HP 3000 using Stromasys Charon. So long as the host Linux server can communicate with the LTO device, it can backup a 3000 that's been virtualized. An emulator removes the risk of staying on the MPE/iX environment. A virtualized server won't be tied to interfaces from 15-year-old 3000 iron, or IO designs first crafted in the 1990s.

Five years ago some experts said that cloud storage was the final nail in backup tape's coffin. Our intrepid author Brian Edminster took a closer look at what a service like Amazon Glacier could do for the HP 3000 user. But it's almost as important to listen to what he's got to say about support of the latest LTO tape devices.

One of the primary advantages of creating the 3000's PA-RISC architecture was supposed to be peripheral support. HP would write and maintaining fewer device drivers once its enterprise servers shared an architecture. PA-RISC led HP away from the HP-IB interface, something Hewlett-Packard created for instruments, not computers. But in practice, the operating systems still needed specialized engineering to pass data quickly between server and peripheral.

These LTO tape drives are the kind of peripherals which HP supported more slowly, if at all, during the final decade of MPE lab work. The first LTO with an HP badge, Ultrium, ran half as fast (160 mb/sec) as the same unit hooked to HP-UX -- because its mandatory MPE interface was engineered for half the bandwidth of the more updated Unix-based servers. HP never made up the difference in speed, and that shortfall arrived right out of the gate with LTO-1. LTO-5 was the state of the art in 2010, two years after HP closed the MPE labs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks for Exceeding All Estimates

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise sailed into the Thanksgiving holiday beating estimates. The company eked out a "beat" of analyst estimates for quarterly profits, exceeding the forecasts by 1 percent. Overall the fiscal year 2017 results for sales were flat ($37.4 billion) and year-to-year earnings fell. Even that tepid report beat estimates. Nobody's expecting HP Enterprise to rise up soon. Keeping its place is a win.

It's about the same spot the HP 3000 and MPE/iX have shared for some time. After the exodus of migrators tailed off, the community has been losing few of its remaining members. A slice of them met Nov. 16 on a call. Someone asked if there was anything like a user group left for 3000 owners. I was tempted to say "this is it" to the CAMUS members on the line. Someone offered an opinion that the 465 members of the 3000 newsgroup were a user group.

I'm thankful there's still a 3000 community to report to here in 2017. We've exceeded estimates too. Nobody could have estimated that the HP 3000 and MPE/iX would last long enough to try to resolve the 2028 date handling changes. Hewlett-Packard once expected 80 percent of its customers would be migrated by 2006. That was an estimate which was not exceeded, or even met.

I'm grateful for keeping my storytelling and editing lively during this year, halfway through my 61st. I've got my health and vigor to count on, riding more than 2,000 miles this year on my bike around the Hill Country. I'm grateful for family—lovely bride, grandchildren to chase and photograph—and for the fortunes that flow in my life, the work of book editor, coach and seasoned journalist.

HP's steering back to its roots by replacing a sales CEO with a technology expert in Antonio Neri. “The next CEO of the company needs to be a deeper technologist, and that’s exactly what Antonio is," Meg Whitman said on a conference call discussing HPE's succession plan. I can also be grateful for that appreciation of a technologist's vision. Like the death notices for MPE/iX, the fall of technology on the decision ladder was overstated. In 2006 I talked with an HP executive who believed "the time of the technologist" had passed. Strategy was going to trump technology.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise isn't eager to count up its business selling its servers. The report from last week needed this caveat to claim earnings were up for 2017

Net revenue was up 6 percent year over year, excluding Tier-1 server sales and when adjusted for divestitures and currency.

The most recent quarter's results included HP's cut-out of large server sales, too. "When you can't count the numbers that are important, you make the numbers you can count important," said think tanks about Vietnam war results. There are been casualties while HP let non-engineers call the shots. If Hewlett-Packard Enterprise can be led by an engineer for the first time since Lew Platt's 1990s term, then technology has exceeded corporate estimates of its relevance. Our readers learned about their tech bits long ago. We're grateful to have them remain attentive to our pages.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:31 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2017

Whitman leaves HP better than she found it

WhitmanHP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is stepping down from the company's leadership seat, effective January 31, 2018. After her run of more than six years it can be argued Whitman is leaving an HP in better shape than she found the corporation. One measure of her success lies in HPE's revenue growth in spite of headwinds, as the analysts call challenges like cloud competition. That fact can be offset with the number of layoffs during her tenure. Most estimates put that figure at more than 30,000, an employment disruption that ranges even wider when accounting for divestitures and the split-up of HP.

Numbers don't say enough about Whitman's impact on the future of the vendor which invented HP 3000s and MPE. After a string of three CEOs who ended their terms disgraced or fired, she brought a steady gait to a company in desperate need of a reunion with its roots. The Hewlett-Packard of the 1980s delivered the greatest success to MPE customers. In hand-picking Antonio Neri as her successor, Whitman has returned HP to its 20th Century roots. The Enterprise arm of HP will be led by an engineer who's worked only for HP. The last time that was true, Lew Platt was CEO of an HP that was still in one piece, instead of the two of 2017.

Hewlett-Packard finally made that transition into two companies on Whitman's watch, after a decade when the printer-server split was debated around the industry. She also pruned away the leafy branches that made the HP tree wider but no taller: Autonomy and other ill-matched acquisitions were cut loose. She said in an interview on CNBC today that the time for "supermarket IT" suppliers is gone, and the future belongs to the fast. Whitman's years reversed some damage at HP, which at least beat analyst estimates for its Q4 earnings. 

"What If" was once an ad slogan for Hewlett-Packard. The question could be posed around Whitman's role at the company. What if this executive woman took HP's reins in 1999? She was already a CEO in that year at eBay. From the way Whitman has brought HP's headlong blundering to heel, she might have kept the company focused on the mission of the current day's HP Enterprise.

The rise of mobile computing and off-premise IT was always going to hound HP, a corporation built to sell specialized hardware and proprietary software. Passing the baton to an engineer leader—Neri started in the HP EMEA call center—shows Whitman knows more about HP's culture than anyone who's had the CEO job since 1999. She remains on HP's board and said she'll be available for sales calls in the future, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2017

Experts say 2028 date hurdle is a small fix

December2027-calendarCAMUS user group members listening on a one-hour call Thursday heard the sound of a calendar page being ripped off. Experts in system management and development said the 2028 date deadline—when MPE's CALENDAR intrinsic stops being accurate—is only a moment of change that users and programmers can work around.

Unlike Y2K, it turns out that Y2028 is going to let everyone sleep well while they do their fixes. One 3000 expert said there's a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt being spread about 2028.

CALENDAR sits at the heart of many programs and systems, and no one on the call debated the intrinsic's useful lifespan. At midnight of the eve of 2028, the 16 bits of CALENDAR won't be enough. The intrinsic was built for the 1970s, not the third decade of the 21st Century.

But like the moment when Luke Skywalker left Dagobah to fight Darth Vader, there's been another Jedi of the OS. Hewlett-Packard built HPCALENDAR in the early 1990s once it decided to sell the 3000 against Unix. Replacing CALENDAR with HPCALENDAR will supply the 2028 fix.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in after the call to show how he'll make that change in MANMAN whenever a customer needs running room of more than 10 years from the end of this December.

"Here is my spec for the Y2028 problem in MANMAN," Floyd said. The repair requires access to application source, something that many of the remaining MANMAN sites have.

Modify the MANMAN source code, replacing all calls to the CALENDAR Intrinsic (which returns a 16-bit integer) with calls to the HPCALENDAR Intrinsic, using a 32-bit integer variable. Change the next line or two of code to extract the Year and Day from the proper bits returned. Then, depending on MANMAN Release Number and availability of all source code,

a) Recompile/Re-Link every program in MANMAN, or

b) Recompile/Re-Link selected programs and Re-Link Dispatchers.  

MANMAN's Integer Date format (based on an offset from 1900) is capable of supporting dates beyond 2050, but is artificially stopped at 28,552 = 12/31/49. 

This Y2028 fix will extend the life of MANMAN well into the future.

After the conference call, Floyd said he thought the work to carry MPE/iX into 2028 would take less than half a day. Depending on the support provider, a lot less.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:39 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 13, 2017

HP's shrinkage includes iconic HQ address

Hewlett-Packard pointed at a shrinking ecosystem as a reason to cut down its futures for the 3000. Time in the post-HP world for MPE/iX moves into its Year Number 17 starting tomorrow . That's right; the Transition Era completes its 16th year tomorrow at about 1PM. Transitions aren't over, either. In the meantime, MPE's clock now starts catching up with Hewlett-Packard's headquarters. The iconic address of 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto will not be HP's much longer. On the subject of icons, that's a oscilloscope wave to the left of the original HP logo on the building above.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 12.09.17 PMHP is moving its corporate throne to a company and a building in Santa Clara soon. The existing HQ has been in service since 1957, but consolidations in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise—which also has a shrinking ecosystem—mandated the move. The offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the shrines to the HP Way, management by walking around, and the shirt-pocket calculator designs, will be packed up sometime next year. The HQ look of Silicon Valley's first corporation is distinctive.

Hewlett-packard-original-officesEverything has its lifespan, from ideas to the office desks where overseas currency and coins lay on blotters, resting in the side-by-side rooms Hewlett and Packard used. The coins and bills represented the worldwide reach of the company, left on the desk as a reminder of how far-flung HP's customers were. HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said HPE consolidations are part of making HP Enterprise more efficient.

Dave Packard coins"I’m excited to move our headquarters to an innovative new building that provides a next-generation digital experience for our employees, customers and partners," Whitman said. "Our new building will better reflect who HPE is today and where we are heading in the future."

Companies which use HP's hardware to run MPE/iX might also see efficiency as one benefit of moving out of their use of HP's servers. A virtual platform, based on Intel and Linux, is hosting MPE/iX. Charon goes into its sixth year of MPE/iX service later this month.

A customer could look at that Hanover Street address, which will be without HP for the first time since Eisenhower was President, and see a reduction. HP Enterprise will be sharing office space with Aruba, a wireless networking firm HPE acquired in 2015. Aruba also has big hopes for cloud computing. Cloud is the future for HPE growth, according to the company. HPE is cutting out 5,000 jobs by year's end. The workforce might be considered a part of the HPE ecosystem, too.

Office buildings certainly have to be considered part of an ecosystem for a corporation. Important elements? Perhaps, if only because the statement they make about a company's permanence and continuity. The HPE Aruba building HQ will surpass Hanover Street in longevity by 2077.

In 60 years when MPE/iX apps will run somewhere, if only in a museum, they will be on a virtualized platform. As it turns out, the ecosystem for software—the embodiment of an idea—is more durable than any corporation's. MPE/iX will catch up with the HP HQ lifespan in 2033. When a customer takes custom engineering into 2028, it's just a five-year lifespan to surpass Hanover Street. Ideas have a permanence buildings can wish for. Those ideas get such permanence while they remain useful.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 10, 2017

CAMUS Conference calls meeting on 2028

It's official. The CAMUS user group is holding a phone-in meeting of about two hours on November 16. The subject on the agenda is being called the HP 3000's Y2028 Issue, a tip of the hat to the Y2K challenge the 3000 survived 17 years ago.

2017-18-clockThe call starts at 10:30 CST, led by CAMUS president Terri Glendon Lanza. The agenda as of today lists Allegro, Beechglen and Stromasys as assisting in discussion of a roadblock to unlimited use of MPE/iX. Lanza will provide the call-in number to anybody who contacts her. You can sign up for the free call by emailing Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.

The meeting, an annual affair, lists these issues surrounding MPE's long-term future—otherwise known here as The 10-Year Clock, starting to tick this December 31.

Our main topic will be what we are calling the “Year 2028 Problem”. Without a fix, all HP3000 and Charon MPE systems will experience invalid dates beginning January 1, 2028. After this main topic, there will open discussion for all platforms.

If you are running the MPE (MPE/iX) operating system on an HP3000 or Charon platform, the Year 2028 Problem topic ought to be of great interest to you. Most, if not all, of our CAMUS members who are running MANMAN and other applications on an HP3000 or Charon MPE OS system will likely have moved on to another system by 2028. But if not, we believe that the time for a fix is sooner than later, given the dwindling availability of expertise.

Membership of CAMUS goes beyond MPE/iX customers who use ERP systems. DEC sites are also on the rolls. "If you are running on a different system," Lanza said, "you might still find this topic fascinating."

Lanza said the NewsWire's article from May of two years ago "got many of us thinking 10-12 years out" into the future. We'll be on the line on the 16th to offer whatever help we can. As usual, that help will consist of locating people with genuine expertise. If you're supporting MPE in any way, there's room for you to share experience and ideas.

In 2015 I wrote about a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and uses HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running into 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which MPE/iX will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2017

Flood drives off HP, even as 3000s churn on

Server_rack_under_FloodLate last week Hewlett Packard Enterprise—the arm that builds HP's replacements for 3000s—announced it will be moving manufacturing out of Texas. According to a story from WQOW in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the facilities from HP's Houston area are pulling out and headed to higher ground in the Midwest. HP said its operations were flooded out beyond repair by Hurricane Harvey. A report from the Houston Business Journal says HPE is sending more than 200 manufacturing jobs north due to the Texas rains. “Because of the destructive effects of flooding two years in a row, the company has decided to move more than 3,000 employees to a new site in the greater Houston area,” HPE said in a press release.

HP 3000s have fared better in high waters. A couple of the servers up in the Midwest keep swimming in front of a wave of migration.

Back in 2013 we reported a story about a once-flooded HP 3000 site at MacLean Power, a manufacturer of mechanical and insulation products. The 3000's history there started with Reliance Electric at that enterprise, becoming Reliant Power and then MacLean-Fogg. Mark Mojonnier told his story, four autumns ago, about the operations at Mundelein, Illinois.

The new company, Reliable Power Products, bought its first HP 3000 Series 48 in 1987. We had a flood in the building later that year and had to buy another one. The disk drives were high enough out of the water to survive, so when the new one arrived, we warm-booted it (with the old disk packs) and it picked up right where it left off.

The 3000s continue to out-swim the waters of change there for awhile longer. Monjonnier updated us on how the servers will work swimmingly until 2021, and why that's so.

More than 200 users are working with the company's N-Class server every day. There's another N-Class running as a disaster recovery system at MacLean. Changes in management, which produced changes in migration strategies, put the 3000s at MacLean above the waterline for an extra four years, by Monjonnier's estimates.

"The long term estimate for the HP 3000 unplug date is now 2021 if all goes according to schedule," Monjonnier said. "In the meantime, the HP 3000s are still chugging along."

About the same time that our half of the company (Power) selected the EPICOR [application] for the future, the other side of the company (Vehicle) decided on JDEdwards. A few years into the implementation, there was a change in management. The new management determined that the entire company would go with JDEdwards. So, after about three years down the EPICOR road, we started all over, going down the JDEdwards road instead. Personally, I think this was a good decision.

So we are still running our pair of HP 3000s. We have implemented JDE at one of the seven "Power" locations. This has reduced the HP 3000 user load down about 15 users, but company growth has increased that load to about 250 users most of the time. We are getting ready for our second (and largest) factory to switch to JDE in June, 2018. There are a lot of people working on this one.

As for HP Enterprise, it's going to move manufacturing out of its current Houston campus because of devastating flooding from the hurricane, and another flood the year before, HPE said in a release. More than 3,000 HPE non-manufacturing employees will move to a new campus the company will build in the Houston area.

The manufacturing facilities on its current Houston campus were “irreparably damaged by Hurricane Harvey,” so it will permanently move manufacturing operations to Chippewa Falls and its supply chain partner Flex in Austin, officials said in a release.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:19 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 03, 2017

Dealing with PCL in modern printer networks

HP 3000s generate Printer Command Language, the format syntax HP created for its line of laser printers. The 3000s were glad to get PCL abilities in their applications and utilities, but PCL is not for everybody. Multifunction devices not schooled in HP technology, such as those from Xerox, need a go-between to extend the 3000's printing.

The easiest and most complete solution to this challenge is Minisoft's NetPrint, written by 3000 output device guru Richard Corn. When we last reported on Corn's creation it was helping the Victor S. Barnes Company pass 3000 output to Ricoh multifunction printers.

But for the company which can't find $995 in a budget for that 3000-ready product, there's a commercial Windows alternative you might try to integrate into your system designs. Charles Finley of Transformix explains that the path to print outside of PCL has multiple steps.

Finley says of the fundamentals:

1. You need to get the print output from the HP 3000 to some device that is external to the HP 3000
2. You may need to intercept the PCL generated on the HP 3000 and format it for the intended device.

On the one hand, you can license the product of either Richard Corn or Minisoft to manage all this -- or if you want to use what MPE provides, you need to intercept the stream by using something that pretends to be an HP LaserJet.

In the second scenario, assuming you can connect the printers to Windows computers, you can use LPD and an interceptor of some kind. A commercial product we have used is RPM from Brooks Internet Software to accomplish the communication part of the process, plus some other PCL translator product to convert the PCL to whatever you need on the printer.

We had two projects in which, instead of the RPM product, we provided our own little interceptor (described at that does the same kind of thing as RPM. We have the Windows machine pretend that it is an HP PCL printer and configure the HP 3000 to print to it. We used other commercial software (two different products) to intercept the output intended for what it thinks is a LaserJet and format the print output so that it prints correctly.

I believe in each case the customers wanted to translate the PCL to PDF and do other stuff with it on the Windows computer before actually printing it. In one case, they wanted to store the PDF on the Windows computer and store reference data in a SQL Server database so that customers could selectively view and print the file at will.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 01, 2017

CAMUS wants a deeper look at 2028

TankerThe Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society (CAMUS) is one of the few user associations that remain as 3000 resources. It's a modest group made up of a few dozen MANMAN sites that rely on MPE/iX. Much of the devotion is wrapped around efficiency and stability. ERP is a big migration that can take years to get right. These 3000 sites are absorbed with keeping their ships in the deep water, away from the shoals of premature change.

Change is coming, though, as if it's a lighthouse on the horizon for the 3000 skipper. The change is called 2028, or more accurately, Dec. 31, 2027. In about 10 years or so, MPE/iX will stop keeping dates as expected. Nobody could forsee a day, 45 years ago, that a 3000 would still be in production service. The HP 3000 will turn 55 in late 2027. There's a good chance emulation hardware will be functioning well on that last day of 2027. Stromasys has made the lifespan of HP's MPE hardware a non-critical element.

Some customers are looking at how to edge past that lighthouse of a date. CAMUS holds a phone-in user group meeting once a year, and this month's meeting wants to examine ways to steer around the 2028 reef. It's possible, and CAMUS might be the group to help steer this course. All it takes are production systems that could be cloned and tested with a fix.

The group has invited its members and 3000 experts to discuss the workarounds. The meeting has been penciled in as a Thursday, November 16 event. "We are looking to bring in experts to speak to the issue of what is being described as the Year 2028 Problem,” said Ed Stein, "which is where HP 3000 systems run out of valid dates beginning 1/1/2028, per the MPE operating system."

CAMUS meetings are free to attend, meaning it matches up well with the operating budgets for many 3000 shops. The server's in a mission critical position at companies which aren't devoting much spending to it. That's always been one of the 3000's charms: it delivers more than it receives. Managers can get more details on the meeting and sign up by emailing Terry Glendon Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.

Tactical planning for the HP 3000's future is a current practice at shops like MagicAire. The company that manufactures mobile cooling units has a Series 939 that continues to run MANMAN and carefully-crafted applications. Ed Stein there has a need to think about something more pressing than getting his apps and utilities licensed for emulator use. He's thinking strategic.

Stein chooses to think about the end of the 3000's calendar days. He's interested in getting someone to fix the date issue that will arise at midnight on Dec. 31, 2027. The foresight is the first customer readiness we've seen that examines what can be done before that day arrives.

Developers and vendors have been talking about 2028, but not yet in explicit design language. Stein is the first customer who's doing the talking.

I am more concerned right now with the Year 2027 MPE issue. Not that we plan to be on MPE in that year—but if a fix is to be had, that fix needs to be done sooner than later, given the age and availability of the required expertise to develop a fix. There may be no one around in 2026 who knows how to fix it, in the event that in the worst case we are still on an HP 3000.

My company would look at paying for a fix now as insurance.

It's 10 years and five months away, but the end of 2027 is the deadline for regular date handing to stop working. It makes the challenge a Year 2027 issue if you consider Y2K to have been a Year 1999 issue. The most intense work always happens ahead of a deadline. If you're savvy, it's many years before a deadline.

There are likely partners on the horizon for the 3000 community's efforts to leap into 2028 (a Leap Year, by the way, but that calendar event won't be of any help.) Looking out into a world of 10 years from now, virtualization and emulation will still be operating at companies. Stromasys has the most to gain from keeping MPE/iX moving forward into 2028.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2017

Advice on keys for 3000s, and KSAM files

When building a TurboIMAGE database, is it possible to have IMAGE automatically sort a segmented index for the key field?

Gilles Schipper says

No, but you can create TurboIMAGE b-tree index files which allows generic and range searches on items that are indexed - specifically master dataset key items. Only master dataset key items can be associated with b-tree index files.

You can find out more starting at Chapter 11 of the TurboIMAGE manual.

How can I reduce the size of my existing KSAM files? I have removed lots of records from the system and the KSAM files are consuming lots of magnetic real estate, even though there are few records left.

Chuck Trites says

Make a copy of the KSAM file. Then use the verify in KSAMUTIL to get the specs of the file. Purge the KSAMFIL and the KEYFILE if there is one. Build the KSAM file with the specs. FCOPY from the copy to the new KSAM file and you are done. It won't copy the deleted records to the new file.

Francois Desrochers explains

Do a LISTF,5 to get the current key definitions.

Build a temporary output file with all the same attributes:


Copy the records from the original file to the temporary file


Purge the original file and rename the temporary file:


Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:24 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2017

OpenSSL's gaps for 3000s surface again

HP did its best, considering what was left of the MPE/iX lab budget, to move the server into modern security protocols. Much of the work was done after the company announced it would end its 3000 business. The gaps in that work are still being being talked about today.

OpensslA message on the 3000 newsgroup-mailing list noted that installing the SFTP package for the 3000 uncovers one gap in software. John Clogg at Cerro Wire said that "I successfully generated a key pair and loaded the public key on the server, but that didn't solve the No key exchange algorithm problem. One posting I found seemed to suggest that the problem was an old version of the SSL library that did not support the encryption the server was trying to use." A note on enabling the 3000's OpenSSL from 2010 still wished for a library newer than what's left on MPE/iX.

The work that remains to be done—so a 3000 can pass sensitive info via SFTP—has been on a community wish list for many years. Backups using SFTP are missing some updates needed to the SSL library. At least the server's got a way to preserve file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type. Preservation of these attributes means a file can be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.

In the heart of the financial industry in 2003, a modest-sized HP 3000 connected to more than 100 customers through a secure Internet proxy server. That encryption combination was emerging as HP went into its last quarter of sales for the system. But today's standards are miles ahead of those of 2003.

"The old OpenSSL library does not support the ciphers needed to meet current standards," Clogg said. "I was able to make the connection work because the FTP service provider has a configuration setting to enable "insecure old ciphers." Fortunately, this will work for our purposes, but it would be unacceptable if we were transferring banking, credit card or PII data."

The 3000's OpenSSL library is older than 1.01e, which another homesteader says is the cutoff for security that protects from the Heartbleed hacks and RSA key generation compromises.

James Byrne of Hart & Lyne said

The appropriate fix is to update the SFTP client software and associated OpenSSL libraries to versions which possess the high grade key exchange algorithms required by the sshd server. But given the stage of life the HP 3000 has entered, that may not be possible.

We handled a similar problem some time in the past by setting up a Linux host to act as an SFTP proxy. We connected the HP 3000 to the proxy via a cross-over cable to a NIC devoted solely to the HP 3000. Files were then securely transferred between the proxy and the HP 3000 via plain old FTP.

Clogg hoped that "Maybe some porting guru will do a port of the current SSH and SSL libraries someday. In the meantime, James' use of an intermediate server is probably the best solution."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2017

Clouds? All the time, even Sunday Morning

Communication LinkYou can tell a technology has reached everyday adoption by watching TV. Not the Netflix or basic-cable television. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning yesterday when David Pogue explained cloud computing for the masses. My technology consumer and partner in life Abby was on the couch, inviting me to watch along. I figured CBS would give Pogue about 5 minutes to examine the tech that's driving the world. He got 9 and managed it well. Abby paused the show to ask a question. It's become easier than ever to answer these cloud queries.

HP 3000 Communication ManualThe 3000 manager of today needs to comprehend clouds, even if they don't use them in their MPE/iX environment. The potential to drive a 3000 from the cloud is still out there for the taking, because Stromasys will host Charon from a cloud. Why that's a good idea remains to be tested, but the theory is sound. First of all, you didn't want to manage proprietary hardware from HP to run your MPE/iX. Now with the cloud, you don't have to manage hardware at all. MPE/iX becomes a service, a term that Pogue never mentioned in his 9 minutes.

It's okay. The story needed the visuals of acres of Virginia covered with datacenters (a word Pogue spoke as if it were "Atlantis") and the sounds of his walk inside a cloud facility (Fans. Lots and lots of fans, although not a word was said about what was making all that noise.) You can't expect a deep dive from morning news, but CBS and Pogue did a good job. Cloud's mainstream now. Streaming movies, you know.

Programmer TemplateWe watched the show about the same way most of the homesteading community runs their MPE/iX. Locally hosted (on our DVR unit) and running on our fixed terminal (the old Sony flatscreen in the den). The only cloud involved in the experience was ATT's, since our Uverse account has its listings loaded into the DVR from a big disk someplace.

The best instance of any cloud related to the MPE/iX of today is a replacement for it. Kenandy has a Salesforce-based application suite of the same name. The Support Group has just about wrapped up the first install of the solution for a 3000 site. Salesforce is the big dog in app platforms served via the cloud. Amazon is probably underpinning Salesforce, because Amazon Web Services (AWS) is underneath just about every kind of cloud. The tech that drives Netflix is also powering the next platform for MANMAN sites that need to migrate.

"So it's in the air?" Abby says. "Not much," I say, "unless your laptop is on wi-fi, or you're using a smartphone. You get the cloud's goodness over wires."

While all of that future-tech was over the air, I found myself telling her about a 45-year-old piece of plastic to explain why we call off-premise computing "the cloud." It's my version of an explainer, anyway. The 3000 was cloudy before cloudy was cool.

HP 3000 Packet Switched Net CloudOn the classic programmer's flowchart template shown above, all we get from that durable plastic that's related to cloud computing is the lightning bolt. It denotes communication and it usually referred to the kind of direct-line stuff we use in our house to watch CBS off our DVR. Dedicated to one terminal, on-premise. But it didn't take too long after that for X.25 to come along and add a cloud icon to the end of those bolts. By the early 90s the computer world was describing fast switching packet networks using a cloud. Here's one from a 3000 manual.

The 3000, like most of the world's business computers of the 1980s, had its own X.25 product for communication. Well before The Support Group began to lead customers to Kenandy and Salesforce, the company offered the EDI utility program EDiX/3000, the EDI Subsystem for MANMAN. Data exchange is a deep part of the company's experience.

The shorthand I shared with my partner was that the cloud symbol was born in an era when the 3000 was a first choice for HP business computing. I shared examples from our own life for cloud services: backups for our iPhones and movies from Netflix. Seems like magic. The skepticism about security in the cloud wasn't a part of the CBS show. Too deep for 9 minutes. Pogue asked about power failures at the millions of square feet of Virginia datacenters and the Amazon Web Services spokesman said "it's all backed up."

Those are four words every 3000 manager knows by heart. The security is another matter. The data inside a 3000's building is air-gapped if it's not Web-available. Net resources like AWS have redundancy, but nothing is failure-proof. The extra risk of running sensitive data through networks which are open to the world has given homesteaders pause when they consider alternatives for migrating.

Cloud is getting more mainstream by now. It's worth a look and maybe even a try for a cloud-based Charon. The noise that Pogue walked through for his tour of Atlantis? You won't hear it from your laptop, running ERP that's out there, somewhere.

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

October 20, 2017

Fine-tune: Database passwords, slow clocks

We are trying to access a database on our old system using QUERY and it is asking for a password. I have done a LISTF ,-3 on the database, but there is no lockword listed (which I assumed would be the password). Where do I find the password assigned to a database?

John Burke replied

Assuming you do not have access to the original schema and you want to know what the password is, not just access the database, then sign on as the creator in the group with the database, run DBUTIL.PUB.SYS and issue the command SHOW databasename PASSWORDS.

Mike Church and Joseph Dolliver added

If you just want to access the database, log on to the system as the database creator and, when asked for password, put in a “;” semicolon and hit return.

Why is my system clock running slow? Our HP 3000 loses about one minute per day.

Bob J. replies

One possibility was addressed by a firmware update. HP's text from a CPU firmware (41.33) update mentions:

“System clock (software maintained) loses time. The time loss occurs randomly and may result in large losses over a relatively short time period. Occurrences of the above problem have only been reported against the HP 3000 979KS/x00 (Mohawk) systems. Software applications that perform frequent calling of a PDC routine, PDC_CHASSIS, affect the amount of time lost by the system clock. Your hardware support company should be happy to update for you.”

[Editor's note: as this question was posed a few years ago, today's hardware support company will be an independent one. We've always recommended Pivital Solutions.]

Tongue firmly in cheek, Wirt Atmar noted

My first guess would be relativistic time dilation effects as viewed by an observer at a distance due to the fact that you’re now migrating off of the HP 3000 at an ever accelerating rate. My second guess, although it’s less likely, would be that your machine has found out that it’s about ready to be abandoned and is so depressed that it simply can no longer work at normal speed. We’ve certainly kept this information from our HP 3000s. There’s just no reason that they need to know this kind of thing at the moment.

And in the same vein, Bernie Sherrard added this, referring to HP's promised end of 3000 support on Dec. 31, 2006

Look at the bright side. At a loss of one minute per day, you won’t get to 12/31/2006, until 2 AM on 1/2/2007. So, you will get 26 hours of support beyond everyone else.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:57 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 16, 2017

Getting the Message Across for MPE/iX

MessagesNot long ago, the HP 3000 community was wondering about the limits of message files in the operating system. HP introduced the feature well back in the 20th Century, but only took Message Files into Native Mode with MPE/iX 5.0. That's certainly within the realm of all operating HP 3000s by today. The message file, according to HP's documentation, is the heart of the 3000's file system InterProcess Communication.

Message files reside partly in memory and partly on disk. MPE XL uses the memory buffer part as much as possible, to achieve the best performance. The disc portion of the message file is used only as secondary storage in case the memory buffer part overflows. For many users of IPC, MPE XL never accesses the disc portion of the message file.

Yes, that says MPE XL up there. The facility has been around a long time.

What do you do with message files? A program could open a message file and write a data record every 2 seconds. The data record could be the dateline plus the 2-word return from the CLOCK intrinsic. In another example, a message file could be used to enable soft interrupts. It might then open a log file to write progress messages from the interrupt handler.

HP's examples of using message files are illustrated using Pascal/XL, so you know this is 3000-specific technology. You'd think they'd be little-used by now, but this month the developers on the 3000 mailing list were asking about limits for the number of message files. An early answer was 63, but Stan Seiler used a classic 3000-era method to discover it: testing.

The answer is 4083. Or, why testing counts.

I just successfully opened 4,083 new message files from one process. Since the max-files-per-process is 4095, I suspect I could probably have squeezed in a couple more, but my test program already had some files open.

That this programming facility is still in use seems to suggest it's got utility left. Multiple programs and processes use message files to communicate. HP explains in an extensive document, "Suppose that a large programming task is to be divided into two processes. One process will interface with the user. This process is referred to as the "supervisor" process. It does some processing tasks itself and offloads others to a "server" process. This process only handles requests from the supervisor and returns the results."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:29 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2017

Take the Training, A Young 3000 Jedi Can

Jedi-younglingsEarlier this month I enjoyed a cookout at the HQ of The Support Group. The company that migrates MANMAN sites to the cloud of Kenandy and supports homesteading sites had a new face at the office. The young intern was on his way to working for a startup, but was getting some experience in an established software and services company in the legacy market.

He was also learning the HP 3000 for the job. Not yet 35, the intern had a deep array of 3000 expertise to call on while he helped support homesteading sites. Such customers can lose their own deep 3000 workers and then might rely on support for how-to answers.

The intern and some homesteaders are examples of people who'd benefit from 3000 MPE/iX training. When I recounted my experience with trying to learn the mysteries of the Apple Watch, I figured it was safe to say formal MPE training would be out of reach for anybody who didn't have their own support resource. I could be certain HP was unable to teach anyone how to use MPE/iX, at least in person one to one. The HP manuals do remain out in the community on websites outside of HP.

As it turns out, when I state something in the negative, a positive exception emerges. I'm always glad to get news like this. Resources can get overlooked or lose visibility. That's why Paul Edwards reached out this morning to raise his hand in class, as it were. Paul is still offering MPE/iX training.

He hasn't had a student for quite awhile, he said, but his training services are still available. Paul's webpage for education includes MPE/iX Fundamentals and System Manager courses, plus a class on TurboIMAGE. Edwards has also trained people in the use of third party tools.

"This curriculum covers MPE core training and is appropriate for everyone in the MPE community," his webpage reports, "especially those who are homesteading or in the process of moving to another platform. We also offer courses from third party companies.

"In keeping with our conviction that instructor-led, hands-on training is the most effective delivery method, these courses are taught by certified HP and vendor instructors."

And so, the hands-on method of learning the Apple Watch is now officially well-behind the HP 3000. The Watch has been in the world for about three years, and the 3000—well, young Jedi, it's technology that's older than the first Star Wars. Younglings should learn the ways of its force, so they can become a 3000 knight like their fathers.

As for that Watch training, 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs steered me to a website that covered using the earlier version of the Apple Watch from the ground up. Apple's also got a manual for the Watch, much more modern than the 3000's training online. The 3000 community has always been good about giving a reference for any good learning resource. They are trained to share.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:26 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 11, 2017

Keeping Watch On Answers From Support

Hp-01_calculator_gf_set_01Getting answers about how to use interfaces can be troublesome. Graphical interfaces never made it to the native MPE/iX applications unless a third party tool helped out. VPlus wasn't graphical, but ScreenJet made it more like a GUI. Powerhouse and Speedware developed graphical skins for MPE/iX apps written in those fourth generation languages.

Underneath all of that is the common language of the 3000, the commands and their prompts. The computer's user base by now has this command interface drilled into memory. Once in awhile the managers and users on the 3000 mailing list ask for a refresher on how to configure a network or a storage device.

A mailing list like that is one way to approach 3000 support. In this, the 44th year of MPE and 3000 life, you could expect users supporting each other to be a popular choice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy of any support you scrape off an email or a website, unless the information comes at a price. "Information wants to be free" drove the concept of user-swapped support. Support ought to flow freely, but paying for it keeps the resources fresh and responsive.

Apple_watch_series_3The 3000's interface seems like an anachronism here in 2017. You might expect that, but it's something companies must accommodate if a 3000 becomes a foreigner in a datacenter without expertise. The OS can seem as obtuse as anything not well known. New owners of smart watches have a learning curve that can seem as steep as knowing which network services to disable in MPE/iX for the stoutest security. I rode that watch curve today and came away sore. The support saddle provided an experience with Apple that reminded me of Hewlett-Packard's customer situation.

A new Apple Watch comes with an interface no user has experienced before. It has little to do with a smartphone's design and nothing at all related to a laptop. You are either pre-Watch or you're Watch-ready; there's no prerequisite warmup ownership to give you a lift. The Watch Series 3 comes with no on-board help, either. This makes it inferior to the 40-years-older MPE, and also makes the Watch something like a high-concept product from HP's past, the HP-01. That was the personal device which, like many products from the HP Way, was way ahead of its time.

The HP-01 has a legendary slot in HP's history because it was the most consumer-driven product the stodgy HP had ever created by 1977. It came out of the company's calculator group, a unit that had a stellar reputation by 1997. HP's calculators were the ultimate tool of engineers, rivaled only by the TI products. Nobody had the benefit of a touch-sensitive screen 40 years ago. A watch with a stylus as its only pointing device didn't have much chance in the 70s.

Apple's got the benefit of those 40 years of experience in sales to consumers. That does not mean the support for the Watch is much better. Learning from Apple how to use it has devolved to a 30-minute session over a laptop video call. An hour of persistent, patient calling and chats with Apple today yielded only an invitation to a class that "tours" the Watch. If it's a group of 20 customers in that room, there's probably not going to be ample time to learn during the Q&A. This is why customers of the 3000 purchased training, resources that are on a par with paid support contracts.

The Apple Watch experience is new at my house. I feel much like I did when I sat at my first 3000 terminal and tapped out the fundamental commands to configure the system. My experience was limited to experimental work, because I never was paid to manage this system I've written about since 1984. My role was to carry forward and curate training and techniques from 3000 experts.

Those experts are still out there making a living, sometimes by doing a Q&A (that's a support call) with their customers who've forgotten or never learned some aspects of MPE/iX. Just like you can paw through the YouTube videos to learn the Apple WatchOS, the Web delivers 3000 training in antique documents. A 1998 Using HP 3000 MPE/iX Fundamental Skills Tutorial is pretty much the top hit in a Web search of "MPE/iX Training." The tutorial is a useful HP document to prepare a new operator, although it includes 29 pages of EDIT/3000 lessons, which is about 28 pages more than that text editor deserves.

We're only three weeks into our Watch era here at my house. Apple made it easy to desire and to buy, the kind of skills that lifted the company beyond the realm of Hewlett-Packard. I read a recent analyst note that asserted Apple's outrun HP because the former is enjoying a healthy middle age. The Watch was a noted example of the continued pace of advancement. I'd pay for Apple Watch training. Since a 3000 owner doesn't have that training option from the vendor anymore, the support vendors can perform those duties.

When the HP-01 made its swan dive in the market, interface training was part of its failure. Your MPE, which grew robust in the same timeframe, thrived on training. It's a lesson that goes along with any new interface -- or it would if Apple could look over at the legacy of something like the HP 3000, made mighty with on-board help and training from the vendor.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:01 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 06, 2017

Staying Secure with MPE/iX Now and Then

Account-relationships-securityThe IT news is full of reports about security breeches. If an Equifax system with 143 million records can be breeched, then Yahoo's 3 billion email accounts were not far behind, were they? Security by obscurity for outward-facing MPE/iX systems isn't much protection. That being said, the high-test security that is protecting the world's most public systems seems to failing, too. A few years ago, the US Office of Personnel Management had its systems hacked. Millions of fingerprints were stolen from there.

Hewlett-Packard built good intra-3000 security into MPE/iX, and third parties made it even more robust. Back in the 1980s I wrote a manual for such a product called EnGarde that made MPE/iX permissions easier to manage. Vesoft created Security/3000 as the last word in protecting 3000s and MPE/iX data. Eugene Volokh's Burn Before Reading was an early touchstone. The magic of SM was a topic explored by 3000 legend Bob Green in a Newswire column.

Homesteading managers will do well to make a place in their datacenter budgets for support of the 3000. Security is built-in for MPE/iX, but understanding how it works might be a lost art at some sites.

The fundamentals of securing an MPE/iX system go way back. A wayback server of sorts at the 3k Ranger website provides HP's security advice from 1994. It's still valid for anyone, especially a new operator or datacenter employee who's got a 3000 to manage. They just don't teach this stuff anymore. 3000s get orphaned in datacenters when the MPE/iX pros move on into retirement or new careers.

The printed advice helps. A direct link to the Ranger webpage can be a refresher course for any new generation of 3000 minders.

Managers of MPE/iX systems need to look out for themselves in securing HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard gave up on the task long ago. In the era that led to the end of 3000 operations at HP, the vendor warned that its software updates for MPE/iX were going to be limited to security repairs after 2008. They weren't kidding. The very last archived HP 3000 security bulletin on the HP Enterprise website had stern advice for a DNS poisoning risk.

BIND/iX and DNS were marvels for MPE/iX platforms in the 1990s. HP told all its customers early in 2009 that for that year's DNS poisoning, "The resolution is to discontinue the use of BIND/iX and migrate DNS services to another platform." Ouch.

HP's 3000 group did its part to bring the community up to date during that year of 2008. Another resource on the 3k Ranger site is a Powerpoint slide deck from Jeff Bandle, an HP MPE/iX engineer at the time. The presentation of MPE/iX Network Security: An Overview is only nine years old, but by now it appears to represent HP's final word on securing HP 3000 networks. If there's ever any need at a homesteading site to show a network manager which MPE/iX networking services are controlled by configuration files, Bandle's slides have a complehensive list on pages 29-35.

This stuff might be lost if not for the redundant archiving among the community's support resources. A DIY approach is possible for experienced managers. A guide to help navigate the advice is even better. Much of the homesteading community would be best served by a support contract with one of the remaining 3000 resources like Pivital Solutions.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:07 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)