March 26, 2015

Checkup Tips to Diagnose Creeping Crud

When an HP 3000 of the ultimate generation developed trouble for Tom Hula, he turned to the 3000 newsgroup for advice. He'd gotten his system back up and serving its still-crucial application to users. But even after a restart, with the server looking better, things just didn't seem right to him. 

I am concerned, since I don't know what the problem was. It almost reminded me of something I used to call the Creeping Crud, where people started freezing up all over the place, while some people were still able to work. The only thing was a reboot. But in this case, it seemed worse. Only a few people on our 3000 now, but we still depend on it for a high-profile application. What should I check?

CrudThe most revealing advice came from Craig Lalley, who told Hula he'd try a Control-B into the 3000's system log. The steps after the Control-B command are SL (for System Log) and E (for Errors only.) Typing CO puts the 3000 back in console mode. Hula's system had lost its date and time on one error, and the Alert Levels showed a software failure along with lost boot functionality.

But amid the specifics of eliminating the Creeping Crud (it may have been a dead battery) came sound advice on how to prepare for a total failure and where to look for answers to 3000 hardware problems. The good news on the battery is that it's not in a Series 9x7. Advice from five years ago on battery replacement pointed to a hobbyist-grade workbench repair. More modern systems like Hula's A400 at least have newer batteries.

Using a DSTAT ALL was suggested, as well as checking the status of available storage with DISCFREE. Mark Ranft said "I would make sure there's a good full backup. (Just in case you need it for recovery.)  If you don't have one, doing one may help identify a disk issue. I would check the system logs especially for disk errors. I would check for network errors, using linkcontrol @,all." He shared his own recovery experience.

I had a system acting strangely this past weekend. It was basically hung but allowed new logons. I could not abort anyone. When I got to the point where I tried to stop the network, I got a system abort 1458 from Subsystem 102. I didn't bother to take a dump. I completed the boot and everything was better.

Chuck Trites reminded Hula to create a current CSLT tape, and "run BULDJOB to create the BULDJOB1 and 2 files — in case you need to recreate the accounting structure and UDCs — and store them to tape."

Hula's own check list included the following:

During the reset, the 3000 got up to the date and a little past and seemed frozen. I pulled the plug and restarted again. It took 2-3 times as long as normal and at first, the red fault light was on (I never saw that on before). After it got a bit into the restart, the fault light turned off by itself. The only attention message I got about the whole thing was a message with everything unknown on the 3000.

When the computer came all the way up, it still seemed very sluggish. I scheduled the nightly update and backup and went home to look at it more in the morning. I logged on from home and the backup seemed to be running okay.

This morning I tried resetting the GSP and checked the connections to the console terminal. I also found out that someone else had a hard time getting on the 3000 towards the end of the day. Very sluggish. But this morning, everything seems back to normal.

Hewlett-Packard's hardware builds have been extraordinary, but a server that's been churning out critical data for more than 12 years (A-Class boxes production stopped in 2003) can develop crud. Something as simple as replacing a dead battery might be the answer to the woes. Advice for the crud also came from Gilles Schipper, Jack Connor and the others mentioned. What they've got in common is working in a support practice, or at least a consulting business that includes 3000 sites.

Self-maintenance is common in a community like the 3000's. It's also a good practice to have a support vendor, one who knows the system as well as the volunteers posting to the newsgroup.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

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March 23, 2015

The Distinction MPE Source Has Delivered

DistinctionThe long-sought MPE source code arrived in your community five years ago this month. Hewlett-Packard released CDs filled with millions of lines of Modcal and SPL, shipping them off to eight companies who'd paid $10,000 each for the resource. Companies including 3000 specialist Pivital Solutions, as well as corner-case outliers such as Ordat (makers of a TurboIMAGE middleware tool), as well as the ubiquitous Adager and Allegro earned the right to explore and adapt the 3000's heart and soul.

Hopes were sky-high when the source code quest began in 2002. Just a matter of weeks after Hewlett-Packard pulled its own plug on 3000 futures, a new organizaton called OpenMPE took up the pursuit of those lines. The ideal was to find a way to extend the life of MPE/iX beyond HP's plans. The maker of the 3000 had other ideas. Its goal was to cut off further development of 3000 resources.

Better fortune took eight more years to arrive, and even then the 3000's source rolled into vendor shops with a major restriction. To use the code legally, a licensee had to promise they wouldn't try to move MPE/iX beyond its ultimate 7.5 release. No new generation of the 3000 OS. By 2010, 7.5 had seen no significant advance for three years. The initial 7.5 release, sans PowerPatches, was eight years old.

But the vendors who earned the right to apply their skills and experience to that code, continue to distinguish themselves in the support and development sectors. Neil Aemstrong of Robelle summed up the advantage. "Seeing the source and reading it is certainly a large part of being able to develop patches and potentially avoid any issues," he said. "It may not be perfect, but it helps."

In addition to the above-named Pivital, Adager and Allegro, Beechglen, Neil Harvey & Associates, and Terix entered the elite source-ready roster. All but Terix remain in your community today. HP has standards for its licensees, and some (like Pivital) were even invited to join this cadre. One more license was assigned, but Open MPE couldn't complete its arrangements.

Source made no difference in constructing an emulator for 3000 hardware (it was unlikely to do so) but support companies have used to generate workarounds for homesteaders. These are among the highest-flying companies who started offering source-inspired patches in 2011.

HP blocked the release of any work in 2010 for another eight months. “Customers will have multiple options for MPE/iX assistance after HP exits the Worldwide Support business on December 31, 2010,” said HP 3000 Business Manager Hou stated in a comment on license terms. “The licensees... will not be able to use the MPE/iX source code in the delivery of system-level technical support until January 1, 2011.”

Releasing work derived from the source has been more than a matter of a license.  Any such holder needed advanced technical skills to make something out of the millions of lines of source HP shipped.

"The source code by itself is a dead entity," Adager's Alfredo Rego said. "You have to know how to bring it alive." 

As for OpenMPE, its volunteers and board of directors always believed that HP would need to grant permission to know more about MPE/iX. HP consulted with vendors outside of the OpenMPE orbit, but that group more than any other put the vendor on record during source negotiations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:14 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2015

3000s still worthy of work to secure them

While an HP 3000 might be an overlooked resource at some companies, it's still mission-critical. Any server with 40 years of history can be considered essential if it's still part of a workflow this year. Managers of 3000s don't automatically think of protecting their essential resource from the malware and hackers of 2015, though.

SafecrackerThat was illustrated in a recent thread on the 3000 newsgroup traffic. A 3000 manager serving the Evangelical Covenant Church needed help restarting an old Series 9x7. (By definition, any Series 9x7 is old. HP stopped building this first generation of entry-level 3000s more than 20 years ago.) The manager said the 9x7 had been "in mothballs," and he wanted to run an old in-house app.

I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS but cannot remember/find the password for MANAGER.SYS. Is there anyway to reset, clear, or overwrite the password file? I know the old machine is a very secure one, but now I am hoping there is a way around it.

And then on the newsgroup, advice on how to bypass 3000 security began to emerge. It surprised one consultant who's recently closed down a big 3000 installation full of N-Class servers. Should the community be talking about how to hack a 3000, he wondered? The conversation really ought to be about how to ensure their security, practices we chronicled a few years ago.

It's not like the bypassing information shared was certain to sidestep MPE's security. But Mark Ranft of Pro3K thought these answers should be taken offline.

Please remember that even though these are legacy systems, providing expert level security tricks and secrets to help people break into systems is still probably not a great idea on an open forum. I suggest you reply with your hacking suggestions in private email messages.

Not many 3000s sit on open, public networks. But the servers which they communicate with are often on accessible networks. Who's to say what's even accessible these days? Unisys, which is a long way from relevant in the enterprise computing field by now, is selling its newest products as Stealth Computing. "You can't hack what you can't find," they say in their ads on NPR.

Security is never so simple as that. But hackers navigate complex protection all the time. HP sold a security software product that one support expert said "implements directory encryption." The kingpin of 3000 security is of course Security/3000 from Vesoft. (Founder Vladimir Volokh called today to report things are looking up in his company, so to speak. Q1 of 2015 is more robust than Q1 of 2014.)

Controlling who can login as an operator is a great way to enable tighter security for a 3000. Passwords for OPERATOR.SYS are an excellent practice. If a 3000 is in mothballs with no sensitive data on it, these kinds of habits aren't essential. But how can you be sure no data is essential, of no use to hackers or competitors? Better secure than sorry.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:40 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2015

Good news stories about keeping a 3000

GoodNewsOn Monday we updated our community on some migrations away from 3000s in the education sector. One of our favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, was a touch dismayed at the exodus. We reported four migrations in all, working off of the news from the vendor's (QSS) website. But that was enough to elicit a forlorn, "Isn't there anybody out there still enjoying the service of their 3000?"

Yes, there is, and we've heard from some of them recently. Earlier this month I posted a notice about the birthday of the NewsWire's founding concept on LinkedIn. We first dreamed it in March of 1995. Among the congratulations were some passing remarks about 3000 durability. Just another one came in today, from Tom Moore in the UK. "I suspect we all look a lot older," he said, "but I just do not feel it. I still have a 3000 running behind me. It runs our accounts."

The HP 3000s are still doing their vital work at Measurement Specialities, the manufacturer with operations in the US and in China. MANMAN is serving in its second decade at that company. Terry Simpkins, IT manager there, just reported that he's hired new staff for his 3000 development team.

There's a nice nest of 3000-using companies in the world. They don't provide much news copy, because much of what they're doing has been proven a long time. But the system's biggest, most devoted fans still want to hear something from a successful installed base.

Migrations away from MPE applications "are a missed opportunity and a disadvantage to the rest of us," O'Neill said in a comment. "The migrations might even be more costly than staying on MPE/iX. Are there any good news stories about people actually deciding to stay on MPE/iX?"

Some of the potential costs of homesteading flow off an application vendor's strategy. If an app vendor won't be carrying its products forward on MPE/iX much longer, it could be far more costly to stay on a 3000 and homestead. But for home-grown applications, whose fate is still in the hands of the system manager and IT director, there's still a good case for homesteading.

Where the homesteading strategy needs help these days is on the hardware portion of the equation. Stromasys wants to put HP's gear into mothballs for the MPE/iX user, and ultimately put the virtualization server boxes out in a place like Rackspace. Without that option, the future for homesteading might look like a search for one piece of good news after another: We located a replacement CPU board as a spare. Those disk drives can be refitted for 3000 use. Here's a fallback tape device, like an LTO-3, we can jury-rig into a 3000's backplane.

The applications are more easily preserved, and even promoted as durable. They're nests for business logic. Keeping down the expense of redevelopment to maintain business process status quo — that's good news. It's not the sort you'll often hear barked from a newsie's stand, though. Extra, extra! Efficiency preserved in the face of change and growth!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:30 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 17, 2015

Tips to Reinstall Posix, DLT/LTO Tape Drives

What is the patch that installs Posix? I seem to have a corrupt version of Posix.

Donna Garverick of Allegro replies:

These are your instructions for MPE/iX 5.5 and 6.0.

Load the 5.5 or 6.0 FOS tape on a tape drive. For this example, tape drive on ldev# 7 is used. Log on as MANAGER.SYS

:FILE T;DEV=7
:RESTORE *T;@.HP36431.SUPPORT,I0036431.USL.SYS;CREATE;SHOW
:STREAM I0036431.USL.SYS

Please note:

  • HP36431 is the master product number of the Posix 2 Shell.
  • I0036431.USL.SYS is the installation file.
  • When launched, the job I0036431 should run for less than 5 minutes. When it is done, the Posix environment is re-installed.

[Gilles Schipper notes the process for 7.5 is the same, working from the MPE/iX 7.5 FOS tape.]

I have access to a Tandberg Data Ultrium LTO 3 tape drive. It has a SCSI Ultra160 interface. Would I have any luck hooking one up to an N-Class?

Chad Lester of MPE Support Group replies:

It's worth trying. You might have issues with the dual-port SCSI cards. Also, make sure the firmware is the latest on the single SCSI U160 card.

We recently upgraded our customers to the hot-swappable LTO drives designed for the TA-5300 Array. The array is $350 with an SCSI Cable. Two Q1540A LTO 3s are $1,350, for a grand total of $1,700. That includes phone support from us for installation. 

I have a DLT4000 that will connect to an HP 3000 on path 32.2.0. How do I set the 12 dip switches on the back of the DLT for this path?

Mark Ranft of Pro3K replies:

Off of Google, I’ve found this:

For HP 7980S emulation, 

     1,2 - OFF

     3,4,5 - ON

     6,7,8,9 - OFF

     10,11,12 - SCSI ID (suggest all OFF)

So 10 is the 4's place
And 11 is the 2's place
And 12 is the 1's place

If 10, 11 and 12 are off (down), the SCSI ID will be zero.

Gilles Schipper of GSA adds:

I believe there are two different versions of DLT4000. One has a single-ended SCSI interface and the other has a FW-SCSI interface. I think the one Mark described is for the former.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:18 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2015

Unicom casts meet including PowerHouse

Last summer the new owners of PowerHouse invited the customer base, including HP 3000 sites, to a meeting at Unicom Systems company headquarters. At that time, the venerable automated development tool had only been in the Unicom strategy for about five months. Later this month, those users and the PowerHouse Advisory Board will meet again. This time the meeting will span a handful of user bases.

PickFair in 1935The March 27 gathering is at the PickFair mansion in Beverly Hills. That movie-industry icon is also a property of Unicom Global, the parent corporation of Unicom Systems. In the months since the PowerHouse acquisition, Unicom has also purchased the customers and products from four other former IBM operations. The latest, announced at the start of this year, was IBM’s Rational brand, which includes the Focal Point product portfolio and Program Management solution, along with the PurifyPlus dynamic Software Analysis Tools solution.

The scope of these purchases is significant for an enterprise software company. Company officials said the Rational acquisition expanded Unicom’s business by adding more than 2,000 enterprise customers in over 40 countries.

Unicom's 2014 event was for PowerHouse customers exclusively, since the other four IBM properties hadn't been acquired yet. But this month's invitation-only event is being called TeamBLUE, with PowerHouse users joining the Rational customers; users of solidDB, an in-memory relational database; and Unicom Finance, an analysis solution that was called Cognos Finance before Unicom acquired it.

The company said in its backgrounder on the meeting that "TeamBLUE represents a dramatic shift in the approach of leveraging technology assets to deliver leadership in your business, transforming technology discussions into management consulting."

The strategy of viewing software assets as a business element instead of a technology investment will sound familiar to HP 3000 sites. MB Foster's webinars over the last several years have stressed the business fit of a solution being at least as important as any tech issues. As far back as 2007, the Connect user group started to refer to the prior generation of IT decision makers as technologists.

Unicom has been generating a massive customer base over more than three decades of operations. The parent corporation Unicom Global was started by current CEO Corry Hong as a CICS systems software company in 1981. The corporation now counts over 70 million customers in 140 countries. The operations provide enterprise software, hardware, telecom equipment, IT services, real estate, corporate services, M&A and financing services across 37 corporate entities.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:03 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2015

Handicapping 3000's horsepower: it depends

PreaknessCompanies and organizations which depend on 3000s are seeing a new generation of answers to the classic question, "How much horsepower do I need in my system?" The prior generation's questions were limited to the official, HP-branded hardware for running MPE and IMAGE. Even a performance expert in the community would sometimes reply, "It depends."

This year the same kind of answer can be heard when a company's trying to replace an HP 3000 -- with non-HP hardware that can run MPE software. The Charon virtualization engine, the emulator, will run on a dizzying array of servers, powered by a raft of CPUs. Choosing the best one is just as particular a decision as it ever was, although the range of right answers is greater.

We learned about this matchup challenge when a reader asked what range of hardware installation might serve their A-Class MPE/iX requirements. In other words, how much Intel-based server do I need to procure to match the performance of HP's PA-RISC server? From the Stromasys VP of engineering, we learned this weekend that, as in the great technical tradition, it depends.

"It depends upon what you are trying to do," said Bill Pedersen. "I run different Charon cross-platform virtualized systems on a laptop for development and demos."

"It depends" is an answer that is rarely wrong. And indeed, seeing Charon for the 3000 run for the first time is usually a demonstration launched on a laptop. We've seen the demos trigger slack-jawed amazement. However, a production-grade system demands a great deal more server. How much depends on what you'd like to emulate: not just the hardware itself, but the demands of your software application, too.

The hardware investment level I like to toss back as an answer is not more than $15,000. But that's really a midpoint, accounting for fast and redundant disk, ample IO, responsive DRAM. In short, everything that HP wired into its 3000 hardware, albeit for a much higher price.

What's obvious is that specifying MPE-ready hardware isn't any less crucial than it ever was. But buying improvements on the horsepower is less costly. Additional Intel-based CPU servers are a commodity item, after all.

In specific, Stromasys pulled together a long list of CPUs about 18 months ago that it considered a best fit for the demands of virtualization. 

CHARON-HPA/3000 A-Class emulators will run on CPUs as slow as 2 GHz (although this is not recommended). Many Intel CPUs not shown below can be used to run our A-Class emulators. Recommended CPUs (3.5 GHz or faster) are highlighted.

This list only includes CPUs that run close to, or faster than, 3 GHz.  Entire CPU families (like the Xeon E7) are omitted if they contain no members that qualify.

These release notes from the first year of the sale of Charon are followed by a long list of Intel-based CPUs. The favorites are on the shaded lines. What seems important in the list are the number of cores and threads a processor supports, as well as the speed of the CPU's chip. The table Stromasys has been sharing also points to on-chip support for Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) 4.1 or 4.2.

Stromasys table excerptFour cores, 8 or more threads, and a high clock rate stand out in the table. The processors selected were all running at 3.4 GHz or faster. But the raw numbers on the chips are only a starting point. 

"The real issue is all job streams are different," Pedersen explained, "and so the best measure is proof of concept with your own job mix to validate operation." The only way to be sure your target system will deliver enough horsepower is to test it with your actual programs and data.

How did the community do this in the HP-only era of MPE hardware? Some managers over-specified just to be sure they were doing enough of an upgrade. Companies like Lund Performance Solutions, and even HP, had performance measurement software that tracked whether you were CPU-bound, IO-constrained, or storage-hungry. Memory and disk could be added, but the wrong CPU was not cheaply replaced. HP might take back one in a trade-up.

HP Envy Phoenix 810In contrast, specifying enough horsepower for emulation of 3000 hardware might just cost as little as $2,149 even if you get it wrong. For example, in the Stromasys table, a Core i7 processor 4820K is favored, one that runs at 3.7GHz. You can find this CPU in the HP Envy Phoenix 810se Desktop, outfitted with 24GB of memory and 3TB of disk. Does it have the IO you'll need to support transactions across a full complement of users? What about redundant storage?

The Envy Phoenix is sold as a premier gaming system, so it's fast. Beefy enough to replace an N-Class? Hey, the Envy Phoenix even has liquid cooling. But the best system to replace HP's air-cooled hardware isn't measured on specs alone.

What's happening more often today is customers having a system built to order with a recommended CPU like the Core i7 4820K at its heart. What's more, in the months and years to come, these virtualized 3000s will be specified at cloud providers like Rackspace -- where the only important metric will be response time, as specified in the Service Level Agreement. Existing VMware servers already running at most companies need not apply, according to Stromasys engineers.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:39 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2015

IMAGE was always the future of the 3000

We're all-digital now here, so we are working harder at providing resources that can only be served up online. In our archives we've got articles that exist only on paper, and so the transfer of these into digital becomes a way to preserve what we've learned. Even articles of more than two decades ago contain good logic about preservation of IT resources.

IMAGE-Future-of-3000One look at news of a springtime more than 20 years ago yielded a couple of articles worth preserving. We've already shared the outlook of HP's Glenn Osaka on the 3000's future, circa 1993. A little deeper in that same issue of the HP Chronicle lay a greater treasure: A forecast for the system from Wirt Atmar, the late founder of AICS Research. Atmar was a tireless advocate for MPE, the 3000, and maybe most importantly, the IMAGE database. "The HP 3000 does only one thing, but it does it very well," Atmar wrote in The Future of the HP 3000.

A search for a Web page with the article didn't turn up any hits, so we're putting it into the NewsWire's resources. The article is a PDF available here

In a wide-ranging two-part article from January and February of 1993, Atmar taught us all how an integrated IMAGE database provides the essential value for MPE systems. The good news about all of this is that it's software integration, so even the Stromasys Charon emulation of 3000s retains this benefit. IMAGE made the 3000 a success, and it continues to do so for the companies who still rely on the server.

The success of the HP 3000 is, and always has been, tied to the success of IMAGE. The machine and database have prospered as an indivisible unit. Although MPE is an absolutely superior operating system for business development, it is not strong enough to support the continued existence of the HP 3000 by itself. If IMAGE should disappear, the death of the HP 3000 will soon follow.

Although HP announced its impending death of its 3000 plans about nine years after that article, the 3000 itself has not died. In fact, after Atmar's articles, HP changed its plans to separate IMAGE from the 3000. The bundling of the database and its hardware was preserved. But IMAGE has always been — and always will be — bundled with MPE.

That's the important pairing which Atmar's article chronicles. It explains that the combination "has never been anything than an electronic substitute for steel filing cabinets." Those are the essential kind of furnishings you'll find in offices to this very day.

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

March 04, 2015

Tablet opens new access window on 3000

HP 3000s have the ability to communicate with iPads, although the inverse is even more true. The software that makes this possible is in regular use at an ecommerce company in the US. A seasoned manager at the company checked in with us, on her way to setting up a link between an Ecometry box and Apple's tablet.

Chris McCartney of Musical Fulfillment reached out for assistance with configuring her 3000 and the TTerm Pro app from Turbosoft. Musical Fulfillment is the parent company to American Musical Supply, zZounds.com, ElectricGuitar.com, and SameDayMusic.com

IPad MusicOnce McCartney located a back copy of the Newswire, she says, she found Jon Diercks article about the app when the software was first released in 2013. "We've been using Red Prairie Direct Commerce (aka Ecometry, Escalate, MACS) for more than 10 years and we moved to the [N Class] several years ago. We were hoping to get a few more years out of it before we had to make a decision to upgrade or move to a different ERP system."

By deploying TTerm Pro, McCartney now has a mobile way to check on the status of that N-Class server.

I am up and running on my iPad for those ‘just in case’ times when I am away from my office or laptop and I need to log in to check something on the 3000 or in Ecometry/JDA Direct Commerce. I am going into work over the VPN and using TTerm Pro to connect to our HP. I use the on-screen keyboard, but might switch to a wireless keyboard, so I have a little more screen and the comfort of a physical keyboard.

The 3000 at the company is established as a sensible solution. Up to now, there's been no compelling return on the investment to move to Ecometry hosted on Windows systems.

Making these kinds of decisions, year by year, about migration's rewards can be a hard place from which to do ecommerce. There's some debate over whether there's a sensible package to replace Ecometry on the 3000, as the server continues to perform its stable, steady mission.

We've heard of some 3000 sites where they're dealing with some upper-level mission to leave the 3000. Reasons for departing the 3000 vary, but they often revolve around withdrawn support from the system's vendor. Diligent managers like McCartney arrange for independent support. They also have the advantage of ground-breaking interfaces like tablets to monitor their 3000s.

Timetables and budgets for migrations vary. It's often in the best interests of a company to get the maximum use, within sensible and safe limits, from existing applications. A product that makes the 3000 easier to manage, created within the last few years, is something of a high note here in the fifth decade of MPE service.

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

February 25, 2015

Clouds to strip dongle from Charon servers

A physical dongle has been required up to now, but the new Stromasys Charon-HPA licenses for MPE will be designed to use software-only verification. Applications will still be matched against HPSUSAN to prevent any kind of fraud.

Cloud thumb drive“We are moving toward a software license,” said Alexandre Cruz, Stromasys Sales Engineer. “This will prevent any licensing problems that might occur while using a cloud provider. We will create a machine for licensing purposes which has exactly the same structure as a USB dongle. We still require the HPSUSAN and the HPCPUNAME.”

“We finished the testing and we’ve already discussed it for a couple of customers. I have deployed it myself for testing. These customers have not started to use virtualization for their HP 3000s, but we are proposing that they use the cloud instead of a physical server.”

Cruz said that the use of licensing dongles has not been limited to the HP 3000 version of Charon. All of the emulator products from Stromasys have required this type of device for verification of licenses. 

“Our next installations will tend to be dongle-free,” he said. “In the future, when there are renewals, we are planning to replace the USB dongle with a software-based license. When we go to renewal, the customers can get rid of the dongle easily.”

Subscriptions are being sold for Charon HPA on a yearly basis, in either single-year or three-year periods. Licenses would be paid in advance with renewals every year. “This means that every 12 months they have the possibility to stop everything without losing what they have invested in the hardware,” Cruz said.

“We are trying to make it easier and more flexible. We are encouraging our customers to use their own cloud provider. If they do not have a preferred cloud partner, then we can recommend one for their system. We don’t have a current contract established with any specific providers.”

The company has used Rackspace for demonstration and testing purposes. “Rackspace has the flexibility to provide us with the systems we want. The other cloud providers are a little bit closed on their offers,” Cruz said. “They have standard machines, say four cores, 16GB of RAM, 400 GB of disk. For some customers, this might be a little bit on the low side. With Rackspace we have the ability to tell them that ‘we need a system with the following specifications.’ 

"We did research on several providers, and the relationship of costs and benefits led us toward Rackspace."

Virtualizing an N-Class on high end, for example, “would not even fall into the high end of the systems from many cloud providers. Their normal systems that are provided are quite slow. Most of the time, the big cloud players tend to be a little anemic in their offerings.”

Stromasys also talked to Rackspace about security. “Besides their intense monitoring for intrusion detection, we tested how we could connect to their systems in a more secure way,” Cruz said. “We used a mixture of SSH on the Linux connection side, instead of a normal telnet, and from that point onward it will be forwarded to a specific port to the 3000 system itself. We treat this like a connection to the emulator itself, instead of a normal telnet session.”

If the demand for this cloud product grows, Cruz said that his company “will have the cloud provider implement other forms of security — via some kind of access token that can provide us an extra layer of protection.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:18 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 23, 2015

Rackspace lines up for MPE cloud Charon

Stromasys has started to offer cloud-based versions of its HP 3000 virtualized server, after successful tests using Rackspace as a cloud provider. The software solution’s total ownership cost will drop as a result, according to company officials.

Rackspace cloudThe Charon HPA virtualization system is also being sold at an entry-level price of $9,000, according to Razvan Mazilu, Global Head of Presales and Services. That price point delivers an A400 level of performance with eight simultaneous connections.

“The price range for our solutions goes from $9,000 for the HPA/A408D to $99,000 for the HPA/N4040,” he said.

Deploying that software in a cloud setting is still in early stages, now that the testing was completed in November. Stromasys says customers can use their own cloud providers, or Stromasys can recommend a provider as robust as Rackspace.

“This is a brand-new feature that we are implementing,” Mazilu said. “We are talking to a couple of new customers about this, and so it’s on the table, rather than hosting their own systems at their site. Remote sales people, for example, don’t have to go to the office.”

“A customer doesn’t have to create a remote access infrastructure to provide users with access to the systems. This removes the boundaries from the systems. Since the 3000s are usually quite old, they tend to be forgotten when it comes to providing remote access to them.”

By going with a cloud installation, “they do not need to invest in the day-to-day operations and maintenance, either,” said Alexandre Cruz, Stromasys Sales Engineer. Cruz has been in close contact with the HP 3000 customers using Charon. He added that  “being on a contract with a cloud provider, they can cancel at any time.” 

Implementing the cloud version of Charon on Rackspace showed no decline in performance, Cruz said. “I had a very big pipe, 250 megabits, and that’s not the top of the top-end for systems. We can improve on the network speed if needed.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:10 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2015

NewsWire Goes Green

After almost 20 years of reporting news and technology updates using our printed issues, The 3000 NewsWire goes to an all-digital format following this month's Winter 2015 print issue. It's our 153rd, and this announcement marks our new focus on delivering information exclusively online.

This is not a farewell. We're only saying goodbye to our paper and ink.

Blog Circle Winter15The articles and papers published on this blog will continue to update and inform the MPE community. After racking up more than nine years of digital publishing, this blog now has more than 2,500 articles, including video, podcasts, and color digital images from resources around the world. We have immediate response capabilities, and rapid updating. We have a wide array of media to tell the stories going forward from 2015.

Eco-friendlyIt’s the reach of our Web outlet that enables the strategy to take the NewsWire all-digital, also reducing the publication’s eco-footprint. Online resources go back to 1996. We'll take special care to bring forward everything that remains useful.

The first paper issue of The 3000 NewsWire appeared in August of 1995 at that year’s Interex conference in Toronto. We hand-carried a four-page pilot issue to Interex '95. To introduce the fresh newsletter to the marketplace, HP announced our rollout during its TV news broadcast 3K Today.

Throughout our publication’s history, the Web has offered a growing option for news distribution. After websites became the primary means for news dissemination, in 2005 this blog took over as our primary outlet for reports. The quarterly print issues across the last two decades have summed up the greatest hits of these reports, each covering the prior three-month period.

The blog now becomes the exclusive source for updated 3000-related news and market updates. But there will continue to be digital editions of the NewsWire, edited and curated for our readers in PDF formats. This new Digital Focus product will offer fine-tuned searching capability. The dizzy array of outside weblinks will fall away in a Digital Focus PDF compilation. And creating PDFs for passing on our articles will be easier, too.

Our daily updates for new articles are available via Twitter by following @3000newswire. We've had an RSS digital feed for almost 10 years by now, too.

We're working on evolving our presentation while we go green in 2015. We'd love to hear from you about our growing digital development, and what you'd like to see in this new year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2015

How 3000s Bridge to IPv6: Outside Systems

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies

As great at it would be to see, it really doesn't matter if MPE/iX's network software is never updated to natively handle IPv6 addresses Here's why.

Golden Gate BridgeHP 3000s are rarely the only computer system in a datacenter. There's almost always some other system to handle DNS and email and file-serving (although our beloved systems can serve these functions) — to say nothing of firewalls and switches and routers that shield our systems from unwanted accesses, while optimizing the flow of information that we do want to occur. 

These other systems (especially the firewalls and routers) are going to be the network access salvation for our legacy systems. That’s because many can, or will, provide bridging between IPv6 and IPv4 address spaces.

And not yet discussed, but even more important, is that in the long run Hewlett-Packard’s HP-PA iron won't be hosting MPE/iX.  It'll be running in an emulator (The Stromasys Charon-HPA, as of now) emulation that is hosted on hardware and under an OS that does support IPv6.

In short — the emulator's iron and hosting OS will provide the IPv6 to IPv4 translation, allowing the network that surrounds it to be entirely IPv6.

I can't say for sure if anyone's tried this approach, but if they haven't at least planned on it yet, Stromasys might want to put this on their to-do list. 

One more thing. Anybody that's feeling pushed to migrate or replace an MPE/iX-based application, just because of worries about IPv6, is being driven by Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. And I'm willing to bet that the FUD is being supplied by any number of parties that have other things to sell, too. It's like a forensic accounting friend of mine used to say. "If you want to know what's really going on, follow the money."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2015

Big IP addresses not un-docking 3000s yet

Four years ago this month we reported that it was time to get ready for the bigger-scale network addresses called IPv6. In that year, the Internet was reported to have run out of the IPv4 addresses, which was the impetus to create the larger IP numbers. It also seemed like the HP 3000's inability to address IPv6 was going to be one of those sparks to getting migrated off the system.

Docker_(container_engine)_logoBut despite a lack of resources -- which would have been OpenMPE volunteers -- it looks like IPv6 hasn't hemmed in the 3000 from continued service. Now the open source project called Docker has a new 1.5 release, one that aims to bring these bigger IP addresses to more systems. Open source, of course, means Docker might even be of some help to the 3000s that need to be in control of network addresses.

The IPv6 protocol was among those OpenMPE considered when it applied for its license for MPE/iX source. It was suggested back in 2008 that a contract project might revise the 3000's networking to accommodate the new protocol.

As we surmised four years ago, native support for IPv6 networking hasn't been the deal-breaker some 3000 experts expected. Although HP prepared the 3000 to do DNS service, the vendor didn't build a patch in 2009 to eliminate a security hole in DNS for MPE/iX. That's bedrock technology for Internet protocols, so it would have to be made secure. Much of this kind of routing for 3000 shops takes place on external PC systems today.

Making old dogs do new tricks has been demonstrated on Windows. You can even make an older Windows XP box do IPv6, according to Paul Edwards, a former OpenMPE director who's been a training resource for the 3000 community for decades.

Four years ago, while Windows XP was still running at many sites, Edwards showed how to make an old system adopt the new protocol.

You may have heard the news: the world officially runs out of IPv4 addresses this month. But never fear. IPv6 is here... well, sort of. 

Many companies are converting their networks to IPv6 now,  and Windows 7 comes with built in support, but what about those who are still using Windows XP? Luckily, it’s easy to install the IPv6 protocol on your XP machine. Here’s how: 

1. Click Start | Run 
2. Type cmd to open the command prompt window.  
3. At the prompt, type netsh and press ENTER  
4. Type interface and press ENTER 
5. Type ipv6 and press ENTER 
6. Type install and press ENTER 
This installs IPv6. You can confirm that’s been installed by typing, at the command prompt, ipconfig /all. 

You should see an entry under your Local Area Connection that says “Link-local IPv6 Address”  and shows a hexadecimal number, separated by colons. That’s your IPv6 address.

Last fall, our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster said Docker looks like tech that could help put 3000s into the cloud, too. "Docker struck me as an easy mechanism to stand up Linux instances in the cloud -- any number of different clouds, actually," Edminster said. According to a Wiki article Edminster pointed at, Docker is based upon open source software, the sort of solution he's been tracking for MPE users for many years.

Docker is an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, the Wiki article reports, "thus providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating system-level virtualization on Linux. Docker uses resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces to allow independent "containers" to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting virtual machines." 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:25 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 16, 2015

Classic MPE tips: Tar, kills, and job advice

How do I use the tar utility to put data onto tape on an HP 3000?

1) Create a tape node

:MKNOD “/dev/tape c 0 7”

2) Enter posix shell

:SH -L

3) Mount a blank tape and enter the tar command

shell/ix>tar -cvf /dev/tape /ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILENAME

How can I determine the validity of an SLT tape?

Use CHECKSLT.MPEXL.TELESUP option 1.

What is the command to abort a hung session? I tried ABORTJOB #s3456. I seem to remember there is a command that will do more.

You can use =SHUTDOWN. But seriously, there is a chance that if it is a network connection, NSCONTROL KILLSESS=#S3456 will work. If it is a serial DTC connection, ABORTIO on the LDEV should work. Finally, depending upon what level of the OS you are on, look into the ABORTPROC command. This might help as a last resort.

I recently had a perfect application for the NEWJOBQ feature. We have two groups of users. One group submits jobs that take about 30 seconds each. Typical jobs for the other group take about 5 minutes each. So I thought I’d give the second group of users their own job queue.

NEWJOBQ ALTJOBQ;LIMIT=1
LIMIT 1 (for HPSYSJOBQ)

When I submit a long job into the ALTJOBQ queue, and a quick job into the default job queue, the second job goes into the WAIT state. Why?

Your NEWJOBQ statement is correct, but your second statement didn’t do what you thought. To put a limit of one on the HPSYSJQ job queue, your statement should read 
:LIMIT 1;JOBQ=HPSYSJQ.

By saying :LIMIT 1, you are changing the total job limit on the system to one. Since the total limit is one, and the long job in ALTJOBQ is still running, the second job waits even though he is the only job in his queue.

What does HPSWINFO.PUB.SYS show? All software or only installed software? How do I find out what HP software is installed?

Generally speaking, HPSWINFO.PUB.SYS is a record of system software level and patching activity. If you want information on HP software installed then you want to run psswinvp.

How can I sync the time on my 3000 with my Windows network? The PC side does regular, automated sync to NIST.

First, ensure your timezone is absolutely correct (:setclock/:showclock) and you have a system logon UDC to setvar TZ to the correct timezone.

Install NTP and use the ‘ntpdate’ function to sync your clock to the PC servers. Do this in a batch job that issues the ntpdate command, and then :STREAMs itself;IN=xx to periodically perform the synchronization.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:15 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2015

Multiple Parallel Tapes on 3000 Backups

Editor's note: When I saw a request this week for a copy of HP patch MPEMX85A (a patch to STORE that enables Store-To-Disk) for older MPE/iX releases, it brought a storage procedure request to mind.

I'm dealing with some MPE storage processes and need assistance. You would think after storing files on tapes after 10-plus years, we would have found a better way to do this. We use TurboStore with four tape drives and need to find a way to validate the backup. Vstore appears to only have the ability to use one tape drive. Currently I have some empty files scattered through the system and use a separate job to delete them, remount the tapes and restore, trying to access all four drives. 

When using vestore:

vstore [vstorefile] [;filesetlist]

It seems that vstorefile is looking for a file equation similar to:

File t; dev=tape
vstore *t;@.@.@; show

This is why it appears that I can't use more than one tape drive, unless they are in serial, while we want to use four drives in parallel. What method or software should I be using?

Mark Ranft of Pro3K replies:

We always found that DLT 8000 tapes worked well in parallel. When the backup got so big that it wouldn't fit on two DLT 8000 tapes, we split the backup, putting the databases on two tapes in parallel and everything else on a third tape. Keep in mind, we didn't have a backup strategy. We had a recovery strategy and backups were a part of that. We found, for us, organizing backups in this manner allowed us to speed recovery — which was far more important than anything else.

You can achieve good times doing Store-to-Disk backups. But then what? Do you back up the STD to tape and send it offsite? FTP it somewhere? The recovery times on getting this back are too slow.

Tracy Johnson adds

I think you can use VSTORE to read multiple tape drives in parallel or series using the ;RESTORESET parameter.

So you make four file equations.

Drop the beginning file single backreference to a equation (like we learned in olden times), and put the four new ones with the ;RESTORESET= parameter instead. It is one of those things that fooled me first time I saw it, and it took about 10 minutes getting used to seeing it.

The parenthesis around the file equations are placed differently:

Serial:

 ;RESTORESET = (*tape1,*tape2,*tape3,*tape4)

Parallel:

 ;RESTORESET=(*tape1),(*tape2),(*tape3),(*tape4)

But if the tapes were not also created in parallel, it may not help in the latter case.

Ray Legault adds

I use three DLT8000's and run a Vstore every week.

! setvar _drive "(*p1),(*p2),(*p3)"
!#
!vstore ;@.@.@;restoreset=!_drive;show;progress=5;nodecompress
!#

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

February 09, 2015

Managers still linking with 3000 data tools

MB Foster has been holding Wednesday Webinars for years. So far back, in fact, that the first round of webinars appeared less than six weeks after HP announced its drop plans for the 3000 in 2001. Those drop plans might not be working completely as expected, if Foster's response to a new Thursday Webinar is a good measure.

The company has added private Webinars, and it's also setting up by-invitation webinars, too. While we were researching updates on the e-commerce alternatives for 3000 sites, we learned this week's presentation on Thursday covers the UDA Link connectivity software for the HP 3000. Registrations for the guided tour of this software are outpacing the company's general interest The 3 R’s of Migration: Rehost, Replace, Retire.

While UDA Link does run on other servers, its most avid customer base operate their businesses using MPE/iX systems. It's one data marker to show that some system managers are still auditioning tools for 3000s. An invitation to that by-invitation UDA Link webinar is just an e-mail away, a message a manager can send to support@mbfoster.com.

The Wednesday Webinar on those 3 Rs starts at 2 PM Eastern time; a web form on the MB Foster site manages registration for that session.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:48 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 04, 2015

Checks on MPE's subsystems don't happen

ChecklistOnce we broach a topic here on your digital newsstand, even more information surfaces. Yesterday we reported on the state of HPSUSAN number-checking on 3000 hardware. We figured nobody had ever seen HPSUSAN checks block a startup of MPE itself, so long as the HPCPUNAME information was correct. The HP subsystems, though, those surely got an HPSUSAN check before booting, right?

Not based on what we're hearing since our report. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies related his experience with HP's policing of things like COBOL II or TurboStore.

I can't claim to be an expert in all things regarding to software licensing methods. But I can tell you from personal experience that none of HP's MPE/iX software subsystems that I've ever administered or used had any sort of HPSUSAN checks built into them. That would include the compilers (such as the BASIC/3000 interpreter and compiler), any of the various levels of the HP STORE software versions, Mirror/iX, Dictionary/3000, BRW, or any of the networking software. (I'll note that the networking software components were quite picky in making sure that compatible versions of the various components were used together, in order for everything to work properly.)

The only time I saw HP-provided software examined using the HPSUSAN was when server hardware was upgraded. It checked the CPU upgrades, or number of CPUs in a chassis.

Like several of our other sources, Edminster knows that the third-party providers, especially the big-name players, use HPSUSAN to make sure that vendor knows where its software is booting up. Because of those exacting checks, "You've got to have some sort of plan in place to cover having to use any alternate hardware for disaster recovery," he reports, "and still expect to have your third party tools work beyond a limited time-frame."

But there's no dissenting story out there regarding what's ethical to do with intent about respecting software checks and licensing. There are always such possibilities for managers who live outside the lines. And sometimes it might be an oversight. As an example, O'Pin Systems -- a first-issue advertiser in the 3000 Newswire more than 19 years ago -- still has Reveal customers out in the MPE world relying on that reporting tool.

One such site was having a hard time with a boot-up on a different MPE/iX server. A START command to Reveal's RSPCNTL will stream a job, but RSPCNTL would terminate before a prompt was given. "I think this may indicate that the product is not validated on the new machine -- which would require re-validation," a former developer for O'Pin told us. "I don't recall exactly what's checked, but the variables HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME are almost certainly checked for a match. VAR OPINSERIAL will appear to be set to 0, if RSPCONTROL determines that there is a validation fault."

Re-validation can be a matter of placing a call to the vendor's support line -- if there's anyone left on the vendor's staff who understands that the company still has an MPE/iX product in the field. O'Pin has such a support staffer.

Edminster had a cogent comment about this need for this validation during an era when 3000 outposts are shrinking.

I'm don't propose that software purchased for one system be moved to another, unless that's within the bounds of the original software agreements. Just because a vendor has stopped selling a product, or stops pursuing license violations of that product, doesn't make the product freeware.

It also does not make that product yours to use as though you owned it.

Most software was 'sold' with a 'right to use' license. That doesn't mean you own it, now or ever. It means that you are licensed to use it under the terms in the original contract, or as amended since.

That may sound like splitting hairs. But as intellectual property goes, it can make the difference between being able to make a living on the fruits of your work, or not.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:29 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2015

Software That Checks Who Is Using It

Detective-with-magnifying-glassHP 3000s have been outfitted with unique identity numbers for decades. In the '90s a scandal arose around hardware resellers who were committing fraud with modified system IDs. People were jailed, fines were paid, and HP made the 3000 world safe for authorized resellers. Until it crashed its 3000 futures and those resellers' businesses two years later. We've not heard if those fines or jail terms were rolled back. 

It's probably not fair to think they would be, since those resellers stole something while they fabricated ID numbers. That sort of fraud may still be possible. We heard a question last week about what sort of checking would ever be done regarding the HPSUSAN number. In the recently-curtailed emulator freeware model, an enthusiast could type in an HPSUSAN they avowed they had the right to use. Verification of that number wasn't part of the process. This is called the honor system.

The question: Did HP ever check HPSUSAN numbers, and what format would they have to be in? Is it like a 16-digit credit card number and expiration date checksum?

"There are only digits, no letters," said a veteran of the HP SE service, one who's worked for many third party vendors as well. "I don’t think there any certain number of digits. I don’t think HP ever checked the HPSUSAN, only the third parties."

The question came up as the process of upgrading a 3000 was on the discussion docket last week. (You bet, some people are still upgrading 3000s. Some are upgrading to an emulation/virtualized 3000.)

Me, I don't believe that using any number that didn't match HP's issued list of HPSUSANs would prevent MPE from booting up. The off-the-shelf apps and the things like Powerhouse, not so., though. They don't start if the HPSUSAN doesn't match that software. Probably the HP subsystems like COBOL and TurboStore would check for a number, too.

This starts to matter as MPE software rolls forward, off old servers where it's been registered and onto bigger, newer 3000s. Maybe support has been dropped in cost-saving measures. (Not a savings if you ever have a vendor-caliber software failure.) Given their support-less existence, some 3000 sites want to keep a low profile about where their software is heading. There are vendors left in the world who'll try to collect 3000 license upgrade fees, based on usage tiers for a server which HP hasn't built for more than 11 years.

Every company is entitled to charge what's in the contract, of course. How effective is that practice? It depends. Does a failure to pay a license fee push the software's user away from the vendor? We hear about emulator prospects who add up their licensing upgrade costs and have to delay their migration to the virtualized 3000 they desire.

HPSUSAN is an important number that third party software verifies, checking to see who's using it. Stromasys will be providing a new way to secure HPSUSAN numbers once it installs some cloud-based Charon emulators. A dongle, currently the key to using Charon, doesn't float into the cloud easily. Maybe Rackspace can make an exception, but Stromasys says it's working to eliminate the dongle requirement.

Clouds are important to keeping the cost of MPE computing low, because hosting an emulator requires beefy Intel hardware to run as fast as a 3000. The faster the better, says Stromasys Product Manager Doug Smith. Charon HPA in the cloud lowers cost of ownership, but it'll require putting HPSUSAN up there, too. MPE probably won't check if it's the right HPSUSAN. But as soon as you fire up HP COBOL, or another subsystem, or third party software, that'll need to be the correct number.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:59 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 30, 2015

Where a Freeware Emulator Might Go Next

It was always a little proof of a brighter future, this freeware emulator distributed by Stromasys. The A202 release might be shared with prospects in the months and years to come. But for now the program has been discontinued. One of the most ardent users of the product, Brian Edminster, sent along some ideas for keeping an MPE enthusiast's magic wand in a box that's open to the community.

Hosting bayEdminster was trading ideas with the vendor for improvements to Charon HPA more than a year and a half ago. He's noted that having a public cloud instance used for demonstrations, a bit like HP's Invent3K of a decade-plus ago, would be a great offering for enthusiasts. He's had rewarding experience with the freeware's documentation, too -- an element that might've been an afterthought with another vendor.

By Brian Edminster

As much as I hate it, I can understand Stromasys pulling the plug on the freeware version of Charon. I just hope they can come up with a way to make a version of the emulator available to enthusiasts — even if it's for a small fee. At some time or another, that'll be the only way to run an MPE/iX instance because all hardware will fail, eventually. (This is said by someone that still has a few MPE/V systems that run, and many MPE/iX systems that do).

I guess the real trick is finding something that prevents the freeware version of the emulator from being viable for use by anyone but enthusiasts. I'd have thought that a 2-user license would be enough for that, but apparently not.

I'd imagine that limiting the system to only the system volume (MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET), to only allow one emulated drive, and perhaps limiting the emulated drive-size to 2Gb or less might be enough. But not knowing what kind of applications were being hosted against the license terms makes it hard to say for sure.

The only other thing I can think of might be requiring the emulator to 'phone home' (via Internet connection) whenever it was fired up, and have it 'shut off' within a given time if it couldn't. But even that wouldn't always be definitive as to the 'type' of use occuring.

Seems that trying to avoid paying for something can inspire far more creativity than it should, when truthfully, it's probably cheaper to just “pay the fee.” Perhaps having an Archival licence, where the instance is in-the-cloud and payment is based on amount of resources used, might provide enough incentive for enthusiasts and everybody in the community to do the right thing.  

Seems that a limited freeware version, and reasonably 'less-limited' cloud versions with a pay-as-you-use-it license, would be the way to go. Perhaps charge a setup fee with a small annual fee to keep the instance present, then charge for the amount of time used (especially when the intended usage is 'archival'). This harkens back to the days of 'time-sharing', back when it was too expensive to own a box of your own.

I know it may not be possible with the Stromasys Charon-HPA product, but the Eloquence DBMS and it's Basic-like development language system has had a 'freeware/evaluation' copy that's limited in a way that makes it unsuitable for any sort of production use.  It's done by limiting 'storage' (the total database size) to about 50Mb and just a few users.  

Eloquence freeware therefore provides plenty to allow 'personal' use, to learn the tool — but not nearly enough to host any sort of practical production system. It's a unfortunate that Stromasys didn't do something similar with Charon-HPA. 

But there’s still a chance to make things different, going forward.

Brian Edminster is the founder of Applied Technologies, a consulting, development, and systems management firm specializing in HP 3000s and the open source freeware that can make them more powerful.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:20 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2015

Stealing After an Emulator's Magic

Radio manIn these new days after the end of the Stromasys freeware emulator offers, it's instructive to recall how much magic the product's concept proposed more than 11 years ago. People in 2003 began by wondering who would ever need something like an emulator, with so much pretty-fresh hardware around. Now companies want an emulator so badly they're trying to make a two-user freeware version do the work of HP-branded iron.

Charon for the 3000 was doubted from the beginning. It began to emerge after five full years of HP delays -- the company didn't want to work with any emulator builder, once it became apparent that the MPE/iX internal boot technology would have to be shared.

Eventually Software Resources International, the company that became Stromasys, was approached. After a half-decade of losing 3000 sites to Sun, Microsoft and IBM, HP wanted to encourage a restart of a project. But back in 2003, an emulator looked like a theory at best. Two additional companies were considering or planning products to give 3000 hardware a real future. Hewlett-Packard had told the community no more new 3000s would be built after fall of '03.

By the time that end-of-manufacture was imminent, Computerworld got interested in the emulation outlook for HP 3000s. The newsweekly ran a front page article called Users Unite to Keep MPE Alive. The subheading was "Get HP to agree to plan for emulator to ease e3000 migration," which meant Computerworld's editors misunderstood what homesteaders desired. Not an easier OS migration, but a way to keep using their systems on fresh hardware.

Third parties such as HP's channel partners and consulting firms don't know if there's enough commercial demand to justify the investment [in buying an emulator]. Potential users who are preparing migration plans say they need to know soon whether an emulator is actually coming.

They needed to know soon because staying with MPE and skipping a migration sounded like a good alternative. Just one company could manage to keep the concept alive in the lost years between 2004-2009. SRI had HP heritage (well, Digital brainpower) and a record of helping HP's VMS customers stay with that OS. Looking at how emulation helped, HP had proof that it could help the 3000 community.

One customer interviewed by Computerworld called anyone's 3000 emulator vaporware. While people couldn't plan for it, General Chemical's manager of tech operations Jim Haeseker also said "if an emulator were available now, that might be a different story."

At the time people were considering the emulator as a migration plan, but not away from MPE. This was a way to get off of HP's iron and on to something with a real future, even in the forecasts of 2003. The only thing that HP had done to help was talk to OpenMPE and then "agree to permit an emulator that would enable MPE to used on other HP hardware."

But the OpenMPE of 2003 had no firm plan on how to make an emulator a reality. No budgeted project, just companies that could make an emulator part of their plans once it existed. HP said it was in discussions with emulator developers "to understand what resources would be helpful." Only SRI, to become Stromasys, pursued what the community wanted.

We told our readers of our Online Extra at the time

Several sites quoted in the story were skeptical about how much OpenMPE’s most recent focus, an emulator to mimic 3000 hardware, might be able to help them soon. Timing appears to be a major issue in the story’s comments that focused on the prospect of a software-based PA-RISC emulator. Gavin Scott, VP of Allegro Consultants and a potential creator of an emulator to replace HP 3000 hardware, was described as “non-committal” about the project, though Scott’s actual quote just detailed the prospective cost, and commented on the uncertainty about how many customers would buy such a product. 

A customer site in Quebec offered a quote that they wouldn’t consider an emulator as a migration plan — unless they were convinced one could be built. And a technical manager of operations at General Chemical called the emulator “vaporware,” but added that if it were available, he might make allowances for it.

We added that we'd thought a more lasting project for OpenMPE would be the access rights to MPE/iX source code, to be used by the members of the organization's virtual lab, with results to be shared among OpenMPE's members. "That's more important than an emulator which competes with used hardware for sales. The heart and soul of the 3000's unique value lies in IMAGE and MPE, not in PA-RISC hardware." We were right, but we wouldn't be today. The newest of HP's iron is now more than 11 years old.

MPE's source code rights would not be released, but an emulator license for MPE arrived in 2004. Here in the light of 2015, it appears that the aging hardware is being kicked to the curb by a few companies in favor of unlicensed use of freeware that was built for enthusiasts or testing.

After the Computerworld piece, we interviewed the chief of a emulator firm, Strobe Data, one that had to mothball its HP 3000 project. Strobe couldn't out-wait HP. "The thing about emulators is that they just get more valuable with time," said Willard West. Now that there's the magic of Charon as a real product, it's become valuable enough to run at any cost. "We just overlooked the license payment" might be offered as an excuse. That argument proves emulation's value to the community. Maybe there's a way back to freeware with limits to protect everybody.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:25 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 27, 2015

Emulator's downloadable free ride ends

Ride Free AreaStromasys has discontinued the freeware download distribution of the A202 version of its Charon HPA emulator. According to a company official, "We're ending the freeware distribution due to the unfortunate use of that software in commercial environments."

The A202, just powerful enough to permit two simultaneous users to get A-Class 400 performance, was always tempting to very small sites. Stromasys was generous enough to permit downloading of the software, as well as the bundled release of MPE/iX FOS software, with few restrictions starting in November of 2012. But the instructions were explicit: no use in production environments. 

However, A-Class 400 horsepower would be enough for companies putting their 3000s in archival mode. It would also be a workman-grade emulation of a development-class 3000. Some companies may have spoiled the freeware largesse for all. It's unlikely that one customer would report another's commercial use of Charon to emulate 3000s. But there's always the possibility that someone might have, say, contacted the company on a support matter. For a commercial setting.

The virtualization product was pared back to give 3000 sites a way to prove it would match up with the technical requirements of existing 3000s. Indeed, Charon has proven to be a thorough emulation of PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Running it in production requires a paid license and a support contract. The latest information from Stromasys' Alexandre Cruz shows the entry-level price at $9,000.

The Charon HPA freeware that's been installed around the world is still capable of emulating a 3000. But its intended use is for enthusiasts, not working systems managers who administer production machines.

The A202 was offered on the honor system. The software required the installer to supply a valid HPSUSAN number upon installation before the software would boot an Intel system as an HP 3000.

There's no mistaking the intention for the freeware, though. From the Version 1.5 Freeware documentation, under the Licensing Restrictions section:

The CHARON-HPA/3000 Freeware Edition is licensed for use in the following environments only: 

Enthusiasts: unlimited personal non-commercial use.

Commercial: limited to evaluating the product.

The Freeware Edition may not be integrated into production environments. The CHARON-HPA/3000 Freeware Edition is supplied with a preconfigured HP 3000 disk image that contains a copy of  MPE/iX 7.5 FOS. The Freeware Edition will only load after you have configured it with an HPSUSAN number that you are legally entitled to use. You must agree to respect these license restrictions before you will be able to download the Freeware edition installation files from our website.

The freeware will continue to be distributed to prospects who contact the sales force. No other freeware Charon versions -- to be used for the Digital VMS environment, or Sun Solaris -- are available for download from the recently-revamped Stromasys website, either.

Users Guides for the 1.5 release of the freeware, as well as for the older 1.5 release of Charon production-license software, remain online at the Stromasys website.

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

January 26, 2015

How to Use MPE/iX Byte Stream Files

Back when HP still had a lab for the HP 3000, its engineers helped the community. In those days, system architect and former community liaison Craig Fairchild explained how to use byte stream files on the 3000. Thanks to the memory of the Web, his advice remains long after the lab has gone dark.

Mountain-streamThese fundamental files are a lot like those used in Windows and Linux and Unix, Fairchild said. HP has engineered "emulation type managers" into MPE/iX, an addition that became important once the 3000 gained an understanding of Posix. In 1994, MPE/XL became MPE/iX when HP added this Unix-style namespace.

Understanding the 3000 at this level can be important to the customer who wants independent support companies to take on uptime responsibility and integration of systems. Fairchild explained the basics of this basic file type.

Byte stream files are the most basic of all file types. They are simply a collection of bytes of data without any structure placed on them by the file system. This is the standard file model that is used in every Unix, Linux and even Windows systems.
 
MPE's file system has always been a structured file system, which means that the file system maintains a certain organization to the data stored in a file. The MPE file system understands things like logical records, and depending on the file type, performs interesting actions on the data (for example, Circular files, Message files, KSAM files and so on).

Fairchild detailed how HP has given bytestream files the knowledge of "organization of data" for applications.

To bridge the gap between standard byte stream file behavior (only the application knows the organization of data) and traditional MPE file type behavior (the file system knows what data belongs to what records), emulation type managers were created. To an MPE application, a byte stream file looks and behaves like a variable record file, even though the data is stored in a way that would allow any Posix application to also read the same data. (Posix applications also have emulator type managers that allow them to read fixed, variable and spool files in addition to plain byte stream files.)

The way that the byte stream emulator detects record boundaries is through the use of the newline (\n) character, which is used, by convention, to separate data in ASCII text files on Unix-based systems.

The underlying properties of a byte stream file are that each byte is considered its own record. In MPE file system terms, a record is the smallest unit of IO that can be performed on a file. (You can write a partial record fixed length record, but the file system will pad it to a full record.) Since the smallest unit of IO that can be performed on a byte stream file is a single byte, that becomes its MPE record size.
 
In the MPE file system, the EOF tracks the number of records that are in a file. Since the record size of a byte stream file is one byte, the EOF of a byte stream file is also equal to the number of bytes in the file. This is why one 4-byte variable sized record is equal to 5 byte stream records (4 bytes of data + 1 \n character).

It's also worth noting that any file can be in any directory location and will behave the same way. (Well, almost. CM KSAM files are restricted to the MPE namespace. And of course the special files (that you don't normally see) that make up the file system root, accounts and groups are also restricted: one root, accounts as children of the root, groups as children of accounts. And lockwords aren't allowed outside the MPE namespace. But other than that, the opening sentence is true.) 

The general model that we had in architecting the whole Posix addition was that behavior of a file does change regardless of where it is located. This was summed up in the saying, "A file is a file." So there are no such things as "MPE files" and "Posix files". There's just files.

What does change is the way you name that file. Files in the MPE namespace can be named either through the MPE syntax (FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT), or through the HFS syntax (/ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILE). You can also use symbolic links to create alternate names to the same file. This was summed up as a corollary to the first saying, "But a name is not a name."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2015

Pending questions about the latest HPA

It often does not take long for reactions to arrive here to NewsWire stories. It's a prime advantage of having a digital delivery system for our news and tech reports. We learn quickly when we've gotten something incorrect, and then can fix it.

But supplemental information sometimes takes longer to fill in. After we posted our article of yesterday about the new 1.6 release of the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies offered immediate questions. Like us on this very evening, he's seeking more details about the features and updates of 1.6.

I'm especially interested in anything that would make configuring the networking easier, as I found that to be the most difficult part to deal with on my downloadable evaluation copy (However, I've still got the nearly ancient v1.1). [Editor's note: we suspect that the new Network Configuration Utility will simplify this complex configuration task.]

I'd imagine that if these v1.6 updates are available in the evaluation version, I could find all this out myself. But the Stromasys website only has fairly sparse documentation available (compared to their other emulators), and it's for version 1.5, not 1.6.

I tried finding out if this latest version of the freeware edition is downloadable, but I can't find any links on their website to the download link. The website is newly redesigned, and looks a lot fresher, however.

I've looked in the A202 freeware edition's User Guide (v1.5) and it says that the downloadable edition can be found at a particular URL: www.stromasys.com/hp3000_freeware. But try as I might, that URL wouldn't work for me. I kept getting a '404' error, indicating that the link wasn't present.  

Is there updated documentation coming? I have to say that those v1.5 docs are light years ahead of what was available when my v1.1 was current.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:07 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2015

Newest Charon version brings fresh features

Changes in the product used for virtualizing an HP 3000 include more than performance increases. The emulator starts at a base price of $9,000 to match performance of an A-Class system enabled for eight users. Officials in the Geneva headquarters of Stromasys say the top-end pricing, the N40X0 to create an N-Class caliber 3000 out of Intel server hardware, is $99,000.

The Stromasys HP 3000 product manager Doug Smith has noted several new features of Charon HPA.

In Version 1.6 there are some performance increases. Once again, overall performance will be based on the Intel server it is to be run on. The more power the better. What's new:

  • New parameter for virtual Ethernet adapter for physical card configuration
  • An NCU (Network Configuration Utility) 
  • License support for primary/secondary (backup) licenses
  • Extending the limit for number of controllers from 6 to 8 for N40X0 series

The market is hungry for the forthcoming performance. At Veritiv Corporation, Randy Stanfield will need the fastest version of Charon that Stromasys can provide. "We tested about a year and half ago," he said. "We’re running five HP N-Class 4-way systems, each with 750 MHz processors and fully loaded RAM."

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

January 20, 2015

Powerhouse customer inquires on emulator

One mission for the Stromasys emulator for HP 3000s is carrying forward legacy applications and systems. In fact, that's the primary reason for making the investment into the Charon-HPA version of the software. Some other companies are using the product to keep an MPE/iX suite alive while they are migrating.

There must be HP 3000 sites that want to move Powerhouse from their HP-built servers to the more modern hardware that drives Charon. Some manufacturing sites would like to do this with as little fanfare as possible. Notice of changing host hardware is optional, for some managers. Nobody in the 3000 community, or in the offices of the new Powerhouse owners Unicom Systems, has checked in with a report of running Powerhouse on Charon.

There is a additional interest for this combination, however. It's on the Digital side of the Charon product lineup.

Steven Philbin at FM Global was inquiring about whether Powerhouse code is compiled or interpreted. In a message on the Powerhouse mailing list, Philbin reached out to find "anyone out there working on a Virtual Stromasys Charon/SMA solution on systems written in Powerhouse."

"We are using Oracle/RDB, VMS, and Powerhouse v7.10 running on an Alpha ES40. Contact points with other users would be really helpful."

Philbin's message doesn't read like a notice that he's already made the Charon investment alongside his Powerhouse operations. But it's a Powerhouse customer query out in public, and that's a first.

MANMAN already has Digital Alpha users who employ the Charon product. Some of the most robust recommendations for the emulator have come out of the Digital community. A CAMUS user group conference call meeting in 2013 included reports from Tim Peer of Envy Systems about Digital MANMAN users running VMS on Charon. The customers were happy with performance and compatibility.

Permission and licensing from such big-scale software providers has been the wild card in the Charon story for MPE/iX. Stromasys has been selling its emulator, but reports of such products running on Charon have not emerged.

One year ago this month, Unicom Systems announced its acquisition of Powerhouse and related products from the Cognos-IBM stable. FM Global is an insurance and services provider, not a manufacturer. The last public event for Powerhouse hosted by Unicom was a re-launch of the Powerhouse user group, along with a customer advisory board meeting, in late June.

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

January 19, 2015

Get polished advice, bound and free

Evolution and SMUG

Get your very own copy of these out of print gems. Email me at the Newswire for your book.

We're doing a makeover of the Newswire files this week in the office, and we have some duplicate gems to give away. The two books above come from the hard work and deep knowlege of Robelle's tech staff, as well as the voices of many other experts. The ultimate copy of the SMUG Pocket Encylopedia carries great advice and instruction between its covers, plenty of which is useful to the homesteader of 2015.

There's also HP 3000 Evolution, created by a wide array of contributors including many who've had articles and papers edited and published by the Newswire. We're giving away these rare copies. Email me at the Newswire and be sure to include a postal address, and I'll send each of them out to whoever asks first.

Paper seems like a premium these days, a luxury that harkens back to the prior century. But it's classy, and the information inside these two books is timeless. It deserves to be bound and mailed. Not every source works better in paper. We'll say more about that later. But finding this kind of tech instruction can sometimes be tricky using the Web.

As an example, here's advice from our old friend Paul Edwards, who's taught MPE and Suprtool for many years. Doing backups is everybody's responsibility, and doing them well has some nuances.

Verify data backups with VSTORE.PUB.SYS. It only checks that the tape media is good and the files on it can be read. It doesn't compare the files on the tape with the files on disk. Since a CSLT takes only about 20-30 minutes to make regardless of the amount of disk files you have, this process adds little to the time it takes for a backup cycle. You should make one at least every other full backup cycle.

Verify the CSLT with CHECKSLT.MPEXL.TELESUP. Use a proper, secure storage environment and don't use the tapes more often than recommended by the manufacturer. Run BULDACCT.PUB.SYS prior to each full backup to create the BULDJOB1 and BULDJOB2 files so that they will be included on the backup. Remember that they contain passwords and should be purged after the backup.

If you find you've still got some HP documentation in your bookshelf, these books deserve a place there. Because of their scope, they're probably even more valuable than anything HP sent with a blue binder.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:32 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2015

New service level: personal private webinar

Software and service providers have long used webinars to deliver information and updates to groups. Now one vendor in the HP 3000 market is making the webinar highly focused. MB Foster is scheduling Personal Webinars.

CEO Birket Foster is available for private bookings with customers or prospects who need questions answered on a variety of topics. According to an email sent this week, the list from the company's Wednesday Webinars over the past few years includes

  • Application Migrations, Virtualization, Emulation, Re-host, Retire, Replace
  • Data Migration, Transformations, Decommissioning
  • Big Data
  • Bring Your Own Devise (BYOD)
  • Data Quality, Governance, MDM (Master Data Management)
  • Decision Support, Advanced Analytics, Dashboarding
  • User reporting, ad hoc query and analysis
  • Using Powerhouse in the 21st Century
  • Enterprise Windows Batch Job Scheduling
  • ITIL and APM
  • Document Management
  • Enterprise Data Storage

The vendor says to schedule this one-to-one briefing contact Chris Whitehead at 905-846-3941, or send a request to info@mbfoster.com, along with the desired topic and available dates and times.

For the past 3 years MB Foster has hosted Webinars every Wednesday at 11 am PST and 2 pm EST. As not everyone is available on a Wednesday, we are offering "Book a Private Webinar." If you have a topic your organization needs to address we would be pleased to conduct a webinar with your team.

If you have an alternative suggested topic, we would appreciate the feedback. Whatever the topic, we will have the webinar team include a subject matter expert to address your needs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2015

(Still) ways to turn back time to save apps

Editor's Note: Nine years ago this week we ran these suggestions on how to get abandoned software to keep running on HP 3000s. It's still good advice while a manager and company is homesteading, or keeping a 3000 alive until a migration is complete.

Turn back timeSome HP 3000s are reduced to a single application these days. But the one program that will never move off the platform, however vital it might be, could see its support disappear on a particular date — with no help available from the creators of the software.

A few utilities can help rescue such applications. These products were popular during the Y2K era, when systems needed their dates moved back and forth to test Year 2000 compatibility. Now that some HP 3000 programs are being orphaned, clock rollback utilities are getting a new mission.

A customer of SpeedEdit, the HP 3000 programmer's tool, had lost the ability to run the program at the start of 2006. Both Allegro Consultants' Stan Sieler and former NewsWire Inside COBOL columnist Shawn Gordon offer products to roll back the 3000's clock. These companies don't sanction using their software to dodge legitimate licensing limits. But if a software vendor has left your building, so to speak, then HourGlass/3000 or TimeWarp/3000 (both reviewed) are worth a try to get things running again.

3000 customer Paul Frohlich of DMX Music in the UK asked how to get his SpeedEdit running once again now that the calendar had rolled over to 2006:

When editing a file SpeedEdit creates a work file to hold the changes: it uses a structured name for the work file. According to the manual “ ... the first character of the [work] file name represents the year the [work] file was created, the letter A indicating 1980, B 1981 etc.” Therefore Z was 2005 and so there is no letter for 2006! SpeedEdit may be trying to use the next character in the ASCII table, which is probably non-numeric, resulting in an invalid MPE file name. A very neat way of making software expire. I suppose the authors didn’t think anyone would be using SpeedEdit in 2006!

Gordon replied with a suggestion to try his product, software that he's taking orders for direct these days:

While we don't sanction this for bypassing a programs legitimate timing out, it sounds like you've gotten in a bind with a product you paid for and the vendor is gone.  Our TimeWarp product which was originally created to do Y2K virtual dates would likely allow you to keep working; you can get some information from www.smga3000.com/timewarp_detail.html about the product.

Sieler posted notice of an alternative solution from his company:

A date/time simulator may help, if you don’t mind the rest of SpeedEdit getting the wrong time.  (E.g., run SpeedEdit with a date of, say, 1980... giving you another 25 years of bliss :)

HourGlass/3000 is still the most complete and most efficient date/time simulator tool.  You could use it with a rule like:    

@,@.@,@  speededt.pub.bbs  @   delta -20 years

(Means: any job/session name, any user, any account, any logon group, program is speededt.pub.bbs, from any ldev, gets the current date/time minus 20 years)

Sieler went on to add a more obvious option if a programming editor stops running on the 3000: Use Robelle's Qedit. He also outlined another workaround for a program that wants a date which its creators didn't expect to need to serve:

Write a CALENDAR intercept intrinsic (trivial in SPLash!, Pascal, C) that returns a modified year, put it in XL (e.g., SPDEDTXL), and modify (via LINKEDIT) SpeedEdit to load with that XL. If SpeedEdit is a CM program, change the above to: (trivial in SPL), put in an SL that SpeedEdit will use (SL.pub.BBS or whatever), and  mark SpeedEdit as LIB=P or LIB=G.

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

January 13, 2015

Shedding a Heavy Burden of History

Racking railOn Monday we reported the release of one of the first training videos hosted by computer pro in their 20s, demonstrating equipment from the 1970s. The HP 3000 is shedding the burden of such old iron, just as surely as the video's creator is shedding the equipment used to make the video.

Mark Ranft of Pro3K is making room in his operations in Minnesota by moving out equipment like the HP 7980 tape drive that was the centerpiece of the video. Ranft, who also manages at the company which took over the OpenSkies airline ticketing operations from HP 3000 servers, said his daughter Katie (above) was showing off MPE gear that will soon be out the door at Pro3K.

"We created this video as we soon we will no longer have the capability to create it," Ranft said. "We are downsizing. I will no longer have all this great old equipment."

Three of the tape drives, including a couple which have HP-IB interfaces. Drives so heavy that our reader Tim O'Neill said he had to remove his 7980s from HP racks using a lift table.

Only last month did I dismantle and ship out the last two remaining 9-track tape units from HP, which were the flat-laying vacuum chamber kind. I think they were Model 7980A (as though HP were going to make B and C models.) They were mounted on heavy duty racking rails in HP cabinets. They had not been used in a while, but were retained just in case someone wanted to read a 9-track.

Old iron is moving out, because the MPE/iX services of the future can be performed using drives so lightweight they'd fit in a lunch pail. Drives hosted on ProLiant servers of current era price lists.

     Ranft said he's moving out his gear including the drives, five HP 3000s of 9x7 and 9x8 vintage, 10 6000-Series disk enclosures, and four Jamaica enclosures including disks.

"We have some DTCs and other cool peripherals, too," he said. "We even run one program that I wrote in BASIC/3000 in 1983 while I was a computer operator at Northern Telecom. This really proves backward compatibility!"

When a community can replace old iron and retain the reliable programs that run financials and more, it's looking forward. More than a salvage job, which is where those vintage devices are headed. Replacement is a rebuild to the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:56 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2015

Video helps with 30-year-old tape operations

Reel Tape Drive video screen capA Facebook page has a new video that assists with decades-old technology. Reel to reel tapes get the how-to treatment on the page of the Pro3K consultancy, a support and operations firm that's run by Mark Ranft. The video shows a restore of a 31-year-old tape.

Using a detailed review of all the steps needed to load and mount a tape, Mark's daughter Katherine demonstrates how to handle the oldest storage technology in the MPE world. While reel to reel was popular, MPE V was in vogue. Some archival backups still have to be pulled from reel to reel. Meanwhile, there are other elderly HP 3000s that will only take tape backups. If a 3000 doesn't support SCSI, then it's HP-IB ready, so to speak. 

Katie RanftIf you've never enjoyed the inner workings of the vacuum loading systems on HP tape drives, you might be fascinated by what you see. There's also a guest appearance of the fabled 4GB disks for 3000s. Katie explains that the standard iPhone has four times as much storage as one of these disk drives.

She also notes that the 31-year-old tape "is four years older than me." Ranft said his daughter has been studying for potential consulting opportunies, and lives in the Chicago area.

Katie might qualify for the youngest person in 2015 who's instructed the world on the operations of an HP 3000. If you visit the Pro3K Facebook page, give it a Like. We like this trend: this is the first ops training for the 3000 ever posted on Facebook.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 09, 2015

Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s

Another way around the dilemma of aging 3000 storage invokes virtual data services. In specific, this solution uses the HP DL360 ProLiant server as a key element of connecting RAID storage with MPE/iX. Instead of older storage like the VA arrays, this uses current-era disks in a ProLiant system.

DL360 Gen 8Because there's an Intel server involved, this recalls the 3000 virtualization strategy coming from Stromasys. But the product and service offering from Beechglen — the HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN — doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data. It also works as an tactical tool for everyday homestead operations.

Beechglen's got both kinds of customers, according to Mike Hornsby. He summed up his offering, one that's available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.

Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.

He adds there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.

The Fiber SAN runs CentOS Linux, and the MPE/iX LUNs are files.

Hornsby said the additional storage also allows splitting the traditional 'store to tape' backup into two steps, first to disk, and then to tape. Or to a network server, or to cloud storage. "The idea is to have an onsite backup," Hornsby said, "and an offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes."

One of the most frustrating times in the support role is waiting for tapes to be delivered from offsite storage and then waiting for the slow tape to disk restore. So far we have found that replacing the storage, and providing cloud storage, is less expensive than the onsite maintenance and the tape handling and storage costs.

He adds that "many high end HP 3000s are still using Mirror/iX, Model 20s, VA arrays, and 12H arrays, not to mention dozens of unprotected disks. The vast majority of hardware service calls and system down times are due to replacements of disks and tape drives."

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

January 08, 2015

Keeping 3000 Storage On The Road

Since data storage is one of the biggest assets in any HP 3000 environment, it's fraught with risks and opportunities. Those are devices with moving parts that capture, exchange, and archive the precious data. A moving part wears out. A good plan to Sustain a 3000 site includes a strategy to protect that data.

Mr. ToadIf a system goes down these days, it's most like to do so because of a storage device failure. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen just reported that, "in our support efforts for both onsite services and being largest provider of hosted HP 3000s, the main ongoing issue is storage." Keeping it available and up to date is like keeping a car on the road.

In particular, the recovery time for a 3000 can be extended or limited by how fast the site manager can restore from a backup. The time to receive off-site backup tapes for restoring might be minimal. But a good plan will account for the expected amount of time. Every minute of it costs the company something.

How much should a site pay to reduce downtime? It's easy to imagine overkill until some stakeholder from the business adds up costs of downtime. For the 3000s that still drive ecommerce, it can be thousands of dollars per minute. Even a manufacturing site -- much more of a classic 3000 shop -- will record costs for interrupted manufacturing processes, or the cost of produced goods that can't move toward sales until the 3000 comes back up.

Modern storage strategy offers opportunities to make this amount of downtime so small that it's meaningless. RAID storage is an essential bedrock. But RAID devices in the 3000 world as old as Model 20s, 12H arrays and even some VA arrays are rolling outside of their safe operation lifecycle.

SATA drives power the current generation of storage that's attached to Intel-based servers. SCSI does not. There was a point 20 years ago when SCSI storage for 3000s was considered state of the art -- because it wasn't HP-IB storage any more. That's not true by now. SCSI storage is a walk on the wild side of reliability. Unprotected SCSI disks are a hairy, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride kind of lark.

Cloud storage is an emerging upgrade, even for HP 3000 sites. Fiber Channel might be dated technology, but it's got prospects for bandwidth and connectivity that SCSI will never attain. The lack of modern storage options has been a significant and bona fide factor in triggering migration projects at 3000 sites. Modern storage is networked, redundant, fast and built upon devices created in the past three years. There are ways to update a 3000's data storage capability. We'll have a report over the next few days about one of them. 

In the meantime, taking a hard look at that data restore downtime is a useful exercise. Better to have a number that pleases nobody than to not know what the number is. A test of a restore is recommended by many systems management experts. From more than 15 years ago, a Scott Hirsh Worst Practices column advised that Backup Is Still Hard to Do. Hard to do well, anyway.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2015

End Days for Antique Disk Drives

HP 3000 servers which use drives made a decade ago are still running. It's not so far back, from a support perspective. Hewlett-Packard was supporting 9-GB and 18-GB units through 2008, and the 36-GB model A5595A through 2009. Those are the end of support dates from the manufacturer. Independent support companies back those models today.

AutoRAID 12HThey do it by replacing devices when they fail, not servicing dead drives. Any 3000s still operating off decade-old storage units are into magic time: those end days when it's a marvel just to see something that old still crucial to a system. Hard disks are the only moving parts of a 3000, after all. Even the redundant ones will fail, since all drives do.

The 3000 community has been facing its aging hardware a very long time. People were checking during 2006 on those end of support dates for the 3000's most common boot drives. A call for sensibility at the time went out from Donna Hofmeister.

It's more than time for many MPE shops to "smell the coffee," or perhaps more accurately, smell the looming disaster. If your disc drive is less than 36GB, odds are it's ready to be replaced. It's past it's expected life span, and you're living on borrowed time. If you got any plans to keep on running these systems, it's more than time to get onto new drives. With how prices have dropped, it's hard to not justify going to new drives. 

Hofmeister added "I wouldn't want to have to explain why, following a disc failure, you can't get your MPE system running again." Replacing these wee discs with newer technology is possible, of course. Little SCSI drives that can be seen by MPE are harder to find by now, though. HP's last significant extension of MPE was to expand the server's vision of storage units, so the 3000 could see devices up to 500GB. But half a terabyte is a small drive today.

Finding an AutoRAID 12H replacement gets tougher still. Not tough to locate. Tough to justify.

The AutoRAID disc units were a small-shop marvel, redundant storage you could pick up for under $20,000. Today that device is still on the used market at about $1,000. But making the investment in antique storage is more costly than the purchase price. Replacing what's failed with something just as old isn't buying a lot of time.

Homesteading shops might not need a lot of time, of course. If they're heading to a migration solution, that overtime might be as short as several months. Here in the early days of 2015, the ecommerce retailers are finally un-freezing systems for makeovers. It's beyond the spending holidays now. They can make changes to their systems, including replacing them altogether.

One way to skip over the end days for these drives is to make a transition to emulated 3000s. That's a homesteading solution with a real strategy. New Intel hardware, current-era storage. The hardware support might even be worked into existing PC-style enterprise hardware agreements. There would be nothing to explain if that generation of hardware failed.

A drive built a decade ago would provide another kind of story to tell.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2015

Essential Steps for Volume Reloads

When a 3000 drive goes dead, especially after a power outage, it often has to be reloaded. For example, when an LDEV2 has to be replaced. For a cheat sheet on reloading a volume, we turned to our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper.

By Gilles Schipper

Assuming your backup includes the ;directory option, as well as the SLT:

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

Perform START NORECOVERY

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

The reason for limiting ldev1 to 75 percent is to minimize the otherwise already heavy traffic on ldev 1, since the system directory must reside there, as well as many other high traffic “system” files.

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 05, 2015

Securing cloud promises hardware freedom

Threat-manager-sensor-imageRackspace's cloud hosting security can include Alert Logic Threat services for enhanced security. MPE managers are likely to insist on the advanced service.

If a 3000 manager or owner had one wish for the new year, it might be to gain hardware assurance. No matter how much expertise or development budget is available in 2015, not much will turn back the clock on the servers -- the newest of which were built not very long after Y2K. The option to escape these aging servers lies in Intel hardware. Some sites will look at putting that hardware out in the cloud.

Say the word cloud to an HP 3000 veteran and they'll ask if you mean time-sharing. At its heart, the strategy of the 1970s that bought MPE into many businesses for the first time feels like cloud computing. The server's outside of the company, users access their programs through a network, and everyday management of peripherals and backups is an outsourced task.

But the cloud of 2015 adds a world of public access, and operates in an era when break-ins happen to banks without defeating a time lock or setting off a security alarm. Time-sharing brought the HP 3000 to Austin companies through the efforts of Bill McAfee. Terry Floyd of the MANMAN support company The Support Group described the earliest days of MPE in Austin.

The first HP 3000 I ever saw was in 1976 at Futura Press on South Congress Avenue in Austin.  Bill McAfee owned Futura and was a mentor to many of us in Texas. Futura was an HP reseller, and aside from a wonderful printing company, they wrote their own software and some of the first MPE utilities. Interesting people like Morgan Jones hung out around Futura Press in the late 1970's and I can never thank Bill and Anne McAfee enough for the great times.

Series 42Jones went on to found Tymlabs, the creators of one of the bulwark MPE backup products. The HP Chronicle, the first newspaper devoted to the 3000, processed its typesetting using that Futura server. For all practical purposes this was cloud computing, delivered off mid-range HP 3000s such as the Series 42 (above), even deep into 1984. But 30 years later, this category of resource has become even more private and customized. It also relies on co-located hardware. That's where Rackspace comes in. It's the target provider for the new cloud-based installations of Charon. The Rackspace mantra is "One size doesn't fit all." That harkens to the days of time-sharing.

While other companies have competitive offerings in cloud services, Rackspace has the advantage of building its business model around extreme customization and significant expertise in VMware. That VMware service forms the bedrock for the virtualization in Stromasys' product.

VMware management may not be tribal knowlege at some 3000 sites which are looking to move away from older hardware. Rackspace touts proactive management "24x7x365 by our VMware Certified Professionals. You get VMware's cloud management platform to build upon, while maintaining control through the vCloud web portal and vCloud API-compatible orchestration tools." Rackspace adds that it's one of the largest VMware-powered service providers in the world.

Security can't be virtual, however. Locking down access is as much a matter of physical security of storage and hardware as it is firewall protections. Just last summer, a survey of IT managers across the industry reported that "executives are not sure they can trust what cloud providers are telling them," according to an IDG-Unisys research paper.

Rackspace offers virtual private networks, Sophos anti-virus software, distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection and something called Alert Logic Threat Management in a Security Plus package. Stromasys technical presale manager Alex Cruz said that Rackspace has the flexibility that the virtualization vendor believes will be needed to host MPE servers in the cloud.

Calculating the capital outlay for moving MPE into virtualization is likely to put managers of 3000s into some advanced spending to master extra security. A cloud service provider like Rackspace can standardize that essential feature, even while it customizes the hardware and storage configuration that Charon for MPE will require. "Integrated vulnerability scanning," says the Rackspace brief on its security, "helps you identify possible points of entry and correct them, and assists you with meeting regulatory compliance requirements."

That survey of IT executives from last year reports that 70 percent of them believe security is the biggest obstacle to hosting from the cloud. HP 3000 sites might not have the most stringent enterprise-level security for their Intel-based systems in place already, so engaging a company that promises "Alert Logic security analysts" is one way to pursue expertise. Rackspace says its security services will help customers pass PCI bank-card and HIPAA healthcare audits. Some HP 3000s are still driving ecommerce companies, even more than four years after HP's support ended for MPE. Rackspace says it's the No. 1 hosting provider to the Top 1,000 Ecommerce websites.

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

January 02, 2015

What to Expect in Performance This Year

Legacy systems like the HP 3000 remain entrenched around the world. The reason? Their durability and their standing in the company's business legacy. What's a business legacy, you ask? It's the history of what kinds of servers and programs get used to process business. All MPE/iX applications are business legacies by now. They're more than a decade old. They run, and their performance is adequate. There seems like there's little to be done about making them faster.

Orders-of-magnitudeBut employing an emulator to replace the Hewlett-Packard models of 3000s can change that. The promise is more performance from more modern Intel-based hardware. There are limits, however. Here in 2015, the performance gain is limited by the size of 3000 that's running this week, the first of the new year. This week we read about "orders of magnitude" performance gains, but that's usually a number only applicable to a first order -- times 10. And even that might be a few years away for 3000 managers.

Given enough time, everyone who uses a 3000 emulator will outstrip the raw processing power of the HP-brand iron. Those HP boxes will never get faster, unless you can top them up on memory. In contrast, the Stromasys emulator will get more efficient; 2015 sees a newer, faster version now available. And Intel-based iron will grow stronger, too, at its top-end. The phrase "top-end" matters a great deal. If you're using top-end HP hardware, it might be too soon to look for a significant performance boost from virtualization.

Top-end means the fastest N-Class servers. Those will need to be replaced by top-end Intel hardware: servers with many available CPU cores, and many CPUs. Faster might not be a goal, however, for 2015. As-fast might be enough, to enable a manager can leave behind the aging HP iron.

It's easy to misunderstand. At a website called The VAR Guy, written by former InfoWorld editor in chief Michael Vizard, Stromasys' potential got noticed. "After all," he said, "the latest generation of Intel processors provide orders of magnitude more performance than VAX, Alpha, HP 3000 or Sparc systems that can be more than a decade old." Um, sometimes. But when you're working at the top-end of the old hardware, orders of magnitude is a far-off, wishful goal. If your HP 3000 has a tiny 3000 Performance Unit rating of 2.7, for example, then the first order of magnitude would be 27. The next order is 270, and so on. Several orders may be possible — at the lower levels of 3000 performance.

Simply beating the existing performance is still a valid desire, though. Matching what you're using — so you can leave old hardware behind — is a bona fide need in the 3000 market.

Come to the brink of replicating HP's 3000 performance, and a 3000 owner will have enough reason to invest in a new hardware and new software cradle for MPE. Making those purchases are the requirements of taking a 3000 into emulated, virtualized status.

But The VAR Guy does more than overlook the real-world limits on the current virtualization product. It seems that virtualization is somehow a wedge into bigger replacement plans.

For solution providers, the ability to move those legacy applications to x86 servers should create an opportunity to have discussion not just about saving a few dollars, but more importantly, how that money might then be reallocated somewhere else in 2015.

As we come to the close of 2014, reducing legacy infrastructure costs is almost always top of mind for the internal IT department. Unless they can achieve that goal they typically don’t have enough funds available to allocate to new IT projects.

We're not sure what The Guy means by solution providers. Stromasys is a solution provider, but it doesn't have any interest in discussing the reallocation of money to other operations in 2015. The Charon solution is a replacement with a future that emulates technology driving the business. There will be enough new spending in a virtualization plan anyway, buying new Intel iron that's fast enough to match the old HP iron's performance.

What's certain is that "solution providers" doesn't mean the vendor of the legacy system. Not for the HP 3000. A few years ago, yes, HP was announced as a Global Partner of Stromasys. But we don't know of any stories where HP's introduced Charon to a 3000 site. As a vendor, HP's not going to help a 3000 site much if a customer installs Charon. The extended life of any MPE applications might give a customer more time to migrate.

Other parts of the solution lay in the apps. Some application vendors have abandoned their 3000 apps. Those who have left not solution providers, either.

In short, any solution provider who offers an emulator to reduce legacy infrastructure costs won't have ideas for how to better spend money being saved in dumping old hardware. The old hardware is paid-for. There's not an immediate savings in this equation, unless you can reduce 3000 hardware support spending, by a lot. You only get funds to allocate to new IT projects by cutting costs that don't require any investment to do those cuts. Reducing staff comes to mind. People want to cut out old hardware — not the old hands who know how to manage the hardware's OS.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:37 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 31, 2014

Top Stories Lead MPE Into New Year

The remains of 2014 are down to just a few hours by now, a year that saw the virtualization of the system take new wings while migrations proceeded at a slower pace. We reported stories about surprising homesteading sites and new players in the community which counts MPE as a significant piece of history — and for some, a platform into 2015 and beyond.

But no story of the past year would be complete without a passage devoted to the passing of the enterprise torch into a smaller Hewlett-Packard. The company that created MPE and the 3000 passed the total management mantle to CEO Meg Whitman in the summer, making her chair of the full entity. A few months later it divided itself along enterprise IT and consumer lines. The year 2014 will be the last when HP stands for a complete representation of the creations of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. By this time next year, a spinoff will be vying for attention of the computing marketplace.

1. HP decides to break up the brand

HP Enterprise Corp. StrategyAnd in one stroke of genius, it became 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. October brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. But one of the others selling personal computers and printers usually connected to PCs is a new generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink. Genius can be simply a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.

The company to be called Hewlett-Packard will concentrate on a business lineup that harkens back to 1984 a year when the LaserJet joined the product line. CEO Meg Whitman said Hewlett-Packard, devoted to enterprise business, and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been useful 13 years ago, when the lust for growth demanded that HP buy Compaq and its PC business for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.

2. 3000's time extended in schools, manufacturing

SB County schoolsThe San Bernadino County school district in California was working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015. That has now been extended to 2017

And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.

In another market segment, 3M continues to use its HP 3000s in production. What began as the Minnesota Minining & Manufacturing Company is still using HP 3000s. And according to a departing MPE expert Mike Caplin, the multiple N-Class systems will be in service there "for at least several more years."

In both cases, the 3000 is outlasting the deep expertise of managers who kept it vital for their organizations. It's taking a :BYE before a :SHUTDOWN, this longer lifespan of MPE than experts.

3. Virtual Legacy Carries MPE from Past to the Future

Stromasys took its virtualization of enterprise server message to VMworld's annual conference, where the event was pointing at cloud-based Platform As A Service (PaaS) for the years to come. The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 operates on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, working inside a Linux cradle. Plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work.

4. A court and a city adjourned their terms with 3000s

In Kansas and in Mountain View, Calif., government organizations stepped off 3000s to move onto replacement applications. At the District Court in Topeka, Kansas, the HP 3000 "has outlived its life expectancy, making it essential that we either move on to another system or we go back to paper and pen," according to a statement on the court's website. Converting data was to be the crucial part of the migration — and will be the crucible of every migration to come. Waiting for a migration to do data cleanup is foolish, according to ScreenJet's Alan Yeo. "Yes, sure you don't want to move crap in a migration," said the CEO. "But you probably should have been doing some housekeeping whilst you lived in the place. Blaming the house when you got it dirty doesn't really wash!"

5. Replacing rose up as the migrator's primary choice

Even before the end of 2014, plenty of IT shops have closed down changes for the calendar year. Many 2015 development budgets have been wrapped up, too. Among those HP 3000 operations which are still considering a strategy for transition, there's only one assured choice for most of who's left. They'll need to replace their application. Not many can rehost it.

6. 2015's migrations will creep onward, some in virtual mode

There are still HP 3000 shops out there in manufacturing, even online retail, that are facing decisions about how to migrate off the platform. Plenty of shadow-bound 30000 systems are running aspects of major corporations. For many others, a verbal and white-board commitment to a migration is all that can be mustered for now. Tools out there today, as well as available expertise, take a migration from virtual to reality.

In the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.

Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group is not forced have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates any need to go live with changes.

In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has something like a 2017 target date.

What are the key stories from your chapters of the 3000's 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

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

December 30, 2014

2014's Top Stories: Recapping A Year

Here in the days that lead to the end of 2014, it's a journalism tradition to review events whose effect will last beyond their original dateline. We're not about to break tradition, a feeling that 3000 managers and owners will understand. We also invite you to nominate an important event below, in our comments.

1. Unicom sees PowerHouse as iconic real estate

The new owners of the PowerHouse software products began talking about their end of 2013 purchase in a way that the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems was still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.

2. The Unix-Integrity server business keeps falling

Sliding-cliffHP's proprietary replacement for the 3000 continued its slide. As early as February, HP's CEO said "We continue to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex. "We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future." By year's end the management team had given up on any growth via Unix — because the product line has dropped 20 percent of sales per quarter.

3. Applications swallowed by big vendors tread water

Even the migrated apps such as Ecometry were not immune to a classic business development: smaller bases of application customers seeing road maps get cloudy once they slid into a big product portfolio. JDA and Red Prairie merged, and even a year later the former, which owns the Ecometry suite, had no road map on how the app would grow and go forward. JDA is large enough to join forces with Red Prairie in early 2013. But not large enough to deliver a futures map for the Ecometry customer. These customers have been loath to extend their Ecometry/Escalate installations until they get a read on the tomorrow they can expect from JDA. "I think it's possible there's nobody left in JDA who can even spell MPE," said MB Foster CEO Birket Foster, "let alone know what it means to Ecometry sites."

4. Patches to repair MPE's bugs are still available

They're just customized now. A 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s.

5. An iPad 3000 terminal emulator gained NS/VT

The only tablet-ready terminal emulator for HP 3000 users crossed over even further into the language of MPE. The 1.1.0 version of TTerm Pro adds HP's 3000-specific Network Services/Virtual Terminal protocol. The new feature means that many more MPE applications will run without a flaw over the Apple iPad tablets. The development showed that even an operating environment shucked off by its vendor four years ago still gets consideration for development from third parties.

6. A Northeastern food cooperative plugged in CHARON

A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity. The Dairylea $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance and risk management — became an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software, while boosting reliability.

Tell us below: What was the most important development of your 2014?

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

December 29, 2014

Moving Pictures of HP's Contribution Origins

10,000th

HP's Origins video, filmed nearly a decade ago, includes this picture of employees celebrating the shipment of the 10,000th HP 3000, sometime in the 1980s.

You can't find it on the Hewlett-Packard website, but a 2005 movie called "Origins" is still online at a YouTube address. The 25-minute film chronicles what made HP such a groundbreaker in the computing industry, and it includes interviews with the company's founders. Bill and Dave didn't appear much on camera, being businessmen of a different era and engineering managers and inventors at heart.

The link here takes the viewer directly to the Contribution segment of the story. While it is history by now -- the company transformed itself to a consumer and commodity goods provider thanks to the me-too of CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd -- the film represents ideals that anybody in the business can set for their own career or decisions. Joel Birnbaum, whose HP Labs leadership helped deliver RISC computing for the business marketplace for the first time in 3000, sings his praise for the love of making a product that could make a difference.

Opening Up VideotapeBut that contribution era passed away once uniformity became the essential feature of enterprise computing. By the middle '90s, HP was busy selling the 3000 as another tool that could handle open systems (read: Unix) computing. In truth, Unix was no more open than any other environment, including Windows. But Unix had some similarities between versions that could be leveraged by large enough software developers. In the videotape at left, HP offered an interview from an unnamed SAP development executive. He said his application suite had been through a test port to MPE/iX, and he believed the software had 99.5 percent code compatibility from Unix to MPE.

That half percent might have presented a technical challenge, of course. It would be thousands of lines of code, considering SAP's footprint. The MPE version of the application never made it into the vendor's price list, however. One specific client may have used SAP on a 3000 via that test port, but it was never offered as a manufacturing solution by its creators. HP's enterprise execs very much wanted an SAP offering for the 3000. That creation would have been as me-too as any product could get. "You could run that on a 3000 instead of a 9000" would've been the HP account rep's message in 1992.

SAP's exec on the video admired the 3000 customer community for its understanding of enterprise applications. But a level of misunderstanding lay at the heart of the SAP organization, whose speaker in the video said the database for HP-UX and MPE was the same. IMAGE, of course, was nothing like Oracle or even Allbase, and the latter had only a thimble's worth of adoption in the 3000 community. IMAGE gave that community its understanding of what enterprise applications should do. 

Large manufacturers were using MPE and the 3000 in 1992 when the video was filmed, including General Mills. Making a contribution by exploiting innovations of the computer's environment — well, that's high on the list of essential features. MANMAN, MM II and other apps offered such a contribution from the beginning. At some customer sites, they still do.

The segment that wraps up the video includes a photo of HP employees posing in the shape of the numeral 10,000 to celebrate the sale of the 10,000th HP 3000. Guy Kawasaki, one of Apple's founding braintrust, asserts that HP's DNA was in its people, "and you couldn't kill it if you tried." Any 3000 customer who's migration is headed to HP systems will want that to be true, want it as much as HP wanted a me-too SAP for MPE two decades ago.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:16 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2014

Gifts for MPE Owners This Season

Turned OffThe managers and owners of MPE systems have seen much taken from them over the past decade and more. Vendor development, support that's unquestioned by top management, even the crumbs of MPE security patches and bug fixes. A lot has gone dark in this winter of the 3000's seasons. But here on the eve of Christmas Eve, there's still some treasures under the tree of 3000 life as we know it.

Stromasys-logo-smallFuture hardware. Stromasys has made a business mission out of preserving applications written for MPE. The company has done this with Charon HPA, software whose foundation was laid in 2009 and is receiving an updated, speedier release this year. Companies that are relying on MPE apps for many years to come -- so many they need brand-new hardware to host the 3000's OS — can count on the software that makes Intel behave just like PA-RISC. You won't be able to run a company on a laptop, but MPE boots fast enough on what we once called a Portable PC to show off this virtualizer in the boardroom.

Screensie MBFA logoA future for applications. Migration can be messy, feel risky and command a big chunk of budget and human resource, but several companies are still devoting their business missions to transitions. MB Foster comes to mind first here, and there are others with tools, like ScreenJet. More than 12 years after HP announced its pullout, and with a declining number of migrations in the offing, companies still deliver expertise on the biggest IT project a company will ever undertake. Something like doing an aircraft engine replacement while at 30,000 feet.

Series 928Software and help for it. On the cusp of 2015, you can still purchase software that manages enterprise-caliber jobstreams, the tools to manage the 3000's filesystem or its database, and more. The ones that aren't sold still have support lines. Companies like the Support Group host hot spares and help manufacturers keep stately legends like MANMAN online. Even a 20-year-old 9x8 deserves some respect while it continues to manage the finances and production of a competitive manufacturing entity.

SwitchboardSystem-wide support. As the numbers of MPE-savvy pros decline, outsourcing for expertise becomes essential for any customer homesteading long-term, or even through a migration project. Pivital Solutions, and companies like Allegro and Beechglen, ensure older HP iron and the static, classic MPE/iX 7.5 behave as planned. There's even a resource in Applied Technologies that can integrate open source software, ready for MPE and part of any larger project.

That's a lot to unwrap and admire for a 40-year-old computer, all still open at a time of year when presents are present. We're delighted to keep telling stories like million-dollar virtualization configurations, shiny benefits of data cleansing, or the new players taking over icons like PowerHouse. We're taking the remainder of this holiday week off, celebrating a birthday, the end of Hannukah and Christmas with the family. We'll be back with reports on Monday, December 29.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2014

A Quiet December Week's MPE Ripples

The week of Christmas is a quiet one for business and enterprise IT. Sales calls and installations are at a minimum, companies work with skeleton crews, and announcements of news are rare. But nine years ago the week of Christmas was hot with a 3000 development, one that has ripples even today.

HolidayrippleIn the Christmas week of 2005 — back when HP still worked full shifts over the holidays — the 3000 division released news that HP's support lifespan for MPE would be extended. What had been called a firm and solid date of HP's departure got moved another 24 months into the future. The news was the first unmistakable evidence that the migration forecast from HP was more wishful than accurate.

As it said it would offer basic reactive support services for 3000 systems through at least December of 2008, the vendor confirmed that it would license MPE source code to several third parties. The former put a chill on migration business in the market, sending vendors -- services and software suppliers alike -- looking for non-3000 markets to service. The latter gave the support community a shot of fresh competition over the afterlife beyond the Hewlett-Packard exit.

In one of the more mixed messages to the community, HP said customers should work with the vendor to arrange support until migrations could be finished. The 3000 division also said its license for MPE source was going to "help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners." It would take another three years, beyond the closing of the MPE lab, for that source code to emerge.

The source license was limited to read-only informational use, mostly to write patches. The extension of HP's profitable support business put a kink in both migration partners' business as well as the very third party support partners the source was supposed to help.

Officially, the word from HP was that "We see that most HP e3000 customers are moving to new HP solutions, and are working closely with HP and our partners during their transitions." But Windows was moving into the spot that HP swept clean by announcing an MPE exit. An extra two years to make a migration didn't bring more ex-3000 shops into HP environments, unless they were running Windows on HP hardware.

At that time, we reported that the extension of HP's support for the 3000 -- a rollback of the "end of life" as the vendor called its exit — had already been on offer for the biggest 3000 customers.

MB Foster, a North American Platinum migration partner, said the offer of extra support was "one of the worst-kept secrets in the marketplace," according to founder Birket Foster. The extension of HP support doesn't change the business model at Speedware, or MB Foster, according to their officials. But offering basic level reactive support won't meet some customers' needs, Foster added.

While some customers will welcome the potential for more time to migrate, Foster said the HP announcement is introducing some confusion among others. "We had a customer who looked at this and said it would not be enough to make them supportable — but their senior management felt they could take the extra time," Foster said.

The offer has ripples to this day because the migration partners heard the screeching of brakes all through the market on projects. Billings evaporated that would have helped companies still supporting MPE software. It would take another seven years for the migrations to dwindle enough that Speedware announced it was reorganizing as Fresche Legacy, and start embracing transformations for the IBM AS/400 market.

As for the impact on support of 3000s, HP was suggesting that third parties could be part of an HP-branded support offering. 

HP it still considers third parties to be a potential part of its own service supply chain for the HP 3000. For the moment, however, the HP support customers get will come from an HP employee or contractor. Third party support actually now takes a step up in a comparison with the just-announced 2007-08 levels of service. Most companies offering support won’t charge as much as HP to deliver mission-critical support.

Third parties never became part of HP's support products. These independent companies found that HP wouldn't leave the field when its clock was supposed to run out. The vendor chose a next-to-Christmas announcement date to de-emphasize its moving of the goalposts.

As for the relative silence from the customer community, it might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, next year's 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change options for 2007.

It’s too bad this announcement didn’t come when more people were listening, still able to allocate budgets. But HP did more than its last two updates to OpenMPE's requests. In those instances, responses came in the form of postings to mailing lists. This time out there was PR support, and an outreach to business analysts and the mainstream IT press. You’d think the vendor had something to sell here, like goodwill in a holiday season — or another couple of years of support.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:45 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2014

Making a New Case Against Old Hardware

Try to Order PartsIt won't make the resellers of HP's 3000 hardware happy, but Stromasys has started to make a strong argument against preserving the life of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware. In a link inside a video that was attached to a 2015 happy holidays message, we've spotted a 96-second summary that shakes the bones of the assurance there's plenty of parts in the world to support aging 3000 systems.

Maintaining the original MPE-based systems from Hewlett-Packard is risky and difficult, the commercial that's hosted on the Vimeo website says. The software is worth preserving, it continues, and it notes more than 5,000 companies have used the Stromasys Charon technology to enable hardware emulation. The majority of these Stromasys clients have emulated Digital's server hardware to preserve VMS applications.

Lower than full migrationOf course, there's a mention of emulation's savings versus a full migation. For the customers who are leaving the HP 3000 because the hardware's old, this point might have some traction. The level of support from the original hardware vendor, as well as the end of HP's 3000 manufacturing, drove a significant number of migrations in the past. The Stromasys argument states that with new hardware, an application suite can be preserved. Customers who remain on their homesteaded systems often say they'd be happier if their futures didn't include the expenses and risks of migrating.

There's a short reference to cloud-based Charon installations amid the message, too. In that level of solution, investment in the powerful Intel-based hardware is exchanged for a typical cloud-rental fee. In some cases, the investment in the hardware required to emulate HP-branded 3000 servers can be substantial.

Most interesting, Stromasys now has offered MPE support among the services it sells. It's right there alongside VMS and Solaris software support. The company hasn't issued a press release and there aren't details immediately available on the levels of operating system support, or the staff which will be supplying it.

The well-produced video ad makes its argument for other systems besides the 3000. VAX, Alpha, and Solaris servers from Digital and Sun also have customers who won't be able to carry hardware forward indefinitely. VMS has a home in the Integrity server line for awhile, but that looks like a future of less than six years. MPE's fate on the HP hardware is more certain and less hopeful unless a customer has good third party support for the Hewlett-Packard servers and the operating system — which is what makes the new offer of MPE support most interesting. The new year of support options seems to have started already.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:14 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2014

Essential Skills: Using Password Vaults

Editor's note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for these multi-talented MPE experts.

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP

Passwords are always a challenge for security professionals. Why is creating a secure password so difficult? More importantly, how can a user tell if their password has been stolen? Typically, when all the damage has been done and the password has been used by someone else. At this point in time it is too late. One way to resolve this is to have a password vault such as KeepPass or 1Password.

VaultA vault is a good investment of your time. A security breach that might result from having no vault might be difficult to even detect. It might be that the time the breach is discovered may not be the first time the hacked credentials were used. This might be how many times a stolen credit card is used before the owner gets the bill. Second, the hacker could have hacked the password and is just keeping it for later use or sale. One of the preventative measures for this is to require users to periodically change passwords. 

This changing strategy can stem the use of stolen passwords and also prevent the future use of any that have not yet been exploited. From a user's perspective, though, generating multiple passwords every 60-90 days just compounds the passwords nightmare.

As a security professional I have seen several solutions that users concoct to try and get around this issue. One common one is to write them all down and hide the resulting list. It turns out there are not that many good hiding places. Under keyboards, behind pictures, inside speakers, taped to the underside of a drawer or chair, back of a bookcase do not qualify as good locations. Also, many users forget to update the sheet with new passwords. Another approach is to create a text file, e.g. shopping_list.txt, and put everything in there. A quick search of the most frequently used files normally finds those. Plus if the hard drive crashes, and the file is not backed up, new ones have to be set up all over again. 

A variation of the last theme is to use a password vault. This is a method where the password information is stored on a file, but the file is encrypted. In this case only one password is needed, to decrypt the vault, and access is granted to all of the other passwords. The most ubiquitous form of encryption is AES - Advance Encryption Standard. AES256 encryption is adequate for most users.

However, one word of caution. If the password used to encrypt the vault is easy to guess, then the contents are at risk. 

Another challenge is storing the password vault file on the computer hard drive -- it does not mitigate the risk of when the drive crashes. (They all crash eventually.) This can easily be overcome by storing the password vault on a cloud storage location. Since the vault file is encrypted, this significantly reduces the impact if it is stolen from the cloud drive. As long as the master password is strong.

Vaults can also help protect you from key-loggers, a program that runs in background and simply copies all of the keystrokes onto a hidden file. A new variation of the Citadel Trojan virus is specifically targeting password vault applications with a key-logger. A password vault solution has some protection against password loggers. The vault can be built on a different machine and placed in the cloud. Once opened from the cloud on the user's system, the password is cut and pasted into the login screen.

Finally, there is a problem that a key-logger will be targeted at the master vault password. This can be mitigated by using two-factor authentication. In addition to the password, the user is required to provide a digital certificate. This specialized encrypted file can be stored on a removable storage device, USB, and accessed at vault login time. Without the password and the digital certificate file, the person trying to access the vault is thwarted.

A quick search on the Internet for Password Vault or Password Manager will result in a lot of options.  Here are some criteria to be considered when choosing a password vault applications.

1) Strong encryption - e.g. AES 256.

2) Can store the vault file in the cloud

3) Runs on multiple platforms. Allows users to get access on desktop or mobile devices

4) Protection elements against keyloggers

5) Allows 2 factor authentication

6) Password generator (Optional -- caution, these normally provides secure but hard to remember passwords)

7) Browser import capability (Optional -- provides a way to import store browser passwords)

8) Password strength indicator (Optional --give a measure of the ease to which the password can be guessed)

Using a password vault will solve a lot of security problems associated with today's Internet world. Taking the storage of passwords to a secure level results in a solution that is easy to use, secure, and readily available. Plus it gets around that common problem, “Honey, what is the password for the banking site again?”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:34 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2014

Big, unreported computing in MPE's realm

When members gather from the 3000 community, they don't often surprise each other these days with news. The charm and challenge of the computer's status is its steady, static nature. We've written before about how no news is the usual news for a 40-year-old system.

Pegged gaugesBut at a recent outing with 3000 friends I heard two pieces of information that qualify as news. The source of this story would rather not have his name used, but he told me, "This year we actually sold new software to 3000 sites." Any sort of sale would be notable. This one was in excess of $10,000. "They just told us they needed it," my source reported, "and we didn't need to know anything else." A support contract came along with the sale, of course.

The other news item seemed to prove we don't know everything about the potential of MPE and the attraction of the 3000 system. A company was reaching out for an estimate on making a transition to the Charon emulator. They decided not to go forward when they figured it would require $1 million in Intel-based hardware to match the performance of their HP 3000.

"How's that even possible?" I asked. This is Intel-caliber gear being speficied, and even a pricey 3000 configuration shouldn't cost more than a quarter-million dollars to replace. It didn't add up.

"Well, you know they need multiple cores to replace a 3000 CPU," my source explained. Sure, we know that. "And they had a 16-way HP 3000 they were trying to move out."

Somewhere out there in the world there's an HP 3000, installed by Hewlett-Packard, that supports 16 CPUs. Still running an application suite. The value is attractive enough that it's performing at a level twice as powerful as anything HP would admit to, even privately. 

A 4-way N-Class was as big as HP would ever quote. Four 500-MHz or 750-MHz PA-8700 CPUs, with 2.25 MB on-chip cache per CPU, topped the official lineup.

Unix got higher horsepower out of the same HP servers. An 8-way version of the same N-Class box was supported on HP-UX; HP would admit such a thing was possible in the labs, and not supported in the field. But a 16-way? HP won't admit it exists today, and the customer wouldn't want to talk about it either. Sometimes things go unreported because they're too big to admit. It made me wonder how much business HP might've sustained if they'd allowed MPE to run as fast and as far as HP-UX ran, when both of those environments were hosted on the same iron.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:14 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2014

Getting Macro Help With COBOL II

GnuCOBOL An experienced 3000 developer and manager asked his cohorts about the COBOL II macro preprocessor. There's an alternative to this very-MPE feature: "COPY...REPLACING and REPLACE statements. Which would you choose and why?"

Scott Gates: COPY...REPLACING because I understand it better.  But the Macro preprocessor has its supporters. Personally, I prefer the older "cut and paste" method using a decent programmer's editor to replace the text I need. Makes things more readable.

Donna Hofmeister: I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment on this any longer, but it seems to me that macros were very efficient (and as I recall) very flexible (depending on how they were written, of course). It also seems to me that the "power of macros" made porting challenging. So if your hidden agenda involves porting, then I think you'd want to do the copy thing.

There was even porting advice from a developer who no longer works with a 3000, post-migration.

Tony Summers: When we migrated in 2008 we chose Acucobol partly because of its HP 3000 compatibility, including macro support. However had we gone down a different route, I had already proved that I could pre-process the raw code myself and expand the macros before calling the compiler.

Robert Mills, who started the discussion on the 3000-L, said in reply to Donna, “I admit that I do have a hidden agenda, but the main reason does not involve porting.”

For many years I have used macros to make my life easier. When I left the e3000, back in 2008, and did some work on other platforms I found I missed them. I'm now in semi-retirement and have been using the free version of Micro Focus COBOL (a couple of years) and GnuCOBOL (this last year) to write software for friends, family and my own use.

A couple of times since 2008 I had thought of writing by own macro preprocessor to emulate the one on the e3000. A few months ago I decided to do it and release it as open source under the GNU GPL. The development of preprocessor, using GnuCOBOL, is now completed and in final Beta Testing and I'm writing the manual. Was hoping that I could some additional reasons, from others, as to why you would use macros instead of the copy...replacing and replace statements.

Because a port of GnuCOBOL is a available on several platforms, and my preprocessor is written in GnuCOBOL, I see no problem in taking my macros with me nearly every wherever I go. If I end up doing work on a platform that does not support a feature that it is using it shouldn't be to difficult to develop a workaround.

As it turns out, GnuCOBOL is a newer version of OpenCOBOL — a compiler that Donna says bears a close resemblence to COBOL II. (OpenCOBOL has been ported into a commercial product, too, called IT-COBOL.) Adding that she obviously thinks macros are cool, she explained.

Do my mis-firing neurons recall that GnuCOBOL was formerly OpenCobol... which was actually very close to MPE’s COBOL?  (or something like that?)

I inherited a outstanding collection of macros at one job. Many of them were 'toolbox' functions.  Want to center a string and the overall length of the string doesn't matter?  Got a macro for that.  Want to use a 'db' call? Got a macro for that.  These went far beyond modifying code at compile time -- and that's what made them so valuable (at least to me).

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

December 08, 2014

IMAGE data schemas get visualized

Is there any program that will show the network of a TurboIMAGE database? I want to output the relationships among sets and items.

CFAWireframeIn 2011, Connie Sellitto researched the above question, while aiding new programmers who were charged with moving a pet organization's operations to a non-MPE system. Understanding the design of the database was important to this team. Sellitto mentioned a popular tool for PCs, but one not as essential as an IT pro's explanations.

You might try Microsoft's Visio, and you may need to have an ODBC connection to your IMAGE database as well. This produces a graphical view with search paths shown, and so on. However, there is still nothing like a detailed verbal description provided by someone who actually knows the interaction between datasets.

To sum up, we can refer to ScreenJet founder's Alan Yeo's testing of that Visio-IMAGE interplay

Taking a reasonably well-formed database into Visio and reverse engineering, you do get the tables and items. It will show you what the indexes in the tables are, but as far as I can see it doesn't show that a detail is linked to a particular master. Automasters are missing anyway, as they are really only for IMAGE.

My conclusion: if you have done all the work to load the databases in the SQL/DBE and done all the data type mappings, then importing in Visio might be a reasonable start to documenting the databases, as all you would have to do is add the linkages between the sets.

If you don't have everything in the SQL/DBE, then I would say we are back where we started.

ScreenJet knows quite a bit about moving 3000 engineering into new formats. It built the EZ View modernization kit for 3000 user screens that are still in VPlus. Yeo said the ubiquitous Visio might be overkill for explaining relationships.

If you have Adager, Flexibase, or DBGeneral -- or already have a good schema file for the databases -- just generate the schema files and import them into Word or Excel and give them to [your migrators]. If they can't put together the data structure from that, no amount of time you can spend with Visio is going to impart any more information.

Visio has free and open source competition, software which HP support veteran Lars Appel pointed out. "Perhaps Visio has similar 'database graph' features, such as the free or open source tools like dbVisualizer or SquirrelSQL."

Barry Lake of Allegro pointed out that users "may want to take a look at Allegro's DBHTML product, which creates a browser viewable HTML file documenting the structure of an IMAGE database." Allegro's site has an example DBHTML output on its website, although it doesn't draw pretty pictures.

At a more fundamental OS level, Michael Anderson points out to understand the structure of a TurboIMAGE database, "you could use QUERY.PUB.SYS, then issue the command FO ALL, or FO SETS."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:31 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2014

A Forced Migration, One That's Unfortunate

ImagesThis month in the US includes more than the usual ration of Christmas carols and holiday office parties. This is the first month when we US citizens are renewing our healthcare, all of us at once. It's Open Enrollment! According to my insurance agent, everybody's got to be insured by the end of the month. I'm one of the people who's having an experience like 3000 users got in 2001. Blue Cross is migrating me away from a product that it no longer wants to sell.

The parallels, so far, are pretty close. There was nothing that stopped working with my health plan. Like HP, Blue Cross simply stopped selling it because it wasn't making the vendor enough profit. The plan was not removed because of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). But then, the HP 3000 was not removed because of the HP merger with Compaq. These were simply business decisions, by HP and by Blue Cross of Texas.

Business decisions are taken as a result of events that create situations. Insurers must protect profits, in the same way that HP had to protect its ability to grow after it absorbed $25 billion of Compaq. Customers don't get consulted about discontinuing products.

Much like the experience of the 3000 community with the 2001 migration march, my journey to a new plan will trigger more expense, and let Blue Cross earn more by doing less. I'll see about a 20 percent increase in recurring costs -- which might look cheap compared to how much the 3000 migration has cost the companies being forced to move.

There's a difference that's important, though. The active event that's changed the sale of insurance in America comes with federal rules. It now costs at least $395 a year to homestead, as it were, with no insurance at all. That's a fine that can rise as high as 2 percent of your gross income. A similar bill for a company making $5 million yearly in profit would be $100,000. That would be money spent just to stay on a system which the vendor stopped making or supporting.

Thankfully, there's no such fine for homesteading. There's a bill if a site simply stops support of all kind, however. Every computer system breaks down sooner or later, because nothing is built to never break. A company's insurance on its computer operations is support. The 3000 community got an advantage over those of us who've seen their products discontinued. System support got less costly.

Is a computer system as essential as healthcare? It depends who you ask. Companies can get ill enough to die, too. The continued health of information services is essential to good business practices. There's no guarantee that vendor-based computer support, or even R&D, will keep a company fiscally healthy. It goes a long way when a vendor can deliver new hardware, when older systems can get replacement parts (like artificial hips or shoulders), or when the medicine of improved software and cleansed data remain available.

I'm not happy about seeing my product canceled, and just like HP 3000 customers, I know I need a replacement product. Like 3000 sites, I'll be paying for more than one system, during this month's changeover. I wish I could say that I saw other companies get a chance at affordable computing during the prior decade because HP canceled the 3000 product. I didn't see that. It might have looked like seeing a struggling startup get a computer system built upon Windows and driven by HP's ProLiant hardware. That's a Compaq product that has done very well in the 12 years since the merger.

In contrast, I know there are families who are now getting insurance premium help of some kind. They make less than $62,000 for a family of two, and that number gets higher as the family gets bigger. At some level, their insurance product might be free. There's nothing like that in the computer marketplace.

The phrase "taking a bullet" comes to mind while I look at my insurance costs for the coming year. It's a small bullet. Your community took a bigger one, and some companies didn't survive. That's the cost of some discontinued products. Mine won't kill me.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:56 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2014

Cyber-shop for networked storage this week

AmazonAs Cyber-Week -- the extension of Cyber Monday shopping -- continues to unfold this week, the holiday sale might provide new resources for your old 3000. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a powerful enterprise resource, full of value now that disk prices have plummeted. Everything is even lower this week. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has shared his secrets for making NAS an HP 3000 tool.

"Like most HP 3000 shops we were looking for a cheap way to [store many gigabytes of data] — and there was no way we could afford a DLT," he said. Digital Linear Tape boasts massive capacities, but most storage these days is going straight to another disk.

LinkstationYeo said that fundamentally, the method to include NAS as an option involves creating STORE to Disk files, "and then you FTP those STORE files up to your NAS device. A simple half-terabyte (500 GB) RAID-1 NAS device is the equivalent of 40 12-GB DDS tape drives." 

It's a little unsettling to hear how many HP 3000 backups still go onto DDS tapes. Even the DLT tapes are a pain to handle, Yeo added.

A system manager needs to free up enough free disk space on a HP 3000 to do the STORE to Disk files, Yeo explained. "If you haven't got 50 percent free disk space and you're doing a complete backup in one hit, you're going to have a problem," he said.

STORE to Disk speeds are not significantly slower than STORE to tapes. One way to speed up the process is to have a few separate volume sets for these STOREs, sets that are two or more high-speed spindles. HP's got disks today which spin up to 15,000 RPM. Third party disks work with HP 3000s, too, in case HP hasn't got a certified product for your MPE/iX server.

FTP bandwidth can be a bottleneck for some older HP 3000s, sometimes as slow as 10 megabits per second. "You may have a protracted FTP process to your NAS device," Yeo said.

Using NAS is not a substitute for having a good SLT tape for your system in case of disaster. Yeo added that doing an @.@.SYS backup onto the same SLT tape, "so you'll have everything you need when you bring the box back up to get the networking started."

Devices available for HP 3000 NAS use? The Buffalo TeraStation Pro worked in one of Yeo's client projects, and the device starts at $450 for 4 TB. Shop online.

It may seem crazy to be ordering HP 3000 storage devices from Amazon this week. But so much has changed for the HP 3000 customer. Some of the change opens up new opportunities to save money and make this server even more efficient.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2014

Data leads way to migrations, via support

Migration patternThe heart of a 3000 homestead operation is its collection of IMAGE/SQL databases. Almost 20 years ago, IBM was mounting an effort to turn 3000 customers into AS/400 sites. I commented on the effort for Computerworld, "They'll have to do something about converting IMAGE/SQL data, if they expect to have any success." IBM had little luck in that effort, and not a great deal more nine years later, after HP announced an exit date for its 3000 operations.

From a reader and system manager on the US East Coast, we've heard more about data leading the way to the future. At this long-time 3000 site, the systems are getting a new support provider to keep them online and reliable. Not many sites are changing this sort of arrangement these days. It's been almost four years since HP closed its 3000 and MPE support operations in 2010.

A new company will be supporting that A-Class server on the East Coast before long. The new support is going to open the door to a revamped future, however. 

Our purchasers are still in the process of signing up our new vendor for HP 3000 support. What is sad is that part of the deal includes migration of some TurboIMAGE databases to MS Access or something like that, which will lead to the eventual demise of the HP3000.

There is still the chance the new support might extend the 3000's utility, though. Self-maintainers who don't use support run risks that the 3000 doesn't really have to bear. A stable server is just one short-term reward for signing up with a support provider specializing in 3000s, like Pivital Solutions or The Support Group.

"Yes, I hate doing this support upgrade," the manager reported. "But there is the slim chance that the migration will not be done soon enough to meet the needs of customers -- meaning the usage of the 3000 could actually increase in the short term."

Short-term 3000 usage increases are common in any environment where the data is leading the way to a migration. System managers know the writing is on their shop whiteboards when the data starts to move. While using advanced tools like UDA Central from MB Foster, or back in the day, solutions like DB Migrate when it was offered in service contracts from Speedware, data migrations of IMAGE into other database formats take away the greatest asset of the 3000.

Migration solution companies don't often support servers in the same contract. That arrangement can be an artifact of having a more dedicated resource supporting the HP 3000. While they migrate data, some providers can be keeping the 3000 up to date, too. A customer making a migration might look for a 3000-devoted vendor for moving data.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:20 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)