May 22, 2015

The 3000's Growth: Built Upon Basics

HP 250-260IT managers with MPE applications still hold hope of better futures for the HP 3000. The future of the system is the same as it ever was in many places, companies and organizations that protect the value of the custom apps they've built. HP miscalculated the value of these in-house, hand-tooled apps. The vendor's warnings of a shrinking ecosystem placed little value in these home-grown systems.

Tim O'Neill rarely misses a chance to illustrate what HP missed in 2001. When our report on the fate of Carly Fiorina's presidential run emerged, O'Neill wrote about the vitriol aimed at all things HP including Carly.

Despite all the errors and vitriol and despair that HP inspired — continuing to this day and even in this space (where space refers to my space) — the world still could use an operating system dedicated to managing data for business and industry, and doing so effectively and affordably, and without the risks contained in other systems not designed for such real purposes.

With proper system engineering planning, oversight, and new development, and modern hardware (e.g. using the product from Stromasys,) MPE/iX could fill the requirement not being met by a few popular proprietary operating systems and dozens of competing alternatives. In the mode of the HP 260 business system, a New Age HP 3000 from Stromasys could be a dedicated multi-user business system with storage on a SAN of choice.

But what is this HP 260 in O'Neill's memory, and why was it successful in its era of the late '80s and into the '90s? Business Basic drove that system. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies reminded us of what made an HP-designed integrated solution a good enterprise choice.

Stan Sieler of Allegro, owner of a 250, recalled that "The Classic 3000s had BASIC/3000 and BusinessBASIC. The PA-RISC systems certainly could run programs written in those languages, but also had BusinessBASIC/iX." Edminster cast a light onto the attributes of the business of BASIC.

I first worked on 250/Basic at HP's Rockville office, back before the 250s were even shipping to the public.  I worked for a 3000 OEM at the time, and couldn't help but think that the language on that machine beat the pants off BASIC/3000 (from a sophistication standpoint, at least).

Later, I did some support work on the eastern shore of Maryland, where a canning company was using a HP 250 that had a accounting/distribution system written in 250/Basic.  A little more recently than that, I did some support work on a custom system written in 3000/BusinessBasic on a Series 917 that was used for property management.  It was really very interesting how they integrated credit-card processing via a shared Telamon Engine.  Of course, with PCI requirements being what they are, that application would need to have a number of upgrades in order to remain compliant.

I should check and see if they're still using their 3000.   It's unlikely, after all these years - but I've been surprised like that before. 

Edminster noted that the GrowthPower MRP II system from CSI was another application on the 3000 that was written in BusinessBasic. "It's been ages since I've seen that application either, but I did have a GrowthPower customer nearby that I was helping to keep a 3000 running in archival mode," he said. "It actually had been a GrowthPower site, but had converted to a PC-based MRP system. It took nearly a whole rack of PC equipment to replace what one lowly 917 had previously handled."

The funniest thing was that many of the users still preferred to use the 3000's app, and would, if they were allowed to. It actually took a hard drive failure that made it apparent that some were still using the old system for things that they apparently shouldn't have been. The management had me alter the application to allow read-only access to put a stop to that. (We altered the IMAGE database passwords to only allow read access.) That made the management happy, but didn't earn me any friends with the previous clandestine users of the system.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:05 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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May 15, 2015

SSDs in use on 3000s: Virtualized by now

Earlier this week, a 3000 devotee and technician asked if anyone was using solid state disc (SSD) on HP 3000s in place of the aging SCSI drives in most servers. "It sounds like a great concept," said Jon Jonston, who's working on a preservation project for the HP Computer Museum.

We are just looking to restore images onto a disc for demo purposes. So, even powered down life is not important, but cost is. We have found that IDE->CF works great as a hard disc replacement in old DOS PCs. SCSI2SD is a great low-cost solution (for Apple), but doesn't work with HP. We are looking for a low-cost, single disc SSD for HP 3000 computers.

SSD DriveAfter one newsgroup user compared putting SSDs in 3000s to a McLaren racing engine in an SUV, a more plausible solution emerged: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."

But there was a time in another May when SSDs running native in HP's 3000 hardware was a possibility worth investigating.

It was almost six years ago, and the Charon emulator was not yet announced. Extending the future of the HP hardware was more of a necessity for a homesteading user. Stan Sieler of Allegro said he'd be looking into what would be needed to bring solid state storage to MPE.

"I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete' -- but still world's-best -- business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said in May of 2009. "I'm hoping to do some tests in the near future."

Sieler said that those SATA/SCSI adapters would be a crucial part of putting SSD on its MPE feet. "Few SSD drives have SCSI interfaces... hence the SATA/SCSI adapter component," he said. "An SSD with a SCSI interface would look completely like an SCSI disk drive."

This kind of design, to mimic the SCSI interface, would've helped to avoid using the SCSI Pass-Through code HP engineered during 2007. The community still hasn't heard reports of how the pass-through works, and HP said that employing it is "not for the faint of heart."

A computer museum would need to ensure that old hardware could be represented in its original form. An IT shop preserving MPE applications, instead of the platform -- not so much. A virtualized 3000 will do. Craig Lalley checked in to report that his Stromasys Charon installation runs from an SSD.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:58 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 12, 2015

3000 sites of some size still checking in

Last week we were on the hunt for HP 3000 customers of some size. These are organizations that are big enough to be publicly traded. The distinction can be important to any customer who wants to retain their HP 3000 apps after a merger as part of an enterprise-wide portfolio.

Portfolio ManagementA note here on portfolios: they're not just for publicly traded securities. Applications can be managed, portfolio-style. MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster has shared several lessons with the 3000 community on how Application Portfolio Management practices keep a company prepared for discussions about keeping apps, no matter what environment hosts them. The right time to migrate is a question that APM data can answer for any CIOs who are asking about MPE apps.

Sees largest lollipopAs for the 3000 sites of size, three more have checked in. The largest line of candy shops in the US, an online resource for IT products, and a worldwide nutrition company are all current 3000 sites. They all have corporate ownership which must bear the burden of shareholder scrutiny.

The largest candy shop company in the US is See's Candies. Founded in 1921, See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.

(This is the second Berkshire Hathaway 3000-using company we've discovered. Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for years and is also part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.)

Tiger Direct is an operation of the Systemax Corporation, traded on the NYSE. The parent corporation had revenues overall exceeding $3 billion for the current fiscal year. Tiger was acquired and integrated into the corporate IT of Systemax in 1996, the same year the TigerDirect.com website was launched. Like See's, Tiger Direct sells via web outlets directly to customers.

Shaklee manufactures and distributes natural nutrition supplements, weight-management products, beauty products, and household products. Its $150 million in yearly revenues come from operations in the US, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and Japan; the company is traded on the Japan Stock Exchange.

All three of these companies sell to consumers using e-commerce packages. High volumes of transactions are keeping 3000s busy in these shops. The stability of legacy solutions, and the design to manage thousands of sales per hour, are making these companies' success a matter of public record. 

If you know of other publicly traded corporations still using HP 3000s, let us hear about it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 07, 2015

Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too

We've just reported on a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and is using HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running up to 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which the operating system will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at the CALENDAR intrinsic explains its hold on the 3000's far future. But consider that 2028 is not so far away that engineers aren't already conceiving technology for that year. Volkswagen has a concept video about a VW that runs in 2028.

Before that future, though, there's always history. When MPE was created in 1970, it started as a project called Omega. The miracle of this engineering was its use of 32-bit computing, still a novelty at the time. But when HP canceled Omega in favor of a 16-bit 3000 -- a management choice that prompted black armbands among HP staff -- it sealed the server into a 57-year period of service.

That's because, as Vladimir reminded us, 16-bit 3000s left only enough intrinsic room for 127 years of accurate dates. The intrinsic CALENDAR, written for the eldest MPE Segmented Library (SL), uses only 7 bits to describe which year is in effect. That delivers a maximum number of 127 years which you can express, and MPE was built with 1900 as its base for dates.

From HP's Intrinsics Manual:

CALENDAR
date

16-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return)
Returns the calendar date in the following format:
Bits Value/Meaning
7:9
Day of year
0:7
Year since 1900

HP only allotted 7 bits to describe the year for MPE. Who'd expect that the OS would have a lifespan of more than 50 years? Someone who figured newer and better tools would take over completely by then. It's commonplace to believe in the equivalent of flying cars -- Volkswagen's 2028 model concepts are on the Web, and up in YouTube in a video. (Enjoy the Apple Watch-like commands at the 1:45 mark that show how to customize the VW Ego's exterior.)

Maybe cars will fly in some places, maybe not in others. Oh, but for that one extra bit. HP ordered 16 extra through HPCALENDAR in the 1990s, just too late to influence the heart of MPE.

While working in the realm of those original 16-bit MPE intrinsics, "You cannot make less than 9 bits for the date of the year," Vladimir said. "That would be less than 365 days. So that leaves us 7 bits to express the year."

The '90s HPCALENDAR, reaching into the new elbow room of 32 bits, can use as many as 23 bits for the year. That intrinsic will cover 8 million years, even more. HPCALENDAR is available in Native Mode MPE, and it remains the best choice for any new work done on a 3000's applications.

But MPE's existing intrinsics provide the barrier here: the oldest are in Segmented Library (SL) -- and the newer HPCALENDAR is in Native Library (NL). And the only companies with any chance of adjusting the 3000's dates into 2028 and beyond are those which have insight into MPE/iX source. Then there's knowing what to do with it. They must get into the MPE source and recompile it to use HPCALENDAR.

For complete reference, here's the manual page for HPCALENDAR:

NM callable only.

This intrinsic returns the date in the supported
date type code 4 listed in the table, 
“Supported Date Formats.”
Syntax

I32

   date := HPCALENDAR;

Operation Notes

Where date is the 32-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return). This returns the
calendar date in the following format:

Bits Value/Meaning

23:9 Day of year

0:23 Year since 1900

Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir reminded us. It can do operations with DATE. "If you have MPEX, and who doesn’t," he says, "DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."

Vladimir also talks, on his return from consulting trips to 3000 sites, about the level of 3000 knowledge he sees in even long-time users. Management relies on the HP guys to tell them what’s up, and the HP guys don’t know.

"There are all kinds of excuses not to know what you’re doing," he says. He tells of his philosophy about learning. You draw a circle to represent what you know. "Inside the circle is what you know, outside is what you don’t know. You go along the circumference. Only by going along there can you see what you don’t know. So you learn, and you draw a bigger circle, a bigger circumference. The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know."

In converse, consider the smallest circle of knowledge, just a point. Vladimir adds, "When you know nothing, you think you know everything."

No one knows who will be working in the years near 2028 on HP 3000s. But in an era where Amiga computer games can be played on iPhones -- and companies now earn money for such a creation -- it's easy to say we don't know who will break this 2028 barrier. And they might be driving a car called a Volkswagen, and maybe even using a computer called the 3000, and neither will resemble what we know today.

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

May 06, 2015

Big companies still use the HP 3000

SkyscrapersFrom time to time, HP 3000 managers need specifics on the community's use of the 3000. Who's out there of any size who's devoted to making MPE a realistic 2015 business tool? As it turns out, there's an array of current customers who are large enough to trade on the stock market, even while they use an operating environment first booted up before their companies went public.

Size of company is one measure of the 3000's success over all of those decades. Another way CIOs try to gauge the staying power of a server that doesn't have vendor support is to see how many sites count MPE as an essential corporate business tool. This census-style of measure won't impress anybody in an era where Windows Server powers hundreds of thousands of businesses. (Windows Server customers are facing a migration this year, though, one that's not voluntary anymore.) Forced to an estimate, we'd say there are 2,500 HP 3000s running around the world, with about half as many customers.

But this is a computer still in regular use by publicly-traded companies. Several 3000s run at 3M, where they'll be part of the IT environment for a few more years. Manufacturing and ERP are the usual jobs for long-term, large-company MPE systems. But some sites are using the servers for e-commerce, for distribution, and for general finance operations.

One of the higher-profile organizations using the server is AMETEK, a company which is part of the S&P 500. Two divisions run MANMAN on their 3000s. At last report, one of these systems isn't going to power down until 2023 -- just four years before MPE date-management will start to report the last century's first two digits.

Another public site is Measurement Specialties. About a dozen systems are running in the US and in China at a company that was traded as MEAS before it was acquired by TE Connectivity (TEL) last year. 

As we've reported in the past, Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for many years. Cerro is part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.

This brief and incomplete list of 3000 users would not be complete with mentioning Boeing Corporation. Large companies such as these might only use a few 3000s with legacy applications, but a big organization also has a serious mission to contain costs. The expense of supporting a 3000 by an independent company -- for example, Pivital Solutions, an all-3000 provider -- is lower than it ever was from Hewlett-Packard.

Migration is an inevitable choice for a company that looks out over the next 20 years, unless clever technology will resolve that 2027 date problem. But with the rise of the virtual 3000 hardware from Stromasys, not even the age of disk drives will force a transition until then.

The 3000 is also in use by the US Army, an organization that's about as public as any can get.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:25 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 01, 2015

Message Files Editing, DLT Autoloading Tips

What tools can I use to 'edit' a message file without destroying the file? I learned the hard way that if you’re using FCOPY to copy from a message file, it destroys the records read from the message file. Can you "COPY" a message file without destroying the records that are copied? 

François Desrochers says

You can use non-destructive reads by specifying the COPY option on a file equation as in:

FILE MSGFILE;COPY
FCOPY FROM=*MSGFILE;TO=NEWFILE

There's also an FOPEN Aoptions (bit 3:1) to enable the option.

As for editing a message file, the only safe way I know is to extract all the records into a regular flat file, edit it and load it back into the message file.

If it's easy to identify which records to remove, you can use FCOPY.

:BUILD MSG2;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;MSG
:FCOPY FROM=MSG1;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1

Extract records with "Y" in column 1. MSG1 is empty at the end of the task. To use non-destructive reads, do: 

:FILE X=MSG1;COPY
:BUILD MSG2;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;MSG
:FCOPY FROM=*X;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1

MSG1 still has all the original records. 

Use FCOPY's EXCLUDE option to extract all records except the ones with a "Y" in column 1 as in:

:FCOPY FROM=*X;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1,EXCLUDE

I have a HP Q1567A DDS5 auto loader installed on a 987. I installed and configured it on the SE port on the multifunction IO card. I can store files to it fine, but I can't get it to advance each day to the next tape. How do I do this?

Ryan Melander replies

Does it auto-eject the drive when the backup finishes? The reason I ask is I have the same configuration on my account with a DLT7000 autoloader 8/Slot. I have it set up to auto eject after each backup, moving the tape back to its original position. It then auto inserts and mounts the next tape for the next backup time.

Jack Connor notes

I generally set the DLT autoloaders for no circular, stacker mode. This goes through all the tapes in the unit and then stops.

Jim Hawkins says

DEVCTRL.MPEXL.TELESUP should work to set up the eject option. Put it inside your job to be sure that it is set correctly every time.

Gilles Schipper adds,

Specifically,

!DEVCTRL.MPEXL.TELESUP 7 EJECT=ENABLE LOAD=ONLINE

where the "7" is the LDEV number of the tape drive.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:02 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 29, 2015

Linking Yesterday's Data To Today's Server

Yesterday's dataAnother migration is underway in the world of enterprise computing, one that will transport millions of customers. It's not from one OS to another, or even from one model of computer to something much newer. It's a transition from one Windows Server release to the latest, although the latest Windows Server doesn't bear the name of our current year.

Business is making a shift from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012, triggered by applications. The apps are making use of a larger computing space, going from 32- to 64-bit software. And in so doing, these IT shops need an upgrade to their data links. HP 3000s that are networked into a Windows Server enterprise have a newer model of connectivity software to handle this migration.

UDALink is the progeny of MB Foster's ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. Now UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration.

The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."

Foster's product ODBCLink/SE was delivered inside of the MPE Fundamental Operating System. A full-featured version of ODBCLink was available for sale, and that full-edition software became UDALink. The latest version of the UDALink JDBC2 module has support for these changes from the JDBC 3.0 API, "to name a few."
  • Reuse of prepared statement by connection pools
  • Connection pool configuration
  • Savepoint support
  • Retrieval of parameter metadata and auto-generated keys
  • BOOLEAN data types
  • Updating of columns containing BLOB, CLOB, ARRAY and REF
  • Transformation groups and type mapping
  • Database Metadata APIs

The feature list will be important to the application developer who's maintaining 3000 programs that reach into databases across platforms. "The flexibility with the new interface will allow new integrations, and access for all HP 3000 and UDALink customers," Foster said. The most up to date Windows Server release can reach into 3000 databases.

Pricing information and procedures to add the JDBC2 module enhancements are available from the vendor at marketing@mbfoster.com

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2015

Sendmail, Group Purges, and ACD Removal

Is there a proper or "right" way to shut down sendmail?

Donna Hofmeister replies

• Use the Posix kill signal from SERVER.SENDMAIL or any user with SM capability. (The following can be easily turned into a job!)

kill $(head -n 1 /etc/mail/sendmail.pid)

• Only use :ABORTJOB as a last resort! (This is true for all of the Posix things that got ported to MPE)

If you don't need to run a mail server (e.g. sendmail) on your 3000, you shouldn't. In most cases, using a mail client will be "just the ticket." Point the client at your in-house (SMTP) mail server and enjoy.

How can I easily purge all the files in a group without destroying the group structure?

If GRPNAME is the name of the group then either:

1. chgroup GRPNAME and

purgegroup GRPNAME 

Or, purge @.GRPNAME 

[Ed. note: Vladimir Volokh notes this last command does not purge databases from a group, although it purges everything else. You must be an SM user to purge everything in one account from another account. Of course, MPEX's %purge will purge everything, and will report the list of what is to be purged. %purge(ISPRIV) for a selection of databases only, for example.]

How can I convert an SL to an XL?

Jeff Kell and Gavin Scott reply:

You can OCTCOMP an SL, which will make the code in it run in mostly-Native Mode (though using several times the memory) and with exactly the same limitations as the original CM code. OCTCOMP just adds a pre-translated version of the CM code to the end of the file that will be invoked when you run the program or SL on an MPE/iX system.

We have problems accessing the files of one group because someone has added ACD's on all the files within that group. Is there a way to remove them all easily?

Mark Ranft replies

Using MPEX, you can issue the command

ALTFILE @.GROUP.ACCOUNT;DELACD

Keven Miller adds

And if you don't have MPEX, you can use a command file like the one below.

PARM FILES=@, PCMD="ECHO File !"
SETVAR XSI_CMD "!PCMD"
IF FINFO ( "CMDFLST,TEMP", "EXISTS" ) THEN
PURGE CMDFLST,TEMP
ENDIF
FILE CMDFLST;MSG;TEMP;NOCCTL;REC=-40,,F,ASCII;DISC=100000
LISTF !FILES,6;*CMDFLST
FILE CMDFLST,OLDTEMP
SETVAR XSI_CNT FINFO ( "CMDFLST,TEMP", "EOF" )
SETVAR XSI_R 0
WHILE !XSI_R < !XSI_CNT DO
 INPUT XSI_FILE < CMDFLST
 SETVAR XSI_R XSI_R + 1
 SETVAR XSI_FILE RTRIM ( XSI_FILE )

 SETVAR XSI_DO REPL (XSI_CMD, "!", XSI_FILE)
 SETJCW CIERROR=0
 CONTINUE
 !XSI_DO
 IF CIERROR = 0 THEN
    ECHO !XSI_DO
 ENDIF
ENDWHILE
ECHO !XSI_CNT FILES
DELETEVAR XSI_@
PURGE CMDFLST,TEMP

This command file takes 2 parameters. 1. a  fileset (wildcards allowed) 2. an MPE command with a ! exclamation as place holder for the filename It does a LISTF ,6 of your fileset into a MSG file. Then it reads through the MSG file and processes each file with your command.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:18 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 24, 2015

Solutions for Keeping Passwords Fresh

Our management wants our 3000 users to be forced to change their password on a regular basis. Also, certain rules must be applied to the new password. We don’t have VEsoft’s Security/3000, although we do have MPEX. I therefore have two options. 1. Write something myself, or 2. See if there is anything in the Contributed Software Library that will do the job, or can be modified to supply the required solution.

Homegrown and bundled solutions follow. Jeff Vance offered this:

There is a pseudo random password generator available among the Jazz files which knows MPE’s password rules. See RANDNAME. There are also UDCs which force a password to be supplied when using NEWUSER, NEWACCT and NEWGROUP CI commands. These required passwords can be random or user entered with a minimal length enforced. 

Then he added as an afterthought, a strategy to program your own password system:

I haven’t thought about it much, but it seems you could have a password file (maybe a CIRcular file?) for each user on the system. This file would have their last N passwords, and the modified date of the file would be the date their password was most recently changed.

A logon UDC could detect if the password file for that user exists. If not create it and require a new password right then.  If the password file exists then get it’s modified date and compare that to today’s date. If greater than X days then in a loop prompt for a new password. Validate the entered password against previous N passwords and your other rules. Maybe run a dictionary checking program to make sure the password is not common, etc.

Update the user-specific password file with their new password, and then logon the user.

From the support community, Donna Hofmeister weighed in with this advice:

The solution that your management demands is going to cost more for you to develop, implement, or maintain than it’ll take for you to get Security/3000. If you have no choice other than to develop a product, then I’d certainly model it after what VEsoft has already done. That is:

Based on a system-wide UDC, examine all sessions (it is just sessions, yes? By the way, a DSLOGON from inside a job is still a session.) against a ‘database’ (By the way, just how secure is this database?  A real database needs passwords... Who’s going to maintain that? A flat file could be lock-worded, but that’s not a slam-dunk answer.) a database which is looking for the ‘age’ of the password (By the way, are you going to provide an advance warning period?). 

If it is time to change the password, get the ‘new’ password from the user... but writing the rules is a pain, and keeping track of reused passwords is just annoying. Auditors in the states love when you can say the password is one-way encrypted. Dunno what your management is saying for encrypting an MPE password.

Then came a solution rolled up by Paul Christidis

Some years ago I had developed a set of command files that could be used  to require users to have passwords. Later on, mostly as an exercise, I  enhanced the process to age passwords and to automatically assign ‘random’  passwords as they expire.  The random passwords are comprised of  alternating consonants and vowels, they can have a minimum and maximum  length and optionally a random digit can be inserted.

The entire ‘process’ is comprised of a system batch job (should be running  always), a command file that is invoked by a log-on UDC and communicates  with the batch job, a ‘control’ command file that starts and stops the  batch job, a command file to determine the password age and a command file  to generate the random password. Below are the comments from the batch job. They explain some of the details.

!# Author:  Paul H. Christidis
!# Remarks:   This job 'listens' at a message file for any requests to
!#    determine if a user has a password.  Once that determination is
!#    made it passes back to the session an indicator to that effect.
!#    A command of STOP causes the job to terminate.
!#
!#      The request comes via the execution of a command file or a System
!#    wide UDC and it is comprised by the file name where the reply should
!#    be placed and the user's name and account.
!#      This job does NOT return the user's password, it only writes in 
the
!#    message file specified by the client the command:
!#          setvar user_password true/false
!#      The client then executes the command and tests the setting of the
!#    variable 'user_password' to decide what action to take.
!#
!# DATE:    06/08/2004  *** WHILE RETAINING THE ABOVE BEHAVIOR ***
!#   The job logic was changed to assign a new password after 30 days.  A
!# file in the posix space is built using the user's name.  Then at each
!# logon a command file is used to determine the file's age, using its 
modify
!# date, and when it is older than 30 days another command file is used to
!# generate a random password.  Said password is sent back to the session
!# and the user is informed about his new password.
!#
!#   If the 'job/session' name is not to be used in creating the posix 
file
!# that will be used to age the password, then the value of the CI 
variable
!# 'pw_UseSess' should be set to 'FALSE'.
!#
!# DATE:    06/10/2004   [Added alternative aging values functionality]
!#   Alternative aging limits are kept in an ASCII file "pswrdage" 
comprised
!# of 'setvar' commands, for each MPE account, MPE user or Session name. 
It
!# should adhere to the following format:
!#       SETVAR SYS_MANAGER_XTIDIS_pwage   45
!#       SETVAR SYS_MANAGER_pwage          40
!#       SETVAR SYS_pwage                  35
!#
!#  The above have the following implications:
!#    The user's "xtidis,manager.sys" password expires in 45 days
!#    The user's "manager.sys" password expires in 40 days
!#    Any other user of the "sys" account has their password expire in 35 
days
!#    While the 'default' 30 days applies to every other user on the 
system.
!#
!# NOTE 1: Suffix of '_pwage' is required.
!# NOTE 2: A negative or zero setting equals to NO password aging.
!# NOTE 3: The order MUST be 'ActName_UserName_JobName_pwage'.
!#
!# Date:    06/11/2004   [Added code to 'force' a password change]
!#   When the CI variable "ForcePwChange" is set to TRUE in the session 
that
!# executes the command file, the 'passed' code is changed and the batch 
job
!# forces the password change (Unless it was already changed on the same 
day)
!# <---------------------------------------------------->

Dave Powell coded up some of the fine print nicely in his contribution:

It ought to be possible to do everything for free, using just MPE.  Editing the new password is the ugly part, but if you randomly assign it that issue goes away. The next issue is that the :password command seems to like to be purely interactive, as in:

echo oldpass >> tempf
echo newpass >> tempf
echo newpass >> tempf
:password < tempf
password
Command not allowed in noninteractive environment. (CIERR 2500)
PASSWORD WAS NOT CHANGED.

That leaves the altuser cmd, which needs AM cap.  If you don't want a background job (like Paul's suggestion), you can have the command file (called by  your logon UDC) use the echo command to build job with AM cap, which it then streams, kind of like (untested, but I have working examples of cmd-files building other jobs):

ECHO !!JOB ACCTMGR/PASS.SOMEACCT; HIPRI  >> TF
ECHO !!ALTUSER !HPUSER;PASS=!NEW_PASS >> TF
ECHO !!SETVAR STREAMED_BY   WORD(HPSTREAMEDBY,"()",2) >> TF
ECHO !!TELL !!STREAMED_BY Your new password is !NEW_PASS >> TF
ECHO !!EOJ >> TF
STREAM TF
ECHO Please note your new password when it appears
PAUSE 99; JOB = !HPLASTJOB
PURGE TF, TEMP

If I haven't screwed up the fine print too badly, this code in the middle of the password cmd-file runs the job that changes your password, then waits for the job to tell you what the new password is.  The single exclamations before HPUSER & NEW_PASS mean that values that are variables to the session and command-file become hard-wired values for the job.

Before all this your cmd-file checks the date, gets a random password, etc., as posted by others.  After it the cmd-file writes (or just builds) a file that serves as a timestamp.  But I am not too comfy with putting the passwords into a plain-text file, so I might skip that part (remember, the user needs both read and write access to it).  Put the command file in a group that users have xeq access to, but not read/write access.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 17, 2015

Hardware appliance bolsters MPE encryption

Encrypted backupsHP 3000 sites still need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software. There's a reasonable amount of promise in SFTP of today for MPE/iX, but the solution isn't likely to satisfy security audits.

FluentEdge Technologies encrypts data moving through applications including the Ecometry ecommerce suite, as well as databases themselves, using software solutions that tap into apps and don't require any rewrites.

There's also a hardware solution, one that's been tested with the 3000, that offers a universal method to keeping data secure in transit. The 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances. A few years ago, Jack Connor put one of these appliances between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host. Now there's a new version of the device.

Similar to 10ZiG's Q3 appliance, the Q3e is the newest version of this state-of-the-art technology. Providing complete security for backup tapes, the Q3e appliance is designed to be easy-to-use and non-intrusive. Installation takes only minutes and key management is strong, yet simple. For the highest level of security, each Q3e appliance includes a hardware encryption chip that is unique to each customer. The Q3e is available with user selectable AES-128 or AES-256 encryption modes and supports up to four tape drives.

Connor, who supports HP servers at Abtech, found the original Q3 hardware solution provided security that would beat any SFTP transfer option. "I tested an encryption box that sits between the DLT and IO card and it worked like a champ," he said. "It maintained streaming mode and everything."

3000 customers are using their systems in e-commerce applications today, even though some in the community say the credit card processors' PCI DSS security rules might block such use. But the Q3 webpage lists PCI specifically as a security standard served by this standalone box.

10ZiG's Q3 storage encryption solution assists in your compliance with the PCI Standard by protecting your customer's data with encryption. The Q3 storage security appliance encrypts data at rest without effecting your current backup procedures. Installation is quick and key management is strong yet simple.

One of the testimonials on the Q3 webpage comes from the Series i IBM community, a group of servers whose OS is just as unique and specialized as MPE/iX.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2015

Patches Are Custom Products in 2015

Last spring we visited the state of HP 3000 patching and found that new work has been making its way into the customer base — one customer at a time. HP Support once created such custom patches, engineered specifically for the configuration at the customer site. Independent support providers who have access to the MPE source code do this today. It's a elite number of support providers. Ask yours if they've got the source.

Tailored workLast year 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. This mention of MPE bug repair was a reminder, actually, that Hewlett-Packard set the internals knowledge of MPE free back in 2010. Read-only rights to the operating system source code went out to seven companies worldwide, including some support providers such as Pivital Solutions and Allegro Consultants.

The latter's Stan Sieler was watching a 3000 newsgroup thread about the error winding up. Tracy Johnson, the curator of the 3000 that hosts the EMPIRE game and a former secretary to OpenMPE, had pointed out that his 3000 sometimes waits longer than expected after a PAUSE in a jobstream.

I nearly always put a CONTINUE statement before a PAUSE in any job.  Over the years I have discovered that sometimes the CPU waits "longer" than the specified pause and fails with an error.

A lively newsgroup discussion of 28 messages ensued. It was by far the biggest exchange of tech advice on the newsgroup in 2014. Sieler took note of what's likely to be broken in MPE/iX 7.5, after an HP engineer had made his analysis of might need a workaround. Patches and workarounds are a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get 'em if you want 'em.

A workaround is the more likely of repairs for something that's not operating correctly in MPE, by this year. Patches were a free HP 3000 element, and those that HP created still are free today -- unlike the situation for HP's still-supported servers. The dilemma is that the final round of patches HP built weren't tested to HP's satisfaction. Plus, there's no more vendor work on new repairs.

Enter the third party supporters, the companies I call independent support providers. They know the 3000 as well as anybody left at HP, so long as they're a party to the source code for the operating system. In many cases, a binary patch isn't what a customer wants. Such a thing has to be tested, and a lot of production 3000s are under lockdown today. Changes are not invited.

But in the case of an MPE/iX jobstream PAUSE error, there's always a chance for a fix. HP's Jim Hawkins looked at Johnson's problem and ranked the causes Nos. 1-4. Number 4 was "possible MPE/iX bug."

Sieler said that it looked like this was a genuine MPE/iX flaw. What to do, now that the MPE/iX lab at HP -- which once included Hawkins -- has gone dark? Sieler pointed to patching.

After analyzing hxpause, the executor responsible for implementing the CI PAUSE command, I suspect there is a bug in the MPE/iX internal routine "pausey", which hxpause uses. The bug appears to be triggerable by :BREAKJOB/:RESUMEJOB, but I have not characterized  precisely what triggers it.  It is, however, apparently the result of the equivalent of an uninitialized variable.

I believe Allegro could develop a patch, should a customer be interested in it.

Patches beyond the lifespan of an HP lab are a touchy topic. A binary patch, as Allegro's Steve Cooper describes this kind of assignment, is likely to live its life in just one HP 3000 installation. It's a creation to be tested, like any patch.

And now it seems that patches are not only a for-pay item, but something to be guarded. HP even pressed a lawsuit against an independent company when the vendor observed that its patches were being distributed by the indie. No money changed hands in the suit settlement, but the support company said it would stop redistributing HP's patches.

This kind of protective culture from systems vendors is endemic by now, according to Source Direct's Bill Hassell. "This is a hot topic, both for customers as well as third party support organizations," he reported. "There have been very strong reactions from customers to recent statements about firmware restrictions." Hassell, well-known as an HP-UX expert among former Interex user group members, pointed to a handful of articles from HP's own blog and the industry press such as ZDNet, or one from PC World.

But the first one Hassell pointed at was the message from HP's own Mary McCoy, VP of Support for HP Servers, Technology Services. It's titled Customers for Life. In essence, the February posting says HP's firmware only gets an upgrade for "customers with a valid warranty, Care Pack Service, or support agreement."

We know this is a change from how we’ve done business in the past; however, this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for our customers and partners. This decision reinforces our goal to provide access to the latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property, for our customers who have chosen to maximize and protect their IT investments.

In the face of this, and other HP announcements such as ProLiant patch availability, the customers who are commenting at HP's website are not happy. One noted that "the customer segment who will suffer the most from this revision in HP firmware availability will be the small and medium businesses performing their own in-house IT support." Some say the pay-for-patch mandate is only going to drive them to other vendors for small business servers. HP asserts that every vendor is doing this by now.

Enter the indie patching potential for MPE/iX. Binary patches are much more of a possibility when source code is in the hands of a support company. The source for HP-UX, or any other proprietary Unix, isn't in the wild, and the same can be said for Windows. Linux source is always available, of course. Nobody is going to be tagged as a Customer for Life when they choose Linux.

But that's also true of MPE/iX. Enter an indie support relationship and you get the benefits of that vendor's expertise, based upon the level of their understanding of MPE. Leave that relationship and you're not penalized. You're just on the hunt now for another support vendor of equal caliber.

A support company's caliber is measured by the way it conducts its business practices, not just what it knows how to create or fix. This vendor lock-in is something familiar to a 3000 owner. But it was technology, not business decisions, which enforced such lock-in during the 20th Century. The indie companies have a patch for the current era's lock-in error.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:54 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 14, 2015

Finding Your Level of MPE Patches

PatchworkPatches to the HP 3000 never were a popular item in the base of production servers. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen Development once said that "about three things can happen when you patch a 3000, and two of them are bad." In essence, a static 3000 system is a stable system, and managers give away the promise of better features for the certainty there will be no errors or aborts. At least none that the management has not already seen, logged, and worked around.

However, the years which have rolled by have pushed 3000s into new territory. For example, the ability to see larger LDEV 1 drives -- and by larger we mean bigger than 4GB -- only comes through a series of patches. Drives fail, and then replacing them with something not strictly approved by HP is an obvious option.

It's not obvious to determine what a 3000's patch level is, though, considering most of the systems haven't been patched in years.

One of our editors and sponsors pointed out a tool in the 3000 community that can help. To be clear, of course, maintaining independent third party support is one of the best ways to track patch levels. While they can't say it out loud, many support vendors keep a full complement of MPE/iX patches on hand, too.

We asked where some experts are finding HP's patches for MPE these days, and Brian Edminster of Applied Technology pointed out the patch-check tool while he was summing up the state of patching.

I'm not sure how you'd be able to get said patches out of HP, given that the last time I called any of the HP support lines asking about support for a 3000, they thought I was talking about a printer.

I was under the impression that companies that had officially provided contracted MPE support had access to the patches, if they didn't actually have copies of them downloaded and on-hand. My 918 or better systems are all on fully patched for MPE/iX 7.5, so I really hadn't thought about getting patches from HP anymore.

Beechglen has a script that compares your current patch level against what was available, so you know what patches you were "missing."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 13, 2015

How MPE Talks to Its Network Neighbors

Our networking team reports they're going to refresh the hardware on our IP gateways. Our Telecom manager says they will 

  • Change the physical gateway, because the hardware is being replaced
  • Not change the IP address and gateway address
  • Change the MAC address of the gateway (because of different gateway hardware)

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

Jack Connor replies

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

Donna Hofmeister adds

Halt the network (even the system if possible -- because it's almost the same thing) while the larger network work is being done. When the new gear is in place and seems stable, "wake up" the 3000 and watch what happens.

When you halt the network (presuming you're not taking the box down) be sure to halt/quiesce network-dependent things (like jobs/listeners) just prior. I'd suggest doing an 'openq' on your network printers as well (keep the input side of printing open, but not the output side).

Jeff Kell notes

If you have access to your routers/switches, you can also attack this from the other end. 

Cisco switches/routers (layer-3) have an ARP table that holds the MAC addresses of the hosts on the subnet. They are subject to a timeout. However, they will generate a "gratuitous unicast ARP" request to any host in the table 30 seconds before it is scheduled to expire. If the host is up, it will respond, and reset the learning timer. It will ALSO push the MAC address and IP of the gateway (the router that just performed the unicast ARP) into the host.

Unfortunately the default ARP timeout on a Cisco device is 4 hours.

You may tweak this as desired on a per-interface basis via the "arp timeout xxx" configuration directive.

If you are doing network monitoring by any SNMP tools, they work best when the mac-address tables (CAMs/TCAMs/etc) are loaded with the host values, and the ARP tables are populated with the current hosts. The mac-address table timeout default is only 300 seconds (I'd suggest moving that up, depending on how volatile your connections may be; we use 600 seconds).  This will cause the "gratuitous ARP" to occur at 530 seconds, and if the host answers, it perfectly repopulates the tables for your management tools to read.

Howard Hoxie adds (with a prompt from Gilles Schipper)

MPE caches the MAC for the gateway, and that there is a command that updates with an "INTERNET=@" or "INTERNET=ALL" clause.

(The command is NETCONTROL net=netname; update=all, where netname is probably LAN or LAN1)

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

April 07, 2015

Operating Systems Of Our Lifetimes

Operating SystemsClick the cartoon for details and the joke

Managers and owners of HP 3000s are the kind of customers who understand what an operating system does. Most of us in the community remember when there were countless OS's out there to run our businesses, if not necessarily our lives.

The HP 3000 stands out in a healthy legacy comparison because its birthdate in the initial generation of minicomputers. Unlike nearly all, its OS remains in business use today. Other OS's which are not in use: MCP from Burroughs (a source of MPE inspiration); Univac's VS/9; NCR's VRX; Control Data's Kronos; and Honeywell's CP-6. 3000 veterans will recognize those as BUNCH companies, whose mini and mainframe products were swept away by IBM's, HP's, and Digital's.

MPE has not yet outlasted the VS minicomputer operating system from Wang Labs, since that mini still has support from its latest third party owner, TransVirtual Systems. There's more than blind loyalty there when an OS can move into the four-decade lifespan. There's commercial value, too. VS still has about a decade to go to get to MPE's 41 years.

For the 3000-savvy, the cartoon above would have a few extra boxes in it. The longest one is likely to be MPE, in its II-V, XL, and iX generations. There are a few others that pre-date DOS, of course. HP tried to sell PCs running CP/M, for example. You could insert the following boxes underneath the fine cartoon from XKCD, the work of brilliant cartoonist Randall Munroe.

MPE timeline

That useful lifespan for MPE will run to 53 years, unless a rolled-over calendar is not a problem for your applications.

Hop over to Munroe's website to enjoy the irony and heart of someone who understands that Gnu (yup, the root of the 3000's iX generation) could be there at the very end, turning out the lights. And who can say for sure that MPE will truly end its days on Dec. 31, 2027 after all? Wang's OS has passed through several third party hands. HP's own VMS will become the property of a third party next year.

In-tribute plug: If you can't find something on the XKCD store to buy, or a cartoon to link to, then all of the above is probably nonsense. For the rest of you, let me know if Gnu could really rule the planet after civilization ends. We're already hearing that embedding a Linux microkernel would make the OS more useful for Digital server users. Something less complex is surely on its way. It might arrive before that fire.

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

April 06, 2015

Trail of support leads to indies, or an alt-OS

Independent support companies have been keeping HP 3000s running for decades. At one point the battle for support dollars was so profound HP tried to file lawsuits to restrict fair commerce in the maintenance marketplace. Companies with 3000 experts on tap have held their ground over more than a dozen years of the declining interest from Hewlett-Packard in the server and its OS.

Recently we've seen independent resources marshaling knowledge bases and documentation on the server. Much of the MPE/iX OS manual set is on hpmmsupport.com, a website set up by some of the creators of the MM II/3000 MRP software. It's a good thing that outside resources like this exist, because now there's more evidence that the archives of Hewlett-Packard are closing their MPE doors tighter.

Slamming doorThis retraction of knowledge can lead a 3000 owner in two directions. They can either embrace operating processes that will require an independent expert to field support calls. Or if a company needs another reason to make serious steps to migration, then less vendor information to help fix bugs will be adequate to push the cart down the hill, away from MPE.

Tonight one set of information can be indexed at an HP Support website. There are patch notices and pointers to support documents, but everything is behind a demand for a valid support agreement. And this news about the successor to HP's IT Response Center (ITRC) shutting some MPE doors includes a confusing footnote. Somewhere out in the world, there might be a 3000 site still getting support from HP, deep under the covers of corporate policies.

While the vendor was public about its waning intentions for 3000 futures, it was also eager to preserve such support business. HP's reach for support contracts while advocating migrations slowed the migration business for the community. In the long shadows after two extensions of support deadlines, migration companies and homesteading firms have been finding no vendor help to portray and preserve the state of the 3000. The customers were promised otherwise, years ago, when the information was still fresh on HP's websites.

Sometime last week, a support company's 3000 expert looked in on the HP website where she'd been referencing MPE/iX answers for many years. Nothing to see here, HP advised her in a webpage.

"I went to Whatever They're Calling the ITRC These Days to look for a bit of MPE support information," said Donna Hofmeister, "and got told MPE is no longer supported. (Thank you for playing, now please go away.) No more than two weeks ago, all the support information was there."

"So what happened? Has it truly been taken down, or did HP decide to disallow access since we no longer have an MPE support contract? I'm guessing the former."

Guessing about the status of HP 3000 information resources is a murky venture for people regarding HP as a stable resource. And after all, nobody can get an MPE support contract, can they? Hofmeister, like a few others in the support community, says that's a murky situation, too. "I've heard rumors that some people still have support through HP," she said, "but no proof."

The lack of an official resource — or one that stays in the same place for more than a year at a time — could be cause to recoil from a future with the 3000. Or perhaps, just back off of a future with its creator. Independent service providers, or migration missions: those seem to be the choices today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 03, 2015

That final 3000 IO upgrade is still in use

Pass ThroughMore than five years after HP rolled out the ultimate release of MPE/iX, the vendor finished its work on an SCSI Pass-Through driver for the HP 3000. It was an one of the last HP-designed MPE enhancements. Independent support companies have the tech resources to create customized patches for their customers. The HP driver still makes it possible to connect and configure SCSI storage devices which HP has not certified for 3000 use.

Full instructions on how to use the software are on the ManualShelf free website. It's a tool for permitting an application to address SCSI devices without the use of the MPE/iX file system or high-level IO interfaces. But the software itself was built, lab-tested, then placed on the HP software improvements leash: It was only available to the HP support customer who was willing to take SPT, as HP called it, as a beta test version.

Patches MPENX01A, MPENX03A and MPENX04A were beta patches required to make the SPT work on MPE/iX 7.5. HP still makes these patches available to any 3000 customers at no charge. Two years ago, Allegro's Donna Hofmeister said "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person." 

Consultants and companies which provide support have many of these patches in their resource bins. The entire patch collection is just 1.27GB, small enough to fit onto a giveaway thumb drive.

HP always described the SPT as a tool with many caveats. While the software has a wide scope of help for the customer who wants to add the latest SCSI disk to the 3000 in the future, HP has printed plenty of cautions such as these in its Communicator article:

Sending SPT commands to a device in use by MPE or other applications may result in data loss, data corruption and/or System Aborts. We do not recommend sending SPT commands to Disks with MPE/iX Volumes present nor should one access tapes devices which are used for normal back-up or data logging purposes. Rule of thumb: Don’t do SPT to tape or disk media you cannot recover at a time you don’t wish to cause a system outage.

In 2007, SPT joined the six dozen or so HP developed enhancements and fixes stalled in beta test status. Customers still purchasing HP support were expected to test enough to get SPT into the full community as a general released patch, but few wanted to use beta-grade software in production.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 02, 2015

TBT: The Ultimate MPE/iX links big disk, FC

7.5 datasheetHP unveiled the final, ultimate generation of its 3000 operating system 13 years ago this month. On this Throwback Thursday we mark the month that MPE/iX 7.5 made its datasheet debut. It was less than six months after Hewlett-Packard announced an "end-of-life" for the 3000, but the OS was destined to be officially supported for more than eight years.

Independently, 7.5 is still supported by the community's third-party experts, such as Pivital Solutions. The data sheets and lab reports illustrate why the release has had such longevity, a run that rivals the lifespan of Windows XP.

7.5 release headline Feb. 2002When 7.5's data sheets moved into the customer base, the colorful paper was still commonplace as an information delivery device. What was uncommon about the release was its forward-looking view of fast storage support. HP had built in A-Class and N-Class hardware support for Fibre Channel IO connections, the fastest of their day. But it took the arrival of 7.5 to streamline and stabilize FC connections.

Previously, the 3000  could only be connected to FC devices through HP SCSI Fibre Channel router. In selling the benefits of 7.5 -- and with it, the upgrade sales of A- and N-Class servers -- HP admitted this router arrangement "not only added complexity and slowed FC transfer rates, but it also created multiple potential points of failure."

Access to the wide range of Fibre Channel devices was among the benefits, letting customers make the jump from the AutoRAID arrays to the more powerful and flexible VA 7100 series. Just this week, a customer made news in the community while troubleshooting a VA 7100. That storage platform remains in obvious use at 3000 sites.

The ultimate generation of 3000 processors, the PA-8700, got their complete support in 7.5, too. Fibre Channel proved to be a tangible benefit of the new PCI bus on the newest servers. One feature would have a reach even further than that CPU line: the ability to access a boot disk greater than 4GB. 7.5 opened up untold millions of gigabytes across the entire 3000 line.

"After years of requests, HP has finally lifted the 4GB limit on the LDEV1 peripherals which boot HP 3000s," we reported in April 2002. "The limitation harkened back to a day when no drive held more than half a gigabyte. Modern disks are as large as 160GB, and the more recent boot drives shipped with HP 3000s wasted scores of gigabytes on every system, simply because MPE/iX couldn’t see the storage space."

Tapping the full range of storage was a game-changer for homesteaders, according to one well-known storage and MPE expert.

MPE veterans praised the enhancement as vital to the 3000’s continued success. “In my mind, this enhancement was critical to the viability of homesteading and the success of OpenMPE,” said Denys Beauchemin of backup utility provider Hi-Comp. “A few years from now, when your LDEV1 disk drive breaks, you will no longer be faced with the problem of buying a 160Gb disk drive (the smallest available) and only being able to use 4Gb.” 

Far less crucial was the included support for a free, secure Apache Web Server, which HP had rebranded as HP WebWise. Developed from the starting point of open source Apache — in a user-driven project led by then-customer Mark Bixby — a native 3000 Web server seemed essential in the late 1990s while the dot-com boom was mounting. HP tried to charge for its supported implementation, but slow uptake shifted the product to free-in-7.5 status. The future of the 3000 would not lie in support for Web services, though, not when Windows-based servers were ubiquitous and cheap.

An OpenSSL crypto library was one of the byproducts of that full WebWise support in MPE/iX 7.5. Security concerns were increasing in that era, and some developers of e-commerce software wanted tools to integrate into their applications. WebWise was intended for the 3000 administrator and developer to be able to create RSA, DH and DSA key parameters and X.509 certificates; do encryption and decryption with ciphers; perform SSL/TLS Client and Server Tests and handle S/MIME signed or encrypted mail. 7.5 made support of sendmail possible.

It's all possible today, but the advance of these security tools slowed considerably after the crypto library made it into every copy of 7.5. There was a silver lining in this slow uptake of the frozen toolset. When OpenSSL was used to hack millions of servers in the HeartBleed malware crisis, few 3000s were exposed. That incomplete implementation of OpenSSL, frozen in an earlier edition of the software, put it back in the same category as un-patched OpenSSL web servers: not quite ready for prime time.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:39 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 31, 2015

Emulation Without Need For A Cradle

Virtualized HP servers will be getting slimmer this spring. Stromasys has cornered the market on the emulation software that makes fast Intel systems behave like business servers HP released more than 20 years ago. The Stromasys Charon product is sitting on an announcement that it's getting a new version for its Digital customers, one that reduces the need for a Linux installation separate from the Stromasys software.

The HPA version of Charon, which emulates PA-RISC 3000s, is getting a speed upgrade in a few months, according to the vendor's head of communications Isabelle Jordain. But in the meantime, a new Backbone version of the company's VAX emulator is rolling out. The configuration is designed to increase stability as it simplifies configuration. 

CHARON-VAX Barebone brings the same security and peace of mind as traditional Charon solutions  — but with a Linux microkernel embedded in the Charon software. Barebone uses only the essential components of the Linux OS, increasing your data center's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.

Emulator solutions ride in a cradle of Linux in the generation sold to 3000 customers. While the Charon-HPA will do so for the foreseeable future, it's got a shot at eliminating the need to mount up a Linux host environment. This Backbone edition runs emulation without a need for the tuning and maintaining of Linux licenses and support fees.

The VAX customer still can count on support in the future for their OpenVMS software. HP's making an intellectual property transfer to a third party of VMS. But that independent support of a business server OS is something HP 3000 customers are experiencing, too. Third parties making a business of handing both hardware and software needs for servers built 10 to 20 years ago. There must be something crucial in such systems for the customers using them.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:33 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 30, 2015

Contractor-Consultant Resources for 3000s

We're opening up a new page for the NewsWire's site as part of our all-digital transition. The community's consultants and contractors have been posted for more than five years at the OpenMPE News blog, which I've maintained and administered. Now the listing of independent and company-based consultants from that website is online at this page at the NewsWire's site.

ContractorThe list gained a new member recently, so there are still computer pros emerging who seek places to help the homesteading community members. If you're a consultant and you're not on our page, we'd be happy to extend you a place there, or update your listing from the OpenMPE News site. Email us your particulars, or include them in a comment below. Be sure to give us the snail-mail and phone contacts, since location can be important to some customers seeking expertise. A few lines on what you do will be helpful.

We've also got some unverified listings from prior to 2013 among the resources on the page. If you're in that category and would like to update us, send a note and any changes.

Some companies have wide-ranging nets of engagements they'd like to attract. But among our community, there's no one writing support contracts who focuses exclusively on the 3000 but Pivital Solutions. "It's our only business," says president Steve Suraci.

Some individuals are on the lookout for full-time, part-time, or temporary jobs at 3000-using companies. For example, we heard from one 3000 pro who offered his listing to the OpenMPE blog earlier this year.

Stephen Baumgart (stevebaumgart@outlook.com)
I seek a full-time, permanent or temporary position where my talent and experience will provide value to an organization. I have 40 years of design and system development experience, 35 of those years in development on HP 3000, and 30 years in Powerhouse and eight years of COBOL experience. I have managed the MIS department, managed projects, and performed many system and data migrations. I have a BS in Computer Science from Purdue University.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:19 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

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)