October 29, 2014

Security experts try to rein in POODLE

PoodlelocksSometimes names can be disarming ways of identifying high-risk exploits. That's the case with POODLE, a new SSL-based security threat that comes after the IT community's efforts to contain Heartbleed, and then the Shellshock vulnerability of the bash shell program. HP 3000s are capable of deploying SSL security protocols in Web services. Few do, in the field; most companies assign this kind of service to a Linux server, or sometimes to Windows.

The ackronym stands for Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption. This oracle has nothing to do with the database giant. A Wikipedia article reports that such an attack "is performed on the padding of a cryptographic message. The plain text message often has to be padded (expanded) to be compatible with the underlying cryptographic primitive. Leakage of information about the padding may occur mainly during decryption of the ciphertext."

The attack can also be performed on HP's Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), a security appliance that is in place protecting thousands of networks around the world. Other firewalls are at risk. Just this week HP released a security patch to help the NGFW appliances withstand the attack. External firewalls are a typical element in modern web service architectures.

A POODLE attack takes a bite out of SSL protections by fooling a server into falling back to an older SSLv3 protocol. HP reported that its Local Security Manager (LSM) software on the NGFW is at risk. But a software update is available at the HP TippingPoint website, the home of the TippingPoint software that HP acquired when it bought 3Com in 2010. TippingPoint rolled out the first HP NGFW firewalls last year.

The TippingPoint experts seem to understand that older protocols -- a bit like the older network apps installed in servers like the 3000 -- are going to be indelibile.

The most effective mitigation is to completely disable the SSLv3 protocol.  If this is not possible because of business requirements, alternately the TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag can be enabled so that attackers can no longer force the downgrade of protocols to SSLv3.

What's at risk in your data pool? HP says it likely to be sensitive, short strings of data such as session IDs and cookie values, "which can then be used to hijack the users' sessions, etc."

Et cetera indeed. The added challenge which enterprise managers assume once they move into open networks are the POODLEs, shocks to a shell and the bleeding hearts of newer operating environments. The security expertise to meet these challenges is a well-spent investment -- whether it's through a 3000-savvy services provider, or the vendor of the migration target system that's just replaced a 3000.

Basic information on these threats is always provided for free. Implementation savvy can be a valuable extra expense. For example, HP adds this nuance about disabling protocols. 

An important note:  both the client and server must be updated to support that TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag. If both allow for SSLv3 and one of them has not been updated to support the flag, the attack will remain possible.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:48 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

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October 24, 2014

Legacy Management: More than Rehosting

LooksoftwareSpeedware became Freshe Legacy several years ago, and in 2012 the company's business crossed the watershed from Hewlett-Packard sites to those running IBM's AS/400 servers. The latter is now called IBM i, and in one interview Fresche CEO Andy Kulakowski said the company's customers are now 85 percent IBM users.

The world of IBM i is still populated with product releases, vendor support, and the challenges of keeping a legacy line of computing looking current. Last month Fresche purchased the assets, intellectual property and customer base of looksoftware (yes, all lowercase and all one word.) Next week the newest tool in the Fresche belt goes on display in one of the oldest of enterprise venues: a $949 user conference, COMMON.

COMMON has served IBM users since before there was an Interex. The first meetings of the group surrounded the IBM Series 1800, a data acquisition and control system which was similar to the 3000 in that it used a Multi Programming Executive (MPX) operating system. COMMON meetings began in the 1960s, and the 1800 was used in product for more than 50 years. Even though COMMON attendance has dropped and the gatherings have gotten shorter, the group still assembles the experts and the faithful once a year for a classic expo and education event. This year's is in Indianapolis, following the model that Interex used for HP 3000 customers: a moveable feast taking place in cities both great and, well, common. One forgettable year the Interex show was held in Detroit. In the Midwest, however, a great number of manufacturers and distributors have always used business systems like the 3000 and the i.

ModernizationDrill into the looksoftware website and you'll find mention of the HP 3000 in the Modernization Solutions section. Along with methodologies such as cloud enablement, database modernization and automated code conversion, MPE/iX customers can find a relevant line, "Re-hosting (HP e3000)." COMMON attendees could very easily hear about rehosting at the conference. After decades of serving just the AS/400 family, it's now an expo that embraces Unix and Linux computing from IBM, too.

There are other methods to revitalize an HP 3000, but moving those business applications onto a new host is the classic strategy. Business Rules Extraction, Consolidation and Export is also among the solutions listed in the looksoftware services stable. Taking a customer's business rules along during any transition is a must. A "lift and shift" is what Fresche called the move onto non-3000 hardware back when the firm was called Speedware.

There's not much of that kind of business left in the 3000 customer base by now -- certainly not compared to the number of modernization opportunities for the AS/400 crowd. IBM has a strategy book that's released every year for IT planners called the Redbook. The latest edition, the largest ever in the history of the publication, is Modernizing IBM i Applications from the Database up to the User Interface and Everything in Between. Over at the IT Jungle website, the editors are calling the current Fresche strategy of acquistions "a page right out of the Redbook." The book's 687 pages are summed up thusly by the website.

It refers to modernization as "a sequence of actions" and "a process of rethinking how to approach the creation and maintenance of applications." Much of the focus is on application structure, user interface, data access, and the database. There's a lot of out with the old and in with the new here.

Adding new companies isn't new to the Speedware/Fresche history. The company acquired Neartek for the latter's AMXW software, for example, once the migrations were in full play in the 3000 market. Databorough is a similar acquisition, a database software firm whose products are useful tools in the mission Fresche calls legacy modernization. User interfaces get a rejuvenation, data access and pathways to more current data resources, and usually newer hardware arrives. Not hardware from a vendor other than IBM, however. For that kind of modernization, you have to look to the HP 3000 community. Yes, Fresche Legacy will rehost your MPE/iX apps, using a different methodology than any virtualization supplier. The new technology goes beyond hardware and IO and chip-level environments. It includes a new operating system, databases, and surround code.

One of the other significant throwbacks in legacy enterprise arenas are languages. MPE's got COBOL, and the IBM i has RPG. The RPG langauge was once so central to IBM enterprise computing that HP built an RPG compiler to run on the 3000. Its goal was to steal away Series 38 IBM shops. Next week at COMMON, Kulakowski will be spreading the message that in the IBM world, "There are lots of tools and services that support the move from RPG to more modern environments."

Kulakowski sees the age of the engineer and developer as a factor in modernization. Quoted in IT Jungle, he said

Generations X and Y are coming. They are very big part of population and will be far more demanding than we were. I think it would be a losing battle to try to convince them to use RPG as a development platform. It's up to us to set the table for the generation to come. We have the tools and technology to do that. That's the revolution I would fight for.

Fighting for refreshed MPE/iX hardware is a campaign for the non-migrating 3000 customer -- managers and owners with no conferences left to attend, and nothing like a 678-page Redbook playbook to follow. There's only one virtualization vendor for PA-RISC hardware, so at least the vetting of the suppliers won't take as long. There's not much choice, and that can have its downsides. But it might be a good thing to have no reason to visit Detroit or Indianapolis this fall, just to keep an IT operation modernized. Late-generation hardware is about as modernized as an MPE homesteader will be able to get.

Of course swapping out hosting hardware, by using a Linux cradle for MPE/iX, is a different level of churn than turning out the operating environment. For that sort of change, a trip to a city to ask questions face to face might well be a good business process.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:49 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2014

Macworlds expire. Apple soars. Not linked.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.14.11 AMOne classy way to go out of the conference business: tell your sponsor vendors the next conference won't happen, six months early. Don't take their deposits for show space.

You can file this report under Types of End of Life. The HP 3000 had an alleged end of life. HP announced it about 13 years ago, but that was the vendor's report about its 3000 activities. There can be a demise in classic support structures for a system once it wanes. But those structures, like information and community events, might be wobbly all by themselves. Things do change.

Everything called Macworld has now gone away. There was a print magazine, roaring through the '80s, the '90s, and even until about 10 years ago. Printed publications about computer lines, focused on one vendor, built this industry. IDG owned Macworld, owns PC World, owns Computerworld. Only the last publication still prints news on paper and sends magazines into the mail. Things change. There's this invention called the Internet.

In another post I pointed to the HP publications no longer in print. All of them, except for the Newswire. HP Professional, InterACT, HP Omni. Long ago, SuperGroup, and HP User. Interex Press, HP World. Every one of them exited. The departure for some was the trigger of that HP end of life announcement. Others rolled over when something bigger died: their parent company, or interest in Hewlett-Packard's products. One of the last executive directors of the Interex user group asked a big question: "How do you make a vendor-specific user group relevant in a cross-platform world?" said Chuck Piercey.

HP World 2005


Another way to go out of the show business: tell your partners nothing about the departure, and market as if it's all going fine. This, from a web page less than four weeks before the final, canceled HP World conference -- a page still online on the day before the user group's demise.

IDG's expo division has asked the same stay-relevant question about the 30-year-old Macworld conference. And answered it. The expo is now on hiatus, and unlikely to emerge again. Macworld Expo added a sister expo called iWorld to embrace the rocketing mobile products from Apple. More than one third of Macworld/iWorld exhibitors bought booth spots in a bullpen called the Appalooza. More important, though, was the exodus of tens of thousands of square feet of show space, once purchased by the industry's giants. Adobe. HP. Canon. Microsoft. Little vendors in little booths were not enough to counter big changes in our industry's communication.

Apple reported a record profit yesterday, and its stock is trading at $716 a share (corrected for the 7:1 split of the springtime). Apple announced an end of life of its user show exhibitions four years ago. Macworld Expo never was the same. The vendor got healthier and bigger, so why did the magazine and show founder? Things change. Customers, always the prize for a conference or a magazine, found better ways to learn about owning products. And what to purchase.

Purchasing is not a big part of the HP 3000 experience anymore. Not like it was when there were seven Hewlett-Packard-focused publications, or even where there were just four left in the world. Purchases for HP 3000s involve replacement systems, virtualized alternatives, support, and migration services. Some software makes its way into the commerce chain. But a replacement package for another system is most likely to be a line item on a budget. Training will be on the new platform, in nearly every encounter.

HP's fortunes have been rocky over the last four years, ever since the company cut loose its majordomo Mark Hurd. That decline hasn't affected trade shows for the vendor -- it runs the only genuine meeting it calls HP Discover. The days and nights of Discover are likely to continue for many years. HP sells at that conference and trains customers and its staff. Education isn't the point of a trade show visit anymore. Seeing products and asking questions about them -- that's done over the Web.

The printed publication, the trade conference: these are artifacts of a world where you needed paper and pacing an expo floor to learn the most important things about a computer you love. I attended seven of the last Macworld Expos, including a couple of memorable Steve Jobs speeches about embracing Intel chips, and yes, the iPhone debut. Special mornings, those were, seeing Intel's CEO emerge in a clean room suit onstage. Or watching the faithful crowd seven-deep around the initial iPhone, rotating in a Gorilla Glass case. As it happens, that iPhone debut was a watershed. More than half of Apple's business now comes from mobile products.

The last six mobile rollouts have been press-only by invitation -- and a short list at that. The events were webcast live, with video and audio ever-better on each rollout day. PR has shifted from in-person, or by-phone, to texts and emails and webinars and live demos. You don't need to be someplace to learn a certain amount about a computer. That certain amount is enough for most customers and partners. Enthusiasts want more. In the Apple world, they'll have to go to their laptop screens or iPhones to get it. 

In truth, they're already there. In the HP world, the customers are reading webpages and watching webinars. One of those two vendors, Apple, has its afterburners on full throttle. Hewlett-Packard separated from the 3000's orbit four years ago. HP Enterprise customers will see a new world of a company next year after the vendor's split, but there won't be an HP World again. Not in print, not in an expo hall. Those are legacy means of communication and exchange. The expos hosted community, but newer generations of customers find community on mobile screens. Everything changes, and everything ends.

Here's to you, partner-based expos. You were wondrous fun and a rocket-sled ride while you lasted. The depth of any vendor's ride into the customer's heart will be determined by vessels on other trajectories.

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

October 17, 2014

Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock

Security experts have said that the Shellshock bug in the bash shell program is serious. So much so that they're comparing it to the Heartbleed breach of earlier this year. Many are saying Shellshock is even more of a threat.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 8.22.33 PMOnce again, this has some impact on HP 3000s, just like Heartbleed did. But you'll need to be managing a 3000 that's exposed to the Internet to see some risks to address as part of system administration. Web servers, domain name servers, and other net-ready services provide the opportunity for this malware. There's not a lot of that running in the customer base today, but the software is still sitting on the 3000 systems, programs that could enable it.

Authorities fear a deluge of attacks could emerge. The US government has rated the security flaw 10 out of 10 for severity.

Bash is open source software, and our expert on that subject Brian Edminster is working on a specific report about the vulnerabilities. Hewlett-Packard posted a security bulletin that points to a safer version of the bash shell utility. But that version won't help HP 3000s.

It's not that HP doesn't know about the 3000 any longer. The patching menu above shows that MPE is still in the security lexicon at Hewlett-Packard. But Edminster thinks the only way to make bash safe again on MPE might be to port it a-fresh. "The 3000's bash is version 2.04, but the version that's considered 'current' is 4.x (depending on what target system you're on)," he said. "So if v2.04 is broken, the code-diffs being generated to fix the issues [by HP] in late-model bash software won't be of much (if any) use."

One report in a UK newspaper suggested that "if online retailers use older, mainframe-style computing systems, they are likely to be vulnerable." That sounds like one way to describe the Ecometry sites still selling online with MPE versions of that software. Many of those customers do not have the 3000 directly exposed to the Internet, though.

The bug allows hackers to send commands to a computer without having admin status, letting them plant malicious software within systems.

HP has released a software update to resolve the vulnerability in HP Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) running Bash Shell. Version NGFW v1.1.0.4153 will fix the breach in that that product. But NGFW doesn't run on MPE/iX.

Edminster forwards this advice while he's working on his report.

It's most likely to be an issue for web services that use bash scripts to process web-page input for example, such as machines exposed to the Internet, and those that have services that can accept input from the 'net. I'll work to round up as many examples of potential places this can be felt on a 3000, so that folks know where to look.

Yep — this one is messy, because it's not quite so cut-and-dried as HeartBleed was.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:33 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2014

Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes

HP will be revoking a security certificate for its Windows-based systems on Oct. 21, and the vendor isn't sure yet how that will impact system reliability.

StalkingThe bundled software on older HP PC systems has been at risk of being the front-man for malware, according to a report in the Kerbs on Security website. This code-signing is supposed to give computer users and network admins confidence about a program's security and integrity. HP's Global Chief Security Officer Brett Wahlin said the company is revoking a certificate it's been using even before 2010.

HP was recently alerted by Symantec about a curious, four-year-old trojan horse program that appeared to have been signed with one of HP’s private certificates and found on a server outside of HP’s network. Further investigation traced the problem back to a malware infection on an HP developer’s computer. 

HP investigators believe the trojan on the developer’s PC renamed itself to mimic one of the file names the company typically uses in its software testing, and that the malicious file was inadvertently included in a software package that was later signed with the company’s digital certificate. The company believes the malware got off of HP’s internal network because it contained a mechanism designed to transfer a copy of the file back to its point of origin.

The means of infection here is the junkware shipped with all PCs, including HP's, according to HP 3000 consultant and open source expert Brian Edminster. In this case, the revoked certificate will cause support issues for administrators. The certificate was used to sign a huge swath of HP software, including crucial hardware and software drivers and components that are critical to Windows.

"This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loath all the 'junkware' that is commonly delivered along with new PCs," Edminster said. "I end up spending hours removing it all before I use a new PC." Recovery partitions on Windows systems will be at unknown risk after the certificate is pulled Oct. 21, too.

HP's Windows computers have recovery partitions on the boot hard drive that can restore a system to its original, factory-shipped software configuration. That configuration includes the junkware.

"For me, this junkware is just chaff," Edminster said, "and an opportunity to clog up a machine that's supposed to be pristine and new. To say nothing of increased opportunities for the sort of thing outlined in the Kerbs article."

HP's Security officer Wahlin said that admins will have to wait to see the impact of that revoked certificate, according to the article.

The interesting thing that pops up here — and even Microsoft doesn’t know the answer to this — is what happens to systems with the restore partition, if they need to be restored. Our PC group is working through trying to create solutions to help customers if that actually becomes a real-world scenario, but in the end that’s something we can’t test in a lab environment until that certificate is officially revoked by Verisign on October 21.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:15 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2014

HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies

Two public HP companiesCompanies of equal sizes will sell products branded HP. But the blue logo goes to the new HP Inc.

Hewlett-Packard announced this morning that it will divide itself into two publicly-traded corporations, a move that shareholders and stock analysts have been demanding and predicting for years. The division of the company will be along product lines. The business server operations will be contained in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, while PC and printer businesses will comprise the new HP, Inc.

The vendor said in a press release that the restructuring will "define the next generation of technology infrastructure." The reorganization will also spin out the least profitable, but largest, segment of HP's business into its own unit. HP still ranks in the top five among PC makers and is one of the largest makers of printers in the world.

HP double logoMeg Whitman will be CEO and president of the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. Pat Russo will chair a new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise board of directors. Last month Hewlett-Packard -- the full corporation founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939 -- had named Whitman as chairman of the board and CEO. By breaking up the company, Whitman will cede some control of its most competitive and popular product segments.

Dion Weisler will be the head of the new HP, Inc. as CEO and president. Whitman will chair the HP Inc. board of directors. HP said it will still meet its profit forecasts for the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 31. It also said that it "issues a fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted Earnings Per Share outlook of $3.83-$4.03." That is the sweetest way of forecasting a profit, using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. But it's not clear if that's HP Inc. profits, or profits for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. And the vendor said it would take all of fiscal 2015 to complete the transaction.

“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan," said Whitman, who's led HP through three years of a five-year turnaround plan. "It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders.

"In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders."

Much of the rest of HP's release deals with the visions and mechanics of dividing a $128 billion company into a classic and post-modern product manufacturer. Except that nothing is classic about the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company, with the exception of its three proprietary operating systems: HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop. The company has announced that HP-UX will be extending some of its enterprise-grade features to a version of RedHat. OpenVMS will be curtailed to only the newest generation of servers for the latest version of the OS. And NonStop, the most specialized of the three operating systems, is getting a full port to the x86/Xeon architecture -- an escape hatch from the Itanium chips that power Integrity servers.

But HP is retaining the Financial Services unit inside the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise corporation. It's a move the company noted will give financial advantages to customers and partners.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will have a unique portfolio and strong multi-year innovation  roadmap across technology infrastructure, software and services to allow customers to  take full advantage of the opportunities presented by cloud, big data, security and  mobility in the New Style of IT. By leveraging its HP Financial Services capability, the company will be well positioned to create unique technology deployment models for  customers and partners based on their specific business needs.

Additionally, the  company intends for HP Financial Services to continue to provide financing and business  model innovation for customers and partners of HP Inc. Customers will have the same unmatched choice of how to deploy and consume  technology, and with a simpler, more nimble partner. The separation will provide  additional resources, and a reduction of debt at the operating company level, to support  investments across key areas of the portfolio. The separation will also allow for greater  flexibility in completing the turnaround of Enterprise Services and strengthening the  company's go-to-market capabilities. 

"Over the past three years, we have reignited our innovation engine with breakthrough  offerings for the enterprise like Apollo, Gen 9 and Moonshot servers, our 3PAR storage  platform, our HP OneView management platform, our HP Helion Cloud and a host of software and services offerings in security, analytics and application transformation,"  continued Whitman. "Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will accelerate innovation across key next-generation areas of the portfolio."

R&D innovation has been a troubled business operation for Hewlett-Packard since the early years of this century, until Whitman announced a shift in the vendor's priorities in 2012. She named Martin Fink, the former leader of the embattled Business Critical Systems unit where those operating systems are built, to lead HP Labs. Within a year, the Labs were creating The Machine, a way forward into a new architecture for computing -- but one that could demand up to 75 percent of the Labs' resources.

It's not yet clear where HP Labs will go in the reorganization, but the Enterprise unit seems to make the most sense. Labs also contributes to product releases in the printer and PC lineups. HP mentioned the forthcoming 3D printer lineup in the breakup announcement.

HP was to have a meeting with financial analysts in just two days, but "as a result of this separation, its Oct. 8 2014 Securities Analysts Meeting has been postponed." A conference call took place at 5AM today, and is available for replay at the HP Investor Relations website.

Whitman said only a year ago that a single HP was the right approach. She said the same strategy is still the right approach, but added that breaking up the company will accelerate growth. "We now operate from a position of strength," she said, citing a strong balance sheet and returns to shareholders. The stock was nearing $40 a share in recent months, a profound rebound from prices in the teens at the lowest point of the turnaround.

After the split up, shareholders of the HPQ security will hold shares in both companies, CFO Cathie Lesjak said in the confence call. It's a move that will prompt instant investment in the new HP Inc.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:40 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2014

Steady pace means un-news isn't no news

By Ron Seybold

Editorial-IconWhat does it say about the HP 3000 when the steadiest story about the 3000 doesn’t involve an HP 3000? You can’t wear one, like an Apple Watch, or buy a brand-new HP 3000. Your server’s operating system is unchanged after more than four years, unless you’re buying a custom-crafted patch.  The mission for this general purpose machine hasn’t changed, either.

It might be that the most constant news about the HP 3000 of 2014 is there’s no fresh news. So what’s an editor to do when his blog and publication includes the word Newswire? To conjure content, I reach back, and I look ahead. What is ahead of us doesn’t involve much HP iron, and certainly nothing new wearing a Hewlett-Packard 3000 badge on its chest. I only have to reach back to see a story where wearing something to compute wasn’t a novel concept. Not according to my files here in the office. 

I work a lot out of the files these days.

Print-ExclusiveThis rambling is a way of describing my frustration and then a calm acceptance about the limited rate of change. I came into the journalism business with the knowledge that new was best. My first newspapering job came in a small Texas town with a competing paper just down the block. You’d wonder why a county seat of 3,500 would ever need two newspapers. It was 1982, a year when plenty of towns had two papers. Journalism has changed. Now there’s an infographic out there with the Then and Now of information. A reporter is now considered a blogger, and press conferences are now Twitter chats.

I came to tech journalism and got scooped within three weeks. Scoop, for any who’ve forgotten, is when a competitor learns and prints something before you can. One year at an Interex conference, we scooped all day at our booth. Ice cream, supplied by the hotel’s catering department. The word was synonymous with elite information.

There are press releases today, but they’re called content. Some still fill my inbox, but they come from non-3000 markets. The investment of an envelope and stamp is gone, just like an investment in HP-branded iron has been replaced by an offsite, up in the cloud server. Not free, but oh so less costly.

I get frustrated when there’s nothing new on each and every blog posting day. Then I take a breath and settle into some calm acceptance -- because like you, I work in a world where a computer’s legacy, and its archival opportunity, is always online. The news here sometimes has to be, well, as NBC TV once said, “New to You.” HP used to tell us, while it provided updates for 3000 customers, “this is new news.”

Even the vendor knew there was more than one kind of news. And HP was where the new models were being crafted.

So here, crossing into the 20th year of the 3000 Newswire, we now print once a quarter. We issue a story or message about 22 times per month, but the news that is new appears on the same ratio as our new print edition to old print issue: one story out of four. There’s the one, of course, but these days it’s as likely to be about a virtual 3000 or a cloud opportunity as anything directly related to MPE software or applications.

What’s a reporter to do? I made my transition to blogger more than nine years ago, wearing a reporter’s fedora at the same time. (Fedora: a short-brimmed hat with a Press card tucked into its brim. For further reference see the 1931 movie, The Front Page.)

But as this 20th fall season arrived in the NewsWire’s office, that fedora is as much a legacy as MPE’s endearing and enduring achievements. I have a short-brim hat I haven’t worn since the '90s. When fall teased us in Austin this month, I opened the windows here and started to clean out the office, tossing things into the Big Recycle Box. Coming from Depression Era hoarders, as I said in a ThrowBack Thursday article, I have way too much stuff in this office that oughta be in the recycle bin.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:24 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2014

Making History By Staying Together

ScotlandMontageWhat price and what value can we put on borders? While we put the latest 3000 Newswire print issue to bed last week, the United Kingdom’s region of Scotland was voting for its independence from Great Britain. One of our favorite 3000 resources and supporters, Alan Yeo, didn't know if he’d wake up at the end of last week using UK or GB as the acronym to define his country. If Scotland were to go, the Kingdom would no longer be United.

Cooler heads prevailed, and the No vote to block the push to secede squashed the Yes by a large margin. The country made history with the largest voter turnout every recorded. There's some good come of the competition, anyway.

The independence balloting called to mind what the Web has done with borders: erased them all, virtually. Some of the more draconian countries have fences up to keep their citizens’ thoughts and beliefs in, but even China with its Alibaba marketplace — where you can but a 747 or drone motors over the Web equivalent of eBay or Amazon — is erasing its borders. Scotland, inexplicably, wants to erect new ones.

Here in Austin, and through most of Texas, bumper stickers ride on trucks with the state’s outline the command, “Secede!” We are the United States of America, though. Pockets of rebellion boil up in places like the Texas border with Mexico, or up in Idaho. But there’s too much in common among government sentiment to break us up into pieces.

I know about the desire for borders. Our nitwit governor here was on TV last fall, here in Austin, describing our progressive town as “the blueberry in a sea of red.” Yes, we’re juicy, sweet, and different. But we’re Texans, too, much to the governor’s dismay. That TV show didn’t hit Jimmy Kimmel’s show from Dallas or Houston.

So it has gone for the Web and 3000 users. On pages over the years, both paper on on the Web, we cater to constituencies as diverse as possible. One set of readers is done with MPE, making plans to archive systems or scrap them. Another is devoted to their status quo, the devils they know rather than the devils they don’t know how much upset and cost they’ll trigger.

Long ago, there were borders on our Internet information. In the Usenet domain, discussion groups raced along with names like comp.sys.hp.mpe, and its Unix counterpart comp.sys.hp.ux. You’d rarely hear exchange in those countries about their neighbors. Mostly because people had to specialize in order to remain successful in their IT careers. Now the borders between environments have been forced to open up while our readership grapples with a homogenous list of servers. Some apps have moved to HP’s Unix servers, at one site, while key apps run on virtualized 3000s.

When I type “3000 to 9000 migration” into Google I find only seven HP-related links. We’re No. 5 on the page, behind two HP whitepapers, a YouTube video from a hardware reseller, and the HP 9000 Wikipedia article. Of course Google searches on an exact phrase — so our article is entitled “IBM takes a swing at 9000 migration.” It picked up on the phrase “9000 migration.” A lot like a secceding citizen might note the differences between countries, or states.

The element that’s changing fastest about these borders over the computing community is how fast they’re falling. HP is celebrating the cloud business it’s still trying to win, now that the specialized servers it retained — in favor of 3000s — have stopped winning customers. The cloud is the ultimate borderless territory, where you can’t tell which vendor is running your app. All that matters is that the data is secure, and it’s a reliable resource.

The Scots missed out on the chance to discover modern expectations about security and reliability. It was the common belief on election night that the balloting would be whisker-close over there. Here in our office where nearly all of what we produce goes onto the Web first, we’re not seceding from any 3000 domain.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:13 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 25, 2014

TBT: Early winter's taste visits Interex '94

Uhh-coverIt stunned nearly everybody, but the final day of the annual Interex user conference, 20 years ago this week, did not herald the start of Fall. That season might have filled pages on everybody's calendar, but the skies over Denver were filled with snowflakes on Sept. 21. Thousands of HP 3000 customers had to scurry through soggy streets in a month where leaves were supposed to be falling.

Everything happened at an Interex, eventually. Robelle's Neil Armstrong wrote about it in the What's Up Doc newsletter the vendor produced that year.

Welcome to Winterex 1994.

Once again the weather attempted to upstage various announcements and goings on at the Interex Conference. This year it snowed on the Wednesday afternoon of the Denver conference. The "snow" storm, however, was nothing compared to hurricane Andrew which hit New Orleans during Interex '92.

This year's conference was certainly a hit with a lot of the people I talked to. The last Interex I attended was in Boston in 1990, which became known as the Great Unbundling of TurboImage Debate. Interex '94 was a pleasant contrast with HP's new product announcements, the bundling of ARPA services and a general positive tone regarding the future of the HP 3000. The HP booth was a beehive of activity with Client-Server demonstrations and huge printers on display.

Armstrong went on to say that his favorite view at the show was seeing a camera connected to an HP 9000 workstation, one that delivered a live pictures of people passing by the box. "The fun part was moving from side to side quickly and watching the CPU graph go up," he added.

This was the year when the pushback started to ruffle the Unix juggernaut that had promised open systems for so long. Windows was still a year away from being desktop-useful. But that didn't keep the technical leadership from creating a Unix Hater's Handbook.

While MPE was clicking off its 20th straight year of serving business computing needs, system managers who wanted to find fault with HP's favored OS could buy that above book and feel vindicated.

From a book review by Paul Gobes in Robelle's newsletter, commenting on how an online mailing list's posts were turned into a book.

That list has been cleverly edited into a systematic attack in book form. It is often cruel and sarcastic but it is difficult not to empathize with the frustration that many of the users have endured. Some of the chapter subheadings will give you a good idea where the book is heading.

Unix - The world's first computer virus
Welcome New User! - Like Russian roulette with six bullets loaded 
Documentation? - What documentation?
Snoozenet - I post, therefore I am
Terminal Insanity - Curses! foiled again! 
The X-Windows Disaster - How to make a 50-MIPS workstation run like a PC
csh, pipes, and find - Power tools for power fools 
Security - Oh, I'm sorry, sir, go ahead, I didn't realize you were root 
The File System - Sure it corrupts your files, but look how fast it is!

You can still read MPE managers' favorite book of the fall of '94, online. IDG Books printed copies, and one of the early reviewers of the material returned to it, six years ago, to reconsider the accuracy of the gripes and wisecracks. It was invective, far ahead of its time considering how much we hear today. The book was sold with a Unix Barf Bag.

While the snow fell on Interex, HP was putting TurboIMAGE on ice. David Greer warned customers to get in their request to upgrade from TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL. The latter was new and making its way into "about a twelfth of the customer base at a time."

"Unfortunately, you must ask HP to add IMAGE/SQL to your support contract; it is not the default.  And you only get one chance!  It will be easy to miss out on IMAGE/SQL and all future IMAGE enhancements. The following statement by Jim Sartain, HP SQL Program Manager, appeared on the Internet."

When support contracts are up for renewal, customers are given the option of upgrading from TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL. The product support cost is from $10 to $325 per month depending on the MPE/iX user level and whether the customer is on basic line or response line.

Customers who decline this offer will continue to receive a functionally stable version of TurboIMAGE (no future enhancements). Should the customer want to upgrade to IMAGE/SQL in the future they must purchase the upgrade and pay for IMAGE/SQL support.

"Better warn purchasing today. If you don't ask for IMAGE/SQL now, asking for it later will be expensive."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:49 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2014

One Course to Sail a 3000 Into the Cloud

People in IT have come to understand the meanings and potential for the term cloud computing. But plenty of them don't trust it, according to a recent survey. Not with many mission-critical apps, anyway. Since HP 3000 managers have always had a belt-plus-suspenders approach to datacenter management, we'll bet that a great percentage of them are among the doubters about cloud security.

Docker_(container_engine)_logoRemote instances of HP 3000s have been with the community as long as MPE could boot a server. But now, knowing which precise server will deliver an application isn't part of the cloud's design. Even as recently as this year, companies are getting by with 3000 computing by using a server located outside their site, sometimes even outside their state.

It's the state of cloud computing security that gives IT pros some pause. According to a study conducted this year by Unisys (remember their mainframes?) and IDG Research, more than 70 percent of 350 respondents feel security is the chief obstacle in cloud deployment. IT executives want to collect data about the security of data that's in the cloud.

The technology to put Linux instances into cloud computing is already available. And Linux is essential to installing the HPA version of CHARON from Stromasys. There's been no announcement of a cloud edition of the virtualization product. But Docker looks like tech that could help, according to our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster.

"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, "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," the Wiki article reports.

Docker is "a standardized software platform for delivering apps at scale," according to a recent article in Infoworld. And it's taking over the world, the article adds. 

Two major operating system projects have already started integrating Docker as a fundamental part of how they work. CoreOS uses Docker to create a pared-down Linux distribution -- one now available on Google Cloud Platform, appropriately enough -- where all software is bundled into Docker containers. Red Hat's already started building major support for Docker into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and has plans for a major reworking of RHEL around Docker, Project Atomic.

Early deployments of cloud applications, however, are mostly non-critical applications where security is less of a concern, according to the Unisys-IDG survey. Cloud servers present new risk considerations that a company like CloudPassage is glad to address.

There's genuine concern for keeping cloud servers more secure, because they present great targets of opportunities for fraud. From a report by CloudPassage:

Fraudsters demand a constant stream of freshly compromised servers to keep botnets running. An entire underground business known as bot herding emerged to capitalize on this illicit need.

Coyote e SamBot-herders make their living by building botnets to then sell or rent to other e-criminals. Compromising an elastic cloud infrastructure environment can return a windfall versus hacking into a traditional hardware server. If a bot-herder is able to place command-and-control software on a VM that later is duplicated through cloning or cloud bursting, the botnet capacity will automatically grow.

For stakeholders in cloud hosting environments, the implication is a higher expectation of being targeted for server takeovers, root-kitting and botnet command-and-control insertions

CloudPassage is the leading cloud server security provider and creator of Halo, the industry’s first security and compliance platform purpose-built for elastic cloud environments. Halo operates across public, private and hybrid clouds.

And, one would assume, Linux hosted on Intel cloud servers that could be cradles for CHARON instances. The last time we checked on this issue, the authentic HPSUSAN number -- now supplied on a USB drive -- was the narrow part of the passage in sailing the emulator onto cloud servers.

Caution has been the practice for much of the 3000 community over the decades I've watched it. Even when the HPSUSAN strategy is resolved -- assuming that's a customer need for Stromasys to address -- keeping those clouds clear of bot-herders will be essential.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:41 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2014

Remaining on Watch for HP Innovation

Apple WatchEarlier today Apple unveiled the descriptions and benefits of wearing a full functioning computer for the first time. Well, maybe not for the very first time. But for the first time in the modern era of computing, anyway. The Apple Watch defines the Tim Cook era at the company, and it will still need some tuning up through several generations. But this time around, the watch that breaks ground by riding on wrists won't need a stylus -- just an iPhone.

The instance of this is called the Apple Watch -- say goodbye to any new product lines being started with an "i" for now. A watch is not an enterprise computing tool, some will argue. But that was said about the iPhone, too -- a device that turned out to be a portable computer of breakthrough size. HP 3000 acolyte Wirt Atmar wrote a famous newsgroup post about the first iPhones, being like "beautiful cruise ships where the bathrooms don't work."

The Apple Watch, of course, won't be anywhere close to perfect on first release Early Next Year. People forget that the iPhone was a work in progress though most of its first year. That's a better track record than the HP 3000 had at first shipment, late in 1972. That system that's survived 40 years in a useful form -- 1974 marks the year when MPE and HP iron finally had an acceptible match -- got returned to HP in many instances.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 4.55.43 PMThe elder members of our 3000 community will recall the HP-01, a wristwatch that wanted to be a calculator at the same time. Nobody had considered wearing a calculator, and nobody had asked for a wearable one, either. But HP felt compelled to innovate out of its calculator genius factory in Corvallis, Oregon, and so a short-lived product, designed to satisfy engineers, made its way into HP lore in 1977.


HP-01"All of the integrated circuits and three discrete components for the oscillator are combined in a hybrid circuit on a five-layer ceramic substrate," said the article in the HP Journal, the every other month paper publication where engineers read about innovations, and the more technical customer was steered to see how Hewlett-Packard could deploy superior design. The problem was that it was 1977, and the company was sailing too far afield from its customers' desires with the HP-01. 1977 was a year when HP had scrabbled to come up with a Series II of the HP3000, a device more important to anyone who wanted to leave IBM batch computing behind and get more interactive. People who bought calculators had no concept of mobile computing. Even a luggable computer was still six years away.

HP-01 closeupBut the HP-01 did accomplish one benefit for the HP customer, who even then was a consumer, of business products. It showed the company was ardent about the need to innovate. The HP Journal is long gone, and the heartbeat of the company feels like it runs through personal computers and miniaturization of internal parts that make more of a difference to manufacturing and product margins. Apple built an S1 processor that's "miniaturizing an entire computer system onto a single chip" to make the Apple Watch a reality, something like HP's five-layer hybrid circuit substrate of 1977.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.35.45 PMApple's had its share of innovative flops, too -- but the most recent one was from 2001, the PowerMac G4 cube. A breakthrough like this S1 that Apple claims is an industry first. HP's innovations these days are not getting the kind of uptake that you'll see from the Watch next year. Nobody tells a story about computer promise like Apple, right down to calling parts of its team "horological experts," and saying it with a straight face. In contrast, HP's Moonshot and the like are important to very large customers, but the small business innovation has been limited to fan-cooling technology. Not sexy enough to earn its own video with a spacey soundtrack.

Why care? One reason might be that HP's working to convince the world, its customers, and its investors that innovation is still embedded in its DNA. It takes more than slapping the word "Invent" under the logo. Innovation is hailed by the markets, not the engineers who designed it. Everything is a consumer product by now, since we're consuming computing as if it were a wristwatch.

In the months before Steve Jobs died, he showered the HP Way and its products with praise while planning the future for Apple. He wanted Apple to leave a legacy in the industry the way that Hewlett-Packard had done, spinning off other companies and making their essential technology indispensible. Apple would do well to become what Hewlett-Packard was at its best.

Are more of those days out in HP's future? Is the ongoing turnaround a way to salvage the HP Unix and OpenVMS applications and enterprises that are going to left behind? Or are they going to become as obsolete as the HP-01, because any company needs to leave products behind? You can't set your watch to the moment when that question will be answered. Not even a device like Apple's, one that's haptic, made in gold as well as stainless steel, and lets you send an image of your beating heart to your loved one, cannot mind the time on that development.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:55 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 27, 2014

A Virtual Legacy from the Past to the Future

VMworld 2014VMworld 2014 wrapped up this week, with more than 25,000 IT pros and suppliers attending the San Francisco conference. Although the show was wrapped entirely around the VMware offerings -- and few other genuinely available products look to the future as much as the virtual machine vendor's -- there's also a legacy story to be told. As it turned out, that story was a message that virtualized 3000 vendor Stromays got to share.

West Coast sales manager Doug Smith, a 3000 veteran from the enterprise resource planning world, checked in on his way out of the Bay Area to report on the proximity between decades-old MPE/iX and just-days-old VMWare innovations like the enterprise cloud vCloud Air. VMware is offering the first month of vCloud Air free.

"VMWorld is a lot of people looking forward," he said, "and we're pulling people back, out of the past. It was great to see those little guys walking by and knowing what MPE, VMS and Alpha means. People were looking up and saying, 'Oh yeah, I've got one of those HP 3000s in my datacenter.' It was a sight to see."

The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 runs on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, operating inside a Linux cradle. But plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work. But ample server horsepower is a recommended spec for using a VMware-CHARON combo.

When a site can eliminate the need for a bare-metal Linux box, "it's kind of double-virtualization," Smith explained. Customers need to manage performance in this configuration which eliminates the need for a dedicated Linux box. "So long as you have enough memory, nice CPUs and disk, the performance is high," Smith said.

With all that noted, Smith said he had a 3000 running on his laptop during the conference on the show floor. "It kind of blows people away," he said. "All the old-school guys are used to seeing a big old box out there running MPE. We had an HP Envy laptop running our 4040 virtual machine." The 4040 is a 4-CPU N-Class server with performance clocked at 38 HP Performance Units -- the equivalent of an HP-branded N4000-400-440.

HP once carried an ultimate-generation 3000 under an arm of a product manager at a conference, but that was 13 years ago and the box was the size of a deep kitchen drawer. It was also an A-Class, which is a pretty good reference point for how compact the supporting hardware has shrunk to host one of the fastest MPE engines. It helps make that happen when the hardware can be Intel-based. Most CHARON installations for MPE don't run on laptops, but the installation turns heads at a conference.

When a laptop with an i5 processor, 8 GB of memory and a 1TB drive can deliver an application screen from an OS first launched in 1974, that's looking forward -- with an viewpoint toward preserving the value of the past, too. There's been interest in the 3000 community in hosting CHARON over a cloud-based server. VMware vCloud stands out as one of the ways to put a solution such as that into practice, at some point in the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:52 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2014

30 years ago, 1984 seemed like news

I've been writing about my own experiences of the year 1984, since this has been the week that marks my 30th anniversary of my technical journalism career. It was the era of personal 1200 baud modems manufactured by US Robotics, now owned by PowerHouse's parent company Unicom Global. It was a time when HP's PC, the Touchscreen 150, operated using a variant of CPM -- the alternative to MS-DOS that lost like Betamax lost to VHS. It was a year when HP's worldwide software engineering manager Marc Hoff announced that 1,783 new products would enter HP's price list on April 1, products ranging from less-expensive software to "application-experienced CEs" called CSRs.

HP's new PICS phone support centers in California and Georgia each operated from 8 AM to 6 PM, giving the customers a whole 13 hours a day of call-in "toll-free" support in the US. It was an era when toll-free mattered, too, and to save money in your DP shop (we didn't call it IT) you could read a column on how to make your own RS-232 cables for the HP 3000, based on instructions from the Black Box Catalog. The HP 3000 could output graphics to magnetic tape, files that could be passed to a service bureau to create 35mm slides for your Kodak Carousel projector for those important boardroom meetings. But there are stories that 3000 community members have shared about that year, too. Here's a sample of some.

AnaheimProcCover

Alan Yeo, ScreenJet founder - In 1984 I had just gone freelance for a contract paying “Great Money” and spent the whole year on a Huge Transact Project. Actually it was the rescue of a Huge Transact Project, one that had taken two elapsed and probably 25 man-years and at that point was about 10 percent working. A couple of us were brought in on contract to turn it around. We did, and we used to joke that we were like a couple of Samurai Coders brought in to Slash and Burn all before us. (I think Richard Chamberlin may have just starred in the hit TV epic Samurai at that time.)

 We were working on a Series 70, configured as the biggest 3000 in our region of the UK (apart from the one at HP itself). We used to have lots of HP SEs in and out to visit -- not because it was broken but just to show it to other customers. That was the year we started hearing rumors of PA-RISC and the new “Spectrum” HP 3000s. It unfortunately took a few more years for them to hit the streets.

I have lots of good memories of HP SEs from that time. HP employed some of the best people, and a lot of them were a great mix between Hardware Engineers, Software Engineers and Application Engineers. Great people to work with who sort of espoused the HP Way, and really made you want to be associated with HP. Where did they go wrong?

Brian Edminster, Applied Technologies founder -- As you've said, bespoke software was the meat and potatoes of the early 3000 market. I still believe that a custom software application package can be warranted -- as long as it gives your business a competitive edge. The trick is to make sure the edge is large enough to justify the expense of having something that's not Commercial Off the Shelf.

Doug Greenup, Minisoft founder -- In 1984 Minisoft was just one year old. We had just begun marketing our first product, a word processor for the HP 3000 known as Miniword. At that time a lot of HP 3000s only did 2400 baud, so typeahead was pretty important. Users were losing characters because they typed too fast. Typeahead helped to solve that problem. Because the HP 3000 did not have typeahead we had to manufacture a little box that sat between the HP3000 and the terminal we called a “SoftBox.” One of our best moments was when we were able to get 9600 baud on a serial connection.

Also at that time we were timesharing on an HP 3000 Series III with another company called Western Data. The spinoff of that company became Walker, Richer and Quinn, the makers of Reflection. Marty Quinn came into my office one day complaining that he couldn't develop from home. He had this piece of hardware called an IBM PC. I remember laughing at the thought of making this IBM PC look like an HP2622 block mode terminal. Marty went on to develop PC2622 which became Reflection.

Denys Beauchemin, MIS manager, backup vendor, developer and Interex chairman -- By 1984 I had been working on the HP 3000 for over seven years. I was at Northern Telecom in Montreal with a pair of Series 70. The Spectrum project was announced by HP at the same time as the cancellation of the Vision project, and the Series 70 got an upgrade to keep it viable for a few more years waiting for Spectrum.

Donna (Garverick) Hofmeister, SIGSYSMAN chair, Longs Drug developer/analyst, OpenMPE board director -- By 1984 I was two years out of college and working for the Army, tracking equipment readiness on a 3000. It was replaced by a Series 70, just about as soon as the 70s came out, too.  We were very proud of that system, because at time of delivery we were told it was the biggest 70 ever made.

Over the years we pushed that box pretty hard. It was very much a case of “if you build [the application] they will come.” We gave weapon system managers on-line access to their data -- something they had never had.  And when we started graphing the trend data -- oh boy! You'd think we had built a better mouse trap! I was particularly fond of the DSG/3000 decision support graphics application. By the time the Army and I parted ways, I think we had a grand 6GB of disc attached to the system.

Chris Bartram, 3k Associates founder, NewsWire Webmaster - In 1984 I had just taken a fulltime system programming job on the 3000 after deciding to give up on college for a while. My work there inspired me to start 3k a few years later in 1987. That was the year when I bought my first 3000, a 3000/37 Mighty Mouse which cost me about $10,000.

Gilles Schipper, founder of third party support firm GSA, NewsWire columnist -1984 was one year after I left HP and started out on my own. At that time, MPE/VE was starting to be out in full force after HP had just announced the 42 (as well as the 48 and 68). Shortly thereafter, as regular contributor to The Chronicle, I wrote an article entitled “The HP3000 Series 41?” in which I suggested that lots of HP 3000 users were being shortchanged by HP with the Series 40 to 42 “upgrade kit,” because it did not include the necessary CPU board replacement that actually made the upgrade complete.

Guy Smith, Chronicle columnist and founder of Silicon Support Strategies - Wow, where the hell was I in 1984? I was running a couple of boxes at Canaveral Air Force Station at that time. 16-bits and many megabytes of RAM were considered serious hardware (which my laptop that I'm writing with mocks, smugly superior with its two 64-bit CPUs and 8GB of fast RAM).

Important at that point in time was the growing number and sophistication of HP Users Groups. The Florida Users Group was particularly vibrant and was a great feeding ground for young and hungry bitheads like me.  They were small, intimate and high powered, allowing me to meet and discuss HP 3000 innards with the likes of David Greer, Vladimir Volokh and other gurus. Interex later became the locus, but regional groups were the launching pads for most of us in 1984. NASA at Kennedy Space Center and neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station had many HP 3000s. I know the concentration of machines and talent there influenced FLORUG.

Jeff Vance, HP developer for MPE, community liaison -- In 1984 I was working in the MPE XL (really named HPE at the time) lab. It was the year that Spectrum (which became PA-RISC) won the battle over the Vision architecture, and we re-wrote much of the low-level OS to Spectrum, while simply porting the higher level code.

The “HPE Cookbook,” written by the late Chris Mayo, was “published” May 15, 1984. The table of contents shows: Development Environment Map, CookMOM - How to Build “Hi Mom,” CookHPE, Useful Directories, User Information, Spooling, Customizing Makefiles for HPE, and RDB - The Remote Debugger.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:58 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 19, 2014

What Changed Over 30 Years: Bespoke

Warmup suitsI arrived here in the community of my career when gas was $1.15 a gallon in the US, the Dow was at 1,200, a new truck sold for $8,995, the Cold War Olympics featured no Soviet atheletes in LA, and Stevie Wonder had a top hit on the record charts. Because there were still records being sold for pop hits, along with cassettes. Nary a CD could be bought. The Mac was brand new and still didn't sport a hard drive. Those fellows to the right were right in style with warm-up suits that you're likely to see in a senior's happy hour cafeteria line today.

There were thousands of applications in the Hewlett-Packard software catalog of 1984. It wasn't a new idea to collate and curate them, either. MB Foster had one of the first compendiums of HP 3000 software, several years before it occured to HP to offer products the vendor did not make (or buy up, then sell back). But in the month when I entered this market, during that August you were at least as likely to find custom, bespoke software running a corporation as any Commercial Off The Shelf package.

People built what they needed. The bespoken software was often created with the help of fourth generation langauges, so Speedware and Cognos' Powerhouse were big players during 1984. Not the biggest of the 3000 vendors, in terms of customer size. Unless you counted several thousand MANMAN sites, all running the Quiz reporting tools that ASK Computer included with the MRP package. Back in those says, Enterprise Resource Planning hadn't been conceived. 

Because so much of the community's software was customized, being well-versed in IMAGE/3000 -- not yet TurboIMAGE, let alone IMAGE/SQL -- was a key skill. Mastery of the database was more attainable if you had a database management utility. Adager was most widely installed, with Bradmark just getting off the ground in 1984. I nearly crashed my reputation with Adager and co-founder Alfredo Rego, less than a month after I began my career in the community.

MondaletoHartThe problem was a lack of MPE and IMAGE experience. Since I didn't understand the technology first-hand, I felt compelled to contribute to the effort of the HP Chronicle. Not by writing an article, but instead closely red-pen editing the writing of Rego. I didn't know yet that anything he shared with a publication -- his technical treatise was a big win for us at the HP Chronicle -- had already been polished and optimized. A writer well-steeped in mastery of his subject can insist an article be published with no changes. In the publishing business, stet means to ignore a change. I'd have been helped if someone had grabbed my inked-up printout of Rego's paper and marked "stet all changes" on the front. He had a legitimate beef.

Instead, we ran it and then I got to enjoy a rare thrill -- having my corrections corrected by the author, live in front of a local user group audience. Writers forming the troika of big independent vendors -- Bob Green at Robelle, Eugene Volokh at VEsoft, and Rego -- certainly had earned stet-all-changes. Their software became crucial in managing a 3000 that was gasping for new horsepower. Creating and maintaining customized software was a popular way to get the most out of the six-figure HP 3000s, already at the end of the line at the top but still more than two years away from getting a refresh.

One accounting software package was in place that was basically a template for its resellers to customize for customers. Meanwhile there was talk in our offices about the new Account Management Support, a Systems Engineer (SE) and Customer Support Representative (SCR) tandem for supporting HP 3000s. An SE would visit your site once a month; nothing new about that in 1984. But HP would be sending a CSR for each of your applications. The 3000 community always knew that HP wanted to be onsite to talk about optimization and resolve management operations issues. The CSRs were all about making sure that the HP applications were satisfactory -- and edging out the third-party alternatives.

But so much of what was running neither HP or third-party. It was custom-crafted. And that year could get a new level of support, via phone in the US out of Santa Clara, Calif. and from Atlanta. 

In my offices, the 3000 was limited to an amber terminal emulator screen, representing time on a system down at Futura Press, where the newspaper was printed monthly. We never saw any SEs unless we were at a conference -- where they gave talks. We never installed an HP 3000.

It was an era where PCs were on the rise, but not being much trusted in the Data Processing departments. The financial forces started to carry the day with PCs and MS-DOS, but the established MIS sector analysts figured that PCs would saturate the market quickly enough. One $400,000 study reported "Early PC peak forecasted," where SRI International predicted PC growth tapering off after 1986. "Average annual growth will be only 5.4 percent in the 1986-1990 period."

Customization -- the bespoke nature of database designs -- was supposed to be holding back more PC growth. "Some companies find that the file structures within their corporate databse do not lend themselves to easy access by PCs." Personal computers were supposed to work unconnected to the databases like IMAGE, the experts figured. Then software like Data Express arrived to change all of that connectivity between PC spreadsheets and minicomputer databases. IMAGE could use what Lotus 1-2-3 wrought/

IMAGE adjustments, management and optimization were so popular that we had a pristine copy of the IMAGE/3000 Handbook in our office -- though it was more for my education than any operational use. The book was 330 generous sized pages, plus index, written by Bob Green, David Greer, Alfredo Rego, Fred White, and Dennis and Amy Heidner. "The book sold itself," said Green, "and since the price was $50 each and we paid for the printing, our editor Marguirete Russell had a nice extra income for the next few years."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:57 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2014

This Is Where I Came In

It's the third week of August, but it's 30 years ago. I wear my wide tie and my oxfords to an office in Austin's northwest tech territory and start to write and learn about the HP 3000. I'm 27, father of a boy not yet two, a community news reporter with a new community to creep into -- because that's how it's done when you don't know anyone or much of anything. You ask a lot of questions and try to understand the answers.

Ronin1980sThe office is ribbed with wood paneling and mini-blinds and sports an IBM-PC knockoff, a Columbia. It's got an amber display and no hard drive. A box with the manual for Walker, Richer & Quinn's PC2622 software is on top of that monitor. It's connected for something called time-sharing, and it also connects to something called Compuserve. I watch my boss dial up on a phone with a modem -- I knew about those from using an Apple II at home -- and read the news. None of it's about HP, though. That's our story to tell.

Inside my editor's office there's a telephone transcription machine for recorded interviews, plus a Kaypro II portable. It weighs 28 pounds and has a screen that's nine inches across.  Kaypro_II_portable_computer_with_dBase_II_and_CPM_2013-04-04_00-57Imagine two Samsung Galaxy phones side by side, and that's about it. There are two books on the shelf, both printed by Hewlett-Packard. One is a catalog of third-party software and specialized hardware, all written in something called MPE V for a computer people are wild about, the HP 3000. The other book is a listing of the phone number of everyone in HP's Bay Area campuses. HP is not yet selling $7 billion of gear, support or software in 1984 -- and that includes medical and measurement systems that are so much better known than its computer products.

In my first week of a career writing about HP, one of the first things that I learn is that we've been scooped. The latest HP 3000, a real ground-breaker, is already in the pages of Interact magazine. The user group Interex has won again, because being physically near those HP Bay Area offices makes a difference. There's nobody on our staff or theirs who wrote news for newspapers, though, not until this week. It's the only chance we've got to learn something first: Get on that phone, son.

Thirty years ago the market that became the community I called home had a minicomputer product being sold in a mainframe mindset. HP sold office computers for interactive computing, just like DEC, Wang, Control Data, Honeywell, Burroughs, Univac, Datapoint, and yeah, some company called IBM. I'd heard of IBM. I knew nothing about the rest of the BUNCH, and I thought they were kidding about a company called Wang. (In the years to come, our publishing company created an unfortunately-named tabloid called Wang in the News.)

Mighty MouseWe got scooped on the release of the Series 37, which HP called the Office Computer because it was the first minicomputer it sold that didn't need special cooling or a raised floor. It operated on carpet, and that was a big deal for something people called the Mighty Mouse. It had the the first 3000 on a chip; a CMOS gate array; could have as much as 8 MB of memory and the same performance as a Series III, according to Stan Sieler's genealogy of that era. The Series III cost four times as much. That 8 MB is smaller than some of the individual podcast files I created 25 years later.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, like I usually do. I came into that office with 24 credit hours of computer science and a passion for the field. I was an enthusiast, as they used to call people who like computers for the concept of what they'd do, not just what they could help you learn. I only had a journalism degree to hang up on my paneled office wall. Plus that telephone and a notepad and a recorder. I needed the recorder, because I was drinking out of a fire hose of information for the first six months of these 30 years.

People were at the heart of the work, though. Not just the machines, but creative people with personality and a penchant for gathering and being social. These were business computing analysts, and the best way for them to share what they knew and learn was to read and meet in person. They held meetings at least once a month around the world. They were generous with what they knew. It seemed lots of them wanted to teach.

These days there are Throwback Thursdays online in social media like Facebook. Us baby boomers share pictures of our younger days. But I'm going to take more than just this coming Thursday to throw you back into 1984 and the place where I came in, looking for a way to tell stories that 3000 people would hear for the first time. Being first was important. But I'd soon learn that being accurate was even more important, more essential to my readers and my new community than being accurate when someone was on trial, or critically injured, or breaking a record or hearts on a sporting field. It certainly felt that way to the people who shared their stories with me. It also felt that way to me, the first time I messed up in public as I came in, then got schooled in person about how inaccurate my editing was in 1984.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:44 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2014

TBT: Affordable IT in Acquisition Aftermath

Blanket-AdThere it is, in all of its comfy, trustworthy glory: The only two-page spread advertisement HP ever bought to promote the HP 3000. From a 1998 issue of Computerworld, it's a ThrowBack Thursday entry, from an era when the 3000 was battling for prime position in datacenters. (Click it to have a closer look.) Harry Sterling was the general manager of the 3000 group by that year. Serious business.

Simpkins AdAs part of another ad series, Terry Simpkins, now the Business Systems Director of Measurement Specialties Inc., testified to the value of running HP 3000 ERP systems. At the time MANMAN was owned by Computer Associates, who'd dubbed the software's owner the MK Group. (Click to have a closer look at his testimony.)

Now comes word that Simpkins' current company -- probably one of the single largest users of MANMAN -- has been purchased. An acquisition can be a trigger for change. Some HP 3000s have been decommissioned as a result of running a company which now must march in a new corporate file. 

It may not be so at MSI. We've heard through the MANMAN support network that TE Connectivity Ltd., which will own MSI perhaps as early as next month, was impressed by the low costs of operating more than 10 separate ERP installations around the world. MSI was purchased for $1.4 billion, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

There have been some instances in the system's past where the HP 3000 edged out other mid-size enterprise platforms during a merger. AS/400s got replaced in one case. At MSI, the system is running manufacturing for a company that is moving into stronger business.

TE was once called Tyco Electronics, a spinoff of Tyco International. It manufactures electronic connection products for cars, consumer products and the energy industry. Measurement Specialties had strong bookings in the last quarter before the deal was announced. In a statement at the time, it said it was "well positioned to deliver solid growth and strong earnings performance in fiscal 2015, with acceleration in fiscal 2016."

TEplusMSITE is looking at the potential for dominating the sensor industry, worldwide, by acquiring MSI.

For MSI's latest fiscal year, net income was $37.8 million on sales of $412.7 million. The company expected fiscal 2015 sales of about $540 million, including $100 million from the recent purchase of Wema System AS.

With profits in hand, and the ability to meet growing business needs, it's possible that the HP 3000 could feel as secure as the blanket in that 1998 ad, once TE wraps its arms around its newest acquisition. MSI was looking to add a 3000 expert this summer, too. Comfort sometimes comes from the certainty of managing growth at an attractive price.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:54 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2014

Password advice for migrating managers

PasswordsStolenMore than a billion password-ID combos were stolen by a Russian gang, according to a report from a cybersecurity company. Mission-critical, revenue-centric passwords are probably the ripest targets.

Once you're making a migration of mission-critical systems from MPE to more-exposed servers, passwords will become a more intense study for you. Windows-based servers are the most exposed targets, so a migrated manager needs to know how to create high-caliber passwords and protect them. Given the headlines in current news, today's probably the day when you'll get more questions about how safe your systems are -- especially in the coming era of cloud computing. Here's some answers from our security expert Steve Hardwick.

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
Oxygen Finance

Everything needs a password to access it. One of the side effects of the cloud is the need to be able to separate information from the various users that access a centrally located service. In the case where I have data on my laptop or desktop, I can create one single password that controls access to all of the apps that reside on the drive, plus all of the associated data. There is a one to one physical relationship between the owner and the physical machine that hosts the information. This allows a simpler mechanism to validate the user. 

In the cloud world it is not as easy. There is no longer a physical relationship with the user. In fact, a user may be accessing several different physical locations when running applications or accessing information. This has lead to a dramatic increase in the number of passwords and authentication methods that are in use. 

I just did a count of my usernames and passwords and I have 37 different accounts (most with unique usernames and password). Plus, there are several sites where I use the same usernames and password combinations. You may ask why are some unique and why are some shared. The answer is based on the risk of a username or password be compromised. If I consider an account to have a high value, high degree of loss/impact if hacked, then it gets a unique username or password. Let's look at email accounts as a good example.

I have a unique username and password for my five email accounts. However, I do have one email account that is reserved solely for providing a username for other types of access. When I go to a site that requires an email address to set up an account, that is the one I use. Plus I am not always selecting a unique password. The assumption is that if that username and password is stolen, then the other places it can be used are only website accounts of low value. I also have a second email account that I use to set up more sensitive assess, Google Drive, for example. This allows me to limit the damage if one of the accounts is compromised and not end up with a daisy chain of hacked accounts.

So how do you go about generating a bunch of passwords? One easy way is to go into your favorite search engine and type in password generator. You will get a fairly good list of applications that you can use to generate medium to strong passwords. When I used to teach security this was one trick I would share with my students. Write a list of 4 or 5 short words that are easy to remember. Since my first name is Steve we can use that. Add to this password a short number (4-5 digits in length),1999 for example. Now pick a word and number combination and intersperse the numbers and letters S1t9e9v9e would be the result of Steve and 1999.

Longer words and longer numbers make strong passwords -- phone numbers and last names works well. With 5 words and 5 numbers you get 25 passwords. One nice benefit of this approach comes when you need to change your password. Write the number backwards, and merge the word and data back together.

Next challenge: how to remember them all. Some of the passwords I use I tend to remember due to repetitive use. Logging into my system is one I tend to remember, even through it is 11 characters long. But many of my passwords I use infrequently, my router for example, and many have the “remember me” function when I log on. What happens when I want to recall one of these? Well the first thing is not to write them down unless you absolutely have to. You would be amazed how many times I have seen someone’s password taped on the underside of their laptop. A better option is to store them on your machine. How do you do that securely? Well there are several ways.

One easy way is to use a password vault or password manager. This creates a single encrypted file that you can access with a single username and password. Username and password combinations can then be entered into the password vault application together with their corresponding account. The big advantage is that it is now easy to retrieve the access data with one username and password. The one flaw is: what happens if the drive crashes that contains the vault application and data? If you use an encrypted vault, then you can place the resulting file on a cloud drive. This solved the machine dependency and has the added advatage that the password is generally available to multiple machines. If you want to get started with a password vault application, here is a good article that compares some leading products.

Another option is to roll your own. Create a text file and enter all of your account/username/password combinations. Once you are done, obtain some encryption technology. There are open source products, truecrypt is the leader, or you can use the encryption built into your OS. The advantage of using open source is that it runs on multiple OS. Encrypt the text file using your software. Caution: do not use the default file name the application gives you as it will be based on your text file name. 

Once you have created your encrypted file from the text file, open the text file again. Select all the text in the file and delete it. Then copy a large block of text into the file and save it (more then you had with the passwords). Then delete the file. This will make sure that the text file cannot easily be recovered. If you know how to securely delete the file do that instead. Now you can remotely store the encrypted password file in a remote location, cloud storage, another computer, USB drive etc. You will then have a copy of your password file you can recover should you lose access to the one on your main machine.

Now, if you do not want to use encryption, then there is a very geeky option. But why wouldn’t you use encryption? Most programs use specific file extensions for their encrypted file. When auditing, the first thing I would look for is files with encryption extensions. I would then look for any files that were similar in size or name to see if I could find out the source. This included looking through the deleted file history.

The other option is steganography, or stego for short. The simple explanation is the ability to bury information into other data - for example pictures. Rather than give a detailed description of the technology here, take a look at its Wikipedia page   There is also a page with some tools on it. For a long time, my work laptop had a screen saver that contained all my passwords. I am thinking of putting a picture up on Facebook next.

So here are a few simple rules on handling multiple passwords:

1) Try and use uniques usernames and password for sensitive account. You can use the same username password combination for low sensitive accounts.

2) Run through an exercise and ask yourself, what happens if this account is hacked. i.e don't use the same username and password for everything.

3) Do NOT write down your passwords to store them, unless you have a very secure place to store the document e.g. a safe.

4) Make sure you have a secure back-up copy of your passwords, use encryption or steganography.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:55 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 29, 2014

Stromasys spreads word of spreading wings

Hardware We ReplaceThe makers of the only HP 3000 hardware emulator are not a new company, but Stromasys is starting to outline the new structure of its firm in a communication to its clients and partners. Last week the corporation emailed notice of a set of managers to "strengthen its management team" and a announce the creation of a new R&D center.

In May the company's main HQ was moved to a larger facility in Geneva, and an Asia-Pacific unit will be located in Hong Kong. Some of the changes to the company were reported in brief at the end of 2013. But Chairman George Koukis, who started the banking software Temenous Group and leads that sector of software systems, speaks out in the update about the intrinsic value of CHARON. 

"Charon prolongs the life of software by protecting it from constant change in hardware technology," he said. "Temenos' worldwide success meant that I replaced many systems; I am painfully aware of the immense cost of replacing or migrating application software."

Worldwide expansion through a partner network looks to be a key mission objective of the latest communique. When the company was briefing North American customers for the first time in May 2013 on a Training Day, the managers said that a channel structure for partners was being designed. Frédéric Kokocinski is the new Global Head of Channel Management. The new channel strategy focuses on marketing and communication -- including a comprehensive product roadmap -- certification for resellers, plus support through knowledge sharing, as well as a fresh push on sales.

The company has offices in place in Raleigh, NC, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. Gregory Reut is Head of Support. The company is meeting with partners to outline and detail the changes in its organization. Isabelle Jourdain is Head of Marketing. The company's co-founder, Robert Boers, remains connected to the company as a technology advisor to the board of directors. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:44 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 30, 2014

Update: Open source, in 3000 ERP style

OpenBravo roadmapAn extensive product roadmap is part of the OpenBravo directions for this open source ERP commercial solution

Five years ago today, we chronicled the prospects of open source software for HP 3000s. We mentioned the most extensive open source repository for MPE systems, curated by Brian Edminster and his company Applied Technologies. MPE-OpenSource.org has weathered these five years of change in the MPE market and still serves open source needs. But in 2009 we also were hopeful about the arrival of OpenBravo as a migration solution for 3000 users who were looking for an ERP replacement of MANMAN, for example -- without investing in the balky request-and-wait enhancement tangle of proprietary software.

Open source software is a good fit for the HP 3000 community member, according to several sources. Complete app suites have emerged and rewritten the rules for software ownership. An expert consulting and support firm for ERP solutions is proving that a full-featured ERP app suite, Openbravo, will work for 3000 customers by 2010.

[Editor's note: "We meant work for 3000 customers" in the sense of being a suitable ERP replacement for MPE-based software]. 

A software collective launched in the 1990s by the University of Navarra which has evolved to Openbravo, S.L., Openbravo is utilized by manufacturing firms around the world. Openbravo is big stuff. So large that it is one of the ten largest projects on the SourceForge.net open source repository, until Openbravo outgrew SourceForge. The software, its partners and users have their own Forge running today. In 2009, Sue Kiezel of Entsgo -- part of the Support Group's ERP consulting and tech support operations -- said, “We believe that within six to nine months, the solution will be as robust as MANMAN was at its best.”

From the looks of its deep Wiki, and a quick look into the labs where development is still emerging for advanced aspects such as analytics, Entsgo's premonition has come to fruition. Managing manufacturing is easily within the pay-grade of open source solutions like OpenBravo.

What we reported on five years ago is no less true today. Open source is an essential part of enterprise IT by now, though. Entsgo's predictions were spot-on.

Open source solutions can span a wide range of organization, from code forges with revisions and little else to the one-stop feel of a vendor, minus the high costs and long waits. Openbravo is in the latter category, operating with hundreds of employees after having received more than $18 million in funding. If that doesn't sound much like the Apache and Samba open source experience, then welcome to Open Source 2.0, where subscription fees have replaced software purchases and partner firms join alongside users to develop the software.

Openbravo says the model is "commercial open source business model that eliminates software license fees, providing support, services, and product enhancements via an annual subscription." Entsgo says you have a company that supports it, and you can subscribe to it and verifies it, upgrades it and maintains it — all of that under one company name.

“In the 3000 community, we’re used to the independence of the open source model,” said Kiezel. “We’re used to tools that are intuitive, and if you look at us, we should be able to embrace open source more than any other community.”

Open source practices turn the enhancement experience upside down for an application. In the traditional model, a single vendor writes software at a significant investment for high profits, then accepts requests for enhancements and repairs. A complex app such as ERP might not even get 10 percent of these requests fulfilled by the average vendor.

The open source community around Openbravo operates like many open source enterprises. Companies create their own enhancements, license them back to the community, and can access bug fixes quickly—all because the ownership is shared and the source code for the app is open.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:33 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2014

Mansion meet takes first comeback steps

A few hours ago, the first PowerHouse user group meeting and formation of a Customer Advisory Board wrapped up in California. Russ Guzzo, the guiding light for PowerHouse's comeback, told us a few weeks ago that today's meeting was just the first of several that new owner UNICOM Global was going to host. "We'll be taking this on the road," he said, just as the vendor was starting to call users to its meeting space at the PickFair mansion in Hollywood.

We've heard that the meeting was webcast, too. It's a good idea to extend the reach of the message as Unicom extends the future of the PowerHouse development toolset.

CoeThis is a product that started its life in the late 1970s. But so did Unix, so just because a technology was born more than 35 years ago doesn't limit its lifespan. One user, IT Director Robert Coe at HPB Management Ltd. in Cambridge, wants to see PowerHouse take a spot at the table alongside serious business languages. Coe understands that going forward might mean leaving some compatibility behind. That's a step Hewlett-Packard couldn't ever take with MPE and the HP 3000. Some say that decision hampered the agility of the 3000's technical and business future at HP. Unix, and later Linux, could become anything, unfettered by compatibility.

Coe, commenting on the LinkedIn Cognos Powerhouse group, said his company has been looking at a migration away from Powerhouse -- until now.

I would like to see Powerhouse developed into a modern mainstream language, suitable for development of any business system or website. If this is at the expense of backwards compatibility, so be it. We are developing new systems all the time, and at the moment are faced with having to use Java, c# or similar. I would much rather be developing new systems in a Powerhouse based new language, with all the benefits that provides, even if it is not directly compatible with our existing systems. 

The world would be a better place if Powerhouse was the main platform used for development! I hope Unicom can provide the backing, wisdom and conviction to enable this to happen.

There were many business decisions made about the lifecycle and sales practices for PowerHouse over the last 25 years that hampered the future of the tool. Coe found technical faults with the alternatives to PowerHouse -- "over-complicated, hard to learn, slow to develop, difficult to maintain, prone to bugs, with far too much unnecessary and fiddly syntax."

But he was also spot-on in tagging the management shortcomings of the toolset's previous owners:

  • Cognos concentrated on BI tools, as there appeared to be more money in them 
  • IBM bought Cognos for its BI tools for the same reason 
  • Powerhouse development more or less stopped many years ago 
  • Licences were very expensive compared to other languages. which were often open source and free 
  • Powerhouse was not open source and therefore didn’t get the support of the developer community 
  • Backwards compatibility was guaranteed, stifling major development
Powerhouse is a far superior platform for development of business systems. I cringe at the thought of having to use the likes of Java to replace or current systems or to develop our future systems!

Bob Deskin, hired by UNICOM to advise the new owners on a growth strategy for the toolset, reminded Coe that things like Java, Ruby, Python and Perl were not purpose-built for business.

Don't be too hard on those other languages. Some of them aren't what I would call complete programming languages. Some are scripting languages. And some are trying to be all things to all people. PowerHouse was always focused on business application development. Hang in for a while longer and watch what UNICOM can do.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:51 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 26, 2014

3000 sages threwback stories on Thursday

DirtydicksTwo weeks ago in the modest London pub Dirty Dick's, a few dozen veterans and sages of the 3000 system had their personal version of a Throwback Thursday. This is the day of the week when Facebook and Twitter users put out a piece of their personal history, usually in the form of a picture from days long past.

BruceTobackIf pressed for a piece of June Throwback Thursday material, I might reach for our very first blog post. Nine years ago this month we kicked off our coverage of new, every-workday reporting. My first story was a tribute to a just-fallen comrade in the 3000 community. Bruce Toback died in that month the Newswire's blog was born. As I said in that first blog article -- "A Bright Light Winks Out" was already a throwback, before the term gained its current coin -- Toback was extraordinary, the kind of person that makes the 3000 community unique. He lived with a firm grip on life's handrail of humor. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 48. As part of a gentle and generous Toback memorial, David Greer hosts pictures of Bruce like the one above. Many of these were taken as Toback became important to the Robelle Qedit for Windows project.

Bobgreen-beachThe passing of a special life is a good reason to celebrate what remains for all of us. That's probably what motivated those London veterans to gather at Dirty Dick's Pub this month to toss off stories and toss back drinks. Bob Green of Robelle (pictured here in a throwback picture in the spring of 2001, when he was working from his Anguilla island headquarters) shared some pub photos and a brief report about this month's Throwback Thursday for your community.

BrianDuncombe“It was great to catch up with 3000 colleagues from around the world: Steve Cooper, Dave Wiseman, Brian Duncombe, Kim Leeper, Brad Tashenberg, the Nutsfords and many more (about 20 in all). We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine -- especially the new emulator -- and discovered what each of us was doing. [Editor's Note: Duncombe (above) had made this trip in a record 48-hour-complete turnaround, from Canada to the UK and back. The intensity still burns bright for some of your community members.]

Steve Cooper Kim LeeperGreen noted, while posting photos of Cooper and Leeper in conversation, or the sweet couples' photo (below) of Jeanette and Ken Nutsford, "An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.

Nutfords"Here are some photos from the party. Everyone is older, but perhaps you will remember some of them." This photo of the Nutsfords, ever the COBOL and HP Rapid standards-bearers, is something of a coup. The couple retired from the world of the 3000 to set off an epic career of cruise line travels, so catching them for a picture requires some foresight. They are circling the globe in a lifestyle that shows there's another, more rewarding kind of migration awaiting the luckiest of us.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:25 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2014

Going Virtual, or Getting More Live

Duncan ChampionWe were not there live last night -- but we remember what the Finals felt like, that seed that made the virtual rich enough.

Virtual is the new efficient. Going virtual in computing means doing away with what's not essential. But what it really means is re-thinking how to do something that's been done the same since before anybody can recall. MPE is going virtual this year, and every year for the rest of this decade that it can shed its Hewlett-Packard hardware, much of it built in the previous century.

There are good reasons for going virtual, as well as good reasons for going what -- actual? Live, there, that's the word for it, in-person and physical. Yesterday I got a Father's Day treat at the movie theatre. We don't go there often anymore, but when we do, we want to be in an IMAX Mini theatre, wearing 3D glasses. Otherwise, there's always streaming at home to experience stories.

Why even bother to leave your chair? In a world where information and experience can feel as real as being present, those are good questions to consider while investing. Last night an NBA championship game was being played just 90 minutes from my house. But while it was sorely tempting, I absorbed the experience from my purple leather sofa in front of a modest flat-screen TV. I wasn't in the arena with my San Antonio Spurs. I had a virtual experience. But as its greybearded leader Tim Duncan looked like a youngster in winning once again, late in the game which is his career, I felt like I’d been there -- because I remember when Abby and I were there, cheering for a title 11 years ago.

Scientists tell us that this sort of memory is what makes virtual experiences most powerful. We imprint on the emotion and richness of a live event, remembering the race of the heart and the sweat on our brow. Or maybe the feeling of being known and understood, in a meeting of IT pros or inside a conference hall. This emulated intimacy becomes palatable when you know the real thing. It makes it possible to become a powerful tool in a world we’re experiencing at a broadband pace. We can also control the mix of the event’s information and our own comforts.

At my house we had the network broadcasting its video on the TV, and we didn't time-delay with our DVR like we do during the regular season games. The pictures were live. At the same time, we live close enough to San Antonio to get a clear feed of the Spurs' flagship radio station WOAI -- where our comforting announcer Bill Shoenig called the action. I simply could not recreate this kind of multimedia inside the arena. Because I had dread as well as elation to juggle for three hours, the whole melange was more tasty when I could see what I want -- enhanced with replay ---while I could hear what I craved: that upbeat voice, making an outlook on a story Whose outcome we could not predict.

Virtual was better. An emulation can improve on the original.

We crave this kind of experience in our work, too. There’s a bit of an unexpected miracle going on in Hollywood this month. A legendary mansion will be the site of a PowerHouse user conference and advisory board meeting. It’s not the right time to attend, for some managers who use that development suite. So at least one of those pros has asked if the whole conference couldn’t be webcast. HP did this earlier this month at its Discover conference. 

COMMON VirtualCOMMON, the user group for the IBM enterprise server manager, has been trying to emulate a trade show for awhile. It's all well within the realm of reality, tech-wise. But a conference presentation is one kind of thing to splash over the Web. The interaction between users is far tougher to duplicate. HP tried this show concept, years ago, attempting to mount a virtual conference, complete with expo area. It’s a concept that’s still ahead of its time. Visiting the COMMON virtual conference above even shows a few animated people outside an expo hall, well-rendered. But without anything to share with you. There's no live-world reference with these people to recall.

Virtualization can only go as far as our experience will allow. Here in mid-June, a London pub was hosting a meeting of 3000 veterans for what amounted to a reunion. No presentations, just talk. This kind of exchange was sometimes the most profound part of a meeting, which is why the PickFair mansion in Hollywood and Dirty Dick’s London pub will resound with voices, handshakes, and a communal beverage. In my house, the beer didn't taste any different at halftime of the Spurs game, because I was drinking one alongside my favorite fan.

Earlier this month there were slick productions with TV-grade lighting and sound at the HP Discover conference. Live on your laptop, you could watch three relatively-fresh CEOs from Intel, Microsoft and HP explain why working together is a better idea for their companies than the alternative they’ve been trying: HP selling OS products, Microsoft peddling hardware, Intel integrating both into its own branded knock-offs. We did experience the novelty of watching a trade conference event live. But aside from the comfort and economy, going virtual didn’t make it any better.

I missed the coarse roar off the rafters of the AT&T Center at the timeouts, when the Spurs forced Miami to rethink its defense. But those camera angles, that replay, and the sharp commentary improved my virtual experience. Virtualization can multiply the gifts of its original. But when you don't know the original, it's a good time to experience it.

Wednesday evening we're going to the Riverwalk in San Antonio for the victory parade, a celebration where the team is ferried around the river on barges, with fans thronging the riverbanks. It will be a Spurs crowd ten times the size of any we've experienced inside an arena. We could watch the parade on that flat-screen. But it's better to have those live experiences to leaven a virtual loaf. That's why a mansion and a pub are still important parts of a world that's heading for the efficiency of virtual.

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

June 13, 2014

User group's mansion meet sets deadline

JoinUsPowerHouse


June 15 is the first "secure your spot" registration date

PowerHouse customers, many of whom are still using their HP 3000 servers like those at Boeing, have been invited to the PickFair mansion in Hollywood for the first PowerHouse user conference. The all-day Friday meeting is June 27, but a deadline to ensure a reserved space passes at the end of June 15.

That's a Sunday, and Father's Day at that, so the PowerHouse patriarchy is likely to be understanding about getting a reservation in on June 16. Russ Guzzo, the marketing and PR powerhouse at new owners Unicom Global, said the company's been delighted at the response from customers who've been called and gathered into the community.

"I think it makes a statement that we're in it for the long haul," Guzzo said of gathering the customers, "and that the product's no longer sitting on the shelf and collecting dust. Let's talk." 

We're taking on a responsibility, because we know there are some very large companies out there that have built their existence around this technology. It's an absolute pleasure to be calling on the PowerHouse customers. Even the inactive ones. Why? Because they love the technology, and I've heard, "Geez, I got a phone call?"

Register at unicomglobal.com/PowerHouseCAB -- that's shorthand for Customer Advisory Board. It's a $500 ticket, or multiple registrations at $395 each, with breakfast and lunch included. More details, including a handsome flyer for justifying a one-day trip, at the event's webpage.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:34 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 12, 2014

Virtualization still demands real iron

In the span of time between the publication of a hopeful magazine article and the close of this year's HP Discover conference, the vendor made a point about its hardware heritage. The point might have been unintentional, but it appears that the future is still a destination you'll achieve riding the vehicle of The Machine.

BrontobyteHPA lot of computing is going out of sight these days. The costs to careers are real, as companies decide that managing IT staff and in-house resources is a discretionery budget item. When they job out your computing systems to a cloud provider, all that remains is to keep up with the needs of your applications and business processes. That's a lot fewer jobs across our industry. The demands for information keep accelerating, through brontobytes of data and onward.

But HP believes that there's still going to be a need for a machine to run it all, one that they're trying to build from the concepts of tomorrow. A blog post on the HP website HP Next explained why the biggest HP Labs project in 20 years is being called The Machine.

Why do we call it The Machine? When we first started developing it, we wanted to be very careful not to call it a server, workstation, PC, device or phone, because it actually encompasses all of those things. So as we were waiting for Marketing to come up with a cool code name for the project, we started calling it The Machine—and the name stuck.

HP talks about a centralized learning engine. So that's another physical reference, one that will be powered by The Machine. "With The Machine, we have the opportunity to rethink security, data governance, data placement and data sovereignty from ground up and embed them into all of our products. This revolutionary project is on its way to changing the industry—and the way we compute."

The promise, really just a dream, is that a "a doctor could compare your symptoms and genomics with every other patient around the world to improve your health outcomes, instantly, without language barriers or privacy breaches."

That magic will still require real iron somewhere, managed by an IT pro. Iron, a box, or a virtual array of compute engines, they'll all an un-changing part of the way our industry computes. That's why the revolution of a virtual HP 3000 server still needs a ProLiant computer to emulate the old PA-RISC MPE system. That's why even at HP, tomorrow's data dream is called The Machine.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:39 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 09, 2014

Heirs to the 3000 Family's Fortune

It was about this time nine years ago that the Newswire's blog began, and one of our first few items in that season was a personal one. Squirreled away in an email update we once called the Online Extra, we noted a happy event in the Volokh family. Eugene -- now a tenured law professor, had become a father once more -- making his dad Vladimir a grandfather again.

Now the family has another milestone. Vladimir reports that younger son Sasha, also a law professor, has earned tenure at Emory University in Atlanta. Two tenured law professors as sons, and each of them had their HP 3000 experience, chronicled in publications.

SashaDCSasha was first depicted in the DC Daily, a daily newsletter that Interex published during the 1985 DC user conference, in a pictorial called Kids at the Konference. "While mom and dad are attending the round tables, the kids are enjoying the conference in their own special way." This show, almost 30 years ago, was my first exposure to the Interex yearly meetings. I have a firm memory of the young Sasha making his way happily from vendor booth to vendor booth, wearing a vest that was festooned with the giveaway buttons from the vast array of 3000 vendors.

SashaEmoryLike his brother, Sasha was just shy of age 12 during his debut in the wide HP 3000 community. His parents Vladimir and Anne shared the photo above of a 12-year-old Sasha -- now tenured. It's a marker that your community has enough tenure that it's produced father-son heritages. And yet another generation has been born to these heirs. There are others to note, too.

In addition to the Volokhs, we've written up -- during a week that like this one is nearing Father's Day -- the combo of Terry and David Floyd. During the past year, David has moved into the ranks of an established manufacturing system manager, after his stint of leading the Support Group. He too had early first steps onto the path of his father, writing an application that he finished at age 15. David's first HP 3000 experience was at age 5, in 1981, on a Series III.

Sasha is among the youngest of 3000 family's progeny.  David has not seen his 40th birthday yet. David was a tender nine years old at the time of that 1985 conference, the first show since HP had announced that its Vision program for the 3000 would be replaced by Spectrum. Below is a pictorial wrap-up from the Daily of that year. (Thanks to Sasha's mom Anne for the 3000 photo history.) Note the picture of David Packard, enjoying attendees at the conference.

DC Daily Final FarewellAnd from our own late May, 2005 Extra -- sent out two decades after that DC show -- and in the same season as Father's Day, we offered the new-dad news below. It extended the third generation of 3000-related family members.

Volokh empire adds another heir

Eugene Volokh, the co-founder of HP 3000 utility software vendor VEsoft, added another member to his family with the birth of his son Samuel. Volokh, who has added the career of constitutional law professor to his roots programming for HP 3000s, now has two sons by his wife Leslie Periera. Proud grandpa Vladimir, who heads up the VEsoft empire, reports that Benjamin was born at 10.5 pounds, bigger than Eugene’s 9-pound birth weight.

While Eugene’s technical legend remains fixed in the minds of HP 3000 customers who cut their teeth during the 1980s — the son of Russian immigrant Vladimir, he worked at HP as a teenager and created MPEX with his father before graduating high school — his later life illustrates even broader interests. His writings on law and society are profound; his Volokh Conspiracy blog (volokh.com) bristles with a wide scope of commentary. Now the father of two, Eugene might have even more drive to accomplish one of his more nascent desires: to write children’s fiction. In an interview with blogger Norman Geras while Samuel was already on the way, Eugene admitted a wish to entertain:

Q. What talent would you most like to have? 
A. Being able to write memorable and entertaining fiction, especially children’s fiction.

Fifteen years ago, we wrote a full-throttle feature for our printed Newswire edition celebrating the fathers of your community who had heirs in their footsteps, or upon their shoulders. The Floyds -- David has a couple of sons of his own, by the way -- were captured in the following account from 1999.

Fathers pass 3000s to next generation

For MANMAN/HP expert and founder of the Support Group, inc. Terry Floyd, working with his son David has been the return of an often prodigal son. David first began to work with his father by writing an application he finished at age 15 — but worked for another HP 3000 company as a programmer/analyst before returning to tSGi last year.

"David wrote a program I'd always wanted — a Labor Summary Report for the 3000 — in 1989, because there was no such thing in MANMAN," Terry said. "He wrote in FORTRAN and IMAGE, and called a subroutine I'd written, one that exploded a Bill of Materials 150 times faster than ASK had been able to. Every user should have it. We sold it for $1,500 four or five times, and David was filthy rich at 15, made about $4,000."

While David did take a FORTRAN class in college, learning IMAGE was an on-the-job education. His father brags that his son learned FORTRAN in night school and got the best grade in the class at age 15.

Working together on the Labor Summary Report "was a lot of trial and error, because we went back and forth, setting new goals and changing the specs, so he would get used to the real world," Terry said. "He learned a lot of IMAGE by himself, by looking at the ASK programs."

Working together on an application "that was unique and different was what really got him excited, and me too," his father said. "We worked in the house for so long, he couldn't avoid learning how manufacturing companies work." Later on when Terry taught a FORTRAN class, David was one of the students. "He'd ask questions like 'Could you explain that part to them a little better?' " Terry said.

"My dad and I worked on cars together that would last three years," Terry said. "But that's a lot more static than working with customers, asking you questions. When David's in the middle of that, he picks up on all that."

Terry is happy to have his son use his experience as a springboard. "There's a lot of stuff for us to talk about now, besides fun and cars and running around," Terry said. "He's been in and out of the company often enough to have five different employee numbers, including employee number three after me and [my wife] Caren."

The master-apprentice relationship between the two HP 3000 technicians moved faster because of the familial bond. "I'm a lot harder on him than I would be on anybody else," Terry said. "He's a test case, and I try things out on him. He's really into volunteering to help prototype ideas, and he's always done that with me. I've always told him everything, to give him the advantage of all the mistakes I've made. I don't just admit my mistakes, I advertise them. We're alike in many ways, and it's because we've worked together."

Later on in 2011, we gave David his own spotlight as president of the Support Group. In the introduction, we noted

David can say he was at the console in those early years, even though he wasn’t born until the Series III was shipping and ASK was enhancing MANMAN. He first used an HP 3000 at the age of 5, in 1981. 

DavidFloydHe says he would “connect our kitchen phone to a 300-baud acoustic coupler modem to dial a terminal into one of the ASK 3000s. There I could play Mystery Mansion, Adventure, Dungeon, and other games.” He started doing paid work on a 3000 in 1991, at the age of 15. His first project was creating a MANMAN report called the LSR/3000 (Labor Summary Report). He continued working summers in high school programming and providing MANMAN support, got a job at Belvac Production Machinery in 1995 as a MANMAN programmer, and became a consultant in 1996.  

Your dad started the ball rolling on your family’s MPE experience, and you believe there's another decade left for MANMAN users. What would another 10 years of MANMAN mean to your family?

    My dad timed it so [the 3000] will be the entirety of his career. He had an HP 1000 right out of college, and within five years he had an HP 3000. If we manage to get another 10 years out of this, which it looks like we will, that’s his entire career on MPE and HP systems. He’s thrilled about that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:16 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 06, 2014

A Long Time in Passing

TimpassingIt's very late spring here at my house, and that means our basketball ardor is at its zenith. This year my beloved San Antonio Spurs are already playing in the championship round. The NBA calls this The Finals. But for the last seven years, there's been nothing final about the Spurs' work to win a title. Each year the organization, as they like to call the coaches, managers and players that comprise the team, seems to make a serious Drive for Five after four previous championships. Their last championship was in 2007 -- or in the middle of HP's first "wait a minute" two-year extension of its 3000 business.

Over the past three years, though, analysts in the sports community have tried to write off the Spurs as too old to compete at the highest level. Tim Duncan, Spurs superstar and Hall of Famer in waiting, is about as old as a Series II HP 3000. Unlike that CISC model of server, Tim's gotten better with age, more crafty with the minutes he plays in what's clearly the last act of his career. The former monster scorer has become a passer.

By his side on the court, two other stars play, to make up the Spurs' Big Three. Everybody's got a Big Three now in basketball, from the Celtics to the Miami Heat. The Spurs were the first. Their other stars are as old as a Series III (Manu Ginobilli) and Tony Parker, a younger man, but as old as a Series 68.

One of my first assignments in journalism was as sports editor. I covered five prep school districts and wrote a lot of stories about boys and girls who were 13-18 years old. There was plenty of drama and heroics. What I learned back then was that age didn't matter, if you had the right coach and you were focused enough to learn how your skills could shape each game. Del Coryover was a star at 15 in Leander, carrying the football for a couple of touchdowns a night. Nobody told him he was not the right age to fly past bigger defenders.

So it seems, sometimes, for HP 3000 installations begun in the 1980s. Like those Spurs stars, these servers and the pros who manage them just keep coming back for more work. On the ABC network, they've taken to calling the Big Three and their legendary coach Gregg Popovich "The Same 'Ol Spurs," with affection by now. Their continued championship relevance, over a stretch of time that goes back to before there were A-Class and N-Class servers, has earned them respect. They are not flashy. Nobody pounds their chest and screams to the rafters after a monster dunk, or a back-door cut, or dropped-bomb three-pointer, or the blocked shot -- although they perform all of these nightly.

 

Last night they played badly, under brutal conditions. The AC failed in their homecourt at the ATT Center, and in that 90-degree indoor swelter they failed to pass crisply. Miami stole the basketball like bloodhounds after loose pork chops. But the Spurs play their bench men often, and in crunch time, too. It's a full-team approach, instead of superstars like cloud servers and Oracle databases. They survived on reliability last night, counting on the fact that fresh players make better plays. What makes the 3000 great is what makes the Spurs great: consistency, the clockwork-like execution that happens from hundreds of hours of practice, all laid down upon a bedrock of team-first strategy. They practice passing "from good shot to great shot."

As one example of delicious good to great dependability, consider something called the outlet pass in basketball. You probably never heard of it because it's fundamental. Tim has been re-coached by Coach Pop, as he's called, to use stunning talent to make these offense-sparking plays perfect and extraordinary. At their best, they can be the long-bomb touchdowns of basketball. For the basketball geek, the YouTube video embedded here gives you a taste of these Duncan veggies, whizzing the ball down-court to make the sizzle happen at the other end.

How is it possible that the outlet pass -- or a bank shot, one of Tim's mainstay plays -- still works wonders in the modern NBA? He does these things as a trademark that's earned him an un-flashy nickname: The Big Fundamental. When sports analysts are agog at the success of a bank shot -- first performed in the 1950s -- I think of the consultant who observed companies using the equivalent of the bank shot, PowerHouse.

"I am amazed to know that Powerhouse is still running on any platform," Bob Kaminski said, after Unicom bought the product and worked to revive it. As a young employee with the vendor he said, "I started with Quiz, Quick and QTP in 1983-84. Sold it, until I left Cognos in 1989. It was great then, and I assume is still a great tool."

But this passing year means more for the Spurs, and perhaps more for the 3000, than many others before. This season is one of redemption for the team, having seen that Fifth title slip away last year with 28 seconds left to play. It was a gut-punch few other teams could recover from, losing like that. The team responded by leading the league in wins during the next regular season, and now returning to The Finals to gain their revenge -- as well as their respect. Tim Duncan is in the twilight of his career, just like HP's hardware that runs MPE/iX is running out of time.

There's a future for the operating system, the brand of computing that's as extraordinary as the selfless, ball-sharing approach Coach Pop teaches. In the Spurs locker room there's a hungry young star named Kawahi Leonard, gifted with speed and wingspan and intelligence that make him the next generation of The Big Fundamental.

And in your HP 3000 community there is CHARON, the HPA/3000 emulator that will sail higher and faster than any iron HP could ever design. Kawahi needs a coach of the caliber of Pop. CHARON needs coaching that should remind people of Harry Sterling, the last HP general manager who practiced the fundamentals of computer product management. Push the technology to something better like N-Class servers. Be selfless about your own HP future, because the customers matter more than your career. 

When there's a Kawahi around, a Coach Pop tends to emerge. It might take awhile for them to find one another, and in the meantime there are pronouncements about how the star will never amount to championship material. Or a product won't make a mark on the market.

It's a long season for host-based servers, though. While IBM sells off its low-end server business, while Dell crawls into the services space and downplays its iron, the concept of managing an MPE machine yourself is still alive out there. It's pounding the ball up and down the court and looking for its leader, the one who will take a revitalized MPE platform and score. Not so that a lot of people will see and notice. But for a group of companies who are as small as any TV marketplace in San Antonio, it matters because it's history, carried out every day. 

The Big Three and Coach Pop and the Spurs are passing -- both in the sense that they share the ball in their 10-man community of players, and they are working toward that final act of their careers. But it's been a long time in passing, their retirements. Some here in Texas say that even at advanced ages, the Big Three could hang around for another season, challenge for another title. Anything in life that hangs on longer than predicted, and remains productive and relevant and unique while it does, should be applauded and cheered. Those are the sounds coming from my living room this month, while we watch a legend extend days and nights of excellence.

And if it takes any team even longer than expected to make its passing -- while it remains essential -- what a gift, for those of us who love the fundamentals.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:23 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 05, 2014

A World Where Amazon Trumps Big Blue

It almost sounds like grandpa-talk to say "things have changed so much." Life is built from changes, and since our industry runs at a pace faster than almost every other, our rate of change is exemplary. There are long-held rules that are giving way, too.

TrumpCardMost of the HP 3000 managers remember the saying that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." It was an unfair advantage. Big Blue was the default IT choice for most of the 3000's lifespan as an HP product. But during the decade-plus since MPE started to vanish from Hewlett-Packard's mindscape, IT hosting and computing resource defaults have been reset. The changes are serious enough that Amazon trumped IBM on a $600 million project to build a compute center for the CIA.

Unlike the NSA (No Such Agency), the CIA exists and processes countless pieces of information. A story in BusinessWeek reported that the CIA wanted to build its own private cloud computing system. This is the type of IT project that would've been handled on the ground, not in the cloud, while HP was selling 3000s. A type of project IBM would've been a finalist in. Indeed, IBM finished in the top two. But IT pros now live in a world where buying compute power with a credit card is a valid strategy. The stakes were high for the winner. 

For the bidders, more was at stake than a piece of the lucrative federal IT market. Whoever won the 10-year, $600 million contract could boast that its technology met the highest standards, with the tightest security, at the most competitive prices, at a time when customers of all kinds were beginning to spend more on data and analytics.

The CIA awarded the contract to Amazon.com. The e-commerce company had persuaded the spymasters that its public cloud could be replicated within the CIA’s walls. Amazon had been bleeding IBM for years—its rent-a-server-with-your-credit-card model was a direct threat to IBM’s IT outsourcing business—but this was different. Amazon beat IBM for a plum contract on something like its home turf, and it hadn’t done so simply by undercutting IBM on price. IBM learned that its bid was more than a third cheaper than Amazon’s and officially protested the CIA decision.

The 3000 community lives in a world where cloud computing is being selected for large-scale projects -- and it's being chosen from companies like Amazon who don't have the ballast to carry you'll see from HP, IBM, Dell or others. The servers, and the expertise to make them sparkle, work elsewhere. HP's got a cloud offering, as does IBM. But Amazon Web Services is way ahead of these classic server providers. IBM's gotten so far off the server sales strategy that it sold its low-end servers group to Lenovo.

To put it another way, IBM's selling as many small servers this year as HP is selling 3000s.

In the BusinessWeek story, the demise of IBM being fireproof got exploded. At least while going up against Amazon.

A federal judge agreed, ruling in October that with the “overall inferiority of its proposal,” IBM “lacked any chance of winning” the contract. The corporate cliché of the 1970s and ’80s, that no one ever got fired for buying IBM, had never seemed less true. IBM withdrew its challenge.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:01 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 02, 2014

Looking Up, from a Vision to a Spectrum

While I'm researching for another Newswire story, I've found an archive of reporting from the year that HP was taking its first full turn onto the path of RISC computing. RISC is the architecture that grew from the MPE XL version of the 3000 and its 900 Series systems, until finally HP evolved it into the Integrity lineup -- the only host that will ever run HP's Unix replacement OS. Back in 1985, it really looks like the company's CEO didn't know any more about 3000 designs than any other CEO at HP has since that time.

Young Misunderstands RISC Oct 85John Young was HP CEO, interviewed in the week while the Interex user group was hosting its Interex Washington DC conference. But the CEO wasn't at the conference. The company's founder was there, but David Packard wasn't the subject of the Computerworld interview. Young was asked what was prompting HP to pursue RISC as a computing strategy. He spent some time conflating and mixing several HP servers' technology. In the most baffling part of his answer, he said this about how muddled HP's computer architecture was -- and how RISC was going to change that.

We had desktops with one architecture, factory floor terminals with another and the HP 3000 with yet another stack architecure. The 9000 series terminals emulated the 3000 architecture in some ways, but not really completely.

Young went on to add that HP spent 90 percent of its development time changing things to make its networking perform correctly. "And those changes propagated down the whole computer line. I just decided, when I became HP president [in 1978]... that we wanted to find some way of bringing a harmony out of this unique business opportuntity. We needed to make a jump, and the conjunction of all those things was a program we Spectrum."

9000 series terminals? He probably meant the HP 9000 desktop systems, built for engineering. The 3000 architecture was Complex Instruction Set Computing (CISC), but so was the 9000's. Just a different design, called FOCUS. The factory floor terminals might have been attached to HP 1000s. One of the engineers on the scene at the time, Stan Sieler, told us he figures emulated in Young-speak might have been more philosophical than technological. Sieler also said that the sparkplug of RISC at HP was eager to get the Vision project out of the way, so Joel Birnbaum could enjoy his spectrum.

Sieler said, "I suspect [Young's] referring to the 9000/500 that was based on the FOCUS chipset.  It was, if I recall correctly, a stack-based chipset. I think he meant 'emulated' more in the 'inspired by, and is similar to' manner, not what we'd normally think of as emulation."

At that point in the era where the PC was only just starting to be a dominant business tool -- it now drives the largest share of HP's revenues -- and such computers were called micros, HP was sweeping technology away that it had spent years creating but never released. Failure was always HP's first option for the predecessors for Spectrum, Sieler said in his interpretation.

At one point, I was part of a task force that designed the "FOCUS-II,", which was pre-Vision (and pre-PA-RISC). It was supposed to be the next CPU architecture for the 3000, 9000, and 1000.

Scott Stallard was the chairman (he later became an Executive VP at HP), and others worked on it. But when we presented the report, we discovered that no one had told us we were supposed to fail -- so that Vision could be given the official blessing.

But neither FOCUS, FOCUS II, nor Vision were RISC CPUs. Birnbaum was hired away from IBM after Big Blue didn't want to create a RISC system, Birnbaum's dream design. Sieler went to work on Vision, then, only to learn that he'd been put on another blind alley. "I don't think that Vision fell short of what Spectrum became," he said.

To the contrary, it could do things that no subsequent architecture can. But, that came at a cost. Vision was definitely a CISC instruction set.

In 1983 (and somewhat earlier), I was doing design/development of process management for the HPE operating environment (for Vision). "Process management" meaning creating, starting, controlling, and killing processes (programs).

When I left HP (late September, 1983), we had one or two minimal (breadboarded) Vision computers running. Most of the time we used emulators/simulators involving re-microcoded HP 3000s. About a week after I left, HP killed Vision in favor of PA-RISC.

I once mentioned to Joel Birnbaum that it was cause/effect: I left HP, HP killed Vision. His response was quick: "If I'd known that, I'd have gotten rid of you earlier."

Sieler laughs at this today, bemused at the way things changed so quickly -- and then have not changed since. "HPE was renamed MPE XL," he said, "and most of the code written for it survived, To this day, much of process management in MPE/iX is still my code."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:19 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2014

Unicom calls PowerHouse users to mansion

Editor's note: We're taking Monday off to celebrate the US Memorial Day. We'll be back May 27 with a look at the impact of HP's latest job cuts. The stock rose 6 percent today to a 52-week high on the news.

Many things are on the table for change in the PowerHouse community, now that Unicom Global owns the software suite and contracts with customers. One of the more notable adjustments in the new order is a June 27 users conference, a single day's meeting to be held on the grounds of a Hollywood landmark.

From 8:30 to 3 that day at "the Legendary PickFair Estate in Beverly Hills," customers and developers using PowerHouse can attend a user conference. At the same time, the vendor's CEO is hand-picking from executive community members who want to serve on the first PowerHouse Customer Advisory Board. The vendor is calling customers over the phone, in addition to email notices and postings on LinkedIn and other web locations. For some customers, the Unicom calls will be the first PowerHouse outreach they've heard in many years.

PickFairThe meeting represents the launch of a PowerHouse user group, one of the first, if not a groundbreaker. I scanned through 20 years of HP 3000 reporting, and plumbed back another 10 while on watch at the HP Chronicle and as an independent editor, and couldn't recall a PowerHouse user group before now. The dim memory of a few Special Interest Group spin-offs from Interex comes to mind. We'd be glad to know if there's any PowerHouse history we overlooked.

The way this group differs from those other user group SIGs is that it's being founded by its vendor. In the days of Interex user groups -- from the early '70s through the end of the 20th Century -- that kind of leadership was considered too intrusive. But times have changed for user groups. They often need the support and attention only a vendor can deliver to a product's customers. HP and Encompass share the reins at HP Discover, the Hewlett-Packard enterprise user conference. Discover takes place June 10-12 at the Venetian Resort on the Las Vegas Strip. HP picks up the greatest share of the expenses at that meeting.

The PowerHouse meeting, a little more than two weeks later, calls users to a  mansion -- the former home of Hollywood icons Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. PickFair is part of the Unicom portfolio, another piece of the evidence that PowerHouse is in for a journey across new grounds.

Users are invited to attend, as well as make a statement about why they'd be a good part of the advisory board, at a Unicom webpage. The cost of the meeting is $500 per person, but if you register two or more attendees, the cost drops to $395 per person. The vendor is inviting customers to "attend the User Group and provide direct input into the PowerHouse roadmap."

There's a travel package deal available as well. Contact the corporation's Russ Guzzo -- who also happens to be leading the integration of PowerHouse into a company that has never sunsetted a product -- at 818.838.0606, or by email at russ.guzzo@unicomglobal.com.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:56 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2014

Short Report: TTerm Pro's latest tool works

TTermProNSVT

As we reported yesterday, the TTerm Pro app for HP 3000 emulation got an enhancement this month, one that makes the software very unique. NS/VT protocol support isn't exactly rocket science, but its not straightforward, either. The history of the 3000 is strewn with terminal emulator makers who didn't get this aspect all figured out.

Our ally Jon Diercks, who's the author of The MPE/iX System Administrator Handbook, updated his iPad app and gave the new 1.1.0 version a test. The short report: NS/VT seems to work, at first glance. Diercks added a second test to the first one of the app. He connected his iPad to the HPA202 freeware version of CHARON. With his exam, an HP 3000 terminal emulator was talking with an emulated HP 3000. He offered the screen shot above as proof.

Well, the 30-second report is ... it works! I fired up Charon, copied my previous TTerm telnet profile and changed to NS/VT, and the logon prompt came right up. The :SHOWVAR command above proves that NS/VT protocol is in use. I also launched NMMGR just to verify block mode still looks okay. I might play with it more later, but that's enough to satisfy my curiosity for now.

It's a marvel to consider how MPE has been carried into the future with this combination. The iOS operating system on the iPad is certain to have a longer life where it's improved than the alternatives based on desktops. By that, I mean I believe iOS has "got legs," as the saying goes among theatre people when they talk about a long-running show. You don't need a PC and Windows any more to emulate a 3000 terminal.

And with CHARON, you don't need the 3000 hardware anymore, either. All that's left is MPE and IMAGE, the bedrock of what we know as the 3000 experience.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:03 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2014

iPad 3000 terminal emulator gains NS/VT

The only tablet-ready terminal emulator for HP 3000 users has crossed over even further into the language of MPE. The 1.1.0 version of TTerm Pro adds HP's 3000-specific Network Services/Virtual Terminal protocol. The new feature means that many more MPE applications will run without a flaw over the Apple iPad tablets.

TTerm Pro portrait view TelnetTo be exact, the latest version of TTerm Pro will run under iOS7, so it's possible that some other Apple mobile product could link up this app with a 3000. But a tablet is pretty much the minimum screen real estate for a terminal emulator. Jon Diercks, who tested the previous version of TTerm Pro, said in his review that an external keyboard connected via Bluetooth eased the use of tablet-based terminal emulation. But the screen capture at left -- collected back when TTerm Pro only did Telnet links -- shows you can even get a soft keyboard, plus function keys, onto an iPad's screen.

Turbosoft, which released a 3000-ready version of the iPad app last year, has lowered the price of TTerm Pro by 50 percent. It now sells for $24.95. Any 3000 managers who purchased the app last year can update it -- with its new 3000-savvy -- for free. NS/VT could be worth a lot more for any company that wants to preserve a 3000 application's capability to go mobile.

The earlier version of TTerm Pro supported only Telnet connectivity, which meant that the longest-standing 3000 apps would not run in the iPad-based emulator. Mind you, this is not an emulator of the base 3000 PA-RISC processor, a la CHARON. This iPad app emulates HP's proprietary terminals for the 3000, specifically the HP 700/92 series.

The MPE applications which were tuned the finest for 3000 users relied upon NS/VT protocols. The protocol was developed by HP as an emulation itself: NS/VT gave users on Local Area Networks the same kind of performance and reliability only available through an ATP card inside a 3000. By using NS/VT, an application didn't require that a 3000 have that card.

AICS Research developed a QCTerm emulator during the late 1990s which relied upon Telnet for its network protocols. But AICS founder Wirt Atmar knew very well how much advantage NS/VT held over Telnet. Full-duplex is being emulated via NS/VT, and that ensures the delivery of data.

Full-duplex has traditionally been by far and away the preferred protocol for communication with a host computer, because you have this very strong reassurance that the host did indeed receive the character. The host's retransmission of the character back to you is an explicit verification that it saw and absorbed the character you just typed.

NS/VT is an HP-proprietary client/server protocol — but it is also nothing more than a simple and obvious extension of the design philosophy that had begun with the ATP card, where a remote processor transmits a line of text to the HP3000's CPU only when that line of text is complete.

Two ways are commonly available today to use NS/VT-like services. One requires the use of a DTC (data terminal controller), the other a terminal emulator. In both, the function of the original ATP card is being faithfully recreated. When you serially communicate with a DTC, a processor located on the DTC's serial card is absorbing every character you type and echoing it back to you. Only when a termination character is typed, or the line buffer is full, or a time-out occurs, is your line of text transmitted to the HP3000 as a single packet of information via the LAN that connects the DTC to the HP3000.

An NS/VT-based terminal emulator is maintaining essentially full-duplex communication with the DTC serial card — or your PC's memory. Every character you type under NS/VT is immediately echoed back to your screen. Only when you strike the carriage return (or the enter key) is your line of text transmitted over the LAN to the HP 3000. "Turn-around times" are so quick on a LAN (if it's not too busy) that you don't tend to notice the nature of one-way communication inherent to a LAN.

According to the ubiquitous management manual The MPE/iX System Administrator's Handbook, NS/VT is a better choice for applications on 3000s. "It usually yields the best overall results, because it is optimized for the way most MPE applications work," the book states in its Getting Connected section. NS/VT is enough of an emulation specialty that Attachmate offers the WRQ-developed Reflection as a separate Reflection HP product. The chief difference between the rest of the Reflection line is that NS/VT is included in Reflection HP. There's an uplift in price for this capability.

TTerm Pro includes NS/VT along with Telnet protocol. It's pretty obvious a company isn't going to replace all of its terminal emulator desktops and laptops with iPads. But it's a real help to know the protocol optimized for the HP 3000 now has a way to run on mobile tablets. Consider that previous sentence for a moment. Then decide how often technology continues to flow back to the world of MPE. Instead of $249 a seat, terminal emulation now costs $24.95. And upgrades are free if you're using an Apple tablet.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:11 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 23, 2014

Emulator's edition earns closer look in call

First of two parts

The recent CAMUS user group meeting, conducted as a conference call, promised some testing and analysis of the Stromasys CHARON HP 3000 emulator -- as done by an outsider. MB Foster is an insider to the HP 3000 community, but the vendor doesn't have an affiliation with Stromasys as a partner. Not at this point, although there are always opportunities for longstanding vendors to join their customers with such a new solution.

CEO Birket Foster said the company's been asked by its customers if MB Foster products would run safely in the CHARON environment. The question not only has been of high interest to 3000 managers. One similar answer lies in the Digital environment, where CHARON has more than 4,000 installations including some CAMUS members who run MANMAN in a VAX system. All's well over there, they report.

CHARON is so much newer in 3000-land. Principal Consultant Arnie Kwong of MB Foster outlined some of the research results from testing on an Intel i7 server with 64GB of memory and SSD storage, as well as a more everyday 8GB capacity box, albeit an AMD-based system. (Both systems can run CHARON for the 3000 emulation.) Wong said using a private VMware cloud, or private backup machines, are common computing-share practices that deserve extra attention with new possibilities of CHARON. "What will it let me do that's different?" he asked.

One of the assumptions of using cloud infrastructure and these new capabilities is whether the fundamental operating characteristics, business processes and business rules embedded in applications like MANMAN are sufficient for what you're doing now. Having talked to lots of MANMAN customers, all of the industry-standard and regulatory practices can be impacted if we do something major like shifting the platform.

Kwong went on to forecast the use of CHARON in a cloud-based implementation and ponder if that use affects regulatory compliance, as well as "the ability to operate on a global basis, and what new opportunities we can do in that mold." He said he'd confine his comments to instances where a cloud-based infrastructure was already in use at MB Foster customer sites. "But our leading candidate to do this kind of thing isn't a VMware kind of architecture." CHARON, Kwong noted, relies heavily on VMware to do its emulation for HP 3000 operations.

Most members of the user group on the call have pieces of their IT infrastructure running in a cloud aspect, such as Google Mail. "They have Internet-based functionalities, global applications that function well. We looked at the HP 3000 applications such as MANMAN that are enabled and helped by having all of that architecture in place." The 3000 is a platform service inside a cloud environment, Kwong said.

Migrating a 3000 to CHARON means "you have to have some systems engineering and systems administration done to bring it up. A key is to look at sizing of the environments and properly sizing data and program sizes and shapes, as far as the size of the application portfolio. You should look at what you are going to be able to effectively maintain."

Testing for such an emulated environment may require more time from technical staff that the time you have available, considering the depth of MPE/3000 knowledge in many sites. "Concurrently, you need to have folks with knowledge of your cloud infrastructure. A key takeaway for this call is you need to pay attention to staff availability of people with a deep technical knowledge, both on the HP side and in your cloud infrastructure."

Kwong said that managers can snapshot production states, to on to things such as a physical inventory cycle. "In a case of global operations, that might not have been easily possible before. Using the virtualization infrastructure offered via CHARON, and storage infrastructure in particular, you can do functions you just weren't able to do in the HP 3000 environment that's tied to physical hardware." 

In an evaluation from MB Foster that could lead to implementing CHARON, the company looks at the business cycle activities that need those kind of functions, "and study how we'd map it; for example, could I give one to three days more production time."

One Stromasys representative on the call checked to see if the MB Foster results were off the limited-use Freeware edition, or a full-production installation. Kwong said it was full-production, and the Stromasys rep said the company didn't have a relationship yet with MB Foster. The two said they'd take that issue offline. Regarding the license movement needed to enable CHARON use, Kwong said it wasn't an automatic assumption that everything could move without a major cost, but "it's fair to say that in a lot of cases you'll be able to move without a tremendous cost in relicensing.

Foster said that slides which summarize its results and planned migration processes for the CHARON testing will be available in a forthcoming MB Foster Webinar Wednesday.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:55 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 22, 2014

Making the best of an attack

The industry-wide provider for hosting TypePad is up, then down, then up again in the battle being waged with hacker Denial of Service attacks. It's the everyday host of the Newswire's blog, so you'll have some trouble getting onto it to read us. It's been five days, and everybody is getting frustrated. This sort of an outage would be getting a 3000 pro's IT recommendations reviewed. Not even deadly storms have knocked out many a 3000 this long.

This is the genesis of good experience, however. It's giving us a good reason to build out an important new branch of the 3000 Newswire's services. Story for Business, which as of this week is a simple Tumblr blog, is giving our readers stories about MPE-related news.

If you go far enough back, you'll recall an era of our history where we hosted our website from an HP 3000 Series 928. We worked with HP's MPE implementation of Apache/iX, until the lags and differences -- imagine an FTP server which didn't include all protocols -- pushed us onto Linux machines. Those machines at 3k Associates continue to perform.

So we're using the formula this week suggested by MPE veteran Vladimir Volokh. Clearly, this is a bad experience that our sponsors and readers are weathering. Vladimir says, "We get asked, 'how do you come up with so much good experience for us?' Because, good experience comes from bad experiences."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:50 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2014

A week-plus of bleeds, but MPE's hearty

BleedingheartThere are not many aspects of MPE that seem to best the offerings from open source environments. For anyone who's been tracking the OpenSSL hacker-door Heartbleed, though, the news is good on 3000 vulnerability. It's better than more modern platforms, in part because it's more mature. If you're moving away from mature and into migrating to open source computing, then listen up.

Open source savant Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies told us why MPE is in better shape.

I know that it's been covered other places, but don't know if it's been explicitly stated anywhere in MPE-Land: The Heartbleed issue is due to the 'heartbeat' feature, which was added to OpenSSL after any known builds for MPE/iX.

That's a short way of saying: So far, all the versions of OpenSSL for MPE/iX are too old to be affected by the Heartbleed vulnerability. Seems that sometimes, it can be good to not be on the bleeding edge.

However, the 3000 IT manager -- a person who usually has a couple of decades of computing experience -- may be in charge of the more-vulnerable web servers. Linux is used a lot for this kind of thing. Jeff Kell, whose on-the-Web servers deliver news of 3000s via the 3000-L mailing list, outlined repairs needed and advice from his 30-plus years of networking -- in MPE and all other environments.

About 10 days after the news rocked the Web, Kell -- one of the sharpest tools in the drawer of networking -- posted this April 17 summary on the challenges and which ports to watch.

Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've heard about Heartbleed. Every freaking security vendor is milking it for all it's worth. It is pretty nasty, but it's essentially "read-only" without some careful follow-up. 

Most have focused on SSL/HTTPS over 443, but other services are exposed (SMTP services on 25, 465, 867; LDAP on 636; others). You can scan and it might show up the obvious ones, but local services may have been compiled against "static" SSL libraries, and be vulnerable as well.

We've cleaned up most of ours (we think, still scanning); but that just covers the server side.

There are also client-side compromises possible.

And this stuff isn't theoretical, it's been proven third-party... 

https://www.cloudflarechallenge.com/heartbleed

Lots of folks say replace your certificates, change your passwords, etc.  I'd wait until the services you're changing are verified secure.

Most of the IDS/IPS/detections of the exploits are broken in various ways.  STARTTLS works by negotiating a connection, establishing keys, and bouncing to an encrypted transport.  IDS/IPS can't pick up heartbleed encrypted. They're after the easy pre-authenticated handshake.

It's a mess for sure. But it’s not yet safe to necessarily declare anything safe just yet.

Stay tuned, and avoid the advertising noise.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:45 AM in Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2014

Not too late to register for RUG meet

The CAMUS manufacturing app user group has a meeting tomorrow (April 16), starting at 10:30 Central time. An email to organizer and CAMUS RUG officer Terri Lanza will get you a dial-in number for the event. Birket Foster of MB Foster, one of the community's longest-tenured migration and sustainability vendors, will brief attendees on his perspective of the CHARON HPA, the HP 3000 hardware emulator.

CAMUS also has a Talk Soup as part of its dial-in agenda that runs through noontime. They only host their call twice a year, and it's a worthwhile endeavor to check in with others who are running HP 3000s in production mode.

Contact Lanza for your dial-in at askterri@sbcglobal.net.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:25 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 10, 2014

Heartbleed reminds us all of MPE/iX's age

The most wide-open hole in website security, Heartbleed, might have bypassed the web security tools of the HP 3000. Hewlett-Packard released WebWise/iX in the early 2000's. The software included SSL security that was up to date, back in that year. But Gavin Scott of the MPE and Linux K-12 app vendor QSS reminds us that the "security through antiquity" protection of MPE/iX is a blessing that's not in a disguise.

OldheartWebWise was just too late to the web game already being dominated by Windows at the time -- and even more so, by Linux. However, the software that's in near total obscurity doesn't use the breached OpenSSL 1.0.1 or 1.0.2 beta versions. Nevertheless, older software running a 3000 -- or even an emulated 3000 using CHARON -- presents its own challenges, once you start following the emergency repairs of Heartbleed, Scott says.

It does point out the risks of using a system like MPE/iX, whose software is mostly frozen in time and not receiving security fixes, as a front-line Internet (or even internal) server. Much better to front-end your 3000 information with a more current tier of web servers and the like. And that's actually what most people do anyway, I think.

Indeed, hardly any 3000s are used for external web services. And with the ready availability of low-cost Linux hosts, any intranets at 3000 sites are likely to be handled by that open-sourced OS. The list of compromised Linux distros is long, according to James Byrne of Harte & Lynne, who announced the news of Heartbleed first to the 3000 newsgroup. 

The versions of Linux now in use which are at risk, until each web administrator can supply the security patch, include

Debian Wheezy
Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS1
CentOS 6.5
Fedora 18
OpenBSD 5.3
FreeBSD 10.0
NetBSD 5.0.2
OpenSUSE 12.2

The PA-RISC architecture of the HP 3000, emulated on CHARON HPA/3000, could also provide a 3000 manager with protection even if somehow an MPE/iX web server had been customized to use OpenSSL 1.0.1, Scott says.

I'm pretty certain that the vulnerable versions of OpenSSL have never been available on MPE/iX. However, it is possible that the much older OpenSSL versions which were ported for MPE/iX may have other SSL vulnerabilities. I haven't looked into it. Secure Apache or another web server dependent on OpenSSL would be the only likely place such a vulnerability could be exposed.

There's also a chance that MPE/iX, even with a vulnerable web server, might have different behavior -- as its PA-RISC architecture has the stack growing in the opposite direction from x86. As such, PA-RISC may do more effective hardware bounds checking in some cases. This checking could mitigate the issues or require MPE/iX-specific knowledge and effort on the part of an attacker in order to exploit vulnerabilities. All the out-of-the-box exploit tools may actually be very dependent on the architecture of the underlying target system.

Security through such obscurity has been a classic defense for the 3000 against the outside world of the web. But as Scott notes, it's a reminder of how old the 3000's web and network tools are -- simply because there's been little to nothing in the way of an update for things like WebWise Apache Server.

But there's still plenty to worry about, even if a migrated site has moved all of its operations away from the 3000. At the website The Register, a report from a white-hat hacker throws the scope of Heartbleed much wider than just web servers. It's hair-raising, because just about any client-side software -- yeah, that browser on any phone, or on any PC or Mac -- can have sensitive data swiped, too.

In a presentation given yesterday, Jake Williams – aka MalwareJake – noted that vulnerable OpenSSL implementations on the client side can be attacked using malicious servers to extract passwords and cryptographic keys.

Williams said the data-leaking bug “is much scarier” than the gotofail in Apple's crypto software, and his opinion is that it will have been known to black hats before its public discovery and disclosure.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:18 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 09, 2014

How SSL's bug is causing security to bleed

HeartbleedComputing's Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) forms part of the bedrock of information security. Companies have built products around SSL, vendors have wired its protocols into operating systems, vendors have applied its encryption to data transport services. Banks, credit card providers, even governments rely on its security. In the oldest days of browser use, SSL displayed that little lock in the bottom corner that assured you a site was secure -- so type away on those passwords, IDs, and sensitive data.

In a matter of days, all of the security legacy from the past two years has virtually evaporated. OpenSSL, the most current generation of SSL, has developed a large wound, big enough to let anyone read secured data who can incorporate a hack of the Heartbeat portion of the standard. A Finnish security firm has dubbed the exposed hack Heartbleed.

OpenSSL has made a slow and as-yet incomplete journey to the HP 3000's MPE/iX. Only an ardent handful of users have made efforts to bring the full package to the 3000's environment. In most cases, when OpenSSL has been needed for a solution involving a 3000, Linux servers supply the required security. Oops. Now Linux implementations of OpenSSL have been exposed. Linux is driving about half of the world's websites, by some tallies, since the Linux version of Apache is often in control.

One of the 3000 community's better-known voices about mixing Linux with MPE posted a note in the 3000 newsgroup over the past 48 hours to alert Linux-using managers. James Byrne of Harte & Lyne Ltd. explained the scope of a security breach that will require a massive tourniquet. To preface his report, the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and SSL in the TCP/IP stack encrypt data of network connections. They have even done this for MPE/iX, but in older, safe versions. Byrne summed up the current threat.

There is an exploit in the wild that permits anyone with TLS network access to any system running the affected version of OpenSSL to systematically read every byte in memory. Among other nastiness, this means that the private keys used for Public Key Infrastructure on those systems are exposed and compromised, as they must be loaded into memory in order to perform their function.

It's something of a groundbreaker, this hack. These exploits are not logged, so there will be no evidence of compromises. It’s possible to trick almost any system running any version of OpenSSL released over the past two years into revealing chunks of data sitting in its system memory.

The official security report on the bug, from OpenSSL.org, does its best to make it seem like there's a ready solution to the problem. No need to panic, right?

A missing bounds check in the handling of the TLS heartbeat extension can be used to reveal up to 64k of memory to a connected client or server.

Only 1.0.1 and 1.0.2-beta releases of OpenSSL are affected, including 1.0.1f and 1.0.2-beta1.

Thanks for Neel Mehta of Google Security for discovering this bug and to Adam Langley and Bodo Moeller for preparing the fix.

Affected users should upgrade to OpenSSL 1.0.1g. Users unable to immediately upgrade can alternatively recompile OpenSSL with -DOPENSSL_NO_HEARTBEATS.

1.0.2 will be fixed in 1.0.2-beta2

For the technically inclined, there's a great video online that explains all aspects of the hack. Webserver owners and hosts have their work to do in order to make their sites secure. That leaves out virtually every HP 3000, the server that was renamed e3000 in its final HP generation to emphasize its integration with the Internet. Hewlett-Packard never got around to implementing OpenSSL security in its web services for MPE/iX. 3000 systems are blameless, but that doesn't matter as much as insisting your secure website providers apply that 1.0.1g upgrade.

The spookiest part of this story is that without the log evidence, nobody knows if Heartbleed has been used over the past two years. Byrne's message is directed at IT managers who have Linux-driven websites in their datacenters. Linux has gathered a lot of co-existence with MPE/iX over the last five years and more. This isn't like a report of a gang shooting that's happened in another part of town. Consider it more of a warning about the water supply.

In a bit of gallows humor, it looks as if the incomplete implementation of OpenSSL, frozen in an earlier edition of the software, puts it back in the same category as un-patched OpenSSL web servers: not quite ready for prime time.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:50 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 03, 2014

Learning to Love Your Legacy

As the next end of days bears down on us -- Windows XP will become a former Microsoft product next Tuesday -- it's worthwhile to remember that the life beyond a vendor's designs can still fulfill. XP will operate in millions of places from next week and onward, but it's going to be a legacy system to many IT planners. That puts it in a similar spot with MPE, as well as IBM's legacy, the Series i systems.

JenFisherYes, they all have differences in their legacy standings. MPE's hardware -- well, the stuff badged with HP on it -- is beyond a decade old. There's nothing new there. Microsoft's hardware is everywhere, but the security essentials are taking a mortal wound starting next week. As for the IBM legacy options, we turned to Fresche Legacy's Jennifer Fisher. The company helped build up the 3000 and MPE worlds as Speedware, before it rebranded itself and expanded its focus to IBM.

Fisher, the VP of Global Sales and Marketing, said that love and IT can and do go together, something the company has experienced while serving both the 3000 and Series i worlds. "When we say 'IT can make you smile' and 'love your legacy,' this is want it's all about," she said. "You need to nurture and care for the legacy. Leverage it, and make it work for you."

Systems_power_i_graphic_60x45The IBM Series i customer has had a ride through rebranding, too, coming out of decades of being known as AS/400 users, to become i Series, then finally IBM i. The computer's using a proprietary chipset IBM's built called POWER, something that IBM put into its Linux, Unix and PC-based servers. Those were once called Series P (for Unix) and Series X (for Linux, and Windows -- even XP). Changes in names come along the line to the legacy user. MPE/iX was MPE/XL, and before that MPE V.

Legacy server systems built in a certain era, like the IBM i and the 3000, or the omnipresent XP -- these still do their duty long after their vendor's interest wanes. IBM i is still a product for sale by the vendor, unlike XP or MPE. IBM's hardware "continues to evolve and is a focus for IBM i," Fisher said. Fresche took a wider look for customers in the enterprise market space when it rebranded.

Our focus has expanded to the larger midrange space, but we are still taking care of our HP 3000 friends. We continue to grow in the space, especially around application support. More and more, we are seeing customers needing legacy expertise in COBOL, Powerhouse and Speedware on the 3000 -- but also RPG, COBOL and Synon in the IBM i space. These two are so similar. Both midrange systems have been the backbone to the organizations they have served, and continue to be in many ways.

Fisher notes, like the other suppliers who continue to reach out to the needs of legacy users, that system developers have built the bones of the legacies.

In both cases, the business analysts and developers who put their blood, sweat and tears into driving the business have created a legacy of their own, and Fresche Legacy is all about helping them to continue that. There is so much value in these systems. We are here to help drive the business value that IT was recognized for in the past. We want to restore that reputation, by bridging the gap between IT and the business.

As an example of what Fresche is doing for its IBM customers, the company rolled out a new release of its X-Analysis, V10. The software performs documentation and design recovery for IBM i environments, and is the flagship product of Fresche Legacy’s Databorough division.

The company says its modernization projects have driven demand for better control and reuse of the business rules embedded in legacy apps. In the IBM environment, those are RPG, COBOL and Synon applications. (That last one is a popular development environment from CA.) This new release provides fresh capabilities for automated analysis, documentation, data modernization, plus consolidation and export of business rules from legacy code. X-Analysis now has annotation and visualization features. This sort of tool gives a legacy IT manager the means to synchronize business, regulatory, and modernization requirements within their software.

"Complexity metrics and maintainability indices are the foundation of any efficient development practice,” says Garry Ciambella, Vice President of R&D. "This release of X-Analysis provides IT organizations and IBM i development managers with a much clearer set of measurable inputs to quantify resource requirements and run development projects. There’s a lot less guesswork and much better results."

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

April 02, 2014

Newest paper-based issue signals Spring

By Ron Seybold

It might feel a bit absurd to think that hand-written forms, some even photocopied, would be essential vehicles of crucial monetary reports. PDF has become old-school, it’s so mainstream now. After all, several current and former Newswire sponsors sell software to eliminate paper. 

“Good luck with that,” my friend says of eliminating the need to extract. We meet for our coffee in the evenings now, while drinking decaf, because his alarm rings at 5:30 every workday and a good night’s sleep makes for an accurate workday. He's breaking open envelopes with springtime government forms, and more lately paper checks and money orders, enclosed. It's a temporary job with lasting benefits.

He tells me, with a look that I envy, that his wife is rousing herself into those wee hours to make his breakfast, pack his lunch. It’s like the Cleavers, June and Ward, I told him. “Yeah, and just like my dad,” he replies, talking about his pop eating eggs in the Sixties before sunup, to make a 7AM shift start. He says those eggs were cooked by his mom, who was just as much on the clock as his dad.

I remember such mornings only dimly, from my own days when I served that government in the US Army. You got used to a workday beginning before sunrise. Coffee of high-test variety was essential. And boy, was that Army of the 1970s ever run on paper. Three part forms and carbon and typewriters, not to mention my job — radio teletype operator, relaying troop strength and mobile armor readiness reports. All printed out on rough newsprint-grade paper in three-inch-thick rolls. Delivered across equipment that was already more than a decade old, and balky on our lucky days.

But those Army days of mine, like my pal’s temporary workdays, have one thing in common. It’s the rare job, he says, “where when you’re not there, you don’t have to care.” The work is important, of course. This agency pumps the lifeblood of revenue into the US. But for a season that’s well-known this time of year, it’s powered by piecework. Like a dance, he tells me, and I furrow my brow because I don’t get it. “We can raise up our desks to stand, and I rock back and forth while I move that mail.” I can just see him in his thick-soled shoes, flexing calves while he funnels all that paper through the mill, a throwback to shift work. There’s even a company cafeteria, he says, and a nurse’s station for paper cuts and sometimes worse.

The careful reader of ours will note that we’re now shifting to calling our paper issues Spring, and so forth. We have printed four per year, like the seasons, ever since 2006. Things do change, like climate or the habits of readers. If it were up to me, there would be a respected place for paper in my life for the rest of it. If I’m lucky, that’ll extend beyond the 3000’s CALENDAR wall of 2028. I’ll only be 71 by then. Just a boy, compared to the sage age of Fred White (beyond 85 now) or Vladimir Volokh (just celebrating number 75 this spring, he tells me.)

While my friend talks of everlasting paper, I think fondly of our newsletter, that name we gave to this Newswire product when we created it back in 1995. It was a time when online usually meant rolling off a PC terminal or a 3000’s 792 hardware. There was no Web when we planned this, but we certainly had to embrace it quickly. We got advice on making a website, but the blog was built out of our own observations. It helped that I’d been telling 3000 stories for a couple of decades before the blog went online.

Where does that leave all the paper we’ve all grown up communicating with, like this newsletter? Like all those forms in my pal’s workday, probably everlasting, but not as common. The ratio of customers using paper is dropping all over the world, not just in his temporary job. Perhaps paper becomes a seasonal tool, something special that is used on demand, just as it does down in that workroom he describes as “a football field’s worth of fluorescent lighting.” 

If a government can be run with decades-old communication technology, something that a serious share of its customers prefer, then that’s an option which ensures everyone can participate. One former Hewlett-Packard competitor, Unisys, now touts its information technology as stealth. “You can’t hack what you can’t see,” says the company. Things have changed a great deal, as well as not much at Unisys — the mash-up of Burroughs and Sperry from the 1980s. BUNCH referred to Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data and Honeywell, all muscling up against IBM. 

HP was nowhere in that picture until its 3000 floated up out of the software labs that created IMAGE and MPE. Burroughs is still trying to catch up to the leaders, even while it calls its products stealthy and itself Unisys.

My friend likes to boast that the security in his temp job makes it a challenge to hack anything so old as paper. Our US government insists on this secure channel, I learned years ago while communicating corporate data on Social Security payments. No email, they said. So one paper document at a time, one issue a season, we continue our polished practices of telling the tales about what we earn, what we’ve bought, our alliances and competitions. In a few short weeks, I’ll see my pal back at the taco breakfasts, while that paper he has touched wearing latex gloves moves along to semi trailers, and eventually warehouses as anonymous as his own temp job.  Maybe that’s the fate for anything inclusive, like a computer that never leaves a program behind no matter how old, or a paper news vehicle still filling envelopes and mailboxes. 

But we do embrace the modern even while we honor the old. One avid reader of ours wondered why stories of migration would ever be printed on our pages. 

The fact that our pages are still in the mails, in their own season, is a testament to how inclusive our work has been here across nearly two decades. E-filing documents or mailing papers, migrating to commodity environments or homesteading, these are apt examples of being inclusive — even while we still practice our exclusive storytelling about the HP 3000. Like that sea of paper in my pal’s mill, heaven knows when that storytelling will ever end.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:12 AM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 01, 2014

New MPE 8.0 includes cutting-edge remotes

Almost 10 years after the last update to MPE/iX -- the PowerPatch 2 of release 7.5 -- a new version of the operating system is emerging. What's being called MPE/iX 8.0 by the World OS ID board has begun to surface from the rogue collective of open source coders known as ReBoot.me, which has a website based in Macedonia.

HummingbirdIt's not known as this point how ReBoot.me got its hands on MPE/iX source code, but the modifications to the OS appeared to be demonstrated on an HP L-Class server. The new version was captured in a video released for a few hours on YouTube, but removed from North American, Asian, African, European and all Middle Eastern YouTube users. This 8.0 MPE/iX can still be viewed in a demo from viewers in the Bahamas, or any location that employs the domain .bs.

The secrecy appears to stem from some first-ever features on any operating system. Much like the groundbreaking memory space allocation of MPE/XL, the 8.0 release -- ReBoot.me calls it New MPE -- supports cloud hang time, self-repairing line breaks, and the manipulation of drone clusters. Seynor Blachboxe, the code-named spokesperson for the open sourcers, said the drone support was a late addition, one that helped fund the entire project.

Drone manipulation is a nascent computer science, even in 2014, Blachboxe said. His claims echo those of AeroVironment, a US defense contractor building bird-sized drones to extend government surveillance. With its roots running back to the real-time capabilities of RTE, the MPE DNA made it ready for the surveillance of hundreds of thousands of Drone Jobs simultaneously. ReBoot called these instances Hand Offs.

The cloud hang time feature automates and monitors any service interruptions that may be caused by meterological impacts, according to the ReBoot team. The New MPE does a constant rebuild of its accounts structure while handling intensive IO requests, making the software able to restore to its latest stateless image in a matter of millseconds during an interruption.

"You won't be able to see the downtime, and you won't be able to see the drones, either," Blachboxe said on the YouTube video. "This entire release is really about not seeing anything new that's happening within MPE." Licensing battles look like they may be highly visible, however, since ReBoot was not among the eight licensed owners of the MPE/iX source code released during 2010.

The open sourcers appeared to be unfazed by the prospect of battling Hewlett-Packard over rights to a product it no longer sells or supports. Citing a list of legal projects and management efforts tied to more critical needs for the vendor, the coding group said it doesn't expect a challenge that will be recognized in its sovereign nations.

"Winning that lawsuit wouldn't contribute enough to HP's bottom line to make their investors happy with the legal expense," Blachboxe said.

UTC 530Eager beta testers managed to download a handful of builds for the New MPE during the hours that the YouTube video was first visible. These releases could only be activated -- by use of an HP 792 terminal attached to an HP Cloud partition -- during the rolling 24 hour period of 04-01-14, as recognized in the vicinity of coordinates -49.591071, 69.497378, (click on map at right for detail) using the UTC +5:30 as a base. A beta-test version of 8.0 includes the first access to GPS coordinates, to locate a user's system and authorize the download, Blachboxe explained.

"If a user can't figure that out, they won't be of the caliber of computer professional we'd like to test this release," he said. "It's New MPE, after all."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:47 AM in Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 31, 2014

On the Inclusive Nature of Modern Paper

By Ron Seybold

Editorial-Icon-185.epsA friend of mine recently took up working a temporary job. It’s that kind of economy in places, even in Texas of 2014, and this job is the third that he’s working at once. But it’s his only full-time job, and this one gets him into a commute before daybreak. For years, we met early Wednesday mornings for breakfast tacos, but now it’s coffee in the evenings for us. My friend is working for a certain government agency that every one of us Americans has a relationship with, one that he doesn’t want me to mention by name. All he wants me to say here, with a wink, is “This is their busiest season.” And here in Austin, the agency has temp jobs available for a few months. 

Every minute of those temp jobs is based on the durable value of paper.

Of all documents that wage earners, retirees and businesses must transmit here in the American springtime, one out of every four are sent via paper. The government would rather not see this continue to be true. But some people are still true to their paper. We’ve been true to paper here at the Newswire, too — now for 150 printed issues.

There are other ways to communicate and learn about what we all do, what we spend and how we budget, the stories that we tell in reports to an agency or to each other about our earnings, our revenues, and our estimates for the future. But in the end, the most fundamental trust — as well as the means to include everybody in telling these stories — relies on paper.

And oh my, even well into the 21st Century, does my friend ever have stories about his early mornings with paper.

He talks of cardboard letter trays and plastic mail tubs, bins and crates and metal racks, all jammed with envelopes. A workday, he says, lived among the sizes that I’ve come to know in my own career of paper: the No. 10 envelope, the 9x12, by now the Tyvek, and even greeting card envelopes. All opened while using talc-lined latex gloves. He talks of staplers rated to punch together 80 pages at a time, the motorized and manual letter openers, plus hand-wielded staple pullers to rearrange the forms just so. My pal rattles off their four-digit numbers like they were MPE commands, instructions he has memorized like some newbie 3000 operator — back in the days when there were such things as operators.

He says the forms stream in around the clock, like what sounds to me like so many HP 3000 jobs, scanned with the oldest of school-skills, eyeballed by dozens of temps in a room that sounds bigger than any datacenter a 3000 ever occupied. He tells me that when he walks into that room with its hung ceiling tiles, the floors thump while he crosses them. Sounds like classic datacenter design to me, with raised flooring and ceilings for cables. 

But then he says this governmental room has less than a dozen keyboards across more than 150 desks. It’s manual work, and he adds with a grin, “The greatest part of it is that anything that people did in the 1970s with records is still being done today, by us.”

That must sound familiar to a 3000 developer, veteran, vendor or manager reading this. See, they all know that paper’s got backward compatibility as well as security that no nouveau computer system can ever match. Where do all those forms go? Well, keyed into acres and acres of hard drives, their data tapped in once they’re extracted from envelopes. But the forms themselves live in warehouses. “For heaven knows how long,” says my breakfast pal.

“Heaven knows how long” could be words to swear by in our 3000 world. People attempt to estimate when they can migrate, and then begin. The process can take a matter of months or the better part of a decade. But the equivalent of those paper documents, the redoubtable 3000, churns onward just like those 1-in-every-4 government forms that fill my pal’s paper mornings.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:34 AM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2014

MPE's dates stay at home on their range

2028 is considered the afterlife for MPE/iX, and MPE in general, based on misunderstanding of the CALENDAR intrinsic. The operating system was created in 1971 and its builders at the time used 16 bits, very state of the art design. Vladimir Volokh of VESOFT called to remind us that the choice of the number of bits for date representation probably seemed more than generous to a '71 programmer.

"What could anyone want with a computer from today, more than 50 years from now?" he imagined the designers saying in a meeting. "Everything will only last five years anyway." The same kind of choices led everybody in the computer industry to represent the year in applications with only two digits. And so the entire industry worked to overcome that limitation before Y2K appeared on calendars.

YogiberraThis is the same kind of thinking that added eight games to the Major League Baseball schedule more than 50 years ago. Now these games can be played on snowy baseball fields, because March 29th weather can be nothing like the weather of, say, April 8 in northern ballparks.

Testing the MPE/iX system (whether on HP's iron, or an emulator like CHARON) will be a quick failure if you simply SETCLOCK to January 1, 2028. MPE replies, "OUT OF RANGE" and won't set your 3000 into that afterlife. However, you can still experience and experiment with the afterlife by coming just to the brink of 2028. Vladimir says you can SETCLOCK to 11:59 PM on December 31, 2027, then just watch the system roll into that afterlife.

It goes on living, and MPE doesn't say that it's out of range, out of dates, or anything else. It rolls itself back to 1900, the base-year those '71 designers chose for the system's calendar. And while 1900 isn't an accurate date to use in 2028, 1900 has something in common with Y2K -- the last year that computers and their users pushed through a date barrier.

The days of the week are exactly the same for dates in 1900 as for the year 2000, Vladimir says. "It's ironic that we'll be back to Y2K, no?" he asked. VESOFT's MPEX has a calendar function to check such similarities, he added.

The MPE/iX system will continue to run in 2028, but reports which rely on dates will print incorrectly. That's probably a euphemism, that printing, 14 years from now. But it's hard to say what will survive, and for how long. Or as Vladimir reminded us, using a quote from Yankee baseball great Yogi Berra, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

The year 2028 was 67 years into the future when the initial MPE designers chose the number of bits to represent CALENDAR dates. Who'd believe it might matter to anyone? "Will Stromasys continue to run after 2028?" asked one ERP expert a few years back during a demo. "Just as well as MPE will run," came the reply, because CHARON is just a hardware virtualization. The operating system remains the same, regardless of its hosting.

And as we pointed out yesterday, one key element of futuristic computing will be having its own date crisis 10 years after MPE's. Linux has a 2038 deadline (about mid-January) for its dates to stop being accurate. Linux-based systems, such as the Intel servers that cradle CHARON, will continue to run past that afterlife deadline. And like the Y2K days of the week that'll seem familiar in MPE's 2028, an extension for Linux date-handling is likely to appear in time to push the afterlife forward.

Perhaps in time we can say about that push-it-forward moment, "You could look it up." Another quote often misunderstood, like the 2028 MPE date, because people think Berra said that one, too. It's not him, or the other famous king of malapropisms Casey Stengel. You Could Look It Up was a James Thurber short story, about a midget who batted in a major league game. Fiction that became fact years later, when a team owner used the stunt in a St. Louis Browns ballgame by batting Eddie Gaedel. You never know what part of a fantasy could come true, given enough time. Thurber's story only preceded the real major-league stunt by 10 years. We've still got more than 13 years left before MPE's CALENDAR tries to go Out of Range.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 26, 2014

Twice as many anti-virals: not double safety

Editor's note: While 3000 managers look over the need to update XP Windows systems in their company, anti-virus protection is a part of the cost to consider. In fact, extra anti-virus help might post a possible stop-gap solution to the end of Microsoft's XP support in less than two weeks. A lack of new security patches is past of the new XP experience. Migrating away from MPE-based hosting involves a lot more reliance on Windows, after all. Here's our security expert Steve Hardwick's lesson on why more than one A/V utility at a time can be twice as bad as a single good one.

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
Oxygen Finance

If one is good, then two is better. Except with anti-virus software.

When it comes to A/V software there are some common misconceptions about capabilities. Recently some vendors, such as Adobe, have started bundling anti-virus components as free downloads with their updates. Some managers believe if you have one anti-virus utility, a second can only make things safer. Once we look how anti-virus software operates, you'll see why this is not the case. In fact, loading a second A/V tool can actually do more damage than good.

PolarbeardukeoutThe function of an anti-virus utility is to detect and isolate files or programs that contain viruses. There are two fundamental ways in which the A/V utility does this. The anti-virus program will have a data file that contains signatures for known viruses. First, any files that are saved on the hard drive are scanned for signatures to see if they contain malicious code. This is very similar to programs that search for fingerprints. Once the A/V utility finds a match, the file is identified as potentially dangerous and quarantined to prevent any infection. Second, the anti-virus utility will intercept requests to access a file and scan it before it is run. This requires that the anti-virus program can inspect the utility prior to it being launched.

Anti-virus designers are aware that their utility is one of the primary targets of a hacker. After all, if the hacker can bypass the A/V system then it is open to attack, commonly referred to as owned or pwned. So a core component of the A/V system is to constantly monitor its own performance to make sure it has not been compromised. If the A/V system detects that it is not functioning correctly, it will react as if there is a hacking attack and try to combat it. 

So here's what happens if two anti-virus programs are loaded on the same machine. Initially, there are issues as the second system is installed. When the second utility is loaded it contains its own database of known virus signatures. The first anti-virus will see that signature file as something highly dangerous. After all, it will look like it contains a whole mass of virus files. It will immediately stop it from being used and quarantine it. Now the fun starts -- fun that can drive a system into a ditch.

The second anti-virus program will react to the quarantine of its signature file. The second A/V does not know if the issue is another A/V, or a hacker trying the thwart the operation of the system. So it will try to stop the quarantine action of the first A/V. The two systems will battle until one of them gives up and the other wins, or the operating system steps in and stops both programs. Neither outcome is what you're after.

If the two systems do manage to load successfully -- in many cases anti-virus programs are now built to recognize other A/V systems - then a second battle occurs. When a file is opened, both A/V systems will try to inspect it before it is passed to the operating system for processing. As one A/V tries to inspect the file, the second one will try and stop the action. The two A/V systems will battle it out to take control and inspect the file ahead of each other.

Even if multiple systems do acknowledge each other and decide to work together, there are still some issues left. When a file is accessed, both systems will perform an inspection, and this increases the amount of time the virus scan will take. What's more, the anti-virus programs continually update their signature files. Once a new signature file is loaded, the A/V program will kick of a scan to see if the new file can detect any threats the old one did not catch. In most cases, new signature files arrive daily to the A/V system. That means both systems will perform file scans, sometimes simultaneously. This can bring a system to its knees -- because file scanning can be CPU intensive.

So two is worse than one, and you want to remove one of them. Removing A/V programs can be very tricky. This is because one goal of the hacker is to disable or circumvent the anti-virus system. So the A/V system is designed to prevent these attempts. If A/V programs were easy to install, all the hacker would have to do is launch the uninstall program - and in many cases, the A/V manufacturer does provide an uninstall program. Unfortunately in many cases, that uninstall may not get rid of all of the elements of the A/V. Several of the A/V manufacturers provide a utility that will clean out any remnants, after the A/V system has been initially uninstalled. 

So are there any advantages to having a second A/V system running? There is always a race between A/V companies to get out the latest signatures. Adding more A/V providers may increase your chances of getting a wider coverage, but only very marginally. The cost of the decreased performance versus this marginal increase in detection is typically not worth it. Over time, A/V vendors tend to even out on their ability to provide up-to-date signature files.

In summary, the following practices make up a good approach to dealing with the prospects of multiple A/V systems.

1) Read installation screens before adding a new application or upgrade to your system. Think carefully before adding an A/V feature that your current solution provides. Even if a new feature is being provided, it may be worth checking with your current provider to see if they have that function, and adding it from them instead.

2) If you do get a second A/V system in there and you want to remove it, consult the vendor's technical web site regarding removal steps. Most A/V vendors have a step-by-step removal process. Sometimes they will recommend a clean-up tool after the initial uninstall.

3) If you do want to check your A/V system, choose an on-line version that will provide a separate scan without loading an utility. There are many to choose from - search on “on-line antivirus check” in your favorite engine and pick one that is not your primary A/V vendor. Be careful - something online may try to quarantine your current A/V system. But this will give you a safe way to check if your current A/V is catching everything.

4) Don't rely on A/V alone. Viruses now come in myriad forms. No longer are they simple attacks on operating system weaknesses. Newer ones exploit the fallibility of browser code and are not dependent on the operating system at all. A good place to start looking at how you can improve your security is the CERT tips page https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips By following safe computing practices, one A/V should be sufficient.

5) Beware of impostors. There are several viruses out there that mimic an A/V system. You may get a warning saying that your system is not working and to click on a link to download a better A/V system. Before clicking on the link, check the source of the utility. If you don't know how to do that, don't click on the link. You can always go back to Step 3 and check your A/V yourself.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:38 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 14, 2014

Listen, COBOL is not dead yet, or even Latin

MicrophoneIt's been a good long while since we did a podcast, but I heard one from an economy reporting team that inspired today's return of our Newswire Podcasts. The often-excellent NPR Planet Money looked into why it takes so long to get money transferred from one bank to another. It's on the order of 3 days or more, which makes little sense in a world where you can get diapers overnighted to your doorstep by Amazon.

Some investigation from Planet Money's reporters yielded a bottleneck in transactions like these transfers through the Automated Clearinghouse systems in the US. And nearly all automated payments. As you might guess, the Clearinghouse is made of secret servers whose systems were first developed in the 1970s. Yeah, the 3000's birth era, and the reporting devolved into typical, mistaken simplication of the facts of tech. Once COBOL got compared to a languge nobody speaks anymore, and then called one that nobody knows, I knew I was on to a teachable moment. Kind of like keeping the discussion about finance and computing on course, really. Then there's a podcast comment from a vendor familiar to the credit union computer owner, a market where the 3000 once held sway.

Micro Focus is the company raising the "still alive" flag highest for COBOL. 

But while every business has its language preferences, there is no denying that COBOL continues to play a vital role for enterprise business applications. COBOL still runs over 70 percent of the world’s business -- and more transactions are still processed daily by COBOL than there are Google searches made.

You might be surprised to hear how essential COBOL is to a vast swath of the US economy. As surprised as the broad-brush summary you'll hear from Planet Money of how suitable this language is for such work. To be sure, Planet Money does a great job nearly every time out, explaining how economics affects our lives, and it does that with a lively and entertaining style. They just don't know IT, and didn't ask deep enough this time.

Have a listen to our eight minutes of podcast. You can even dial up the original Planet Money show for complete context -- there are some other great ones on their site, like their "We created a t-shirt" series.  Then let me know what your COBOL experience seems to be worth, whether you'd like an assignment to improve a crucial part of the US economy, and the last time you had a talk with anybody about COBOL in a mission-critical service.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:41 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2014

Cross-pond experts to meet in UK

TransatlanticLast month, Dave Wiseman organized the first SIG-BAR meeting in more than a decade in London. The turnout at what was an HP 3000 social and networking event was encouraging enough to put another meeting on the calendar. This one is going to have some HP 3000 experts on hand from across the pond, as we like to say about Transatlantic travels.

The next SIGBAR event is June 12, to be held at the same Dirty Dick's tavern and meeting room as the December 5 gathering. This time around, Brian Duncombe of Triolet Systems and Steve Cooper of Allegro are making the journey to be on hand. It's a long way from Canada, in Duncombe's case, or California for Cooper to re-connect with 3000 contacts. But yours is a world that was always founded in community.

And frankly, being in London in June is a brighter prospect than a December day. Literally. While traveling to London more than a decade ago in winter, the sun sets about 4 PM. To contrast, it comes up before 5 in the same month when Wimbeldon kicks off.

Duncombe, for the 3000 user who doesn't know him, created some high-caliber database shadowing and performance measurement software for MPE during the 1980s and into the '90s. He's planning a journey round-trip from Toronto that will literally span about 48 hours on the Canadian clock. That's how much he's engaged with the community and old friends. "I sleep well on planes," Duncombe said.

"I leave Toronto about 10pm on Wednesday June 11, arriving late morning on Thursday the 12th," Duncombe said. "It is about an hour train/tube to the gathering. I then leave Friday morning, arriving home Friday afternoon. While the flight times are each a couple of hours longer, I sleep well on planes, and the cost and total time away is about the same as going to California."

Cooper, one of Allegro's founders, didn't want California 3000 masters to be unrepresented -- so he's making the trip with his wife Suzanne. Alan Yeo, ScreenJet's founder and a fellow English 3000 expert, has also committed to being at the meeting.

Wiseman, who was well-known among 3000 customers as a live wire working for database companies before starting up Millware in the late 1990s, has been persistent in keeping the 3000 fellowship lamp lit in the UK. He presented details.

The feedback from the venue we had last time was pretty positive, so I have booked the upstairs of Dirty Dick’s again from 3PM onwards, and we have it for the evening

Dirty Dicks
202 Bishopsgate
London EC2M 4NR
Tel : 020 7283 5888

Since I hear that we may have at least two participants from North America, to the rest of you, please do come over. (Why not have a weekend in London?) Closest hotels are the South Palace Hotel (approx £206/night) or the Liverpool Street Hyatt (approx £320/night advance booking)

It would be helpful if we can get approximate numbers for attendees, so that they set aside a large enough area for us. So please, could you confirm/reconfirm if you plan to attend? As always, please do pass this on to anyone who you think would be interested

Dave Wiseman
davebwiseman@googlemail.com
+44 777 555 7017
Skype:  davebwiseman

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:36 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 24, 2014

The Volokhs Find the Amazon Finds Them

AmazonmapIn 1980, a 12-year-old boy and his father began to create a beautiful expansion of MPE for 3000 customers. These men are named Volokh, and that surname has become the brand of a blog that's now a part of The Washington Post. The journey that began as a fledgling software company serving a nascent computer community is a fun and inspiring tale. That 12-year-old, now 45, is Eugene Volokh, and along with this brother Sasha the two created the Volokh Conspiracy. Volokh.com became a blog in 2002 -- something of a breakthough in itself, according to the Internet's timeline. Now the new owner of the Post, Jeff Bezos, has replaced a long-standing blog from Ezra Klein with the Volokhs' blend of legal reporting, cultural commentary, and English exactitude.

Bezos, for the few who don't know him, founded and owns the majority of Amazon, the world's largest online retailer. And so, in one of the first Conspiracy posts out on the Post, the article's headline reads

In Brazil, you can always find the Amazon — in America, the Amazon finds you

This is a reference to the Russian roots of the Volokhs, according to founding father Vladimir. He recalled the history of living in a Communist country, one that was driven by a Party relentless in its dogma and control. With the usual dark humor of people under oppression, he reported that "In Russia the saying is, 'Here, you don't find the party -- the party finds you.' "

AmazonAmazon has found the Volokhs and their brand of intense analysis -- peppered with wry humor, at times -- because it was shedding Ezra Klein's Wonkblog. Left-leaning with a single-course setting, this content which the Volokhs have replaced might have seen its day passing, once Klein was asking the Post for $10 million to start his own web publishing venture. There may have been other signs a rift was growing; one recent Wonkblog headline read, "Retail in the age of Amazon: Scenes from an industry running scared."

This is not the kind of report that will get you closer to a $10 million investment from the owner of Amazon. That running scared story emerged from this month's meeting of the National Retail Federation, a place where 3000 capabilities have been discussed over the years.

We've run reports of NRF from Birket Foster of MB Foster in the past. Those capabilities surround the need to secure commerce that runs through HP 3000s. At one point the server had scores of users of software that included Point of Sale aspects, although few 3000s ever integrated with such retail devices. But NRF isn't the point of this article. We intend to congratulate Eugene, Sasha -- and of course their proud father -- for breaking into the mainstream media with their messages, information and opinions.

"When you ask them how they feel about it," Vladimir told us this week about his sons and their blog's transition, "they say, 'We will see.' " The Conspiracy didn't need the Post and its mainstream megaphone. The compensation is slight, Eugene wrote as he explained why volokh.com will slip behind what he calls "a rather permeable paywall" in a few months. 

The main difference will be that the blog, like the other Washingtonpost.com material, will be placed behind the Post’s rather permeable paywall. We realize that this may cause some inconvenience for some existing readers — we are sorry about that, and we tried to negotiate around it, but that’s the Post’s current approach.

In exchange, the Conspiracy, with its ample roster of bloggers covering legal and intellectual subjects, is going to remain free for the next six months, even up at the Post website. "For the first six months, you can access the blog for free. We negotiated that with the Post, by giving up likely about half of our share of the advertising revenue for that time. (Six months is the longest we could get.)"

The website the Volokhs established has an avid readership. Along with that blogosphere presence, Eugene has been visible enough in places like The New York Times, CNN and NPR that I'd give him the award for Most Famous Person that MPE Prowess Ever Launched. It was back in the year when he worked as a teenaged, seasonal programmer for Hewlett-Packard that MPEX was born to become the developer and DP manager's power tool, an express lane for managing and hyper-driving an HP 3000. Vladimir and Eugene created that software, which founded VEsoft.

But more than three decades later, the 3000 and MPE have become a minority of Eugene and Sasha's work-weeks. These men are now professors of law at UCLA and Emory. When asked if the millions of dollars you'd imagine coming off a Post blog would change them, Eugene exhibited a typical pragmatic quip.

What will [we] do with all the millions we’ll rake in? We are sharing advertising revenue with the Post, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be much. Our hourly rate for our blogging time will remain pretty pathetic. We’re not in it for the money; if we were, we’d be writing briefs, not blog posts.

The HP 3000 doesn't take a turn in the subject matter of the Conspiracy. The blog's metier is the law, how the law impacts social behavior like privacy and information sharing, as well as intellectual property rights. It's wide-ranging, a lot like the 3000 has been since it began in the era of "general-purpose computer." To keep reading the Conspiracy for free after July, Eugene says, you can subscribe to its RSS feed, register at the Post with a .gov or .edu address, follow it on Twitter, or look for an imminent Facebook page.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:07 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2014

Unicom sets new roadmap for Powerhouse

Nobody is certain what will happen to the Powerhouse ADT tools in 2014, but it's certain they're not going to remain the same as they've been since before 2009. For the first time in five years, the Powerhouse, Powerhouse Web and Axiant advanced development software will be getting new versions.

RoadmapThe new versions were announced on the LinkedIn Cognos Powerhouse section, a 320-member group that for the moment is closed and requires approval of a moderator to join. (The HP3000 Community section of LinkedIn, now at 618 members, is the same sort of group; but admission there only requires some experience with MPE/iX and the 3000 to become a member. I was approved in the Cognos Powerhouse group in less than 24 hours.)

Up on LinkedIn, Larry Lawler told the members of the group that "Unicom is an Enterprise Software company, and fully committed to the further development of the Cognos ADT suite." Lawler is Chief Technology Officer at Unicom Global. He mapped out the future for the software's 2014, calling the following list "New Version Release Considerations."

• PowerHouse 4GL Server - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• Axiant 4GL - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• PowerHouse Web - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• PowerHouse 4GL Server - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
• Axiant 4GL - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
• PowerHouse Web - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014

There's a 90-day period of crossover as Unicom acquires these assets and arranges the integration into its development and support team.

"Due to the transition services agreement with IBM, please continue to follow the existing IBM Technical Support Procedures," Lawler said. "We value our relationships with our customers, and we assure each of you that great care will be taken to ensure this transition is a smooth one. Once the transition has completed, please contact 818-838-0606 for the Unicom technical support team."

Lawler added that after the 90-day period, which ends April 1, customers can contact Unicom about issues at powerhouse.support@unicomglobal.com, in addition to the phone contact. Overseas customers will be able to call +1 973 526 3900. A list of UK and European office locations for Unicom is at www.macro4.com/en/about/contact-us.

"It will be nice to see some forward movement of the product," said Brian Stephens, Powerhouse Lead at transition services and application support firm Fresche Legacy. The company formerly known as Speedware had an arrangement to support Powerhouse customers in 2007, before the sale of Cognos to IBM.  “And maybe some backwards movement... like putting Powerhouse back on the [IBM] iSeries.”

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

January 21, 2014

Hewlett-Packard decays, not a 3000 killer

HalflifedecayThe Unicom acquisition of Powerhouse assets finally showed up in the news section of the Series i and AS/400 world. The website Four Hundred Stuff ran its report of the transaction which proposes to bring new ideas and leadership to one of the oldest tools in the 3000 community. It will be another 10 weeks or so before Unicom makes any announcements about the transaction's impacts. We're looking forward to talking to Russ Guzzo of the company once more, to get some reaction to the idea of transferring licenses for the Powerhouse ADT suite. Millions of dollars worth of tools are out there on 3000s that will go into the marketplace.

We're not eager to hear one of the more unfocused definitions of what happened to the HP 3000 more than 12 years ago. According to Four Hundred Stuff, Hewlett-Packard killed the HP 3000 more than a decade ago. Not even close to being accurate. HP did kill off the future for itself to particpate in the 3000 community. Eventually it killed off its own labs for MPE and PA-RISC hardware. Eventually it will kill off the support business it still offers for a handful of customers, relying on a handful of MPE experts still at HP. 

The 3000's operating system lives on, in spots like the one the IBM newsletter pointed out. We find it interesting that within a month, the company that created the first virtualized HP 3000, Stromasys, and the company that created the most widely installed 4GL, both had assets purchased by deep-pocketed new owners. Powerhouse itself is entrenched in some places where IT managers would like to get rid of it. At UDA, a Canadian firm, a Powerhouse application is scheduled for removal. But it's complex, a living thing at this company. Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware, is reported to be maintaining that Powerhouse app for UDA while a transition comes together.

The IT manger realized, however, that it wouldn't be easy or inexpensive to replace the system, and that a thorough assessment and long-term plan was the best approach. The first step, however, was to ensure the viability of the aging system for the foreseeable future. A search for IBM PowerHouse experts quickly lead Mr. Masson to Fresche Legacy.

In these sorts of cases and more, the HP 3000 lives on. Not killed by by its creator vendor. If any definition of what happened can be applied, HP sent the 3000 into the afterlife. Its customer base is decaying with a half-life, but only at a different rate than the IT managers reading Four Hundred Stuff.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2014

Foundation for the Emulator, 5 Years Later

Greek columnsThis month five years ago, we reported that HP had revised its licensing to accomodate for a hardware emulator that could run MPE/iX. No such product existed, but the evidence started to surface that Hewlett-Packard wouldn't stand in the way of any software or hardware that'd step in for PA-RISC servers.

It would take another three years, but a working product was released into the customer base despite serious doubts voiced back in 2009. One customer, IT director James Byrne at Canadian shipping brokerage Harte Lyne, said HP was unlikely to allow anything like an emulator to run into the market.

It is more than seven years since the EOL announcement for the HP 3000. If an emulator was going to appear, then one reasonably expects that one would be produced by now. Also, HP has demonstrated an intractable institutional resistance to admitting that the HP 3000 was a viable platform, despite their own 2001 assessment to the contrary. This has had, and cannot but continue to have, a baleful influence on efforts at cooperation with HP by those producing and intending to use said (non-extant) emulators.

During that 2009, Stromasys got the HP cooperation required to eventually release a 1.0 version, and then a 1.3. After more engineering in 2013, a 1.5 version has just been rolled out. So has a new company ownership structure, according to its website. Changes remain the order of the day for the 3000 community, even among those who are homesteading or building DR systems with such virtualized 3000s.

The privately-held Stromasys announced at its latest annual general meeting that it has a new major shareholder, as well as a new CEO. Australian George Koukis has become the chairman and majority shareholder of the company. He's the creator of the Temenos banking software solution, sold by the Temenos Group that is traded on the Swiss Stock Exchange and headquartered in Geneva. Stromasys began its operations in Switzerland, founded by Dr. Robert Boers after his career in the Digital Migration Assistance Center there.

KourkisKoukis founded Temenos in 1993, but his work in IT management goes back to the era of the HP 3000's birth. In 1973 Koukis began his career at the Australian air carrier QANTAS, and after computerizing the airline's accounting and management systems, moved on to Management Science America in Australia. He became Managing Director there. By 1986 he was introducing Ross Systems and the Digital VAX servers to Asian companies. Koukis took Temenos public in 2001 and retired in 2011. One website, Greek Rich List, whose mission is to "celebrate and document entrepreneurial stories, and to inspire young entrepreneurs and to promote Greek heritage and culture" placed Koukis on its list last year with a reported wealth of $320 million. The website noted that Temenos AG is worth $3 billion. Koukis remains on its board as Non-Executive Director.

At the same time, Koukis has brought in a new CEO, while Ling Chang has been retained to "build the new services business in North America first.

"This completes Dr. Robert Boers' retirement plan," she said, "and he serves as the Technology Adviser to the Board. For the HP 3000, we have a new employee, Doug Smith, to provide both sales and pre-sales functions. We are very excited about the strategic change, as this brings new investment and energy to the market we serve."

The new CEO is John Prot, who began his career at The Prudential in 1988 and has 25 years of experience in business development, operations, and finance. Before joining Stromasys, Prot managed the Hertz Greece car leasing business with a fleet portfolio of 15,000 vehicles, the company's release noted.

Prior positions include serving as restructuring CEO of two airport logistics companies with c. 1,000 staff, as an investment director at Global Finance, a leading private equity institutional investor in Southeast Europe, and as an equities analyst at ING Barings. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.

The 1.5 release of CHARON HPA/3000 was mentioned in a November press announcement. Details on its enhancements are being made available to VAR partners, but the goal for this release was to match the fastest three models of the HP 3000's N-Class servers, and to exceed them. Stromasys described the release as focusing on "improved performance of the HP 3000 guest machine," meaning the system that's emulated from the Linux "cradle" that steers this emulator.

Five years ago, Byrne had one other set of issues with the concept of a 3000 emulator. MPE/iX, he said, was far behind other environments in features such as file transfers, compatibility with leading-edge networking protocols, as well as price-performance valuations.

An MPE/iX emulator, given the OS’s dated capabilities, would be a hard sell for most company’s IT departments, even if it and the license transfer were free. Having to pay for either, and no doubt facing considerable third party fees to transfer licenses like [Powerhouse] and such, makes this path a non-starter in all but what can only be a very few extreme cases.

The relative value of MPE/iX capabilities is a matter for every user to consider, although it should be balanced against the risks of attempting to change application platforms. (For some companies, there are risks to stay as well, depending on who's doing hardware support. But an emulator running on Intel servers could resolve that risk.)

It ought to be noted, though, that Powerhouse has a new owner in nearly the same timeframe. If somehow the financially-boosted Stromasys of 2014 could work with a Powerhouse ownership that believes it has bought solid technology, it's up to the markets to decide what is a starter, and what is not. The emulator has gained a majority shareholder who founded a $3 billion software company, and it's added a CEO with degrees from Oxford.

The questions five years ago included, "Will any MPE/iX emulator be permitted by HP to run on an open source OS, and commodity hardware?" The answer in 2014 is yes to both, with the open source Linux cradle for CHARON sitting firmly on the foundation of Intel's x86 family. It's interesting to take note of the fresh limbs in this arm of the 3000's family tree, too.

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

January 14, 2014

PowerHouse licenses loom as used value

PowerhouseAt the City of Long Beach, a Series 969 has been decommissioned and powered down. It's waiting for a buyer, a broker, or a recycler to take it to another location. But the most costly single piece of this HP 3000 might be rolling out the door unclaimed. It all depends on how the new owners of PowerHouse, and the other 4GL products from Cognos, treat license transfers.

Hewlett-Packard is glad to transfer its MPE/iX licenses from one customer to another. The software doesn't exist separately from the 3000 hardware, says HP. A simple $432 fee can carry MPE from one site to another, and even onto the Intel hardware where the CHARON emulator awaits. You've got to buy a 3000 to make this happen, but the 969 at Long Beach could be had at a very low price.

For the Powerhouse license, this sort of transfer is more complicated. An existing PowerHouse customer could transfer their license to another 3000 they owned. Cognos charged a fee for this. At the City of Long Beach, there's $100,000 of PowerHouse on the disk drives and the array that goes with that 3000. It's hard to believe that six figures of product will slide into a disk shredder. Some emulator prospects have seen that kind of quote just to move their PowerHouse to the emulator.

But the new owners of PowerHouse have said that everything is going to be considered in these earliest days of their asset acquisition. Right now, Unicom Systems owns the rights to licenses like the one at Long Beach. If the company could turn that $100,000 purchase in the 1980s into a living support contract -- with the chance to earn more revenue if PowerHouse ever got new engineering -- what would the risk be for Unicom?

The obvious risk would be that PowerHouse might never gain another new customer. Used systems could be transferred instead of copies of the 8.49F release being sold. But let's get realistic for a moment. A new MPE/iX customer for PowerHouse, PowerHouse Web, or Axiant, on a computer no longer being sold or supported by HP, is not much of a genuine opportunity cost.

Instead, Unicom could be focusing on maintaining support revenues on such $100,000 licenses. The current Vintage Support fees are, according to a recent report, running in the $6,500 yearly range for a 9x9 server. You could make an argument that $6,500 yearly wouldn't be much to a Cognos running a much larger business objects product lineup. When all you're selling with a PowerHouse badge is the ADT software, however, the support money could well matter more to Unicom.

"That PowerHouse cost us $100,000 just to upgrade," said Roger Perkins at Long Beach. "But the license goes with the 3000's serial number, I think."

Could a used 3000, whose operating system license can be transferred for $432, be used for Powerhouse work by a new owner of the system? It's something for the executives at Unicom to consider, if they're serious about keeping PowerHouse alive and even growing.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:26 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)