May 09, 2013
IT Security: Too Expensive, Too Difficult?
Editor's Note: Migrating HP 3000 sites must be responsible for security in more extended detail, once they move operations onto open enterprise environments. In the second of a series of articles, CISSP security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance outlines the how security regulations, agreed upon by the industry, help the secure IT environment.
By Steven Hardwick
Why do we need security regulations which relate to IT anyway? Many IT professionals believe compliance is way too complicated. and costs a lot of time and money that could be better spent. For example, the HP 3000 might have better security for credit card processing that flows through MPE servers.
If only the data would back up that IT pro's desire. The latest Verizon Data Breach Investigations report should dispel the myth that security is simply a function of the IT department getting firewall configurations up to date. The 2013 report shows attacks varied from hacking, to social engineering and physical attacks. Physical, technological and administrative security controls were breached to make the attacks possible. In many cases, multiple controls were compromised to breach the organizations infrastructure. But a third of IT pros say security is too hard to implement (click on graphic for details.)
Why do we need regulations? It boils down to the two distinct challenges with security: a legal definition of malicious behavior, and a difficult to quantify return on investment. First, to address the legal position of defining a malicious act may not be that simple.
Theft in the information world can involve merely taking a copy of the data. The original data may still be in the possession of the owner. To be able to prove theft in this case, a new definition of “illegal copying” has to be defined. In the information world, the copy or the operation that created it has to be detected. It is now a lot more difficult to define information theft as the concept of copying now has to be legally defined.
Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP e3000 resource
May 08, 2013
Who'll Be Social and Train, and Why
We've been hearing from 3000 community members who are on the way to the Stromasys HP 3000 Social and Training. The official RSVP list is at Stromasys, but we've gotten some notice from people who want to ensure they meet up at the Tied House brewpub -- Thursday evening (tomorrow!) or at the Computer History Museum Friday 10-4.
On the same day I got notice from Doug Smith -- a 3000 consultant and developer and support provider -- that he'll be at the Stromasys event, HP tried again to wrap up the lifespan of Windows XP. The company that gave up on MPE and the HP 3000 might be just as misguided about XP's future as MPE's. It seems so simple to HP.
Let’s face it—reminiscing about old software programs 20 or so years from now won’t bring about nearly half as many warm memories as that 1967 Pontiac Firebird of your youth.
You could say that updating business software is akin to changing your toothbrush after it’s seen better days. Can you imagine running Windows 98 on your home PC? Then why would you fight tooth and nail, stubbornly looking into a variety of contingency plans and options to hold onto Windows XP?
The why of holding on is obvious. Smaller companies -- and some surprising large ones -- cannot make a good business case for putting their Firebird of a business server up on blocks. The math on an emulator solution, supplied in good stead with support for MPE and indie software tools -- holds up against projects that start in six figures and take at least a year to deploy.
The Tied House and the Computer History Museum will be places to learn why that toothbrush (the HP hardware) might be old, but the fresh toothpaste (MPE) is still worthy of plenty of extra years. Doug Smith thinks so. So does Walter Murray, who developed HP's COBOL products for the 3000 before exiting Hewlett-Packard to manage 3000s for the state of California. Then there's the contract programmers, and more, simply off our heads-up emails.
May 07, 2013
Emulator's days are not so early after all
"It's early days," say more than a few community vendors about the lifespan of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. They point to a lack of reference accounts. Some note that no third parties are engaged to teach and train and support the virtualization solution. Even the vendor acknowledges the performance of this 3000-on-Intel magic needs to surpass the power of a 4-way N-Class system.
But it's not early according to Adager's CEO Rene Woc. We tried out the accepted wisdom and found him pushing back on the popular view. It's misguided, by the reports he's getting from customers small, medium and very large. He reached out for a Yogi Berra quote to guide his outlook. "The future ain't what it used to be," Yogi said. That's especially apt when customers are gathering license data for your software, to be used on Charon. Or when they share their intentions, which is to keep MPE software running well into that future. How different it is than it used to be.
These are customers getting information about Adager's license transfer plan. "It's just another MPE machine," Woc reported. "We are treating the emulator just like HP3000 hardware."
As has been well-chronicled by now, there's no technical issues in this complete emulation. "Our customers didn't come across any issues," Woc said. Given the reputation of the Adager labs -- a tight-knit group that uncovered the last, corruptive bug in IMAGE and alerted HP to spark a repair -- "no problems" means Charon runs as expected.
Adager charges a $975 license transfer fee to move software from one HPSUSAN number to another. The software does not cross check with an HPCPUNAME, so moving the HPSUSAN to the emulated server, plus that transfer fee, covers the extent of Adager's operations. This is one vendor that 3000 users don't have to work out a license with. One of many (like Minisoft) who see continuing business coming out of emulated 3000s.
May 06, 2013
The Kind of License that Still Matters
Licensing doesn't matter to most of the homesteading community anymore, according to a long-time consultant, former HP SE and board member of the Interex and OpenMPE user and advocate groups. There's an important distinction to be made about what Paul Edwards believes about the 3000 manager. The licenses that matter are the ones that permit the use of supported products.
That puts HP's MPE/iX licenses on the heap of casual concerns while running a 3000 operation in 2013. Hewlett-Packard arranged for a $500 emulator license transfer. The deal was set up six years before an emulator would ever go live on a customer's product site. But the HP license is missing permissions for the Hewlett-Packard subsystem software, some of it still essential. The COBOL II compiler and TurboStore/iX are the most common products among those subsystems.
"Theoretically, the cast of lawyers at HP thinks MPE has got lots of value," Edwards said. "But Joe Computer User, running a 3000 in a little company somewhere, really doesn't care. He'll never see an HP rep who's going to come out and find he doesn't have an MPE license. He'll run whatever applications he's got -- Amisys, something written in Cognos or Speedware, whatever it is -- he'll run that the way it is."
The value of an HP 3000 MPE license seems to be dropping. Edwards, who saw more than a few companies using multiple 3000s on a single license back in the 1980s -- and said he "looked the other way" for the benefit of the customer -- said he bought his latest HP 3000 for less than $500. And with that purchase, a valid license for a 3000 that could be transferred to an emulator. Or sold at a price. Last week the 3000 community saw one of the first open requests to validate an MPE license. By itself, sans hardware, apparently.
May 03, 2013
Goodie box delivers 3000 skills, tools
Howard Schelin started his HP 3000 career in Miami migrating. It was 20 years ago, and The Miami Herald had to make a move -- away from IBM and onto the 3000. There was much for Schelin to teach the IT department then, and the Interex user group catalogued all of what was needed. This week a generous box of that reference material and software arrived at our office, because the offices of the Herald are moving along, just like the 3000.
In a few weeks the Miami Herald will be relocated to a new building about 15 miles southwest of 1 Herald Plaza. As in any move, there is a lot of material that gets pushed to the curb. I am sending you items that will not be making the trip to the new location.
The box as big as a Ram Truck battery had a reel of tape on top, a release of the Interex Contributed Software Library from the days of the early '90s, when DAT cassettes were still a novelty to the user group. But then there were a hearty stack of the familiar boxes that contained software treasures created by fellow managers of 3000s, then given away for the community to use.
Now the HP 3000 is making its migration away from the Herald, Schelin says. "The HP 3000 stay at the Herald is drawing to a close, as its last application is on schedule to be migrated to the cloud by April, 2014. I have been an avid reader of the 3000 NewsWire for many, many years, and I hope you find a home for the enclosed material."
Considering that some of these programs and proceedings continue to be useful tools for the homesteader -- and are difficult to locate -- he's probably right. Maybe not so much that 1993 lab handbook on Managing a POSIX HP3000 System, although the lab was taught by MPE legend Jeff Vance. But the Catalog of the CSL for that year, printed and bound, is a working collector's item.
May 02, 2013
Congrats, Pivital on 10 years an HP VAR
Ten years ago this month the HP 3000 community gained its final official reseller. Pivital Solutions stepped in to sell HP 3000s, even though Hewlett-Packard only intended to manufacture the computers until the end of October, 2003.
In fact the final HP sales of the 3000 crept into 2004, including deliveries and back inventory. Pivital took on the spot because the company had confidence the 3000 user base would be needing official and trained support for many more years to come. An official place in the HP authorized reseller lineup would enhance what the company had been doing for years already.
That extra service has translated into new resources, even recently. Pivital is one of the few holders of a license for the source code for MPE/iX. Support companies use that resource to create workarounds and even custom patches.
In 2003, we wrote:
Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci hears the tick of a different clock than the one which HP has been counting down for 3000 sales. Less than six months before new HP 3000 sales will end at HP, Pivital is ramping up its efforts as the newest authorized reseller of the servers in North America.
Pivital has taken over the system integrator spot in HP’s 3000 hardware channel that’s being abandoned by Dimension Data. Suraci said that Dimension released much of its 3000-capable integration staff which Pivital was working with, and Pivital saw an opportunity emerging from the situation. It may seem to be late, but Pivital sees its entry as early in the lifespan of the 3000 customer
“Strategically, we know there’s going to be long-term homesteading customers on the HP 3000 out there,” the CEO said. “Even HP is attesting to a quadrant of the market where people will homestead forever. That is a big portion of the customer base which we deal in today.”
Value Hidden, and Uncovered
This morning I came in to find our backup job stalled. Abortjob was ineffective, as was abortio. I ended up rebooting the system. While coming up, I got the “defective sector” message with “FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT has an extent with unreadable data.” The file is now locked and I need to use FSCHECK to unlock it. How can I determine which drive this extent is on? I have a good idea which one it is, but I’d like to be 100 percent sure before I replace and reload.
Stan Sieler replies:
FSCHECK’s DISPLAYEXTENTS command may help. Note that, if I recall correctly, it displays logical unit numbers, not exactly LDEVs.
I ran checkslt on the MPE/iX 7.5 SLT and it failed. It failed on a DDS-2 drive on two different systems but passed when a DDS-3 drive was used. The MPE/iX 7.5 SLT is on a 120-meter DDS-2 tape. Is this usual?
Michael Berkowitz replies:
What makes you think you don’t have two bad DDS-2 drives? When we had them, we went through them like water, replacing them every couple of months. They are bad news from the word go.
May 01, 2013
Who Will Come to the Emulator's Party
Next week the Charon HPA/3000 emulator will have what one vendor calls its coming out party in North America. The software performs the miracle of making low-cost PCs act like HP's PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Just describing that technical ability widens the eyes of 3000 homesteaders, veterans and some vendors.
On the evening of May 9, we'll get to see some of the eyes of people who want to drop by and gaze on each other over a beverage at the Tied House. The next day will reveal who's doing the closer looking at this software solution. Training will commence at 10. Lunch is included. Cooperation and imagination will be optional entrees on the day's menu.
One HP support company called the other day and said they're promoting Charon as a viable path for a homesteader's future. "I feel like I've been hawking the Stromasys product myself awhile," said Chad Lester of the MPE Support Group. Another company in Austin, the Support Group Inc. that serves the MANMAN and ERP customer, has a strong belief in the future of Charon HPA/3000.
But so far, we've only heard of one company that's engaged a third party software vendor in an instance of emulator production use. Cognos is working at the Australian insurance firm where Warren Dawson has testified to us, as well as to the European HP users who attended an event similar to next week's. IBM's Charlie Maloney, a veteran of many Cognos days, has started looking for an IBM PR rep to talk with us about licensing Powerhouse for emulator use.
Technical ability will need to be married to software property rights for this software to make an impact. We're hearing ample talk from MPE/iX software vendors about license support. Robelle's going on record as a Charon supporter. VEsoft wants to work with customers who'd like to run MPEX, Security/3000 and Audit/3000 on the emulator. HP has an emulator license for the product, legally operable so long as a currently licensed 3000 is being turned off to transfer its license to Charon.
More than one vendor with plenty of 3000 software ISV connections believes it's early days for the emulator's commercial merits. It's up to the homesteading customer to arrange all license arrangements to move their software utilities and applications to a PC-Linux host for virtualized MPE/iX hosting. It will be a good sign if some customers arrive at next week's event who have third party apps, such as MANMAN, Ecometry or even Amisys, and they need to arrange the arrival of their software. Some software vendors are waiting to hear about their emulator needs on this unlimited platform.
April 30, 2013
How to Shift a 3000 from FTP to SFTP
I have a script that uses FTP to send files to a site which we open by IP address. We've been asked to change to SFTP (port 22) and use the DNS name instead of an IP address, and I don't believe the 3000 supports that. Does it? If so, how?
Allego's Donna Hofmeister replies:
If you are going to use DNS, you must have your 3000 configured for that. It's easily done.
April 29, 2013
MB Foster tips hand on hybrid migrations
In a sneak peek of a May 1 general release, MB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE.
Software for migrating data, entire databases and more has been in the MB Foster stable for several years. Some of the solutions, like the data migration products, have been working in production environments since the late 1980s. Data Express moved corporate 3000 IMAGE data into desktop environments; eventually that product was transformed and expanded into Universal Data Access (UDA) software and solutions. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software -- previously used only for services engagements -- to sites for their own use.
Two years ago MB Foster released an MBF Scheduler to replace the job scheduling capabilities of MPE/iX for the Windows environment. More recently, the UDALink tool was migrated to work with HP's Itanium servers in the Unix environment.
Now the collection of this software tool development as well as services is making its debut as eZ-MPE. "The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP3000 environment," said a release that's on its way to the rest of the 3000 community by May 1.
April 26, 2013
Ginny Seybold, 1925-2013There will be no regular 3000 Newswire posting today, due to the unexpected death of my mom Ginny Seybold. She passed away this afternoon quietly, in the Franciscan Care Center of my hometown of Toledo. Virginia Seybold was 87, a Depression-era youngster who danced on roller skates as a girl, full of spark and a spirit, Irish to her core, a young woman who became the mother of four Baby Boomer children. I will miss her always. Along with the tomorrows that she no longer can give, generous as a mother's kisses, there will be no extra yesterdays for us as well. She raised us all Catholic, but I hear another prayer today. "She will live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved her."
April 25, 2013
How to Conduct a Security Assessment
Editor's Note: Migrating HP 3000 sites must be responsible for security in more extended detail, once they move operations onto open enterprise environments. In the first of a series of articles, CISSP security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance outlines the basic security concepts -- and how security controls fit together to provide an overall protection environment.
By Steven Hardwick
First in a Series
As penalties increase for loss of data, more and more regulations are forcing organizations to protect it. Couple this with new technologies that are moving information into the cloud and a perfect storm is forming -- one that will force IT professionals to regularly evaluate the security status of their infrastructure. To aid this effort, this series will cover
1. Introduction to security controls
2. Overview of security regulations
3. Tips on conducting a security assessment
By understanding how security systems are built as a whole it will be easier to comprehend the myriad of requirements detailed in a security regulation. Sometimes it is difficult for IT professionals to see the woods when they are stood in front of a bunch of trees. Plus, taking a broader view can give a better understanding of the challenge and the potential solution. It is not always as simple as encrypting data or adding another firewall.
Where to Start
The majority of security requirements are focused on protecting information. However, one additional asset that is often overlooked, especially in the commercial sector, is the people.
Once when conducting an audit, I noticed water sprinklers in the computer room. After asking the IT manager where the cut-off switch for the room was, he did not know, nor was it clearly marked. Consequently, if the water came down and someone was in the room, it was not obvious how to turn off the power. Fortunately, it's included in some requirements, but ensuring human safety is not the primary responsibility of the IT department. It's the data that must be protected.
April 24, 2013
Program for legacy with a legacy dev tool
Good tools don't always survive bad times. When HP pulled its plug from the 3000 dynamo, popular development tools began to slide. One of our favorite COBOL legends and 3000 consultants, Bruce Hobbs, was looking for ways to connect to the legacy community for such a dev tool, Programmer Studio.
"I have a vague recollection that you published something awhile back regarding the demise of Whisper Technology, and the situation for anyone now interested in using the Programmer Studio product," Hobbs said. "Could you please point me in the right direction?"
The genesis of Programmer Studio comes from the days when HP was still buying print ads for the HP 3000 in the general computer industry trade press. Ads that astounded the installed base -- like the one at left -- because they were so rare, and resonated so well with the established consumers. The 3000 had giant corporations using it, something HP had to admit from time to time while it labored to create a business computing market for Unix. Whisper popped up often when we surveyed the legacy developer community in December. This is unsupported software, but it's still in use at the occassional programmer's bench, such as the one that Michael Anderson operates at J3K Solutions.
I was never much for purchasing tools for development. However, since the late '90s onward, I used Programmer Studio from Whisper Technologies as a "character based" editor. In the latter years of working on MPE, the languages I used also included Java, Perl, and SQL.
(In a bit of circular technology, the Robelle programming tool for the HP 3000, Qedit for Windows, also knows a lot about Suprtool -- since Supertool is also a Robelle product.)
"But today I don't use the HP 3000 much any more, nor Windows," Anderson added. "For years Programmer Studio kept me tethered to Windows as my favored editor. Recently I've started using JEDIT on Linux. JEDIT doesn't know how to access the HP3000, so for that I still use Windows along with Programmer Studio."
April 23, 2013
How app portfolios increase career value
Getting an HP 3000 back into discussion at the boardroom level can be tough. In a lot of places still running MPE/iX applications, the programs that drive company computing have become invisible as the grain in a fine piece of wood that makes up a boardroom table. Application Portfolio Management (APM) can be a means to increase the visibility of HP 3000s.
And if that visibility leads to a more energized transition plan — because now the executive management sees how vital the MPE/iX application is to meeting company goals — that's a good thing as well. Retiring out with the HP 3000 is an option for some managers. For many others, outlasting the server is becoming the genuine challenge. Leaving a legacy as an IT pro, instead of the just the 3000 expert, is one way of nurturing a career.
You have to know how to treat applications as assets, to frame software as if it's as essential as cash on hand for a company. APM doesn't get cited much by the 3000 manager who's been a technologist to deliver value to a company. This is the business side of business computing. Learning more about it gives a manager a greater skill set. Best of all, these practices make it easier to justify IT acquisition and expansion and yes, even a migration with its profound expense.
Tomorrow (April 24) at 2PM Eastern Time, MB Foster is leading a 45-minute webinar with time for questions about APM as part of its bi-weekly Wednesday Webinars. "Do you want executive management to understand the condition of IT applications -- built, bought or accumulated through M&A, or acquired for a specific need -- and how they grow the business and how they affect future budgets?" The answer to that would probably be yes, just to ensure that the asset called the HP 3000 applications get their accurate valuation.
April 22, 2013
Comparing Costs of Staying for 5-10 Years
Last week's CAMUS online-phone RUG meeting included a comprehensive exam of staying on MANMAN for at least another five years. The proposal, outlined by Terry Floyd of the Support Group, showed a cost exceeding $40,000 a year to keep running an HP 3000 with the ERP application plus crucial support for hardware and all software.
His estimation, for a Series 939 low-end system with 30 users' worth of MANMAN (all numbers are annual)
Hardware support - $5,000
MPE/iX support - $2,000
MANMAN application support - $10,000
Support for vendors of third party software - $10,000, on average
Electric power and cooling - $12,000
Including miscellaneous costs of $3,000 yearly, that's a total of $42,000 to stay on MANMAN each year. "That doesn't even include salaries," Floyd said. "These are costs directly related to MANMAN." One user pushed back on the third party software support costs, saying the estimate was low.
One way to cut back on these costs would be to run MANMAN on the cloud, Floyd said. This development, if it ever emerges for the MANMAN community, would be via the Stromasys emulator, which sits in a Linux cradle. Linux is even supported by the HP Cloud, a newcomer to the virtual server vendor lineup. (HP-UX is not supported). The cloud reduces hardware-related expenses and wipes out electrical, versus a cost of $200 a month per user.
(Stromasys officials on the call said they thought Floyd may have been referring to one of the possible options for people wanting to migrate off the 3000. There's been no testing or instances of the emulator running from a cloud service yet.)
So while looking at the numbers and the state of 3000-based cloud options, one of the larger points that Floyd made in his review is that MANMAN, even today on current 3000 hardware, could remain a viable place to stay with manufacturing IT -- so long as the ERP instance has up to date modifications for interfaces and integration, properly documented so they don't become tribal knowledge. Plenty of MANMAN sites have modified their application. Mods are part of the MANMAN Way.
April 19, 2013
Where Everybody Knows Your CPUNAME
The iconic TV show Cheers splashed a theme song about the fictional Boston tavern every Thursday, way back in the 1980s. It was a drinking outpost "where everybody knows your name, and they're all so glad you came." If attendance works out well for Stromasys at its HP 3000 Social -- four weeks away -- they're likely to have the same sort of turnout. The Tied House will be a place where everybody knows your name because so many will be familiar to each other. That's what more than three decades of community gives you.
This week the blue and white postcards arrived in mailboxes announcing the combination of Social and Training May 9-10. We found one in our mailbox, but word of the event is spreading beyond the reach of the US post. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft called to report he'll be at the Tied House. Neil Armstrong, developer and curator of Suprtool, has also been tracking the event closely.
These VIPs of your community will be joined by people experienced in 3000 matters who seek a way around aging HP hardware for MPE. And there will be some stopping by to see the names that they know and meet new ones with something in common. Everybody there will be listening for news about licensing. Right now this is a rare brew that prospects are thirsting for if they want to emulate a production machine.
April 18, 2013
How Ending Support Might Change Things
If the above subject seems obvious, then the story of the HP 3000 and MPE has had moments to refute it, as well as prove it. Hewlett-Packard considered the end of its vendor-priced support to be the ultimate change in 3000 ownership. If HP wouldn't support MPE and the 3000, who'd use it?
That one is filed as a refute -- several thousand companies have relied on 3000s and MPE over the four-plus years since full HP support ended. Even as a government-required archival system, the computer outlasted the end of HP support.
But in proof of ending support as a trigger of change, we offer the case of the disappearing database. No, not IMAGE, still wired to this day with elegance into the MPE filesystem and 3000s. No, we're examining Oracle here. Many IT managers consider Oracle to be the industry leader. So if its support drove off the 3000 cliff, and so dropped off for MPE after Y2K, didn't that deal a crashing blow to the user community?
One manager who wants to remain anonymous, but still tends to a 3000, told us this week that he believes it was true. "I asked HP people at a trade show if they had heard how Oracle, recently in court and in the news, began the demise of MPE -- when in a previous pre-Sun business decision, they announced end of support for Oracle on MPE?"
Yes, the end of this support did change the 3000's future -- at HP. In the early 1990s HP was hoping that IMAGE would become only one of several database options for the servers, and so it tried to unbundle the custom-tailored IMAGE from MPE. This was meant to make room for the likes of high-dollar Oracle, or other databases which had not made the port to the 3000. HP wished they would do so. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 group pined for SQL Server on MPE.
But Oracle never was thrilled to be part of the 3000 ecosystem. There was so much more profit to be had in the Unix world, or up on IBM mainframes. In 1985 I was reporting on rumors that Oracle was moving to what we were still calling MPE V at the time. The Oracle VP I reached had a question for me. "Why in the world would we do that?"
April 17, 2013
HP hardware: bargain, but needed now?
It's an interesting time for 3000 hardware these days. Prices have dropped severely for unlicensed HP iron. Meanwhile, there's a no-cost way to use a computer to run MPE/iX, thanks to the Charon HPA/3000 emulator, Model A202, freeware edition. Times are plentiful for ways to run MPE software, if the license is not much of an issue.
The HP-brand hardware is flowing so freely that I had a reseller ask if I wanted to buy an N-Class at an astounding price. Nothing that the rest of the public couldn't get off eBay. However, in that offer anybody would have to come up with their own license for MPE/iX.
Nothing's perfect this year about acquiring an MPE server. On one hand you have the option of real HP iron, power-hungry but the genuine engine. However, the HP-badged boxes need disks and memory and components in reserve for real support, the kind of items that a system manager would scavenge from things like an $1,800 N-Class. A support contract for MPE, as well as the hardware, is part of that equation. If you've got an MPE/iX license, let's just say it's about a $2,000 investment, plus the ultra-important hardware-MPE support contract purchase.
And you need that MPE/iX software support no matter what you're doing, unless you've got enough experience to be selling those services yourself.
The bottom line on an emulated, virtual HP 3000 is higher, unless you're freewaring it. You can expect there are nominal consultants -- retired but available -- who'd use the A202 to discover bug fixes and workarounds. The better ones will have the real HP iron, running tiny, 9GB LDEV 1 disks. The beefiest drive you can put in a 3000 is 146 GB.
But I have to admit, I thought for awhile about that offer of an N-Class for under $2,000. It was a kind of a "get it while you can, the price won't be better than this" sort of decision. For a production or a development shop, it's likely to be different. A manager could figure that a 5-figure cost to acquire Charon emulator software, plus support for it, could be balanced against the cost to maintain a stable parts depot. Emulation installs mean that hardware support goes way down, to about $100 a year for a typical Intel-Linux box. But adding any kind of 3000, emulated or iron, to our offices would be news. Operating my own MPE system has never been a part of my 28 years of working in our community.
April 16, 2013
Why There are Always Parts Available
Last week on the 3000 newsgroup, HP hardware supplier Cypress Technology was offering an N-Class HP 3000 for $1,800. Cypress was even including an option to custom-configure the server at that price. The 3000 was selling without a license that could be transferred. But even this kind of investment would make an adequate disaster recovery system, given that it has a copy of MPE/iX already loaded on it. Even more useful would be the parts from the server -- a value at $1,800.
The Cypress box is a single 220MHz CPU with a 1.5Mb cache, 4GB total memory, a 9GB boot disk drive (how quaint; just a bit larger than a $7 thumb drive of today) and a 147GB main storage disk drive.
Hewlett-Packard once told the 3000 community that the vendor could provide custom legacy support through 2010, but the offering would depend on parts availability and the age of the HP 3000. But older systems might have parts which are no longer on the HP warehouse shelves.
But no matter how old the HP 3000 might be in your shop, you can be reasonably sure that spare parts will not prevent you from keeping it working. Five years ago this month, Wyell Grunwald offered a "practically free" HP 3000 on that same 3000 newsgroup. All that Grunwald wanted was the cost of shipping to send the 200-pound server onto its new home.
After one quip about this early '90s server making a good bookend, another community member said they could use the system for parts. Imagine, an HP 3000 PA-RISC server built in 1990 — yes, 23 years ago — still has parts available in your community.
April 15, 2013
SM for Everyone!
By Bob GreenVladimir Volokh of VEsoft fame called us to pass on an interesting story.
He was doing MPE system and security consulting at a site. One of his regular steps is to run VESOFT’s Veaudit tool on the system. From this he learned that every user in the production account had System Manager (SM) capability!
Giving a regular user SM capability is a really bad thing. It means that the users can purge the entire system, look at any data on the system, insert nasty code into the system, etc. And this site had just passed their Sarbanes-Oxley audit.
Vladimir removed SM capability from the users and sat back to see what would happen. The first problem to occur was a job stream failure. The reason it failed was because the user did not have Read access to the STUSE group, which contained the Suprtool "Use" scripts. So, Suprtool aborted.
“Background Info Break”
For those whose MPE security knowledge is a little rusty, or non-existent, we offer a a helpful excerpt from Vladimir’s son Eugene, from his article Burn Before Reading - HP3000 Security And You – available at www.adager.com/VeSoft/SecurityAndYou.html
Read "SM for Everyone!" in full
April 12, 2013
Stromasys Social meets at historic brewery
The free HP 3000 Social next month on May 9 -- prelude to the first free Stromasys Training Day on May 10 -- will take place in a private section of the Tied House Brewery and Cafe at 954 Villa Street in Mountain View. The official Stromasys webpage for this spring's Social+Training event promises heavy appetizers and free drinks at the Social, starting at 6 PM.
The Tied House website reports that the bistro is the 4th oldest microbrewery in California, and Silicon Valley’s original microbrewery. The cafe and brewery share the same building, with the Clubhouse mug wall on one side and the brewing operation on the other. After pouring 10 million pints since 1988 -- and sending a coaster into space with NASA astronauts -- Tied House beer awards include Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from the Great American Beer Festival, plaques from the World Beer Cup, and First Place Gold from the California State Fair.
The microbrewery is a 5-minute drive from the Computer History Museum on Shoreline Drive, where the Friday May 10 training takes place. A free lunch will be served during the 10-4 training that day. You can make your reservations for the Social -- as well as the next day's training on the world's only HP 3000 emulator -- at the Stromasys event's webpage, www.stromasys.com/hp3000event
April 11, 2013
Fast Text Searches speed new Eloquence
Marxmeier Software AG has announced the Eloquence B.08.20 release candidate is available for downloading from the Eloquence web site. Testing was expanded for this IMAGE-workalike database, after a beta period during 2012, and "and we incorporated customer feedback," said company president Michael Marxmeier. The extra development time yielded some details and improved documentation.
A B.08.20 production release of this replacement database for IMAGE applications migrated to Windows, Unix or Linux, "is expected to be available shortly and should be identical to the release candidate."
As we noted here in our 2012 summertime reports, Eloquence 8.20 introduces new functionality and enhancements in various product components. Most noticeable are
• Database full text search, adding fast and flexible search engine capabilities to the Eloquence database.
• Various database enhancements, including support for protected password files, repacking a database and improvements to replication management.
• Support for converting PCL output of existing applications to PDF documents on the fly.
Eloquence, a software solution more in line with HP 3000 budgets than Oracle or SQL Server, also has its own programming language. The company said that substantial improvements to the language include syntax enhancements, supporting path to access files, class methods, external classes, and on-demand loading of program code.
"Now is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with the new release," Marxmeier said. "Download a copy and try out new features or enhancements. We are happy to provide temporary license keys to try out optional features."
April 10, 2013
HP launches Moonshot, chairman Lane
Ray Lane was brought in to Hewlett-Packard's board to refocus HP on the software marketplace. The company could see that the era of hardware margins was fast declining, and all of the highest hopes were aimed at the non-physical product. The actions to purchase Palm for its WebOS, as well as Autonomy for five times as much as that $2 billion, were the realization of a long-time HP dream.
Back in 1990 I rode a tour boat into San Francisco harbor. As a reporter for The Chronicle, I was being hosted for the HP CIMinar, where the CIM stood for Computer Integrated Manfacturing. Hewlett-Packard had a press liasion, Charlie Preston, who told me that the company pined for a day when it would manufacture little to nothing.
"It's all in software and services, Ron," he said. The boat was having a hardware failure at the time, a total loss of power within sight of the famous San Francisco Embarcadero Pier. While we bobbed and they kept filling our glasses, Charlie explained that the real power of computing was in services, aided by software. "In 10 years we don't want to be manufacturing much, including computers," he said.
One extra decade later, HP seems to be taking steps away from a virtual computer resource. Last week's exit of board director Ray Lane from the HP Chairman's seat seems proof enough that software has had its bumpy road of acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard didn't get its cart in the ditch without some risk-taking leadership. Lane arrived after years of Oracle work, savvy and a kingmaker. He remains on the HP board, but new leadership will be launching about the same time as the newest of HP hardware, the Moonshot servers.
April 09, 2013
Good tools making an impact, then and now
By Brian Edminster
I was always jealous of shops that could afford good tools.
Let me explain. Awhile back, I read about HP's history of trying to launch a successor to IMAGE. It was supposed to be called HPIMAGE. It was supposed to be slicker than... well, it was supposed to have all the ability to dynamically index and/or restructure your data that a modern SQL relational database managment system allows, without losing the speed and robustness that makes TurboIMAGE famous. I can recall a few times that having the ability to dynamically restructure a database (while it's in production!) would have been handy. (See: zero downtime)
Then again, a well designed database in a stable application normally shouldn't need that sort of thing with any sort of regularity. Lately, I'm seeing the need to re-structure/alter indexing as a symptom of not knowing your data's demographics and/or designed usage patterns -- especially as the application's data volumes grow.
This need to restructure is also a side-effect of trying to use a single database both as an operational data store (current data only, for day to day production), as well as for research/reporting data warehousing -- where the data is relatively static, but may go back years. Again, that's lazy design. Don't try to make a sports car have the hauling capacity of a truck. You'll end up with neither.
What changes we did need to make, were done with:
1) DBUNLOAD/DBUTIL, PURGE/DBSCHEMA/DBUTIL, CREATE/DBLOAD -- if we were poor (and couldn't afford Adager or other similar tools), or
2) DICTDBU/DBUTIL, PURGE/DBSCHEMA/DBUTIL, CREATE/DICTDBL. This allowed unloading to a tape or disk file -- so if we had enough free space, we could skip using tape, and it was much faster! Also allowed simple re-structuring of the database.
We could do the adding, moving, deleting, and changing the type of datasets; and adding/removing paths, and/or re-arranging order of items in a set. Unfortunately, this was only present if we were lucky enough to be users of Dictionary/3000, or the HP Customizer technology products like MM or HP's Financial software.
3) Best and fastest of all, Model 2 Adager. This even allows transforming the data types, in addition to adding new elements or sets.
But there are still very useful tools that remain on any HP 3000 which still has Predictive Support. Tools you might not know you’ve got.
April 08, 2013
Stromasys to get social to train for Charon
The creators of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator are rolling out their community carpet in earnest next month. Stromasys is hosting a HP 3000 User Social on Thursday, May 9 -- one month from tomorrow -- and then training at the Computer History Museum the next day, on May 10.
There is a free lunch. In fact, there's a free social on the evening before the training, starting at 6, where refreshments will be on hand, along with 3000 community members. If you couldn't make it to the first HP3000 Reunion in September 2011, this looks like another chance to reconnect in person with your community.
April 05, 2013
Living a Privileged 3000 Life without SM
By Brian Edminster
After reading the article on the safe and prudent use of privileges from yesterday, the subject touched a nerve with me. I've seen too many HP 3000 sites which have SM (or PM) capabilities assigned to production account users. They don't need it, and it adds risk and insecurity to a 3000. Along the same lines of error, PM is granted on insufficiently secured groups where production programs reside.
That first mistake is usually an instance of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly, usually due to laziness or ignorance. But the latter is a sign of careless security, or ignorance. The misuse of MPE/iX privileges is often triggered because application programmers are too lazy (or ignorant) of ways to properly design their applications. They could use the incredibly powerful and finely granular security provisions that MPE/iX allows to avoid this.
At the least, they could instead have used a lockworded copy of what is commonly known in the 3000 community as the 'GOD' program. This lets the manager who invokes it temporarily gain 'SM' -- much like the 'su' (superuser) command in your favorite flavor of Unix does. If something with finer granularity is needed, perhaps this is an opportunity for someone to port at least the concept of 'sudo' to MPE/iX.
April 04, 2013
Privileges litter the path to passed audits
Yesterday we studied the ways that migrated HP 3000 data can become forgotten while making provisions for an audit. Since some HP 3000s work as mission-critical servers, these active, homesteading systems must weather IT and regulatory audits. The 3000 is capable of passing these audits, even in our era of PCI, HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley challenges — all more strenuous than audits of the past.
However, establishing and enforcing a database update procedure is a step onto filling the gap in the security of an MPE/iX system. HP 3000 managers should take a hard look at how their users employ System Manager (SM) privileges. (Privileged Mode, PM, and System Supervisor OP should also be watched. Overall, there can be 21 capabilities to each user.) In their most strict definition, those privileges can expose a database. Hundreds of users can be created at Ecometry sites; even seasonal help gets SM users, according to one consultant's report, users which are seldom deleted after the holiday has passed. One site had a script to create new users, and each had PM capability, automatically.
VEAudit from VEsoft, using its LISTUSER @.@ (CAP("SM")) filter, can give you a report of all of the SM users on your HP 3000. You can even ask for the SM users where password="". (Now there's a good list to find: SM users who have no passwords.) There is no MPE command that will do such things, we are reminded by VEsoft co-founder Vladimir Volokh. Even after more than three decades of his business as a 3000 software vendor, he also offers consulting on MPE operations and management, and still travels the US to deliver this.
Privileges are often a neglected aspect of 3000 operations, especially when the system's admin experts have moved on to non-3000 duties, or even to other companies. (Then there's the prospect that nobody knew how to use privileges in the first place.) Some SM users have disturbed the integrity of 3000 databases. It's easy to do accidentally. A creator of a database can also update a 3000 database — a capability that can foul up a manager's ability to pass some audits.
If you are worried about arbitrary access via QUERY, you can "disable subsystem access" via DBUTIL. This will, of course, only disable the access on QUERY.
Some less-adept auditors can also demand that a database's password be changed every 90 days. It's quite impossible to do, considering the database password is built into every application program.
So a database's security might be compromised through SM privileges, but it depends on the meaning of "update." This term can be construed to be as restrictive as using DBUPDATE to change an entry. It can also refer to UPDATE access DBOPEN MODE 2.
To get very specific, an update can mean that the modify date has been changed in the file label of one or more IMAGE-related files. In a very general definition, an SM user can update the database simply by way of a restore from tape. (OP privileges permit this, too.)
Auditors sometimes ask broad questions, the sort of inquiry that fits better with the everyday use of HP 3000s in an enterprise. But for MPE/iX experts, "update" means any kind of modification capability.
So you can answer your auditor's question and say "no, SM privileges don't permit any of our users to update a database in another 3000 account." This answer is true, to the extent that the auditor's concern is about changing data — not just making a minor date change or using DBOPEN MODE 2. For auditors without MPE/iX and IMAGE expertise, well, they might not go so far in their examinations.
As for the SM user's ability to muck up an IMAGE database, it’s a mistake that is not difficult to make. An SM user who obtains a database password can corrupt an IMAGE database just by using the restore command. We’ve heard a story that such a user might explain, "Oops, I thought I was signed onto the test account."
It's important to make a system fool-proof, because as Vladimir says, "fools are us."
April 03, 2013
Decommissioned data forgotten in migration
"It's the most forgotten piece of the migration puzzle," said Birket Foster while he recently led a webinar on best experiences with 3000 transitions. "People are not always remembering that at the end of the day they want to shut off the old 3000."
What Foster means is that even after removing data -- the most essential 3000 and company resource -- project managers need to track what data they must keep to satisfy an auditor. Many companies will still need long term access to historic data. That's either a 3000 and its services that can be outsourced from a third party, or maybe even an emulator virtualization of a 3000, perhaps based in a cloud. Some audits demand that the original 3000 hardware be available, however -- not an Intel-based PC doing a letter-perfect hardware emulation.
After the Great War, the returning soldiers were not welcomed as productive citizens ready to return to work. This kind of veteran was called The Forgotten Man, from Golddiggers of 1933. Perhaps the information in aging 3000s is marching in the same kind of veteran step.
Managers have to consider if they want to move their forgotten 3000 data after a migration, or leave it in a searchable format -- several questions to consider for an auditor's satisfaction. Many 3000 sites we've interviewed have a 3000 running for historical lookups. This is the sort of task that would meet the needs of an audit.
April 02, 2013
CAMUS schedules Spring webinar for April
The ERP and manufacturing user group CAMUS will host its every-springtime user group event on April 17, including discussion about the future of MANMAN led by community advocate and 3000 veteran Terry Floyd of the Support Group.
Terri Glendon Lanza, the founder of the Ask Terri ERP and manufacturing consultancy, has announced the call-in and PowerPoint meeting, which will begin at 10:30 Central US time. After an hour of talk and questions about the upcoming years for one of the oldest MPE applications -- still running in several hundred companies -- 3000 homesteading advice starts at 11:45.
Steve Suraci, owner of support and systems provider Pivital Solutions, talks first about Resources for Homesteading. Tom Bollenbeck of Ideal Computer follows up, on the same topic, at 12:05.
The user group's traditional and lively Talk Soup puts a signature on the meeting, which is free. An open discussion is scheduled to start at 12:25. You sign up at the Sign Up Genius website.
Up for discussion: MANMAN Modifications, and a possible CAMUS give-away. "Help us outline contents, actions, or a submission list for modifications with financial assistance from CAMUS," Lanza said in her April 2 announcement. "We could talk about the emulator during the open discussion if you want. Everyone is welcome."
April 01, 2013
Pontiff annoints future for old 3000 disciples
Spreading his message of hope for disadvantaged communities, newly-appointed Pope Francis gave an Easter address yesterday that offered promise for computer groups beating back injustices. "This is the age of miracles," the Pontiff said in a special high-band broadcast on the new social network Chirpify. Leaders of the HP 3000 homesteading community seized on the proclamation as proof that almighty forces were now at work to turn back the clock of change.
"We're on a mission from god," said 92-year-old Leonard Frapp, the engineer who coined the phrase minicomputer in 1967 after the miniskirt took the world of fashion by storm. "It's a lot sexier than those damn mainframe togs," he said of that creation that made white lab coats passe within a few seasons. "With this, we're using so little server fabric we don't even need a mini -- just a see-through virtualizer. Best of all, I can buy one of these virtual 3000s on Chirpify with my Galaxy phone." While grabbing a spoon, he added it was easiest to buy using the Jimmies with Whipped Cream Android release.
As the Pontiff launched a worldwide tour to spread the message of living on less, the new Pope booked his own reservations for a trip to Mountain View, California, where Stromasys conceived the immaculate idea of hosting the first HP 3000 Social and Stromasys training seminar in early May. Special Emissary for his Holiness Rev. Duce Scholdaduci said the trip will include air travel between New York and the Bay Area on Jet Blue. The pope will sit in the emergency exit row on the trans-American flight, since he's infallible about the safety of a commercial trip managed by an application created using MPE/iX.
"Hoc genus maxime est via amet," the pope said yesterday from his Twitter account, reaching out to explain why he was breaking with tradition of flying in his own jet in a special visit to the 3000 social. The phrase translates to "This is the most affordable way to go," although it was unclear if the Pontiff was describing the emulator or the coach-class low fares to the Bay Area during May via Jet Blue. The flight will offer a special Vatican Channel on the jet's in-flight entertainment in seat-backs.
March 29, 2013
Hope floats today for a 3000 resurrection
As a former Catholic altar boy, I learned a lot about resurrection during Springs in the 1960s. But the headline above isn't early April Fool's blasphemy. Some 3000 users -- more than a dozen, like disciples -- believe that an emulator in their market is a reason to believe in the server's revival.
They're somewhat correct, but how accurate is a revival of MPE/iX, versus the hardware to host it? Stromasys has accomplished the latter miracle with Charon HPA/3000. Servers as common as bottled water are running MPE/iX today, in production environments or proving the concept that PA-RISC systems have come back from a state of doom. Some are even succeeding with untested chips from AMD, somehow, rather than the approved Intel processors.
We've just approved a comment here on our blog that invests the emulator with these regenerative powers. HP would need a revival of its spirit to start to sell proprietary servers again, but at least there's powerful spirit among a few customers. None of them are paying HP any longer for the 3000. We'll get to that in a minute, and how it affects the salvation of critical MPE/iX applications. But to that prayer:
I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.
This manager doesn't want his name or company mentioned, but I assure you he's real and in charge of several HP 3000s. Third parties provide MPE and 3000 support at his site, and he runs HP's final low-end model of 3000, an A-Class. Although this is the season of miracles for hundreds of millions, marketing MPE/iX would demand a change of ownership at Hewlett-Packard. To kick-start it, people like our manager above would have to become customers of HP once more. The company took a conservative view of "customer" and "owner" five years ago this month. Nothing's changed there yet.
March 28, 2013
OpenMPE's afterlife lives on a live server
Eleven years ago this spring, OpenMPE was calling itself OpenMPE Inc. and proposing a business around the HP 3000. The organization was just getting on its feet, led by Jon Backus, a consultant and systems manager who ran his own business and took the first steps toward advocacy for the computer HP was cutting from its futures.
The hopes and dreams of a shell-shocked community of 3000 lovers came to the window of OpenMPE. But even in 2002, the group of volunteers' founders knew the holy grail was hardware to replace the boxes HP would stop selling in about 18 months.
A petition, in the form of customers' Letters of Intent, got presented to HP during that year's Interex 3000 Solutions Symposium.
The document is asking customers if they would support the new organization’s mission to enhance and protect the HP 3000 community’s lifespan, though software development and creation of an emulator that mimics the HP hardware on Intel processors.
And after a decade, the community got its emulator. The software that's now making ripples in the calm pond of 3000 use emerged from hard work at Stromasys, to be sure. But OpenMPE laid the first tracks to demonstrating user interest, as well as an MPE license for emulated 3000s. The HP license is one of the few that were written specifically for the emulator. (Minisoft has announced another.) The other evidence of OpenMPE's work is an HP 3000, hosted at the Support Group in Texas, where it holds software that still matters to MPE managers.
March 27, 2013
3000's endurance replaced easier than yours
System managers who are in charge of HP 3000s might be concerned about the endurance of their hardware. Those who use systems built in the 1990s feel lucky as their 3000 disks keep spinning and the data flows into and out of servers like the Series 929. This is the smallest of the 9x9 3000s, installed in many places as the best 1990s value for entry-level computing.
More than a dozen years later, these 3000s remain on the job. Senior management in these companies might want to ride the lucky tiger as long as they can, to forestall the expense of transitions. However, there's an IT element much tougher to replace than an 18GB drive, a power supply or a processor board.
During an interview this week, a manager who inherited a 929 preached the gospel of newer hardware. It's a problem that has a solution in the wings, as Stromasys makes its way into the homesteading market with its CHARON emulator. This manager said running MPE/iX on Intel PCs sounded "loopy," but he hasn't dismissed HPA/3000. He did look away from a component even more essential than hardware. While that HP iron might go down, the manager going down can also be a major issue. The knowledge of the 3000 is like gold at most homesteading shops, even if management doesn't have a golden budget for the server anymore.
Birket Foster of MB Foster likes to call this the "lottery factor." What if a 3000 manager's circumstances changed overnight, like in winning the lottery? A big annualized jackpot could mean a retirement, and a homesteading company would need a replacement. In-house training before such a change could prepare a company for the day that its 3000 expert goes down, even while the hardware hums along.
March 26, 2013
Review a plan for modernizing to migration
Many of the most dedicated HP 3000 users have plans. Not just for how to sustain a server HP hasn't built for nearly a decade. Not just for how to retain the tribal knowledge of business systems while preparing for a succession of IT expertise -- the latter in sync with MPE/iX issues. They're making plans to modernize their hardware and extend their software.
At a major healthcare provider in New England, there's an active project to bring an emulator to task, replacing the HP 3000s and their support expenses with inexpensive Intel servers. But the healthcare provider knows the long term probably won't include MPE/iX applications in production. It might be seven years, or 10. But migration -- or a lift and shift of applications -- is certainly down the road.
At another customer site, the prospect of eliminating HP 3000 applications would mean shutting off order entry, fulfillment, sales auditing. It's not impossible, of course. HP's Unix systems have taken over for a major financial module at this manufacturer. That means that somewhere deeper into the corporate calendar, those MPE/iX systems will give way to another OS. When the time is right, says MB Foster's Birket Foster.
March 27 is a Wednesday, so there's a Webinar on offer from Foster's team. Legacy Application Modernization starts at 2PM Eastern Time. Like all the others -- so many over the last three years -- signup is painless, free, and ensures a way to connect with other homesteaders who are eyeing migrations. They might need the latest strategy on what's important to succeed.
March 25, 2013
Searching for help in all the right places
Today a long-time 3000 site in the candy business called to find out if anybody was available to help with a little contract work. Maybe about two or three years' worth, because that's how long it would take this 3000 stalwart to pull out of their existing 3000 applications.
They've already pulled out of some. Oracle Financials now takes the place of an MPE/iX app, for example. But while Oracle is more popular with the market's experts, the in-house software that it replaced performed better.
The search for 3000 expertise led us to recommend a couple of favorite webpages. The OpenMPE contractor-consultant page has added new consultants in the last few weeks. Over at LinkedIn, the HP 3000 Community is fast approaching 600 members. And while LinkedIn would like the employer prospects such as our candy company -- and its Call Center, Order Entry, Order Fulfillment and Sales Audit apps, all running on N-Class servers -- to pay $295 to list a job opening, it's not needed. You can start a discussion in several places for free about an available job.
March 22, 2013
AcuCOBOL's bench is a means to transition
COBOL-only 3000 sites have been working with the same set of tools for many years. HP closed its languages lab early in the previous decade, so Hewlett-Packard's brand-name source code managers and the like were last enhanced sometime late in the 1990s. That age doesn't matter very much to the strategy of homesteading. Suppliers such as Robelle have enhanced editors like Qedit in the interim.
There are options for improving COBOL development and managing application maintenance and creation. COBOL has many experts and advocates in the 3000 community. One of our favorites is Alan Yeo; his company ScreenJet created an interface between the 3000 and the development toolbench from Acucorp, AcuBench. Yeo has been a realist about the transition of AcuCOBOL toward a melding with Micro Focus COBOL. It's taken a long time so far -- AcuCOBOL hasn't achieved its melding in more than four years of plans and work on the project.
But the state of an AcuCOBOL-Micro Focus meld doesn't change one axiom: better COBOL project tools will help a 3000 site which is migrating. Micro Focus acquired AcuCOBOL's expertise and its customers in 2007, and first talked about a Project Meld in 2008.
"If you're COBOL shop and you're on the HP 3000," Yeo explained, "and you wanted to move to a very structured and complete environment -- where you've got a lot of development tools, debugging tools -- then the Micro Focus environment wouldn't be bad. But as of this minute, they haven't got anything that's as good as their AcuCOBOL GUI product."
March 21, 2013
Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?
Out on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, managers have been apprised this spring of an offering from Beechglen Development called Triple Store. The essence of the advice is sound. Make multiple backups, because it's risky to rely on just one tape -- and too time-consuming to simply make multiple tapes.
(Not a part of the LinkedIn Community for 3000s yet? Join us -- we're well on the way to being 600 members strong.)
Triple Store proposes a primary copy goes to local user volume storage on your 3000. The secondary local copy goes out to a Linux Appliance, as Beechglen calls it. There's a third copy that goes into SSD storage in a cloud which Beechglen hosts offsite.
You can look over the pricing in a single-page datasheet from Beechglen, but it's that Linux Appliance that might be the newest wrinkle in a multi-copy strategy. This particular application encrypts the backup and applies compression. Secure FTP (SFTP) can pass the backups from standard HP 3000 73GB user volumes to this Appliance. For those who unfamilar with the appliance concept, it is a separate server powered by Linux and loaded with an application dedicated to backups.
Brian Edminster, our backup advisor for 3000 operations, keyed in on the Triple Store's appliance, too.
The greatest novelty is having a Linux-driven appliance to act as a secure intermediary. It appears to be to sending backups ultimately to one's own Network Attached Storage (NAS), off to Beechglen's cloud, or onto SSDs (which are being used as the removeable media). I already do backups for the systems I administer in a similar way.
March 20, 2013
Emulator connects to terminals, POC efforts
What was restarted as a pilot project more than four years ago at Stromasys is now a full-fledged product. The CHARON-HPA/3000 operations inside Stromasys are receiving continued investment, according to company officials. The emulator is a proof of concept project at several companies who've contacted us, but it's a full-fledged software solution at the vendor which created it.
The software's starting to caper through springtime on laptops and low-cost desktops across North America and elsewhere. One manager who briefed us about the POC work at his site said he put up the A-202 Freeware edition on an HP desktop with an i3 Core Intel chip. The desktop came off eBay with a $150 price tag. The demonstration yielded "a sigh of relief I could hear across the room." Top IT managers are happy to see a way for MPE applications to run onward into the future, independent of HP-built servers.
Installing the emulator software and setting it into service requires an ability to know how to put an IP address into a terminal emulator, in order to connect over a network. Any A-202 freeware users who have limited networking skills are presenting special support needs to Stromasys. The company says it's working in a couple of directions to find a method to help such users in a cost-effective manner.
Stromasys has two versions of the HPA/3000 documentation, one for the A202 Freeware Edition and one for the Demo-to-Production Edition. The company is restructuring these documents to turn them into User Guides, an upgrade from the comprehensive collection of notes available at the moment. Fortunately there are very few issues that only concern Freeware users, so having to spend time supporting freeware users — with advice and instruction that doesn't benefit the vast majority of its customers and prospects — has not been an issue.
Product manager Paul Taffel is at the nexus of this springtime growth. "The momentum is certainly building," he said, "and it really is fulfilling to talk to users who had no hope of finding a solution like CHARON, and to be able to show them such a high-quality product."
March 19, 2013
HP's expert estimates Itanium's end-date
We return you to California's Santa Clara County Superior Court, where the future of Itanium and HP-UX is already in progress. HP and Oracle continued their battle over the future and value of Itanium yesterday, with each side trying to wring dollars out of their dispute over whether Itanium is finished at HP. The lawsuit's final phase addresses damages. Oracle hopes to prove HP's public and partner strategies cost them sales of Sun servers where Integrity had already lost the business.
Oracle's expert estimated the company lost $95 million in profits, working on the premise that HP lied about the future of its only HP-UX processor line. The Integrity servers have been a popular platform for Oracle's database. A lawsuit that wrapped up in September forced Oracle to continue its development for the server line. The database vendor wanted to stop enhancing Oracle for HP's platforms including HP-UX, all tied to the Itanium chip.
HP's expert Jonathan Orszag of the consulting firm Compass Lexecon had to counter by estimating the lifespan of HP's Itanium business. Orszag said the ending date for Itanium looked to him like 2020. HP would have surely reviewed Orszag's testimony before he offered it to judge James Kleinberg. HP's expert witness in the damages phase of the suit said he based his testimony on Itanium road maps from HP as well its chip partner, Intel.
If Orszag and Hewlett-Packard are on target, then 2020 would mark about two decades of actual service to the enterprise computing customer. That's a mark that HP's initial chip family for the 3000 didn't achieve. But the period of 1974-1989 was nothing like the 21st Century. For one thing, Intel didn't have competing versions of an enterprise business processor on sale during the '70s and '80s. That split focus for Intel showed up again last month, when the chip maker announced a couple of downgrades to Itanium's future.
March 18, 2013
Still Patching After All These Years
HP solved the problems of the 3000 and MPE with patches, revised software which Hewlett-Packard still distributes today. Probably not as seamlessly as it did while the company supported the system. But just as inexpensively: MPE/iX is one of the only HP operating systems with free patches. The still-engineered and fully-supported OS lineup requires an HP support contract to retrieve patches, even the critical ones.
Patches resurfaced in my reporting this afternoon while I interviewed a consultant to a large site, one where 22 HP 3000s once ran altogether. Today it's a couple of N-Class servers. He was feeling good about the chances for a Stromasys emulator there, partly because the customer is already running on MPE/iX 7.5. The final generation of the OS is required to run the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.
"We got away from using Large Files, too," he added. "I think HP never did fix that corruption bug in those." That would be the >4GB corruptor, discovered in 2006 by Adager and finally fixed in '07 by HP's IMAGE/SQL labs. The repaired software required a millicode patch, the first one HP'd written for the 3000 in 16 years. You can get that patch via HP's Response Center website. But that's not how most 3000 managers are getting these patches today.
March 15, 2013
Freeware emulator user reaches for support
In one of the greater gifts to the 3000 community, Stromasys has unleashed software that permits a 2-user HP 3000 to appear on the hard drive of a PC anywhere in the world. The Charon software could replace consultants' aging 3000 systems immediately after a download and install. These consultants could then demonstrate this emulated 3000 to homesteading companies. A sale to the company might take place.
However, the HP 3000 rose to its highest peaks with the benefit of other emulation, decades ago. The server's oldest software employed proprietary terminals. When PCs displaced terminals because of those desktop computers' industry standard and flexibility, one software product made it possible: terminal emulators. WRQ shipped Reflection. Minisoft distributed MS 92. More than a dozen years ago, a freeware terminal emulator, QCTerm, rolled out of the labs at AICS Research.
When these emulators emerged, prospective customers had questions during proof of concept testing. During the years while that era's emulation was proving itself, tech support was a call-in experience. I don't recall how a company might handle a technical support call from a non-customer. At Adager, the tech team was often contacted about how to repair IMAGE/SQL databases. That kind of call would earn a non-customer some advice, because that's a full-service model being preserved by some vendors.
And freeware? It didn't exist in anything but the most rudimentary bulletin board system-driven downloads for PCs, or the Interex swap tapes for MPE software.
Terminal emulation is still with us, in the form of entrenched applications that rely on linking to a Reflection, MS 92 or something else like QCTerm. Now there's a second level of emulation in the Charon solution. It's not clear yet how the markets, the customers and the vendors of freeware will handle this kind of inquiry.
March 14, 2013
Advice on reductions helps manage risk
Most managers of 3000s cope with the same challenges seen on other platforms: fewer resources, layoffs and retirements, aging hardware. Yes, even in the marketplace of HP's Itanium or Windows servers, hardware gets older. Not like the 3000s, those boxes which will, by this fall, be at least one decade old.
If the server is built well, if the budgets hold up, if the headcount doesn't shrink, enterprise server owners won't have to manage any risk. What're the odds of that? Since you'd probably admit that you can't dodge all of those, MB Foster held a Wednesday Webinar yesterday to outline the stategies for how to cope with less.
Any special demands for the 3000 didn't come up during the 1-hour webinar. It didn't need to be highlighted, because the elements of risk management are universal. It's just a matter of degree. Do you have an aging workforce, or is the company thinking of using younger IT pros? There's a career retirement trend out there for the professional who can afford it. Foster said 5,000 people born between 1945 and 1960 retire every day. That's ages 53-68, probably the largest slice of 3000 managers.
The odds are stacked against implementing change without a complete plan. Even an optimist would shudder at figures that MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster shared from the Standish Group. By that group's research, 90 percent of the replacements of ERP systems will finish over budget, behind schedule -- or be scrapped altogether. That slender slice of orange in the pie chart represents the lucky companies who got what they wanted, on time and in budget.
Of the ones that finish, companies are averaging about half of the functionality they pursued with their change. Swapping in an off the shelf app for 3000 application could well overlook customizations for spreadsheet interfaces, for example. "And the spreadsheets weren't part of that IT system, they were part of what the user base used," Foster said.
A company is likely to be just one merger or acquisition away from doing more IT with less resources. The 3000 has built-in restrictions that can leave it serving more computing than intended: storage, memory, capability to connect with the latest peripherals. But even the migrated customer can benefit from a plan to mitigate risks.
March 13, 2013
CHARON sets 3000's future
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.
By Alan Yeo
Third of three parts
If you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.
So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.
Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.
I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."
My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair.
March 12, 2013
Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He now points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement.
By Alan Yeo
Second of three parts
I think the most important thing I realised at this event is the CHARON HPA emulator isn't a piece of technology that allows you to do a direct replacement of your current old HP 3000 with a piece of new hardware, by just doing a store and restore. The best way that I think I can describe it is: imagine that HP had just launched a new range of HP 3000 systems called the "B" and "O" Class to replace the "A" and "N" and that these new HP servers would only run MPE/iX 8.0.
That 8.0 analogy doesn't quite apply, as the emulator ships with the final 7.5 version of MPE/iX. But you have to use the supplied 7.5 version, not your own, and if you are on anything earlier then you can think of this as an operating system upgrade as well as a hardware swap. So you probably are not going to get away with a STORE on your old system and a RESTORE with "KEEP" unless where you are coming from is an incredibly simple environment.
Whilst your CHARON box can retain the same HPSUSAN, it can't retain the same HPCPUNAME — and it is almost certainly is going to be running a later version of MPE/iX for most homesteaders. So you are going to have to do a good inventory of what software and third party products you are running; if they will run under 7.5; and possibly how to re-install them — especially if they have any components that hook into anything in SYS.
That means you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. But your reward could be improved performance.
March 11, 2013
HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt
It was nightime, it was snowing and we were on foot, walking to our restaurant. Not a format for an American HP 3000 gathering perhaps, but we Europeans are a hardy bunch with the prospect of a good meal, beer and wine in the offing. It was February 5, 2013, and once again I was in Germany for an HP 3000 event. The last time had been nine-plus years earlier for the final official European-Middle East-Africa, Hewlett-Packard-organised event. I reported on it at the time in the Newswire, "After Malta founders on rocks, Ratingen rolls." Hence the borrowed title of this article.
Sheltering under a Virtual Umbrella
This time it wasn't HP who had organised the event, but rather Stromasys, the company who nearly a decade after HP sold the last HP 3000 is gearing up to supply new HP 3000s, albeit they are emulated servers. To be truthful it wasn't a pure HP 3000 event. Stromasys have been supplying emulated DEC PDP-11, VAX and Alpha emulators for nearly a couple of decades, and the event was for vendors and customers of those platforms as well as for those interested in the new HP 3000 emulator. But it was interesting to contemplate this situation in the same manner HP via acquisition had gathered together all these platforms under one company umbrella (I could have done with one of those umbrellas on our snowy night.) As HP are abandoning these users, Stromasys are gathering together the users of those computers under a new emulated umbrella.
The event was a combined introduction to Stromasys and their emulators, plus twin technical tracks, one for the DEC people and one for the HP folks. Those attending the HP 3000 track — approximately 20 had made it, from Finland in the north, Greece in the south, Slovenia in the east and Ireland in the West, in addition to those from more central European countries, and a couple of us from ScreenJet in the UK. In the group there were a few familiar faces from Ratingen, nine years earlier.
For the HP 3000 attendees, it was an opportunity to find out from Paul Taffel — the 3000 veteran is now Stromasys's resident HP 3000 expert who had flown in from California — how the development and testing of the HP 3000 emulator was going. How the first live and beta test sites had gone over, and for most to get our hands on a copy of our own personal freeware copy of the emulator.
A refreshing thing these days was the candor with which Stromasys talked about where they are, how they got there, and where they are going.
March 08, 2013
Change your clocks, all the time
The US will roll its clocks forward by one hour this weekend. That means it's time to anticipate the questions about keeping 3000 clocks in sync, for anyone who hasn't figured this out over the last several years. US law has altered our clock-changing weekends during that time, but the process to do so is proven.
Donna Hofmeister, whose firm Allegro Consultants hosts the free nettime utility, explains how time checks on a regular basis keep your clocks, well, regular.
This Sunday when using SETCLOCK to set the time ahead one hour, should the timezone be advanced one hour as well?
The cure is to run a clock setting job every Sunday and not go running about twice a year. You'll gain the benefit of regular scheduling and a mostly time-sync'd system.
In step a-1 of the job supplied below you'll find the following line:
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
Clearly, this needs to be changed.
If for some dreadful reason you're not running NTP, you might want to check out 'nettime'. And while you're there, pick up a copy of 'bigdirs' and run it -- please!
March 07, 2013
Enterprise Failure: Selling to the Consumer
COBOL expert and 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs shared a story with me this week about selling straight to a product's users. That's the way HP 3000s moved into tens of thousands of companies during the 1980s. Back in those simpler sales days IT directors -- we called 'em DP managers in the day -- did the selecting and purchasing of corporate computer assets.
The sale happened in the office of the head computer honcho. This person was the consumer, if you will, of the product being offered. More than anything, they wanted something that would work and be a joy to use. (Joy being a relative term, considering it was the 1980s and ENQ/ACK was still a big part of what we called datacomm. Not networking, which was an even deeper black art.)
The story Mr. Hobbs shared was from the world of Apple, where a blogger took note of Why Nobody Can Copy Apple. In summary, Apple wants to sell directly to the user of its computing solutions. The mobile arm of this vendor now has a large footprint in corporations because of this. People are Bringing their Own Devices to the office. It's enough of a phenomenon to trigger a recent webinar on the topic from MB Foster.
However, current enterprise computing sales -- the kind that displaced the 3000 -- take place in an office outside of DP Departments (as we used to call them in the '80s). Corporate Purchasing began to buy systems, or the perhaps the selection happened in the Office of CFO. These officers were accountable to the cost of what they purchased, more so than how reliable or flexible or value-driven systems behaved. This is what put Intel PCs and Windows onto so many desks, long after the users curtailed all manner of love for these affordable choices.
This is the kind of technology selection that's gotten developers and IT administrators removed from decisions. Now IT must present its applications as a portfolio of assets, just to win a place at the boardroom table. No vendor cares less about enterprise-driven sales than Apple. And yet somehow the company has made itself a permanent resident in the plans of corporate IT. BYOD proves that consumer sales work.
March 06, 2013
Emulator earns exam for test databases
An HP 3000 manager is exploring the option of using the Stromasys emulator to host archived test databases as well as an inventory of vehicles and parts. If Stromasys could supply its software, the system could emulate an A500 server installed recently to replace a vintage Series 996.
The 32-year veteran of 3000 programming and management said he'd consider it "a rise in my personal stock if I could go to management and say the emulator could replace TurboIMAGE, VPlus and Pascal programs onto Intel hardware and mass storage.
"If that were true, and we could make it happen for $25,000, we might become a Stromasys customer," he said.
Their app tracks reliability and maintainability of vehicles. Reports have been created using Query and a few dozen customized Pascal programs. One portion of the application is still live: several parts and equipment databases for a warehouse operation. "They still have parts coming in and going out," the manager said.
March 05, 2013
What Triggers a Need for New Tools?
Editor's note: One of our 2013 projects is exploring the range of development tools that are waiting on the other side of a move off the 3000. I checked in with Alan Yeo, the founder of ScreenJet and a provider of VPlus transition and modernization tools. He's also offering a Transact for non-3000 platforms, TransAction. More than a decade ago, Yeo wired up an interface from the Acubench COBOL suite into his ScreenJet software. The Acubench technology was acquired by Micro Focus five years ago, as part of absorbing the products and customers of Acucorp into the Micro Focus COBOL tool lineup.
By Alan Yeo
If you're developing on the HP 3000, most of the tools that are available do just about everything that is needed. They don't need to be that much better. Remember, if you're cutting code on the 3000 it's either batch code or it's got a UI. If it's got a UI, it's either home-grown or VPlus, and none of the new tools are going to buy you a lot more than existing tools will for that stuff.
Some old tools did integrate with source version control software — but not a lot of people were doing that on the 3000. There are a ton of tools available for the 3000 that people never used, because they could make do with the simple ones. They didn't get into trouble; they were a lot more professional because they could concentrate their knowledge in a smaller area.
I don't think a better development environment would trigger a migration. Who uses dev environments? Techies. The days when the techies in companies decided and led the choice of software solutions ended about 20 years ago. So there has to be a business need to migrate or implement something new. If a company is in a mindset of going somewhere, the protection of application assets by using new tools is an important point. What you've got available to protect that application investment has value.
Unfortunately, the terms migrate/migration have been mangled in their usage over the last decade. To me, a migration is when you take what you have and move it to a different platform (maybe with some changes on the way) or make a change in the base technology as a result of the migration. Buying a different package/applications isn't a migration.
March 04, 2013
Modern COBOL awaits in migrations
Migrating 3000 sites, as well as prospects, can expect one element to remain the same: COBOL. Unless a company is buying an off-the-shelf application to replace their 3000 suite, COBOL will remain in control even on a platform as novel as Linux. We haven't heard many reports of 3000 sites rewriting from COBOL to anything else, simply to maintain their mission-critical in-house apps. (Ruby, an object oriented programming language, has been stepping in for COBOL at QSS, the K-12 application provider with 3000 customers.) What tips the scales in favor of sticking with COBOL is more than a developer's comfort with the language. Relaxed formatting and structure are hallmarks of any modern COBOL.
Is sticking with COBOL in 2013 a sound choice? To be sure, many 3000 users wouldn't choose COBOL for a brand-new app. Many are developing in other environments (Visual Studio) on what we call surround platforms. The key data remains on a 3000 for now, feeding those other-apps.
But COBOL has changed a great deal, and for the better, if you decide to move away from HP's COBOL II. The language once had a reputation of being verbose. Okay, that hasn't changed. But COBOL in updated flavors has dropped all the fixed A/B margin formatting, uppercase-only text and rigid division-section structure that was still in place when HP left the languages business.
COBOL supporters in your community still like to talk about how readable and maintainable COBOL still is, even in the face of the brace-and-bracket languages world. George Willis of investment house Fayez Sarofim migrated the MPE applications using AMXW, "so that we could 'lift and shift' our COBOL and Powerhouse code with somewhat minimal changes." The company chose HP's Unix as its platform last year, but AMXW works with Windows and Linux, too.