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.

Read "Newest paper-based issue signals Spring" in full

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

Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP e3000 resource

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.

Read "New MPE 8.0 includes cutting-edge remotes" in full

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.

Read "MPE's dates stay at home on their range" in full

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

March 27, 2014

Beyond 3000's summit, will it keep running?

ClimbersGuy Paul (left) and Craig Lalley atop Mt. Adams, with their next peak to ascend (Mt. Hood) on the horizon.

If you consider the last 40 years and counting to be a steady rise in reputation elevation for the HP 3000 and MPE -- what computer's been serving business longer, after all? -- then 2027 might be the 3000's summit. A couple of 3000 experts have climbed a summit together, as the photo of Guy Paul and Craig Lalley above proves. What a 3000 might do up there in 20 years prompted some talk about 2027 and what it means.

MountAdamsThe two 3000 veterans were climbing Washington state's second highest mountain, Mt. Adams, whose summit is at 12,280 feet. On their way up, Paul and his 14 year old grandson had just made the summit and ran into Lalley, and his 14 year old son, on their way to the top.  

The trek was announced on the 3000 newsgroup last year. At the time, some of the group's members joked that a 3000 could climb to that elevation if somebody could haul one up there. "Guy is a hiking stud," said his fellow hiker Lalley. "Rumor has it that Guy had a small Series 989 in his back pack. I wasn't impressed until I heard about the UPS."

After some discussion about solar-powered computing, someone else said that if it was started up there on Mt. Adams with solar power, the 3000 would still be running 20 years later.

Then a 3000 veteran asked, "But won't it stop running in 2027?" That's an important year for the MPE/iX operating system, but not really a date of demise. Such a 3000 -- any MPE/iX system -- can be running in 20 years, but it will use the wrong dates. Unless someone rethinks date handling before then.

Jeff Kell, whose HP 3000s stopped running at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in December, because of a shutdown post-migration, added some wisdom to this future of date-handling.

"Well, by 2027, we may be used to employing mm/dd/yy with a 27 on the end, and you could always go back to 1927. And the programs that only did "two-digit" years would be all set. Did you convert all of 'em for Y2K? Did you keep the old source?"

Read "Beyond 3000's summit, will it keep running?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | 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.

Read "Twice as many anti-virals: not double safety" in full

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

March 25, 2014

How to Delete All But the Last 5 Files

On our Series 937 I need a routine that will delete all but the last five files in a group that begins with certain values and have a certain pattern to the file names.

Example: We keep old copies of our PowerHouse dictionaries, but only need the last five. I can not do it by date like other groups of files, since it does not get changed everyday. Sometimes we'll go weeks, even months before we make a change. 

I have a routine for other groups of files (interface files) that get created every day and keep only the last 31 days. This is done very easily with VESOFT’s MPEX by simply checking the create date. I was wondering if anyone has a routine either in JCL or MPEX that will keep the last 5 instances of these files. The two file-naming conventions are PT###### and PL######. The ###### represent MMDDHH (month, day, hour).

A wide range of solutions emerged from HP 3000 experts, veterans and consultants.

Francois Desrochers replies

How about doing a LISTF and use PRINT to select all but the last 5 into another file (PTPURGE):

LISTF PT#####,6;PTFILES
PRINT PTFILES;END=-6;OUT=PTPURGE

You could massage PTPURGE and turn each line into a PURGE. It has been a while since I used MPEX, but maybe it has an indirect file function e.g. %PURGE ^PTPURGE.

Of course MPEX has such a function. Vladimir Volokh of VESOFT supplied an elegant solution involving a circular file, a feature added to MPE/iX more than 15 years back. 

First, build an MPE circular file (to do this, look at HELP BUILD ALL). The nearly 1,000 lines that will follow include an explanation of the CIR parameter. We use logfiles below in our example.

PURGE V
BUILD V; CIR; DISC=5
FILE V, OLD
LISTF LOG####, 6;*V

(MPE's asterisk, by the way, can be used in about 19 different ways, Vladimir adds.)

Your result in V can be your last five names. Now you purge, using MPEX -- because purging something minus something is an MPEX-only function. (Using the caret sign is a way to signal all the files mentioned in the file V.)

%PURGE LOG####-^V

There are other solutions available that don't require a third-party gem like MPEX. 

Read "How to Delete All But the Last 5 Files" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:39 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 24, 2014

40 years from a kitchen-size 3000 to 3.4GHz

HP3000 CX 1974Forty years ago this spring, the HP 3000 was just gaining some traction among one of its core markets: manufacturing. This was a period where the computer was big enough to take over kitchen space in a software founder's home, according to an HP software VP of the time. That server didn't run reliably, and so got plenty of attention from the software labs of that day's Hewlett-Packard. And if you were fortunate, a system the size of a two tall-boy file cabinets could be yours for $99,500 in a starter configuration, with 96KB of core memory.

MPE was so new that Hewlett-Packard would sell the software unbundled for $10,000. The whole collection of server and software would burn off 12,000 BTU per hour. HP included "cooling dissipation" specs for the CX models -- they topped off at a $250,000 unit -- so you could ramp up your air conditioning as needed in your datacenter. (Thanks to the HP Computer Museum for the details).

DL380Those specs and that system surfaced while I wrote the Manufacturing ERP Options from Windows article last week. Just this week I rolled the clock forward to find the smallest HP 3000 while checking on specifications. This 2014 era 3000 system runs off an HP DL380 server fired by on a 3.44 GHz chip. It's plenty fast enough to handle the combo of Linux, VMWare and the Stromasys CHARON 3000 emulator. And it's 19 inches x 24 by 3.5.

We've heard, over the past year from Stromasys tech experts, that CPUs of more than 3 GHz are the best fit for VMWare and CHARON. It's difficult to imagine the same operating system that would only fit on a 12,000 BTU server surviving to run on that 2U-sized DL380. The newest Generation 8 box retails for about one-tenth of the cost of that '74 HP3000 System CX server unit. But the CX was all that ASK Computer Systems had to work with, 40 years ago. And HP needed to work with ASK just to bring MPE into reliable service. "It didn’t work worth shit, it’s true," said Marty Browne of ASK. "But we got free HP computer time."

The leap in technology evokes the distinction between a Windows ERP that will replace ASK's MANMAN, and other choices that will postpone migration. Especially if a company has a small server budget, enough time to transfer data via FTP or tape drive -- and no desire to revise their manufacturing system. What started in a kitchen has made its transition to something small enough to look like a large briefcase, a thousand times more powerful. Users made that happen, according to Browne and retired HP Executive VP Chuck House.

Read "40 years from a kitchen-size 3000 to 3.4GHz" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:56 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2014

Shadows of IT Leaders, at HP and Apple

JacksonEarlier this week, the Reverend Jesse Jackson made an appearance at Hewlett-Packard's annual shareholder meeting. He used the occasion of a $128 billion company's face-up to stockholders to complain about racial bias. In specific, Jackson complained that the HP board, by now, should have at least one African American serving on it.

HP's CEO Meg Whitman took respectful note of Jackson's observation, which is true. After 75 years of corporate history that have seen the US eliminate Jim Crow, and the world shun apartheid, HP's board is still a collection of white faces (10 of 12). Hewlett-Packard always had a board of directors, but it didn't become a company with a board in public until it first offered shares in 1958. We might give the company a pass on its first 20 years, striving to become stable and powerful. But from the '60s onward, the chances and good people might have been out there. Just not on HP's board, as Jackson pointed out.

But that story about the vendor who created your HP 3000s, MPE, IMAGE and then the systems to replace all, is incomplete. It's just one view of what Hewlett-Packard has become. In spite of Jackson's accurate census, it overlooks another reality about the company's leadership. HP has become woman-led, in some of its most powerful positions. Whitman had the restraint to not to point to that. But she's the second woman over those 75 years to be HP CEO.

Companies with potent histories like HP will always be in the line of fire of misunderstanding. The same sort of thing happed to Apple this week. This rival to HP's laptop and desktop and mobile space was inked over as a company still run by the ghost of its founder Steve Jobs. Like the Jackson measurement of HP's racial diversity at the top, the Ghostly Jobs Apple story needs some revisions. HP's got diversity through all of its ranks right up until you get to the director level. Given what a miserable job the board's done during the last 10 years, it might be a good resume item to say "Not a Member of Hewlett-Packard's Board."

HauntedempireipadRegarding Apple, the misunderstanding is being promoted in the book Haunted Empire. The book that's been roundly panned in reviews might sell as well as the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson, but for the opposite reasons. Jobs' biography was considered a hagiography by anybody who disliked the ideal of Apple and "Computing for the Rest of Us." He indeed acted like a saint in the eyes of many of his customers, and now that very sainthood is being devolved into a boat anchor by the writer of  Haunted Empire. It doesn't turn out to be true, if you measure anything except whether there's been a game-changer like a tablet in the past four years.

BillanddavecoverSimilar things happened to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard after Hewlett died in 2001, leaving HP with just the "HP Way" and no living founders. Whatever didn't happen, or did, was something the founders would've fought for, or wouldn't have tolerated. The Way was so ingrained into the timber of HP that the CEO who preceded Whitman, Leo Apotheker, imagined there might be a Way 2.0. Tying today to yesterday can be a complicated story. There was an HP Way 0.5, according to Michael Malone's history of HP, Bill and Dave.

And the term "Bill and Dave" is invoked to this day by people as disappointed in 2014's Hewlett-Packard as Jackson is impatient with its diversity. Like the Ghostly Apple story, WWBDD -- What Would Bill and Dave Do -- can be told with missing information. Accepting such missing data is a good way to show you know the genuine HP Way. Or if you care, the correct state of the Apple Empire.

Read "Shadows of IT Leaders, at HP and Apple" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:43 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 20, 2014

Manufacturing ERP Options from Windows

ASKLogoEven among the companies that host homesteader solutions for manufacturers, there's a sense that the long-term plan will involve Windows rather than MPE. The length of that term varies, of course, depending on the outlook for the current software in place. Customization keeps MPE systems in charge at companies very small and some large ones (albeit in small spots at those giants, like Boeing.)

Moving a 3000 installation away from MANMAN -- first created in the 1970s and after five ownership changes, still serving manufacturers -- is a skill at The Support Group's Entsgo group. In that TSG practice, the IFS suite is available and can be installed to replace the MANMAN, software which began development at a kitchen table in the middle 1970s. (That's if HP's former executive VP of Software Chuck House is to be believed. He said that HP sent a 3000 to ASK CEO Sandy Kurtzig's kitchen when MANMAN was still being debugged, as well as  MPE itself.)

MS DynamicsIFS -- which you can read up on at the Entsgo webpages of the Support Group site -- is just one of several replacement applications for manufacturers. Like IFS, Microsoft Dynamics GP has a wide range of modules to cover all the needs of a company using a 3000. Like any replace-to-migrate strategy, there's a lot of customized business logic to carry forward. But that's what a service company like TSG does, in part to keep down the costs of migrating.

TSG's CEO Terry Floyd said that Microsoft solution is battle-tested. Dynamics also happens to be a solution that our homesteading service hoster of a couple of days ago offers as a Windows migration target. Floyd says:

Several companies have converted from MANMAN to MS Dynamics, including one company in SoCal; that was 10 years ago. It's a fairly mature product by now, and had some great features when I checked it out way back when.

Read "Manufacturing ERP Options from Windows" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:23 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 19, 2014

A year-plus later, Ecometry awaits a map

NeedlepointAbout one year ago, users of the Ecometry multi-channel software were wondering what the future might be for their software. According to analysts, the software (now joined up with the Escalate Retail system, to add extra Point of Sale power) is being used by 60 percent of the $200 million and under retailers. That's a lot of companies, and some will sound very familiar to the 3000 community. Catalog and website providers like M&M Mars, or retailers with strong online store presences like Hot Topic. These were all part of the Ecometry community that's been folded into a much larger entity.

That would be JDA, a company large enough to join forces with Red Prairie in early 2013. But not large enough to deliver a futures map for the Ecometry customer. These customers have been loath to extend their Ecometry/Escalate installations until they get a read on the tomorrow they can expect from JDA.

The JDA Focus conference comes up in about a month, and right now there's only one certain piece of news. JDA will meet for the last time, via conference call, with the Ecometry/Escalate user group before Focus opens up. That's not extending the contact with customers. There's a total of six meetings, including one meet-and-greet and two updates on enhancement requests.

MB Foster's been tracking the Ecometry situation for years by now. As a result of being a partner with Red Prairie, they're now a partner with JDA since the merger of 15 months ago. In all that time, says CEO Birket Foster, no evidence of product planning has emerged from the larger company. JDA is very big, he notes, more than 130 software suites big. Ecometry is just one. JDA is so large they now offer a JDA Eight, which is 30 applications in one bundle.

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Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:22 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2014

Customizing apps keeps A500 serving sites

A-Class in rackHP's A-Class 3000s aren't that powerful, and they're not as readily linked to extra storage. That's what the N-Class systems are designed to do. But at one service provider's shop, the A500 is plenty powerful enough to keep a client's company running on schedule, and within budget. The staying power comes from customization, that sticky factor which is helping some 3000s remain in service.

The A500 replaced a Series 987 about a year ago. That report is one point of proof that 9x7 systems are still being replaced. It's been almost two decades since the 9x7s were first sold, and more than 15 years since the last one was built. The service company, which wants to remain unnamed, had good experience with system durability from the 3000 line.

We host a group of companies that have been using our system for over 20 years. So, we’re planning on being around for a while. One of these customers may migrate to a Windows-based system over the next few years, but I anticipate that this will be a slow process, since we have customized their system for them over the years.

The client company's top brass wants to migrate, in order to get all of its IT onto a single computing environment. That'd be Windows. But without that corporate mandate to make the IT identical in every datacenter, the company would be happy staying with the 3000, rather than looking at eventual migration "in several years' time." It will not be the speed of the server that shuts down that company's use of an A500. It will be the distinction that MPE/iX represents.

Read "Customizing apps keeps A500 serving sites" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:52 AM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 17, 2014

Breaching the Future by Rolling Back

Corporate IT has some choices to make, and very soon. A piece of software that's essential to the world's business is heading for drastic changes, the kind that alter information resource values everywhere. Anyone with a computer older than three years has a good chance of being affected. What's about to happen will echo in the 3000 owner's memories.

Windows XP is about to ease out of Microsoft's support strategy. You can hardly visit a business that doesn't rely on this software -- about 30 percent of the world's Windows is still XP -- but no amount of warning from its vendor seems to be prying it off of tens of millions of desktops. On this score, it seems that the XP-using companies are as dug-in as many of the 3000 customers were in 2002. Or even 2004.

A friend of mine, long-steeped in IT, said he was advising somebody in his company about the state of these changes. "I'm getting a new PC," he told my pal. "But it's got Windows 8 on it. What should I do?" Of course, the fellow is asking this because Windows 8 behaves so differently from XP that it might as well be a foreign environment. Programs will run, many of them, but finding and starting them will be a snipe hunt for some users forced into Windows 8. The XP installations are so ubiquitous that IT managers are still trying to hunt them down.

Classic-shell-02-580-100023730-largeThe market sees this, knows all, and has found a solution. It won't keep Windows 8 from being shipped on new PCs. But the solutions will return the look and feel of the old software to the new Microsoft operating environment. One free solution is Classic Shell, which will take a user right back to the XP interface for users. Another simply returns the hijacked Start Button to a rightful place on new Windows 8 screens.

You can't make these kinds of changes in a vacuum, or even overnight. Microsoft has been warning and advising and rolling its deadlines backwards for several years now, but April 8 seems to be the real turning point. Except that it isn't, not completely. Like the 2006-2010 years for MPE and the 3000, the vendor is just changing the value of installed IT assets. It will be making them more expensive, and as time rolls on, less easy to maintain.

Read "Breaching the Future by Rolling Back" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:03 PM in History, Migration | 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)

March 13, 2014

Can COBOL flexibility, durability migrate?

InsideCOBOLogoIn our report yesterday on the readiness for CHARON emulation at Cerro Wire, we learned that the keystone application at that 3000 shop began as the DeCarlo, Paternite, & Associates IBS/3000 suite. That software is built upon COBOL. But at Cerro Wire, the app's had lots of updating and customization and expansion. It's one example of how the 3000 COBOL environment keeps on branching out, in the hands of a veteran developer.

That advantage, as any migrating shop has learned, is offset by finding COBOL expertise ready to work on new platforms. Or a COBOL that does as many things as the 3000's did, or does them in the same way.

OpenCOBOL and Micro Focus remain two of the favorite targets for 3000 COBOL migrations. The more robust a developer got with COBOL II on MPE, however, the more challenge they'll find in replicating all of that customization.

As an example, consider the use of COBOL II macros, or the advantage of COBOL preprocessors. The IBS software "used so many macros and copylibs that the standard COBOL compiler couldn't handle them," Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialities reported awhile back. So the IBS creators wrote a preprocessor for the COBOL compiler on the 3000. Migrating a solution like that one requires careful steps by IT managers. It helps that there's some advocates for migrating COBOL, and at least one good crossover compiler that understands the 3000's COBOL nuances.

Read "Can COBOL flexibility, durability migrate?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:38 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2014

Wiring Up the Details for Emulation

CopperWireFor two-plus years, Herb Statham has been inquiring about the Stromasys CHARON HP 3000 emulator. He first stuck his hand up with curiosity before the software was even released. He's in an IT career stop as Project Manager for Cerro Wire LLC, a building wire industry supplier whose roots go back to 1920. Manufacturing headquartered in Hartselle, Alabama, with facilities in Utah, Indiana and Georgia.

Statham is checking out the licensing clearances he'll need to move the company's applications across to this Intel-powered solution. The privatization of Dell turns out to be a factor in his timetable. Dell purchased Quest Software before Dell took itself private. By the start of 2014, Dell was still reorganizing its operations, including license permissions needed for its Bridgeware and Netbase software. Cerro Wire uses both.

I’m after some answers about moving over to a virtual box" Statham says. "I know CHARON's emulating an A500, but that [Intel] box [that would host it] has four processors on it. I’ve heard what I’m going to have to pay, instead of hearing, 'Okay, you’re emulating an A500, with two processors.' They’re looking more at the physical side.”

This spring is a time of change and new growth for legacy software like Netbase, or widespread solutions such as PowerHouse. While the former's got some room to embrace license changes, the latter's also got new ownership. The PowerHouse owners Unicom Systems have been in touch with their customers over the last few months. The end of March will mark the projected wrap-up on Unicom's field research. At Cerro, the Quest software is really the only license that needs to be managed onto CHARON, according to Statham.

Read "Wiring Up the Details for Emulation" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:24 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2014

FIXCLOCK alters software, hardware clocks

My HP 3000 system was still on EST, so I wanted to change it during startup. I answered "N" to the date/time setting at end of startup, and it refused my entry of 03/09/14; it returned a question mark. After several quick CR, it set the clock back to 1 Jan 85, which is where it is now waiting.

Gilles Schipper of GSA responds:

While the system is up and running, you could try (while the system is up and running):

:setclock ;date=mm/dd/yyyy;time=hh:mm
:setclock  ;cancel 
:setclock ;timezone=w5:00 (for example)
:setclock ;cancel (again)

Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies notes:

I'd been quite surprised by how many small 'single machine' shops don't properly set the hardware clock to GMT with the software clock offset by 'timezone' Instead, they have their hardware and software clock set to the same time, use the 'setclock correction=' and then give either a +3600 or -3600, for spring or fall time changes. 

Allegro's got a simple command file called FIXCLOCK, on their Free Allegro Software page, that allows fixing the hardware clock AND properly setting the time-offset for the software clock -- all without having to take the system down.

Read "FIXCLOCK alters software, hardware clocks" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:00 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 10, 2014

Getting 3000 clocks up to speed, always

ClockgoingforwardThe US rolled its clocks forward by one hour this past weekend. There are usually  questions in this season 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 past 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!

Read "Getting 3000 clocks up to speed, always" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:17 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 07, 2014

Clouds, Google and the HP 3000 in print

Google Cloud PrintThe above items really shouldn't go together, if you follow conventional wisdom. Yes, the HP 3000 has been in the clouds, so long as you consider timesharing as the cloud. I first began to cover the 3000 at a publishing company that was using cloud computing. Once a month in 1984, we logged on for timesharing at Futura Press, where an HP 3000 connected to a PC with a 3000 terminal emulator. Our operator Janine set type using an MPE program on that 3000.

But today the cloud usually means something like a server farm from Google, Apple, HP or elsewhere. These vendors make it attractive to give up hardware and let an outside provider supply what's needed. However, we all still seem to like working with paper in our offices. Cue the 3000 manager who wants cloud printing from his MPE application.

Has anyone ever tried to use Google Cloud Printing using HP 3000, via NPConfig?

Even though the answer might be no as of today, it's possible to make Google's Cloud Print serve a 3000. The magic must leap over lots of 3000 traditional wisdom. Allegro's Stan Sieler explained, to the manager, that "depending on what you mean, I don't think it's even remotely possible."

If you meant, "print from HP 3000 to a printer via Google Cloud," then no.  

Oh, it's possible someone could investigate the Google Cloud Print API and write some software for the HP 3000 that would intercept output sent to a "local" printer and redirect it to the Google Cloud API. But, it's not likely to happen.

Read "Clouds, Google and the HP 3000 in print" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:13 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2014

Reducing the Costs in a Major MS Migration

XPLook all around your world, anywhere, and you'll see XP. Windows XP, of course, an operating system that Microsoft is serious about obsoleting in a month. That doesn't seem to deter the world from continuing to use it, though. XP is like MPE. Where it's installed, it's working. And getting it out of service, replacing it with the next generation, has serious costs. It will remind a system manager of replacing a 3000, in the aggregate. Not as much per PC. But together, a significant migration cost.

The real challenge lies in needed upgrades to all the other software installed on the Windows PCs.

There's a way to keep down the costs related to this switch. MB Foster reminded us that they've got a means to improve the connection to the 3000 updated via Windows PCs.

Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. MB Foster has noticed companies moving to Windows 7/8 with an eye toward leveraging 64-bit architectures, reducing risks and standardizing on a currently supported operating system.

As an authorized reseller of Attachmate's Reflection terminal emulation software, we advise you that now is the time to seize the opportunity and minimize risks -- and get the most out of your IT investments.

The key to keeping down these costs is something called a Volume Purchase Agreement. It's an ownership license that HP 3000 shops may not have employed up to now, but its terms have improved. MB Foster's been selling and supporting Reflection ever since the product was called PC2622, and ran from the DOS prompt. Over those three decades, the company estimates it's been responsible for a million or more desktops during the PC boom, when 3000 owners were heavy into another kind of migration: replacement of HP2392 hardwired terminals. "Today, we are responsible for the management and maintenance of approximately 50,000 desktops," Foster's Accounts Manager Chris Whitehead said.

Read "Reducing the Costs in a Major MS Migration" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2014

What does a performance index represent?

I know this may be a tough question to answer, but thought I'd at least give it a try.

SpeedometerI'm doing an analysis to possibly upgrade our production 959KS/100 system to a 979KS/200, and I see the Hewlett-Packard performance metric chart that tells me we go from a 4.6 to 14.6. What does that increase represent? For instance, does each whole number (like 4.0 to 5.0) represent a general percentage increase in performance? I know it varies from one shop to another, so I'm just looking for a general guideline or personal experience -- like a job that used to take 10 hours to run now only takes 7 hours. The "personal experience" part of this may not even be appropriate, in that the upgrades may not be close to the metrics I am looking at.

Peter Eggers offers this reply, still worthy after several years

Those performance numbers are multiples of a popular system way back when, based on an average application mix as determined by HP after monitoring some systems and probably some system logs of loads on customer systems. No information here as to where you are on the many performance bell curves. The idea is to balance your system resources to match your application load, with enough of a margin to get you through to the next hardware upgrade.

Confchartpic (1)People mention system and application tuning. You have to weigh time spent tuning and expected resource savings against the cost of an upgrade with the system and applications as is.  Sometimes you can gain amazing savings with minor changes and little time spent.  Don't forget to add in time to test, QA, and admin time for change management.

There are a many things to consider: CPU speed and any on chip caching; memory cache(s) size and speed; main memory size and speed; number of I/O channels and bandwidth; online communication topography, bandwidth, and strategy; online vs. batch priorities, and respective time slices; database and file design, access, locking, and cache hit strategies; application efficiency, tightening loops to fit memory caches, and compiler optimizations; and system load leveling.

Read "What does a performance index represent?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:36 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2014

Experts show how to use shell from MPE

I am attempting to convert a string into a number for use in timing computations inside an MPEiX job stream. In the Posix shell I can do this:

/SYS/PUB $ echo "21 + 21" | bc
42
/SYS/PUB $

But from the MPE command line this returns blank:

run sh.hpbin.sys;info='-c echo "21 + 21" | bc'

But why? I would like to calculate a formula with containing factors of arbitrary decimal precision and assign the integer result to a variable.  Inside the shell I can do this:

shell/iX> x=$(echo "31.1 * 4.7" | bc)
shell/iX> echo $x
146.1
shell/iX> x=$(echo "31.1 * 4.7 + 2" | bc)
shell/iX> echo $x
148.1
shell/iX> x=$(echo "31.1 * 4.70 + 2" | bc)
shell/iX> echo $x
148.17

What I would like to do is the same thing albeit at the MPE : prompt instead, and assign the result to an MPE variable.

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies

CI numeric variables only handle integers (whole numbers).  If your answer needs to be expressed with a decimal value (like 148.17 as shown above) you might be able to do something to express it as a string to the CI (setvar string_x "!x").

This is really sounding like something that's best handled by another solution -- like a compiled program or maybe a perl script.

For what it’s worth, the perl bundle that's available from Allegro has the MPE extensions included.  This means you could do take advantage of perl's 'getoptions' as well as 'hpcicmds' (if you really need to get your result available at the CI level.

Read "Experts show how to use shell from MPE" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:55 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 03, 2014

Cloudy night shows that it's Magic Time

WideWorldStandHeadServer drives churn, routers flash, and time machines transport us through the power of stories. In our own community we are connected by wires and circuits and pulses of power. We always were, from days of black arts datacomm pushing data on cards of punched paper. We’ve lived through a glorious explosion of ideas and inspiration and instruction. It’s the movie that always has another story in waiting, this Internet. So ubiquitous we’ve stopped calling it by that name. In 2014, 40 years after MPE became viable and alive, the World Wide Web is named after an element common throughout the physical world: The Cloud.

NClass movieAnd through the magic of these clouds come stories that lead us forward and allow us to look back at solved challenges. My partner Abby and I sit on the sofa these days and play with paper together, crossword puzzles, especially on weekends with the New York Times and LA Times puzzles. We look up answers from that cloud, and it delivers us stories. The Kingston Trio’s hit BMT leads us to The Smothers Brothers, starting out as a comic folksinger act. After video came alive for the HP 3000 in HP strategy TV broadcasts via satellite, there were webinars. Today, YouTube holds stories of the 3000’s shiniest moment, the debut of the ultimate model of that server.

Gravity - George ClooneyLast night we sat on another couch in the house and watched the splashiest celebration of stories in our connected world, the Academy Awards. Despite racking up a fistful and more of them, Gravity didn’t take the Best Picture prize. You can have many elements of success, parts of being the best, and not end up named the winner of the final balloting. The 3000 saw a similar tally, a raft of successes, but the light began to fade. In the movies they call the last light of the day magic time, because it casts the sweetest shades on the players and settings.

Read "Cloudy night shows that it's Magic Time" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2014

How MPE Balances New Disk Space

If we have a system (volume set) with mostly full disks, and I add a new big empty disk to it, how will MPE/iX do all new allocation on that disk — will it wait until it fills up to the same relative fullness as the existing drives?

See, we have a system with a Nike Model 20 and a bunch of RAID 1 LUNS, and we’ve added five new drives in RAID 5 to the system volume set. But that sounds like we’re on the cusp of a disaster, because while the read performance is measurably better, all the system is going to be doing is writes to this drive for every new extract and scratch file. And as everybody knows, the write performance is like 2.8 times slower to the RAID 5 LUN than the RAID 1 LUN.

[Corrected, to identify the BALANCE command as a part of DeFrag/X.]

Craig Lalley noted, "There is a command you will want to use if you have Defrag/X, [created by Lund, sold by Allegro] The command is BALANCE VS. As an example, 

BALANCE MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET

"There’s online help for this command in Defrag at HELP BALANCE. Without that, I would use system logging to determine the most heavily accessed files and store/restore them to spread the extents."

And there's also help to manage this kind of balancing and defragmentation from VEsoft, as well as that Lund tool.

Read "How MPE Balances New Disk Space" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:14 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2014

Unix-Integrity business keeps falling at HP

Sliding-cliffNumbers reported by Hewlett-Packard for its just-ended quarter show the company's making something of a rebound in some areas. One analyst said to CEO Meg Whitman that she'd been at the helm of the company for three-and-a-half years, and she had to correct him during the financial briefing last week.

"Actually, I've been here two-and-a-half years," Whitman said. "Sometimes it feels like three-and-a-half, but I've been here two-and-a-half years."

It's been a long 30 months with many changes for the vendor which still offers migration solutions to 3000 customers making a transition. But one thing that hasn't changed a bit is the trajectory of the company's Unix server business. Just as it has over each of the previous six quarters, sales and profits from the Business Critical Systems fell. Once again, the BCS combination of Integrity and HP-UX reported a decline in sales upwards of 15 percent from the prior fiscal year's quarter. This time it was 25 percent lower than Q1 of 2013. That makes 2014 the fourth straight year where BCS numbers have been toted up as lower.

Enterprise Group Q1 2014"We continued to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex.

"We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future."

Read "Unix-Integrity business keeps falling at HP" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:05 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2014

Comparing Historic 3000 Horsepower Costs

Testosterone-horsepowerOver the last few weeks we've checked in with Jeff Kell, the system manager at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The university powered off its last two HP 3000s not long ago, and along the way has mounted dozens of Unix and Linux CPUs and virtual servers to replace that pair of MPE machines. We asked him what he believed the school's IT group had spent on MPE over 37 years -- and limited the question to the capital costs of systems. (Ownership cost is much harder to calculate across four decades.)

Kell, who founded the HP 3000 listserve and newsgroup, as well as chaired the SIGSYSMAN group for Interex over the years, said "We have had comparable expenses with each iteration of the 3000's life-cycle." Across those decades, the university owned Classic HP 3000s based on CISC technology, then early PA-RISC servers -- new enough in that generation to be considered "Spectrum" 3000s -- then later-model PA-RISC units, and finally the ultimate generation of HP 3000 hardware.

"In short, it was an expenditure in the low six figures, once every decade," Kell said. 

We ran Series II, then Series IIIs, and the tags were low six-figures in the 1970s. We then got some 950s in the late 1980s (we had some early Series 950 deliveries) at about the same price point. Then the 969 in the 1990s, again about the same. And finally, the A/N-Class during this century.

Comparisons to two points seem worthy. The pricing for the value of high-end 3000 computing remained constant; at the time of the late 1980s, for example, a Series 950 was the most powerful 3000 available. Then there's the comparison to the expenditure of acquiring the hardware to support dozens of servers, virtual and otherwise. The low six figures won't buy much toward the high end of business critical computing gear over a decade, using today's commodity pricing. The newest servers might seem cheaper, but they don't give durable service for 10 years per installation, like the ones at Kell's shop did.

Read "Comparing Historic 3000 Horsepower Costs" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:17 PM in History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2014

Electronic forms: saving the planet?

Duplex Pack SlipSeveral vendors who are well-known to the 3000 community are in the electronic forms business. Hillary Software's suite of products, headed with byRequest (click for details below in the graphic), runs across multiple platforms. Working a different angle in the same sector, Minisoft has been selling its eFORMz designer since 2000. That was a year when the HP 3000's Java was current enough to host the 1.2 version of the program that designed forms and delivered data to them.

ByrequestMore than 13 years later, eFORMz is up to Version 9 and requires a 1.4.2 version of Java, which absolutely puts hosting the product out of the HP 3000's league. But it can and often does run on PCs, as well as Linux servers. With enough imagination and networking, those hosts can tap into the data on HP 3000s for distribution.

Minisoft just announced a new wrinkle to its eFORMz solution, the ability to employ DuplexPackSlip labels. This Ward/Kraft product combines a Shipping/Return Label with a Packing Slip/Invoice on the front and back sides of the same label. Minisoft sent out a message to say they may be "saving the planet one label at a time," when a customer is using these labels. The label, which was obviously not invented by Minisoft, can replace a shipping label, packing slip, plastic pouch and the extra toner required.

Read "Electronic forms: saving the planet?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:43 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2014

Expanding that Posix Shell on the 3000

ShellWay back in the middle 1990s, HP added the Posix shell to the HP 3000, so customers who had Unix and MPE running in the same shop could train operators and managers with a single set of commands. Posix was a plus, making the 3000 appear more Unix-like (which seemed important at the time).

It's been said that Posix was a promise only partly fulfilled for the 3000. There was a move to make the system more inclusive, to make it possible to port Unix software onto MPE/iX. Alas, a tech roadblock called the Fork of Death stood in the way of more widespread porting.

Over the years, however, Posix has been a feature to be discovered for most 3000 managers and operators. HP intended it to be essential; the computer's operating system was renamed from MPE/XL to MPE/iX just to call attention to these added Posix, Unix-like capabilities.

MPE failed in the Posix world primarily because of the unix "fork()" concept, so critical to the very nature of all that is Unix. It is a totally alien concept to MPE. MPE was designed to easily add additional new users to an executing process, and maintain the security/integrity of each individual user.  It was not designed to duplicate a current process's environment, including the local data and state, because there was no point.

As one sage developer said of the deathly fork, "Yes, MPE would fork(), but very reluctantly, and very slowly. So nothing that depended on it worked very well."

But enough history; Posix is still on the 3000 and remains a powerful interface tool, an alternative to the CI interface that HP created for the system. You can even call Posix commands from the CI, a nifty piece of engineering when it can be done. That's not always possible, though. A customer wanted to know how to "expand wildcard shells" using Posix. He tried from the CI and had this story to relate.

:LL /BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*
ls: File or directory “/BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*” is not found

So how do I do this? I need to be able to tell tar to archive all of the reels of a STD STORE set via a regexp.  It does not work in tar, and it apparently does not in ls, so I speculate that there is something special about the innovation of Posix utilities from the CI that I am not aware of. What is it?

Jeff Vance, the 3000 CI guru while at HP, who's gone on to work in open system and open source development, said this in reply:

Wildcards on most (all) Unix systems, including Posix implementations, are done by the shell, not the individual programs or in-lined shell commands, like ls in your example. A solution is to run the shell and execute ll from within.

Read "Expanding that Posix Shell on the 3000" in full

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

February 21, 2014

Just how fast is that A-Class, anyway?

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies

Earlier this week, there was a report of an A-Class HP 3000 going wanting on eBay. It was being offered for $2,000 with no takers. The system at hand was an A400-100-110, the genuine bottom of the A-Class line.

While I'd argue that a $2,000 A400 with a transferable MPE/iX licence is a steal, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for the wide variance in speeds in what is considered a A-Class' system.

BlazingI believe the system that was being offered as a bare bones A400, as indicated by its system number "A400-100-110." The first character (A) is the class; the next three numbers (400) are the family; the next three are the number of CPUs (100, meaning one); and the last three are the HP rated speed in MHz of the PA-RISC CPU chip. (In this case, it's a PA-8500) This system on eBay also happened to be missing a tape for creating/booting from a CSLT, so if your boot drive failed -- or you needed to make configuration changes that required booting from tape -- you would be out of luck without buying a little more hardware.

This particular A400 system, according to the AICS Relative Performance chart mentioned in the article, runs at a 17. That's about 1.7 times faster (CPU-wise) than the original 917/918 systems. In IO-intensive applications, I have found it felt closer to 2 times faster. I have also worked on an A400-100-150, which CPU speed-wise is a 37. (That system also happens to allow installation of 2GB RAM vs. the 1GB limit on an A400-100-110).

So in short, we can have a greater than 2:1 performance potential between two servers that are both ostensibly A400 A-Class systems. And that's not even taking into account the advantages of multiple CPUs for performance in complex multi-user environments.

Read "Just how fast is that A-Class, anyway?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:42 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2014

Migration best practices: Budget and plan as if taking a business vacation

VacationIs a migration as much fun as a vacation? That seems like an easy question for the HP 3000 homesteader who's still got a transition in their future. Only a small percentage of the managers of these servers plan to homestead forever. For the rest of the installed base, this transition is a matter of when, rather than if.

With its feet in both camps of homesteading and migration, MB Foster held a webinar yesterday that delivered best practices for the CIO, IT director or even systems and programming manager who faces the someday of moving away. When an organization with the tenure of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga shuts down its servers -- after 37 years of service -- it might be evidence that migration is an eventuality. A possibility for some sites.

For those that still have that mighty project on their futures calendars, the advice from Foster mirrors things like home remodeling and vacation planning. 

"This is a business decision, not a technical decision," CEO Birket Foster has always said, in delivering these practices over more than a decade. "A migration’s just like a vacation –- the more you plan, the less it costs, and the better the results." Perhaps the comparison might align with the concept of taking a business vacation. That's the sort where you tack on a few extra days to a business trip, and carry along the same set of bags while you go further.

Read "Migration best practices: Budget and plan as if taking a business vacation" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:59 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2014

Finding Value in An Exiting MPE Box

ExitSignA few weeks ago, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga asked around to see if anybody wanted his decommissioned N-Class server. It's way above the power range of the A-Class servers, and even includes some storage options not usually found in a decommissioned 3000.

But the interest hasn't been strong, according to our last update from Kell. He put out his offer -- basically trying to keep the system from becoming more than spare parts, he said -- on the mailing list that he founded two decades ago. We refer that resource as the HP 3000 newsgroup, but it's a LISTSERVE mailing list of about 500 members.

We've heard several reports like this for HP 3000s being turned off, but none of them involved an N-Class system. There's a Series 969 on offer for free -- yes, take it away is all that Roger Perkins of the City of Long Beach asks. While that 969 is more powerful than an A-Class, it's still leagues behind an ultimate-generation N-Class 3000.

This begs the question of what value your community would assign to any used system, regardless of size. Horsetrading on hardware is an IT manager's pastime, when searching for newer for more powerful systems. But it's becoming clear there's a reset going on in the market.

Kell's offer on the newsgroup was straight to the point.

We have tentative arrangements to have our last two 3000s decommissioned, but was curious if there was any interest in the hardware/systems. Hate to sound like a sales pitch, but we're basically happy with shipping, plus a certification the drives are wiped. 

We have an HP 3000-N4000 4-way, DATs, 2 DLTs, a few internal drives, and a VA fiber channel array (dual connect). It's perfectly fine.

Read "Finding Value in An Exiting MPE Box" in full

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

Don't forget: Migration Best Practices today

MB Foster's kicking off its season of Webinars -- the 13th year of showing off details of best practices for 3000 operations, strategy and transitions -- using slide its summaries, a presentation and interactive Q&A and chat features. The event is this afternoon at 2 PM Eastern.

Today's meeting, which requires a commitment of under an hour, is all about app migrations, modernizations, and the budgeting that's worked for their clients over the last decade. You can sign up for the free experience that provides an online chat room, slides with the salient points, Q&A exchange via standard phone or IP voice, as well as Foster's expertise. The company specializes in application migrations -- the first step in the ultimate transition in a 3000-based datacenter.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:25 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 18, 2014

No takers for a $2,000 HP 3000 on eBay

It might have been the most valuable part that was missing from a $2,000 eBay listing for an A-Class 3000. There's no mention of a transferrable MPE/iX license for this rock-bottom system. But perhaps it was the horsepower, too. It's hard to understate how many HP 3000s run faster than a 1-CPU, 110Mhz A-Class. 

Jesse Dougherty at Cypress Technology, a reliable HP 3000 reseller, reminded readers on the 3000 newsgroup about the offer.

I really thought that these would sell like hotcakes. I threw one up on eBay for 2k with a basic config. If any one is interested in a cheap back-up running MPE/iX 7.5, check out our link.

Confchartpic (1)Other resellers have reported, several years ago, that you couldn't sell any N-Class system, the next level up in HP's ultimate generation of 3000s, for even $4,000. But an N-Class is 10 times more powerful than such an A-Class at the bottom of the HP lineup. Using the Relative Performance chart devised by AICS Research, there's a spread of 121 HP 3000 Performance Units between a single-CPU A-Class and the 440Mhz N-Class running one processor. The official HP relative performance chart (click for detail) doesn't use as many decimals to compare server speeds, but the spread is the same nevertheless.

Read "No takers for a $2,000 HP 3000 on eBay" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:19 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2014

Durable advice speeds up HP 3000s

Our editor Gilles Schipper posted a fine article on improving CPU performance on 3000s "in a heartbeat." One of our readers asked a question which prompted Gilles to clarify part of the process to speed up a 3000, for free.

Gilles, who offers HP 3000 and HP 9000 support through his firm GSA, Inc., has also replied to a recent question about how to make a DLT backup device return to its speedy performance, after slowing to about a third of its performance.

The Heartbeat article focused on needless CPU overhead that could be caused by a networking heartbeat on 3000s. Gilles points out:

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to recognize whether the problem exists, and also a simple cure. If your DTCs are connected without transceivers, you will not be subject to this problem. Otherwise, to determine if you have the problem, simply type the command

:listf h@.pub.sys,2

In the report that is produced, you will notice OPEN files (ones with an associated asterisk ending the file name); these are 1W in size.

There are two such files associated with each configured DTC, file name starting with the letter H, followed by six characters that represent the last six characters of the DTC MAC address, followed by the letter A or B. The EOF for these files should be 0 and 5 for the respective "A" and "B" files.

Otherwise, your CPU is being subjected to high-volume, unnecessary IO, requiring CPU attention. The solution is to simply enable SQL heartbeat for each transceiver attached to each DTC. This is done via a small white jumper switch that you should see at the side of each transceiver. Voila, you've just achieved a significant no-cost CPU upgrade.

Compete details are in Gilles' original article. On speeding up backup time, he pointed out that adding an option to the STORE command will help you track IO retries.

Read "Durable advice speeds up HP 3000s" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2014

Even a classic 3000 game can get LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 9.15.11 PMLinkedIn, the Facebook for business relationships, is now the home a new group related to the HP 3000. Veterans of the system know Empire as a stragegy game that was first hosted under MPE in the 1980s. Now these game players have their own LinkedIn Group.

Johnson, who's helped to administer 3000s for Measurement Specialties (a cross-global manufacturer) as well as OpenMPE, moved the group of users off Yahoo, he reported.

Since February of 2000 I've kept a Yahoo Group dedicated to the text game of Empire on the HP 3000, mainly to announce regenerations of new games and enhancements.  Empire is piggy-backed as an account on the INVENT3K server, which is still running in DR mode. Games are free -- and unlike most Internet games today, it doesn't track your whereabouts, place cookies, install hidden apps, or seek your mother's maiden name.

The game still goes on, but since Yahoo went to NEO format last year, I've been looking for something easier to manage (and more socially viable).  Without plunging into the supra-popular mediums like Twitter and Facebook, I have decided to close the Yahoo Group and put a new one for Empire on LinkedIn.

Read "Even a classic 3000 game can get LinkedIn" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:36 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 13, 2014

App modernization gets budget-sleek look

Money-167733_150Transitions are still in the future for HP 3000 shops in your community. It might not have made sense to switch platforms in 2003 (to nearly everybody) or in 2008 (when HP's labs closed, but the 3000 remained online) or even in 2011 (when HP ended all of its support, and indie support firms stepped up).

But by 2014, there will be some shops that would be considering how to budget for the biggest transformation project they've ever encountered. Pulling out a CRM, ERP or even a manufacturing system, honed over decades, to shift to commodity hardware is a major undertaking. But it's been going on for so long that there's best practices out there, and one vendor is going to share the best of the best next week.

For some US companies, Monday is a holiday, so it'd be easy to let Wednesday sneak by without remembering it's Webinar Wednesday at MB Foster. The first show of the new year is all about app migrations, modernizations, and the budgeting that's worked for their clients over the last decade. It's a 2PM Eastern start for the interactive presentation February 19. You can sign up for the free experience that provides an online chat room, slides with the salient points, Q&A exchange via standard phone or IP voice, as well as Foster's expertise. The company says that it specializes in application migrations -- the first step in the ultimate transition in a 3000-based datacenter.

Read "App modernization gets budget-sleek look" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:54 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2014

How Shaved Sheep Help Macs Link to 3000s

The HP 3000 never represented a significant share of the number of business servers installed around the world. When the system's highest census was about 50,000, it was less than a tenth of the number of Digital servers, or IBM System 36-38s. Not to mention all of the Unix servers, or the Windows that began to run businesses in the 1990s.

SheepShaverIf you'd be honest, you could consider the 3000 to have had the footprint in the IT world that the Macintosh has in the PC community. Actually, far less, considering that about 1 in 20 laptop-desktops run Apple's OS today. Nevertheless, the HP 3000 community never considered Macs a serious business client to communicate with the 3000. The desktops were full of Windows machines, and MS-DOS before that. Walker, Richer & Quinn, Tymlabs, and Minisoft took the customers into client-server waters. All three had Mac versions of their terminal emulators. But only one, from Minisoft, has survived to remain on sale today.

MinisoftMac92That would be Minisoft 92 for the Mac, and Doug Greenup at Minisoft will be glad to tell a 3000 shop that needs Mac-to-3000 connectivity how well it hits the mark, right up to the support of the newest 10.9 version of the OS X. "Minisoft has a Macintosh version that supports the Maverick OS," Greenup said. "Yes, we went to the effort to support the latest and greatest Apple OS."

WRQ ReflectionBut there were also fans of the WRQ Reflection for Mac while it was being sold, and for good reason. The developer of the software came to WRQ from Tymlabs, a company that was one of the earliest converts to Apple to run the business with, all while understanding the 3000 was the main server. The first time I met anyone from Tymlabs -- much better known as vendor of the BackPack backup program -- Marion Winik was sitting in front of an Apple Lisa, the precursor to the Mac. Advertising was being designed by that woman who's now a celebrated essayist and memoir writer.

What's all that got to do with a sheep, then? That WRQ 3000 terminal emulator for the Mac ran well, executing the classic Reflection scripting, but then Apple's jump to OS X left that product behind. So if you want to run a copy of Reflection for Mac, you need to emulate a vintage Mac. That doesn't require much Apple hardware. Mostly, you need SheepShaver, software that was named to mimic the word shape-shifter -- because SheepShaver mimics many operating environments. The emulation is of the old Mac OS, though. It's quite the trick to make a current day Intel machine behave like a computer that was built around Apple's old PowerPC chips. About the same caliber of trick as making programs written in the 1980s for MPE V run on Intel-based systems today. The future of carry-forward computing is virtualization, rooted in software. But it's the loyalty and ardor that fuel the value for such classics as the 3000, or 1990-2006 Macs.

Read "How Shaved Sheep Help Macs Link to 3000s" in full

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

February 11, 2014

Making a few more comparisons of code

CompareIt's always a good thing for the community to read about a tool they need and use, because it usually brings up some notes about allied solutions. When we wrote about replacing code comparison tools for developers who work on the 3000, we got several notes about other solutions. One can't be purchased any longer. Come to think of it, the other one cannot either -- but both of these tools can be obtained and be used in a development environment for HP 3000s.

The first is the much-beloved Whisper Programmer Studio. Bruce Hobbs left us a comment to say that this PC-based dev environment, one built to talk to the HP 3000 and files on the server, "offers a Compare Files item from their Tools menu. It does a fine job in a GUI environment."

Whisper came up in a note that our contributing editor Brian Edminster sent after the story emerged. "I still use it daily at my primary client," Edminster said, while giving us a heads-up he's still looking into how to make Notepad ++ a better player in the MPE development world. 3000 access is a problem to be solved, but Edminster specializes in open source solutions, so we'll stay in touch to see what he discovers.

In the meantime, you can enjoy his rundown on Programmer Studio versus Qedit for Windows.

The other solution for comparing files lies inside MPE/iX itself. That OS is also a product that, like the beloved Whisper, is no longer being sold. (It's being re-sold, however, each time a used 3000 changes hands.) Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh called to remind us of the hidden value inside MPE.

Read "Making a few more comparisons of code" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2014

No need to look far to find a PDF 3000 utility

GawkingAtPaperStackPDF is becoming the archival choice for so many companies. Documents that once moved about in formats specific to their environments, like HP 3000 reports, have been earmarked for PDF transformation. For some companies, they'll need storage of these documents outside of the 3000 disks and databases.

Ray Shahan mentioned such a project on the 3000 newsgroup recently. 

We’re looking at storing all of our printable historical transaction docs on the HP 3000 as PDF docs in a SQL Server database. We’ve looked at winpcl2pdf that uses GhostPCL, but had some issues using it due to the CCTL from the 3000.

We also are looking at two products from OpenSeas, SpoolPDF (handles the CCTL) and OpenPDF (does the conversion of PCL to PDF).  These two products seem to work fairly well (we’ve hit a snag or two with fonts, but have resolved those thus far).

It’d be ideal to have a freeware product, but that seems unlikely, so we’re just looking at other offerings to see the cost/benefits of each.

There's a 3000-friendly solution in plain sight, from a long-time provider, that handles both the PDF creation -- plus the movement onto the SQL Server database. Hillary Software supplies these utilities.

Read "No need to look far to find a PDF 3000 utility" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:47 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2014

Code-cutter Comparing Solutions for 3000s

Npp-compareWhen a 3000 utility goes dark — because its creator has dropped MPE/iX operations, or the trail to the support business for the tool has grown faint — the 3000 community can serve up alternatives quickly. A mature operating system and experienced users offer options that are hard to beat.

One such example was Aldon Computing's SCOMPARE development tool, once a staple for 3000-based developers. It compared source files for more than 15 years in the HP 3000 world. Eventually Aldon left the MPE business. But there are a fistful of alternatives. Allegro Consultants offers a free MPE/iX solution in SCOM, located at

www.allegro.com/software/hp3000/allegro.html

At that Web page, scroll down to SCOM. Other candidates included a compare UDC from Robelle, GNU Diff, diff in the HP 3000's Posix environment, and more. If you're willing to go off the MPE reservation -- and a lot of developers work on PCs by now -- there's even a free plug-in for Notepad++, that freeware source code editor which relaces Notepad in Windows. You can download that plug-in as an open source tool at SourceForge.net

Read "Code-cutter Comparing Solutions for 3000s" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 06, 2014

PowerHouse's Unicom owner is an original

UnicomSystemsAnybody can make a mistake, and we've made one about the new owners of the Powerhouse and Axiant ADT development tools. The software that was once a part of Cognos, and then became a product of IBM's, is now owned by the original, founding company of Unicom's extensive enterprises. I identified the owning division as Unicom Engineering, Inc. Not true; that group is a manufacturer of appliances.

Chief Integration Officer Eric Vaughn sent us a note to set things straight. Unicom Systems is the proud owner of software that it sees as a good value with fine prospects. Part of the story which we like best is that the oldest, most accomplished part of Unicom is the owner of a tool with genuine legacy. "He's a real original" is something that can be said about both PowerHouse and the group that now owns it.

The ADT tools were acquired by UNICOM Systems, Inc., a separate division of UNICOM Global. UNICOM Systems was the original company founded in 1981 by Corry Hong, who continues to lead all of UNICOM today. UNICOM Systems develops and supports a large portfolio of enterprise level software across multiple platforms. The ADT suite, including PowerHouse 4GL Server, PowerHouse Web and Axiant for PowerHouse, are under the care of the UNICOM Systems development and support infrastructure. See our page at http://unicomsi.com/products/powerhouse.

Vaughn also took a moment to note that over more than three decades of software development, distribution and support, nothing has ever been sent off into the sunset. Considering how much Unicom develops and sells, that's great news for a PowerHouse community with keen interest in the new ownership.

Read "PowerHouse's Unicom owner is an original" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:06 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2014

3000 emulators moving ahead on Windows

Changes to the most dominant computer environment on the planet, Windows, as well as reaching backward to the days of a surging client-system strategy, have sparked some research and solutions for next-generation HP 3000 emulation.

Attachmate ReflectionWe're not talking about emulating the 3000 hardware. Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 is the tool for that. The subject here is getting a traditional HP 3000 application screen to display on what we once called desktop PCs. Now they're mostly laptops, but at their essence they are smart clients, linked to servers. WRQ did the biggest trade in this kind of tool, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of Reflection over the years.

MB Foster is reminding 3000 customers there's a migration coming for those desktop environments running Windows. The firm has been a supplier of the Reflection line of emulators and connectivity software since the 1980s. In a few months, Microsoft will be pulling its XP version of the desktop OS out of security patching status. XP won't stop working, not any more than MPE/iX did when HP stopped patching it. But running a company with XP-based PCs, attached to 3000s, is asking for a lot of blind luck when it comes to patching for trouble. Much more luck will be needed for the PCs, a situation which is leading Foster to remind users about upgrading Reflection for the future.

Attachmate acquired WRQ years ago, but the Reflection brand lives in in the combined corporation. On April 8, when the XP patches end, things get more risky for the company that hasn't migrated to Windows 7 or 8. MB Foster wants to help with this aspect of that migration, too.

Read "3000 emulators moving ahead on Windows" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:06 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2014

Making Domain Magic, at an Efficient Cost

DomainFive years ago, HP cancelled work on the DNS domain name services for MPE/iX. Not a lot of people were relying on the 3000 to be handling their Internet hosting, but the HP decision to leave people on their own for domain management sealed the deal. If ever there was something to be migrated, it was DNS.

But configuring DNS software on a host is just one part of the Internet tasks that a 3000-savvy manager has had to pick up. One of the most veteran of MPE software creators, Steve Cooper of Allegro, had to work out a fresh strategy to get domains assigned for his company, he reports.

We have been using Zerigo as our DNS hosting service for a number of years now, quite happily.  For the 31 domains that we care for, they have been charging us $39 per year, and our current year has been pre-paid through 2014-08-07.

 We received an e-mail explaining exciting news about how their service will soon be better-than-ever.  And, how there will be a slight increase in costs, as a result.  Instead of $39 per year, they will now charge $63 per month. A mere 1900% increase!  And, they won't honor our existing contract either.  They will take the pro-rated value of our contract on January 31, and apply that towards their new rates.  (I don't even think that's legal.)

 In any case, we are clearly in the market for a new DNS Hosting provider. Although I am not a fan of GoDaddy, their website. or their commercials, they appear to offer a premium DNS Hosting service, with DNSSEC, unlimited domains, etc. for just $2.99 per month.  Sounds too good to be true.

Cooper was searching for experience with that particular GoDaddy service. GoDaddy has been a default up to now, but acquiring a domain seems to need more tech savvy from support. The 3000 community was glad to help this other kind of migration, one to an infrastructure that MPE never demanded. The solution turned out to be one from the Southern Hemisphere, from a company whose hub is in a country which HP 3000 experts Jeanette and Ken Nutsford call home.

Read "Making Domain Magic, at an Efficient Cost" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:17 PM in Migration, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2014

Yours is a gathering group of users

Almost as soon as the June meeting of SIG-BAR was announced, others in your community wanted to join in. A meeting of ASK Computing manufacturing veterans and friends -- the IT managers running and developing the MANMAN app, still used in scores of companies -- want to gather in a reunion on June 14. It's just a few days after the June 12 SIG-BAR, a bit up the road in the UK.

WisemanGatorSIG-BAR, for any who don't know, is the communal gathering of HP 3000 people lately being organized by Dave Wiseman. It's named SIG-BAR because such an event usually convened at the hotel bar of the main conference hotel of Interex shows. With a beverage at hand and cocktail nuts aplenty, the HP 3000 users and vendors solved the problems of the world informally. When last call rolled around, everybody knew and trusted one another better. If they were lucky, someone had done something silly that had just made everyone who worked with machines all day seem more personal. Like Wiseman (above) posing with the inflatable alligator that he toted through the aisles at an Interex show in Orlando. Wiseman notes that "we filled it with helium at Bradmark's stand -- they were giving away balloons -- so we had high squeaky voices all evening in the bar!"

Those were the days when the bar bets could not be settled with smartphones. When the bets were about commands in MPE or model features of HP 3000s, the community's experts flexed their memory muscles.

The reunion of ASK users is just being mounted in Milton Keynes, a manufacturing town just a couple of stops up from Euston Station in London. And London is the location for the June 12 meeting of SIG-BAR at Dirty Dick's. SIG-BAR on Thursday, ASK on Saturday, all in the gentle climate of and English summer. Why go? To stay in touch with people who know how to help your continued use of HP 3000. It's the one element that always made the HP 3000 users stand out from others that I chronicled from the 1980s onward. A very social species, you've been.

Read "Yours is a gathering group of users" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:13 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 31, 2014

The Final 3000 Quarter at Hewlett-Packard

LifeboatsIt's the final day of HP's Q1 for 2014, so in about three weeks we'll know how the company has fared in its turnaround. Analyst sites are rating the stock as a hold, or giving the company a C+ rating. It's instructive to see how much has changed from the final quarter when 3000 customers sent measurable revenues to Hewlett-Packard.

That would be the Q1 of 2009, including the final two months of HP's regular systems support sales of November-December of 2008. At the end of '08 HP closed its MPE/iX and 3000 lab. And without a lab, there was no way business critical support would offer much of an incentive to keep HP's support in a 3000 shop's IT budget.

The customers' shake-off of HP's support revenue didn't happen immediately, of course. People had signed multi-year contracts for support with the vendor. But during the start of this financial period of five years ago, there was no clear reason to expect HP to be improve for MPE/iX, even in dire circumstances. Vintage support was the only product left to buy for a 3000 through the end of 2010.

In Q1 of 2009, HP reported $28.2 billion in total sales. In its latest quarter, that number was $29.1 billion. Nearly five years have delivered only $900 million in extra sales per quarter, despite swallowing up EDS and its 140,000 consultants and billions in sales, or purchasing tens of billions of dollars worth of outside companies like Autonomy.

In January of 2009, HP 3000 revenues were even more invisible than the Business Critical Systems revenues of today. But BCS totals back then were still skidding by 15-20 percent per quarter, 20 quarters ago. And even in 2009, selling these alternatives to an HP 3000 was generating only 4 percent of the Enterprise Server group's sales. Yes, all of enterprise servers made up 2.5 percent of the 2009 HP Q1. But that hardware and networking is the short tail of the beast that was HP's server business, including the 3000. Support is the long tail, one that stretched to the end of 2008 for MPE, more than seven years HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans.

It's easy to say that the HP 3000 meant a lot to HP's fortunes. In a way it certainly did, because there was no significant business computing product line until MPE started to get stable in 1974. But the profits really didn't flow off the hardware using that 20th Century model. Support was the big earner, as the mob says of anybody who returns profits to the head of the organization. HP 3000 support was always a good earner, right up to the time HP closed down those labs and sent its wizards packing, or into other company divisions.

It had been a small business all along, this HP 3000. A billion dollars was a great quarter's worth, and the 3000 division never came close. But all of HP's business critical servers together only managed $700 million in sales -- five years ago. The profits from such customers were only significant because of support relationships. This is why those contracts were the last thing HP terminated.

Read "The Final 3000 Quarter at Hewlett-Packard" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:49 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 30, 2014

Ensuring You Edit with the Right Quad

QuadsHP 3000 editors may be passe in many homesteading sites. Better tools for manipulating and tracking code are available on Linux, Unix, PC and Mac systems. But not many of them have the advantage of grabbing onto an MPE module during development. Robelle's Qedit has moved to PCs, but a 3000-native tool remains the free Quad.

You just have to be sure you're using the right version of this tool.

Walter Murray, who served in HP's Langauge Labs for many years, still likes using the MPE-centric Quad. He explained why, and noted an annoyance, too. One that another MPE veteran helped work around. Said Murray, "For editing, Quad has become my editor of choice.  Among its bothersome limitations are that the search is case-sensitive (which leads us to avoid lower case in COBOL source code, except for comments)."

Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has pointed out that the version of Quad being used makes a significant difference. "All Quads are not equal," he said. (Quad can be downloaded from a link off the 3k Associates archival website, a terrific resource for MPE software.)

Read "Ensuring You Edit with the Right Quad" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2014

University learns to live off of the MPE grid

Shutdown windowOne of the most forward-looking pioneers of the HP 3000 community shut off its servers last month, ending a 37-year run of service. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga IT staff, including its networking maven Jeff Kell, has switched over fully to Linux-based computing and an off the shelf application.

UTC, as Kell and his crew calls the school, has beefed up its server count by a factor of more than 10:1 as a byproduct of its transition. This kind of sea change is not unusual for a migration to Unix and Oracle solutions. HP 3000s tend to be single-server installations, or multiples in very large configurations. But to get to a count of 43 servers, IT architecture has to rethink the idea of a server (sometimes just a blade in an enclosure) and often limits the server to exclusive tasks.

After decades of custom-crafted applications, UTC is running fully "on Banner, which has been SunGuard in the past," Kell said. "I believe it's now called now Ellucian. They keep getting bought out." But despite the changes, the new applications are getting the same jobs done that the HP 3000s performed since the 1970s.

It's Linux / Oracle replacing it.  The configuration was originally Dell servers (a lot of them), but most of it is virtualized on ESXi/vCenter, fed by a large EMC SAN. They got some server hardware refreshed recently, and got Cisco UCS blade servers.  I'm sure they're well into seven figures on the replacement hardware and software alone. I've lost count of how many people they have on staff for the care and feeding of it all. It's way more than our old 3000 crew, which was basically six people.

Read "University learns to live off of the MPE grid" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:49 PM in Migration, User Reports | 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.

Read "Cross-pond experts to meet in UK" in full

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

January 27, 2014

Polymorphic computing still tweaks billing

Editor's note: more than five years ago, Hewlett-Packard was promoting an old concept with a new speech. HP's current Labs director Martin Fink spoke about polymorphic computing, and MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster was on hand to note what was nascent about the concept, as well as what still needed to be developed. Cloud computing has gone beyond nascent to become commonplace, but billing for individual apps -- not just CPU and bandwidth -- is still a work in progress. The apps on MPE systems are specialized parts of computing, but not easily available through most common clouds (like Amazon Web Services, or Google). 

Until billing for MPE apps via the cloud is worked out, companies will be migrating apps to capture the potential of polymorphic computing. Foster's article still offers a lot to think about while considering the true benefits of a transition for MPE apps.

Polymorphics Film 1959There's a marvelous stop-action film online that explains polymorphic computing. The film was made in 1959. The earliest design of MPE was still a decade away. Most people believe polymorphic computing didn't emerge until almost 50 years after the film was made. Enjoy it, as well as Foster's report below. The pieces are still in motion, and like transitions, they're not stopping.

By Birket Foster 

The CommunityConnect 2008 conference in Europe featured Martin Fink, the Senior VP and GM for the HP Business Critical Server group. Fink gave a talk on Polymorphic Computing. What is that, you say? Well, Fink used an analogy from the car industry, one where you have different cars with steering wheels, engine, chassis and tires that can be changed on demand. Think of the object-oriented programming concept of late binding, he suggested.

Here's how it sounded to me, a software vendor sitting in an audience full of software vendors. Your polymorphic car would assemble itself in your garage for the purpose you need -- so you could have a sports car one evening for what Fink called “a hot date with the wife,” then the next day you could order up a minivan to go shopping, and in the afternoon the polymorphic assembly garage would deliver a pickup truck so you could pick up some lumber for a do it yourself project.

Read "Polymorphic computing still tweaks billing" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:33 PM in Migration | 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.

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

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