October 15, 2014
Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes
HP will be revoking a security certificate for its Windows-based systems on Oct. 21, and the vendor isn't sure yet how that will impact system reliability.
The bundled software on older HP PC systems has been at risk of being the front-man for malware, according to a report in the Kerbs on Security website. This code-signing is supposed to give computer users and network admins confidence about a program's security and integrity. HP's Global Chief Security Officer Brett Wahlin said the company is revoking a certificate it's been using even before 2010.
HP was recently alerted by Symantec about a curious, four-year-old trojan horse program that appeared to have been signed with one of HP’s private certificates and found on a server outside of HP’s network. Further investigation traced the problem back to a malware infection on an HP developer’s computer.
HP investigators believe the trojan on the developer’s PC renamed itself to mimic one of the file names the company typically uses in its software testing, and that the malicious file was inadvertently included in a software package that was later signed with the company’s digital certificate. The company believes the malware got off of HP’s internal network because it contained a mechanism designed to transfer a copy of the file back to its point of origin.
The means of infection here is the junkware shipped with all PCs, including HP's, according to HP 3000 consultant and open source expert Brian Edminster. In this case, the revoked certificate will cause support issues for administrators. The certificate was used to sign a huge swath of HP software, including crucial hardware and software drivers and components that are critical to Windows.
"This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loath all the 'junkware' that is commonly delivered along with new PCs," Edminster said. "I end up spending hours removing it all before I use a new PC." Recovery partitions on Windows systems will be at unknown risk after the certificate is pulled Oct. 21, too.
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October 14, 2014
Making a Migration Down the Mountain View
After an exit off the HP 3000, the City of Mountain View is now also saying goodbye to one of its longest-tenured IT pros. Even beyond the migration away from the municipality's Series 957, Linda Figueroa wanted to keep in touch with the HP 3000 community, she reported in a note. "I started working on a Series III back in the 1980s," she said.
But after 38 years with the City, and turning 55, it's time to retire. At a certain time, city employees with as many years as I have get the "when are you retiring?" look. We had 3000s running at the City of Mountain View from 1979 until 2012.
Our first HP 3000 in 1979 was a Series III system (which I just loved; always felt so important pressing those buttons). It had a 7970E tape drive, four 7920 disc drives and a printer. Then we moved to the monster Series 68, and ended up with the Series 957 with DLT tapes — no more switching reel-to-reels! I still have my MPE:IV software pocket guide from January 1981. (I couldn't get rid of it — coffee stains and all.)
When Mountain View took down its HP 3000, a couple of years after the switchover, the City turned off all of its other Hewlett-Packard servers, too. Only its software suppliers have made the transition, proving the wisdom that customers are closest to their applications — and leave the platforms behind. But MPE — from System IV to MPE/iX 6.5 — and the HP 3000 did more than three decades of service at Mountain View.
October 13, 2014
A Little Uptick For Hope
There is new business a-brewing for HP 3000 owners. Not migration business, that wouldn't be news. We just got a small report in the in-box from a long-time 3000 expert about an uptick in Paul Edwards' world. Some of it seems to be wrapped around homesteading, too.
It's titled MPE: Consulting Interest
I have had a lot of interest in MPE consulting lately. It is a two-week training class overseas, a local migration, a file migration in Texas, and a Time & Materials consulting opportunity in Texas. This is after no billing for all of last year. Things are looking up, especially in Texas. I just thought you would like to know that MPE opportunities are still available.
Paul Edwards and Associates consults on Speedware, on Suprtool, on COBOL -- on many of the things that make the HP 3000 unique. He's shared practices for system management of 3000s. He's also got the rights to teach with HP's educational materials for MPE classes. Plus got some links to the Stromasys virtualization world of prospects.
The latest news is not entirely about who closed down their 3000 shop recently.
October 10, 2014
When Smaller Can Be Better
Hewlett-Packard has chosen to cleave itself into two much smaller companies. It will take most of the next year to make that a reality. But it might be an advantage to return to working with a more nimble company. Well, an advantage to the 3000 site that's migrating to HP's other computer enterprise solutions, or has done so recently.
Over at the New York Times, the tech writers found something to praise even while they questioned the wisdom of the move.
In one day, Meg Whitman has created two of America’s biggest companies. All she had to do was break apart Hewlett-Packard, the company credited with creating Silicon Valley. HP Enterprise is targeting a market that appears full of potential innovations, while HP Inc. seems stuck in the low-margin consumer hardware business that has proved a slog for companies not named Apple or Samsung.
It appears Whitman has found a vision: one that looks a bit like the IBM of the West — with an emphasis on products rather than IBM’s consulting services — and another that looks a bit like Compaq Computer, a Texas computer company that HP controversially merged with 12 years ago.
A long time ago, in a marketplace now far away, 3000 owners wished for some breaking off. The HP 3000 wasn't a part of Hewlett-Packard's vision? Fine. Sell the unit off and let's get on with a focused future. At the time, the business was said to turn over $1 billion yearly. Even at half that size, it would've been big enough to survive with customer loyalty. If the 3000 had nothing else going for it, you could count on loyalty.
All opportunities now gone, you say. You just cannot break up an enterprise tech player like that. Then Whitman chops a massive company into two much smaller parts. Smaller has been better for the typical 3000 customer for a long time. Yes, there are times when there are advantages of being big: When a 3000 user got more from a company which sprawls to supersize, in sales and scope of solutions. You get predictability, alliances and headroom from companies sized HP. The vendor so lusted after being No. 1, which did not become a path to long-term success.
3000 community members understand that smaller can be better -- not bigger -- especially when they use what the independent vendor lives upon. Small companies respond faster, polish relationships, and commit for life.
Faster response can mean software that is enhanced sooner, or answers that resolve problems more quickly -- because a smaller company has fewer layers for a customer to dive through. Relationship polishing is the personal attention to a company of any size: the kind of experience that HP 3000 managers, who may now be CIOs and CTOs, recall getting from a smaller HP.
October 09, 2014
TBT: A 3000 Newsworthy Birth Day
The first issue of the Newswire ran its black and red ink across 24 pages of an early October issue. Inside, the first FlashPaper late-news insert had been waiting a week for main-issue printing to catch up with mailing plans.
In our ThrowBack to this week of 1995, the first issue of The 3000 Newswire rolled out into the mails. The coverage of the HP 3000 was cheerful enough to encourage a belief that the computer would run forever -- but 19 years of future was far from certain for either the system or the first 3000-only publication. Volume 1 (the year), Issue 1 came out in a 24-page edition, the same page count of the printed issue that just mailed this Fall. At the Newswire's introduction, one user group leader wondered aloud, on a bus ride during the Interex '95 conference in Toronto, "what in the world you'll might be able to find to fill up the news in Issue No. 2."
The last of the competing HP-only publications closed its doors 10 years later, when Interex folded its user group overnight. Interact, HP Professional, SuperGroup, HP Omni and others turned out the lights during that decade.
The Newswire's first mailed issue was carrying the news circulating in mid-August during an Interex conference. For the first time in 10 years, an HP CEO spoke at the Interex event. However, Lew Platt was a current CEO when he spoke to the 3000 faithful. David Packard was a former CEO and board member when he addressed the multitudes at Interex '85 in Washington DC.
Platt said that HP 3000 users had nothing to fear from a future where Unix was in vogue at HP. Earlier in the day, speaking before the full assembly of users, he said HP was going to making new business by taking out older products. At an editor's luncheon we asked him what that mission held for the 3000.
Platt explained his prior comments on cannibalizing HP's business to maintain steady growth. MPE/iX won't be served up in a pot anytime soon. "I don't mean leaving customers high and dry," he said. "HP has worked extremely hard with products like the HP 3000 to make the people who have bought them have a good future. We've put an enormous amount of energy out to make sure we can roll those people forward. I'd say we've done a better job than just about any company in the industry in providing a good growth path for those customers."
The CEO went on to explain how cannibalization would work. HP would take a product, such as a printer, that was doing perfectly well and may still be a leadership printer in the market -- and bringing in a new one before it's reached its end of life. If you substitute "business server" for "printer" in that plan, you can see how a computer that was doing perfectly well might see a new computer brought in before the end of its life. In that issue, the Newswire story noted that the project we'd learn to call Itanium six years later was going undercover, so that new product wouldn't lock up existing server business for a year before it would ship.
HP was calling the joint effort with Intel the Tahoe architecture, and Platt would be retired from his job before anything shipped.
October 08, 2014
Another Kind of Migration
Change is the only constant in life, and it's a regular part of enterprise IT management, too. Another sort of migration takes place in one shop where the 3000 has been retired. Specialized scripts for automation using Reflection are being replaced. Thousands of them.
Micro Focus, which owns Reflection now as well as its own terminal emulator Rumba, is sparking this wholesale turnover of technology. Customers are being sold on the benefits of the Micro Focus product as part of a suite of interlocking technologies. When that strategic decision is taken, as the British like to say (Micro Focus has its HQ in the country) the following scenario plays out.
Glenn Mitchell of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina reported his story, after reading our report on Micro Focus acquiring Attachmate.
I can certainly see many parallels between the latest change at our organization and the migrations many of us undertook from MPE to other platforms.
It has been many years since I was heavily involved with the 3000 and the 3000 community. One of the ties back to those old days has been that we use Reflection 3270 as our mainframe terminal emulator here. I’ve done a number of extensive macros in Reflection VBA to assist our customers and developers, and I understand we have thousands of Reflection VBA and Reflection basic scripts in use throughout the company. (We’re a mainframe-centric organization specializing in high-volume claims processing, including Medicare claims in the US.)
Some months ago, I was told we were dropping Reflection and moving to Rumba by Micro Focus (the old Wall Data product) as a cost-saving measure. As part of that move, all of my macros will need to be converted to use the EHLAPPI interface in Rumba. According to the support staff here, a conversion was going to be required anyway to move to the latest version of Reflection. Well, the support staff has done a good job and many thousands of macros run pretty successfully with some special conversion tools they’ve provided.
Of course, mine don’t, yet.
Read "Another Kind of Migration" in full
October 07, 2014
HP decides to break up the brand
And in one stroke of genius, it's become 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. Yesterday brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. Except that one of the others selling personal computers, plus the printers usually connected to PCs, is another generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink.
To be clear, that's a broad definition we used up there to define that stroke of genius. Brilliance is something else, but genius can be just a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.
What's become the nature of Hewlett-Packard, its innate ability? The company was founded on one ability and then had a second grafted onto its first success. It's been 30 years now since 1984, when the vendor which invented MPE and the 3000 has been inventing products for consumers. The LaserJet opened the door for a torrent of ink and toner to sweep around traditional technology innovations. Before there was a need for a battalion of printing devices and a phalanx of personal devices, the old HP logo represented business and scientific computing. Plus a world-leading instruments business whose profile was an icon for what HP was known for best.
HP's been down this path before, splitting off those instruments into Agilent in 1999. A few months later Carly Fiorina won the approval of then-ink czar Dick Hackborn, placing her in the CEO's seat. Yesterday's announcement of splitting the company into two complementary entities returns the Hewlett-Packard name to enterprise computing. But it seems the core values of the only major IT vendor named after its founders won't rebound into favor. Not on the strength of just splitting off high-cost, high volume ink and PC business. HP needs to impress people with what it builds again. Not just what it can aggregate and integrate.
A few notes we took away from that announcement:
- HP says it aims to be two Fortune 50 companies after breakup, but more nimble and focused
- "The brand is no longer an issue," say HP executives, and breaking up the brand will create equal-sized businesses.
- An extra 5,000 layoffs come along with the split-up. The running total is now 55,000 on the clock that started in 2011.
- HP likes its own idea; prior chairman Ralph Whitworth called it a "Brilliant value-enhancing move at the perfect time in the turnaround."
- CEO Meg Whitman says HP's turnaround made the breakup possible.
- Its stock traded more than five times its usual daily shares on breakup news, and picked up almost 5 percent in share value. HPQ also gave away all of that gain, and more, the very next day.
That's how it goes in the commodity computing market: easy come, say the customers, and easy go. It might be why Whitman is helping the brand called Hewlett-Packard break away from the commodity business.
October 06, 2014
HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies
Hewlett-Packard announced this morning that it will divide itself into two publicly-traded corporations, a move that shareholders and stock analysts have been demanding and predicting for years. The division of the company will be along product lines. The business server operations will be contained in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, while PC and printer businesses will comprise the new HP, Inc.
The vendor said in a press release that the restructuring will "define the next generation of technology infrastructure." The reorganization will also spin out the least profitable, but largest, segment of HP's business into its own unit. HP still ranks in the top five among PC makers and is one of the largest makers of printers in the world.
Meg Whitman will be CEO and president of the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. Pat Russo will chair a new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise board of directors. Last month Hewlett-Packard -- the full corporation founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939 -- had named Whitman as chairman of the board and CEO. By breaking up the company, Whitman will cede some control of its most competitive and popular product segments.
Dion Weisler will be the head of the new HP, Inc. as CEO and president. Whitman will chair the HP Inc. board of directors. HP said it will still meet its profit forecasts for the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 31. It also said that it "issues a fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted Earnings Per Share outlook of $3.83-$4.03." That is the sweetest way of forecasting a profit, using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. But it's not clear if that's HP Inc. profits, or profits for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. And the vendor said it would take all of fiscal 2015 to complete the transaction.
“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan," said Whitman, who's led HP through three years of a five-year turnaround plan. "It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders.
"In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders."
October 03, 2014
Wearable computing, cloud IT: not news
By Ron Seybold
Ever since the start of summer, there's been plenty of ThrowBack Thursday pieces available to run. Always with a photo, they seem to get highest readership among our customers.
One throwback piece that’s headed to my recycle bin today is a 1991 press release from Park Engineering. In that springtime, the Spokane company made its news by announcing in a press release, “First ‘Wearable’ Computer Brings Desktop Computing Power to Mobile Workers.” The CompCap weighed a full pound, and you were instructed to wear it on your head. A hardhat version was self-contained, while another to wear around your head or as a hatband needed electronics built into a belt or vest.
What a marvel. What news, this device that had a virtual miniature display called the Private Eye, floating a few feet in front of the user. (Hope they weren’t driving a forklift at the time.) Starting at $1,500 and running up to $3,000 each, the CompCaps had their own OS, perhaps as unique as MPE/XL. Just without the thousands of apps that drove HP’s 3000 sales during year.
It would be news if a CompCap has ever been built, let alone sold. But it’s possible that an HP 3000 manufactured the same year could be running a company’s manufacturing today. It would be a 9x7 and well into antiquity. That would be news too, but of the amazing and astounding variety. That 9x7 is out there somewhere, proving there’s a need for a virtual 3000, the MPE/iX machine that’s not built by HP. Because the age of the iron is not the age of MPE.
October 02, 2014
TBT: A Race to Engineering Discipline
October was a month to remember from an engineering era that Hewlett-Packard would rather forget. The era was the cycle of what independent contractors called Destructive Testing, the repeated, broad-spectrum hammering on the new MPE/XL operating system that was going to power the first PA-RISC Series 900 HP 3000. HP paid these experts to break what it had built.
The computer rolled out in the early fall of 1987, a full year after its Unix counterpart. It was just 12 months earlier that HP's tech czar Joel Birnbaum swore that PA-RISC would emerge from a swamp of too-sweet project management.
More than 1,000 engineers would eventually work on pulling MPE/XL and its Reduced Instruction Set Computing steed 900 Series out of a ditch. During 1985 and through much of 1986, status reports about the development of this faster 3000 were encouraging. No show-stoppers there, not with so much pressure on horsepower improvements. The Series 70 was released in 1985, a stop-gap server that ran faster than the Series 64. But not fast enough at plenty of major HP customers, the group called the Red Accounts.
Those lab updates were being sweetened because a replacement for the Series 64 and 70 was overdue. HP had already scrapped the 3000's update plans for HP Vision, broadening the replacement project to call it HP Spectrum. This was design to be used in all HP servers, working through an HP-invented RISC chip architecture. The twinkle in Birnbaum's eye while he was in IBM, RISC was going to be a business success. HP hired him away to deliver on the RISC promise.
But by October 1986 at a conference whose theme was Focus on the Future, the 900 Series was undeliverable as addressed. Birnbaum had to deliver the news to pressmen, reporters assembled in a conference room. We circled him, standing and taking notes, quizzing Birnbaum as he said the horsepower would arrive. More important was stability. Birnbaum explained patiently that interfaces between MPE software modules were not working as forecast. Not yet.
This didn't appear to be a man accustomed to explaining delays to the public, especially critics from the press. But he uttered a phrase that afternoon in Detroit at Interex '86 that seemed to close down the probing questions. We wanted to know, after all, could anyone believe that the vanguard Series 930 server would appear after more than two years of reboots and delays?
October 01, 2014
Steady pace means un-news isn't no news
By Ron Seybold
What does it say about the HP 3000 when the steadiest story about the 3000 doesn’t involve an HP 3000? You can’t wear one, like an Apple Watch, or buy a brand-new HP 3000. Your server’s operating system is unchanged after more than four years, unless you’re buying a custom-crafted patch. The mission for this general purpose machine hasn’t changed, either.
It might be that the most constant news about the HP 3000 of 2014 is there’s no fresh news. So what’s an editor to do when his blog and publication includes the word Newswire? To conjure content, I reach back, and I look ahead. What is ahead of us doesn’t involve much HP iron, and certainly nothing new wearing a Hewlett-Packard 3000 badge on its chest. I only have to reach back to see a story where wearing something to compute wasn’t a novel concept. Not according to my files here in the office.
I work a lot out of the files these days.
This rambling is a way of describing my frustration and then a calm acceptance about the limited rate of change. I came into the journalism business with the knowledge that new was best. My first newspapering job came in a small Texas town with a competing paper just down the block. You’d wonder why a county seat of 3,500 would ever need two newspapers. It was 1982, a year when plenty of towns had two papers. Journalism has changed. Now there’s an infographic out there with the Then and Now of information. A reporter is now considered a blogger, and press conferences are now Twitter chats.
I came to tech journalism and got scooped within three weeks. Scoop, for any who’ve forgotten, is when a competitor learns and prints something before you can. One year at an Interex conference, we scooped all day at our booth. Ice cream, supplied by the hotel’s catering department. The word was synonymous with elite information.
There are press releases today, but they’re called content. Some still fill my inbox, but they come from non-3000 markets. The investment of an envelope and stamp is gone, just like an investment in HP-branded iron has been replaced by an offsite, up in the cloud server. Not free, but oh so less costly.
September 30, 2014
Reflection touchstone: a screen benchmark
The most recent transfer of Attachmate's products and people into the Micro Focus organization sparked some study of what matters to 3000 migrators and homesteaders. Both kinds of customers need to pay mind to what their application's screens look like. Whatever's correct tends to be first measured by an Attachmate product.
That would be Reflection, still the terminal emulator in widest use among the homesteading community as well as a benchmark for any others making a 3000 change. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo kept his eye on the Micro Focus reverse-takeover, as the parent company is headquartered in the UK. (That's still a United Kingdom, after the Scotland vote, much to the UK citizen's relief.)
Reflection's fate remains as unchanged at Scotland's. There will be some modification over time. And the software's screen views are often evoked while change is afoot.
Attachmate "had a big push on re-launching its Rhumba terminal emulator about three years ago," he said. A few migration clients using Micro Focus COBOL were being pushed hard to drop Reflection, he explained. A battery of internal tests at ScreenJet determined that Rhumba would work, intrinsically, with ScreenJet's product. But the standard for terminal emulation, in the mind of somebody who knows VPlus screen handling better than most on the planet, remains Reflection.
"If anything doesn't work, and it works with Reflection, the go fix Rhumba," Yeo said he advised the customers being pressed into the Rhumba re-launch. "If you report a problem, re-test with Reflection." The tests at ScreenJet produced some suggested repairs to Rhumba, he added.
ScreenJet never heard from a migrating customer who made a choice to drop Reflection. He's got no prejudices. "I don't care what any customer uses, so long as what they use works, and doesn't break what they're using from us," Yeo said. "Reflection is pretty much a touchstone. It's not to say that I haven't gone back at times and done testing on a terminal to find out what really happens. Sometimes I have to go back to a customer and say 'I'm sorry, but it's an artifact of even Reflection not doing it right.' "
And so your community still may have some need for 3000 terminals, the real sort. The 3000 newsgroup recently carried an ad for some of this extra-focused HP iron -- offered by an independent broker.
September 29, 2014
Classic advice: COBOL Choices, Years Later
Five years ago on this day we ran a report from a conversion company about the lineup of COBOL choices. Just a few weeks ago, the largest provider of COBOL swallowed up Attachmate, owners of the Reflection lineup. It made the impact of the acquisitive Micro Focus on the 3000 migrator even greater.
Conversion and migration supplier Unicon Conversion Technologies had sent us a white paper that outlined decisions to enable 3000 conversions to Windows. Unicon's Mike Howard attended that year's e3000 Community Meet, which included plenty of COBOL discussion. Here's Howard's take on the COBOL choices for those headed to Windows. Much is of it is still on target.
By Mike Howard
When HP announced it was discontinuing the HP 3000, there were four main Windows COBOLs: RM COBOL, ACUCOBOL, Micro Focus COBOL and Fujitsu COBOL.
But in May 2007, Micro Focus acquired ACUCOBOL when they bought Acucorp. Shortly after they also acquired RM COBOL when they bought Liant. ACUCOBOL is very similar to RM COBOL but has more features and functions. Micro Focus immediately incorporated the RM COBOL product into ACUCOBOL and stopped selling RM COBOL. Micro Focus is now incorporating ACUCOBOL into the Micro Focus COBOL product. (Ed. The Project Meld was not completed, and ACUCOBOL is being called Micro Focus extend today.)
So today, for new Windows COBOL customers there are two COBOLs -- Micro Focus and Fujitsu. In summary, Micro Focus is an all-embracing, all-platform COBOL with excellent support, but it is expensive. Fujitsu is a Windows product with limited support but an extremely attractive price. We have found that both products are very stable and very fast in production. Both charge the same for support, 20 percent per year. The differences lie in cost of ownership vs. response time of support.
September 26, 2014
Making History By Staying Together
What price and what value can we put on borders? While we put the latest 3000 Newswire print issue to bed last week, the United Kingdom’s region of Scotland was voting for its independence from Great Britain. One of our favorite 3000 resources and supporters, Alan Yeo, didn't know if he’d wake up at the end of last week using UK or GB as the acronym to define his country. If Scotland were to go, the Kingdom would no longer be United.
Cooler heads prevailed, and the No vote to block the push to secede squashed the Yes by a large margin. The country made history with the largest voter turnout every recorded. There's some good come of the competition, anyway.
The independence balloting called to mind what the Web has done with borders: erased them all, virtually. Some of the more draconian countries have fences up to keep their citizens’ thoughts and beliefs in, but even China with its Alibaba marketplace — where you can but a 747 or drone motors over the Web equivalent of eBay or Amazon — is erasing its borders. Scotland, inexplicably, wants to erect new ones.
Here in Austin, and through most of Texas, bumper stickers ride on trucks with the state’s outline the command, “Secede!” We are the United States of America, though. Pockets of rebellion boil up in places like the Texas border with Mexico, or up in Idaho. But there’s too much in common among government sentiment to break us up into pieces.
I know about the desire for borders. Our nitwit governor here was on TV last fall, here in Austin, describing our progressive town as “the blueberry in a sea of red.” Yes, we’re juicy, sweet, and different. But we’re Texans, too, much to the governor’s dismay. That TV show didn’t hit Jimmy Kimmel’s show from Dallas or Houston.
So it has gone for the Web and 3000 users. On pages over the years, both paper on on the Web, we cater to constituencies as diverse as possible. One set of readers is done with MPE, making plans to archive systems or scrap them. Another is devoted to their status quo, the devils they know rather than the devils they don’t know how much upset and cost they’ll trigger.
September 25, 2014
TBT: Early winter's taste visits Interex '94
It stunned nearly everybody, but the final day of the annual Interex user conference, 20 years ago this week, did not herald the start of Fall. That season might have filled pages on everybody's calendar, but the skies over Denver were filled with snowflakes on Sept. 21. Thousands of HP 3000 customers had to scurry through soggy streets in a month where leaves were supposed to be falling.
Everything happened at an Interex, eventually. Robelle's Neil Armstrong wrote about it in the What's Up Doc newsletter the vendor produced that year.
Welcome to Winterex 1994.
Once again the weather attempted to upstage various announcements and goings on at the Interex Conference. This year it snowed on the Wednesday afternoon of the Denver conference. The "snow" storm, however, was nothing compared to hurricane Andrew which hit New Orleans during Interex '92.
This year's conference was certainly a hit with a lot of the people I talked to. The last Interex I attended was in Boston in 1990, which became known as the Great Unbundling of TurboImage Debate. Interex '94 was a pleasant contrast with HP's new product announcements, the bundling of ARPA services and a general positive tone regarding the future of the HP 3000. The HP booth was a beehive of activity with Client-Server demonstrations and huge printers on display.
Armstrong went on to say that his favorite view at the show was seeing a camera connected to an HP 9000 workstation, one that delivered a live pictures of people passing by the box. "The fun part was moving from side to side quickly and watching the CPU graph go up," he added.
This was the year when the pushback started to ruffle the Unix juggernaut that had promised open systems for so long. Windows was still a year away from being desktop-useful. But that didn't keep the technical leadership from creating a Unix Hater's Handbook.
September 24, 2014
Did Charon get to where HP could've gone?
The past can't be changed, but that doesn't mean it's not useful in planning. There are still a surprising number of companies that want to stand pat without regard to the future of their hardware running MPE/iX. Some of it is old already, while other servers -- even those newest -- are now moving into their 10th year of service.
Hewlett-Packard's planning for the future of MPE/iX hosts once included a bold move. The operating system was going to run natively on Itanium-based servers, the IA-64 Integrity line (above) that hosts VMS and NonStop today. It was a project that did not make HP's budget cuts of more than a decade ago, and so the whole lineup got canceled. There might have been another way, something that HP could arrive at -- years after Stromasys started selling the solution.
Native hosting is always the preferred solution for an OS and its iron, sure. But there's so much virtualization these days; VMware is a significant market force. What if HP had taken MPE/iX and just put it onto another operating system's back? What if the OS that drives 3000 apps might have taken a ride in a carriage of Unix, or Linux?
HP did this sort of miracle once for the 3000, calling it Compatibility Mode. There was a massive revison of hardware and software to arrive at the PA-RISC generation, but the changes were transparent to customers. You ran your apps in CM, until you could move them forward. In the '90s, companies used compatibility mode for years, installing newer hardware and moving up to better performance by revising their applications.
"If all HP had done was to create a Compatibility Mode for MPE on IA-64," said ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, "nobody would have batted an eyelid about swapping to an HP-UX box to run their company's software."
At its heart, this is what Stromasys has done with its software. The only difference to the customers is that it's a solution not sold and supported by their hardware vendor.
September 23, 2014
Pre-Migration Cleanup Techniques
Migrations are inevitable. The Yolo County Office of Education is on its way to a Windows-based system, after many years of HP 3000 reliance. Ernie Newton of the Information and Technology Services arm of the organization is moving his 3000 data. He's doing a clean-up, a great practice even if you're not heading off of MPE.
I am cleaning up our IMAGE databases for the inevitable move to Microsoft’s SQL Server. One thing I've encountered is that Suprtool does not like null characters where there should be numbers.
I know that I have invalid characters, (non-numeric), in a field called ITEM-NUMBER. But when I try to find those records, Suprtool chokes and abruptly stops the search. Here's what I get...
IF ITEM-NUMBER < 0 OR ITEM-NUMBER > 9999
Error: Illegal ascii digit encountered. Please check all data sources
Input record number: 1
Is there a way to run Suprtool to help it find these records? Query finds them just fine, but Query doesn't have to ability to do what I want to do.
After being reminded that "Nulls are not numbers," by Olav Kappert, and "try to use a byte string to compare (like < "a" or > "z") or something like that," Robelle's Neil Armstrong weighed in.
You can find any character you want by using the Clean, $findclean and $clean feature. The first issue to deal with is to re-define the item-number as a byte type in order to use the function.
September 22, 2014
Ways to Create PDFs from 3000 Output
Years ago -- okay, seven -- we reported the abilities of the Sanface Software solution to create PDF files out of HP 3000 output. But there are other ways and tools to do this, a task that's essential to sharing data reports between HP 3000s and the rest of the world's computers.
On the HP 3000 newsgroup, a veteran 3000 developer has asked,
Has anyone got any experience involving taking a file in an output queue and creating a PDF version of it?
"We use text2pdf v1.1 and have not had any problems since we installed it in October 2001," said Robert Mills of Pinnacle Entertainment. "I have e-mailed a copy of this utility and our command file to 27 people. Never knew that so many sites wanted to generate PDFs from their 3000s."
The program is a good example of 3000 source code solutions. This one was created as far back as the days of MPE/iX 6.0, a system release which HP has not supported since 2005.
September 19, 2014
Passing FTP Capabilities to MPE
HP 3000s do lots of duty with data from outside the server. The 3000's FTP services sit ready to handle transfers from the world of Windows, as well as other systems, and PCs far outnumber the non-Windows computers networked to 3000s. Several good, low-cost FTP clients on Windows communicate with the 3000, even though MPE/iX still has some unique "features" in its FTP server.
Our former columnist John Burke once reported that his HP 3000 emitted a second line of text during an FTP session that could confuse the open source FTP client FileZilla:
FileZilla issues the PWD command to get the working directory information. On every other system I've tried, the result is something like 257 "home/openmpe" is the current working directory However, MPE responds with something like 257-"/SYSADMIN/PUB" is the current directory. 257 "MGR.SYSADMIN,PUB" is the current session. The second line appears to be confusing FileZilla because it reports the current directory as /MGR.SYSADMIN,PUB/, which of course does not work.
Back when it was a freeware, Craig Lalley took note of a worthy solution, WS-FTP from IP Switch. The product is now for sale but its client is not costly. And an MPE setting can remove the problems that can choke up FileZilla.
September 18, 2014
Beefy servers link VMware and MPE futures
VMware is installed at the majority of HP 3000 sites. The virtualization software delivers flexibility in using a wider array of operating environments to virtualize Intel-based hardware, and so it's a useful tool for putting Windows, Linux and Apple's OS X on a variety of hosting hardware. Everything looks like Intel x86 -- to be exact, Xeon -- once VMware is on board.
This is one of the reasons VMware is a common companion with the Stromasys CHARON virtualized HP 3000. A partition of a server can be designated as an x86 box. And then on top of this emulation, according to Doug Smith of Stromasys
Some people already have VMware installed for the rest of their applications, and if they choose to use it with CHARON it's fine. There are others that see more of a perfomance issue -- there's more performance if they actually run it on a standalone server.
On VMware you have the host hardware, and a lot of the customers haven't specified the host hardware beefy enough to run the application. You run into a problem with that every once in awhile, so they end up going to a standalone server. That's because they don't want to go through the expense of updating all of their VMware hosts.
Initial testing performed under VMware in these under-spec'ed hosts "won't give you the performance you're looking for," Smith explained. "Under the right hardware, the numbers jump up big-time." A forthcoming case study will lay out the differences for CHARON HPA/3000, he added.
September 16, 2014
Advice on uptime, net gateways and sockets
Is there a way to use the 3000's networking to check how long your system has been up?
James Hofmeister replies:
If you have SNMP running, a query to check system uptime is:
: snmpget ector.atl.hp.com public system.sysUpTime.0
Timeticks: (418638300) 48 days, 10:53:03
I get no awards for 48 days uptime, but I use my machines to duplicate, beta test and verify repair of customer network problems.
Is there a way to scan all the ports on my HP 3000 Series 996: How many are being used, and how many are available?
Mark Bixby replies:
SOCKINFO.NET.SYS can tell you which programs have opened which sockets.
NETTOOL.NET.SYS STATUS,TCPSTAT and STATUS,UDPSTAT can also give you useful information about sockets, particularly STATUS,TCPSTAT and CONNTABLE.
September 15, 2014
WRQ's Reflection goes deeper into coffers
News came to me today about the Sept. 15 deal between Attachmate and Micro Focus. Two of the larger enterprise software makers which matter to 3000 vendors, the connectivity company and world's biggest COBOL vendor, will be doing a merger. With this, the consolidation of enterprise vendors takes another step into its future, and Reflection goes deeper into another software corporation's coffers.
Below is some of the story as told by Micro Focus, in a message to its clients and customers, about a $1.2 billion all-stock deal that leaves Micro Focus owning 60 percent of Attachmate.
Our intention is to preserve the full portfolios of strong, leading products in both Micro Focus and Attachmate going forward. We will draw on our recent acquisitions’ track record of successfully integrating any overlapping product sets.
Business logic and data that lies at the heart of operational effectiveness is increasingly exposed to very complex IT environments, as well as recent technology developments such as the cloud, mobility and virtualization. The combination of Micro Focus and Attachmate creates a leading technology company that will be well positioned to give organizations the ability to exploit the opportunities these trends produce whilst also leveraging prior investments and established IT assets to effectively bridge the old and the new.
For those who are counting up what kinds of products will be preserved -- in addition to the Reflection line -- the merger also brings Novell, NetIQ, and SUSE Linux under the control of Micro Focus. It would take some detailed calculating to figure the total number of products being preserved. But more than 200 in the portfolio would not be an errant guess.
September 12, 2014
Can HP's cloud deals ground enterprises?
Editors at The New York Times seem to believe the above is true -- or more to the point, that cloud business will come at the expense of HP's hardware revenues. Nobody knows whether this is the way that HP's clouds will rise. Not yet. But a deal to buy an open source software company caught notice of a writer at the NYT, and then came a saucy headline.
HP Is Committed to the Cloud, Even If It Kills. The bulk of the story was about Marten Mickos, who sold his company Eucalyptus to Hewlett-Packard and got himself named as General Manager of HP Cloud Business, or somesuch. Open source followers will know Mickos as the man who sold mySQL to Sun, sparking some fury in a customer base that didn't want any connection to major vendor. (As it turned out, Sun wasn't really a major vendor at all, just an object for Oracle acquisition.)
This only matters to migrating customers who use HP 3000s, so if you're still reading and you're homesteading -- or migrating away from HP altogether -- what follows is more for sport than strategic planning. But once more, I'll remind readers that HP is looking for anything that can lift its fortunes. Selling enterprise hardware, like the Integrity servers which are the only island where HP-UX can live, has got a dim outlook. Selling cloud services instead of hardware has plenty more promise, even if it's largely unrealized at HP today.
The rain-clouds in HP's skies come from Amazon, mostly, whose Amazon Web Services is the leader in a growing segment. Eucalyptus works with AWS, and that seems to be the major reason that Mickos gets to direct-report to HP's CEO Meg Whitman. Eucalyptus manages cloud computing systems. HP still sells hardware and software to host private clouds, but an AWS arrangement is a public cloud concept. HP wants to be sure an AWS user can still be an HP customer.
Clouds have a penchant for carrying a customer away from a vendor. Or at least a vendor's hardware. In the NYT story, "HP will have to rely less on revenue from selling hardware, and more on software and service contracts. 'Success will be a tight alignment of many parts of the company,' said Mr. Mickos. 'We have to figure out how to work together.' "
If you go back 24 years, you can find some roots of this HP desire on a stranded pleasure boat in the San Francisco harbor. But until the business critical HP iron stopped selling, the company never believed it would have to set a rapid course for services.
September 11, 2014
TBT: The things that we miss this season
This is the time of the year when we got to know each other better -- or for the first time. August and even September hosted annual conferences from Interex, yearly meetings that were an oasis of handshakes among the dusty flats of telephone calls or emails. We'd gather up a badge like one of these in my collection. I come from Depression-Era hoarders, so too much of this kind of thing still lingers on the shelves of my office.
Look, there's the trademark ribbon, colored to let an exhibitor know who was coming down an expo aisle. Often red for the press, because we were supposed to be the megaphones to the countless customers who couldn't come to chilly San Francisco (four times, on my tour of duty) glittery hot Las Vegas (where a waterpark hosted the signature party), or even the gritty streets of Detroit (scene of thefts from the expo floor, among other indignities. We pulled up to Cobo Hall there to see banners for Just Say No to Crack Day, with a phalanx of school busses parked outside. You can't make this stuff up.)
On my first annual conference trek, we took an artisanal booth to the basement expo hall of the Washington DC Hilton. This was an Interex with an HP founder as keynoter, but David Packard wasn't CEO at the time. He had worked in Washington as US Deputy Secretary of Defense while the 3000 was being created, a good post for someone who'd launched the most famous test instrument maker in the free world. (Yes, that's what we called it during the Cold War.) The HP Chronicle where first I edited 3000 stories had never taken a booth to a show before that week in September, and so we had one built out of 2x4s, birch panels, hinges and black carpet, so heavy it required a fork lift just to get it onto the concrete floor. That was the year we learned about the pro-grade booths you could check as luggage, instead of ship as trucked freight like a coffin.
Hey, there's a set of classic computer platform ID stickers, along the bottom of that '89 nametag. HP was calling its PC the Vectra at the time, another example of the company learning its way in the marketing lanes. You wore these to identify each other in a crowd, so you could talk about, say, the Series 100 HP Portable line. If somebody didn't have your sticker, you could move on. It was all about the conversations -- um, sort of in-person Facebook post or Twitter feed. Except what you said couldn't be repeated to 100 million people in the next minute.
There were ways to stand out, if you were inventive. Not necessarily like the buttons (Always Online! was the new 3000 News/Wire) or even the handsome pins (see one attached to the red ribbon of the HP World '96 badge.) You might have little wooden shoes pinned to a ribbon, so people would come by your Holland House software booth and pick up a pair for themselves. People gave away things at these events from glow in the dark yo-yos to chair massages to Polaroid snapshots that you posed for wearing headbands, flashing a peace sign in front of a '60s VW Bus.
The show in '96 was notable for being the first that didn't bear the user group's name (Interex had struck a deal to call its event HP World) and being the only conference with a football-field-sized publicity stunt. We'd just finished our first year of publication and decided to sponsor the lunch that was served to volunteers putting up the World's Largest Poster on an Anaheim high school field. The booster club served the lunch to the 3000 faithful; some took away a souvenir sunburn from walking on the white panels in Southern California's August.
There are still trade shows in HP's marketplace, but all of them are run by HP with user group help and speakers. The trade is in secrets as well as techniques and sales strategies. It's been nearly a decade, though, since a hurricane postponed a show -- and that wasn't the only annual meeting to face the wrath of a storm. That's what you risk when you meet in August and September, and your moveable feasts include stops along the Gulf of Mexico.
September 10, 2014
One Course to Sail a 3000 Into the Cloud
People in IT have come to understand the meanings and potential for the term cloud computing. But plenty of them don't trust it, according to a recent survey. Not with many mission-critical apps, anyway. Since HP 3000 managers have always had a belt-plus-suspenders approach to datacenter management, we'll bet that a great percentage of them are among the doubters about cloud security.
Remote instances of HP 3000s have been with the community as long as MPE could boot a server. But now, knowing which precise server will deliver an application isn't part of the cloud's design. Even as recently as this year, companies are getting by with 3000 computing by using a server located outside their site, sometimes even outside their state.
It's the state of cloud computing security that gives IT pros some pause. According to a study conducted this year by Unisys (remember their mainframes?) and IDG Research, more than 70 percent of 350 respondents feel security is the chief obstacle in cloud deployment. IT executives want to collect data about the security of data that's in the cloud.
The technology to put Linux instances into cloud computing is already available. And Linux is essential to installing the HPA version of CHARON from Stromasys. There's been no announcement of a cloud edition of the virtualization product. But Docker looks like tech that could help, according to our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster.
"Docker struck me as an easy mechanism to stand up Linux instances in the cloud -- any number of different clouds, actually," Edminster said. According to a Wiki article Edminster pointed at, Docker is based upon open source software, the sort of solution he's been tracking for MPE users for many years.
September 09, 2014
Remaining on Watch for HP Innovation
Earlier today Apple unveiled the descriptions and benefits of wearing a full functioning computer for the first time. Well, maybe not for the very first time. But for the first time in the modern era of computing, anyway. The Apple Watch defines the Tim Cook era at the company, and it will still need some tuning up through several generations. But this time around, the watch that breaks ground by riding on wrists won't need a stylus -- just an iPhone.
The instance of this is called the Apple Watch -- say goodbye to any new product lines being started with an "i" for now. A watch is not an enterprise computing tool, some will argue. But that was said about the iPhone, too -- a device that turned out to be a portable computer of breakthrough size. HP 3000 acolyte Wirt Atmar wrote a famous newsgroup post about the first iPhones, being like "beautiful cruise ships where the bathrooms don't work."
The Apple Watch, of course, won't be anywhere close to perfect on first release Early Next Year. People forget that the iPhone was a work in progress though most of its first year. That's a better track record than the HP 3000 had at first shipment, late in 1972. That system that's survived 40 years in a useful form -- 1974 marks the year when MPE and HP iron finally had an acceptible match -- got returned to HP in many instances.
The elder members of our 3000 community will recall the HP-01, a wristwatch that wanted to be a calculator at the same time. Nobody had considered wearing a calculator, and nobody had asked for a wearable one, either. But HP felt compelled to innovate out of its calculator genius factory in Corvallis, Oregon, and so a short-lived product, designed to satisfy engineers, made its way into HP lore in 1977.
"All of the integrated circuits and three discrete components for the oscillator are combined in a hybrid circuit on a five-layer ceramic substrate," said the article in the HP Journal, the every other month paper publication where engineers read about innovations, and the more technical customer was steered to see how Hewlett-Packard could deploy superior design. The problem was that it was 1977, and the company was sailing too far afield from its customers' desires with the HP-01. 1977 was a year when HP had scrabbled to come up with a Series II of the HP3000, a device more important to anyone who wanted to leave IBM batch computing behind and get more interactive. People who bought calculators had no concept of mobile computing. Even a luggable computer was still six years away.
But the HP-01 did accomplish one benefit for the HP customer, who even then was a consumer, of business products. It showed the company was ardent about the need to innovate. The HP Journal is long gone, and the heartbeat of the company feels like it runs through personal computers and miniaturization of internal parts that make more of a difference to manufacturing and product margins. Apple built an S1 processor that's "miniaturizing an entire computer system onto a single chip" to make the Apple Watch a reality, something like HP's five-layer hybrid circuit substrate of 1977.
Apple's had its share of innovative flops, too -- but the most recent one was from 2001, the PowerMac G4 cube. A breakthrough like this S1 that Apple claims is an industry first. HP's innovations these days are not getting the kind of uptake that you'll see from the Watch next year. Nobody tells a story about computer promise like Apple, right down to calling parts of its team "horological experts," and saying it with a straight face. In contrast, HP's Moonshot and the like are important to very large customers, but the small business innovation has been limited to fan-cooling technology. Not sexy enough to earn its own video with a spacey soundtrack.
Why care? One reason might be that HP's working to convince the world, its customers, and its investors that innovation is still embedded in its DNA. It takes more than slapping the word "Invent" under the logo. Innovation is hailed by the markets, not the engineers who designed it. Everything is a consumer product by now, since we're consuming computing as if it were a wristwatch.
September 08, 2014
Who else is still out there 3000 computing?
Employing an HP 3000 can seem as lonely as being the Maytag Repairman. He's the iconic advertising character who didn't see many customers because a Maytag washing machine was so reliable. HP 3000s have shown that reliability, and many are now in lock-down mode. Nothing will change on them unless absolutely necessary. There is less reason to reach out now and ask somebody a question.
And over the last month and into this one, there's no user conference to bring people together in person. Augusts and Septembers in the decades past always reminded you about the community and its numbers.
Send me a note if you're using a 3000 and would like the world to know about it. If knowing about it would help to generate some sales, then send it all the sooner.
But still today, there have been some check-ins and hand-raising coming from users out there. A few weeks back, Stan Sieler of Allegro invited the readers of the 3000-L newsgroup to make themselves known if they sell gifts for the upcoming shopping season. "As the holiday shopping season approaches," he said, "it occurred to me that it might be nice to have a list of companies that still use the HP 3000... so we could potentially consider doing business with them."
If September 9 seems too early to consider the December holidays, consider this: Any HP 3000 running a retail application, ecommerce or otherwise, has gone into Retail Lockdown by now. Transitions to other servers will have to wait until January for anybody who's not made the move.
Sieler offered up a few companies which he and his firm know about, where 3000s are still running and selling. See's Candies, Houdini Inc, and Wine Country Gift Baskets are doing commerce with gift consumers. We can add that Thompson Cigar out of Tampa is using HP 3000s, and it's got a smoking-hot gift of humidor packs. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Then there's American Musical Supply, which last year was looking for a COBOL programmer who has Ecometry/Escalate Retail experience.
Another sales location that could provide gifts for the holiday season is in airports. The duty free shops in some major terminals run applications on MPE systems. HMS Host shops, at least four of them, sell gifts using 3000s. Pretty much anything you'd buy in a duty free shop is a gift, for somebody including yourself.
September 05, 2014
How to make an HPSUSAN do virtual work
Out on the 3000-L newsgroup and mailing list, a 3000 user who's cloaked their identity as "false" asked about using HPSUSAN numbers while installing the CHARON emulator product from Stromasys. The question, and a few answers, were phrased in a tone of code that suggested there might be trouble from HP if an illicit number was used. HPSUSAN is a predefined variable on a 3000, one that's used to ensure software is not illegally replicated or moved to another system without the software vendor's consent.
People have been talking about HPSUSAN for decades by now, even as far back as the Toronto conference that produced the proceedings cover above. A 19-year-old paper from that meeting -- the last one which was not called HP World -- still has useful instructions on the utility of HPSUSAN. More on that in a moment, after we examine what HPSUSAN does today.
On the fully-featured edition of CHARON for the 3000, a current HP 3000's HPSUSAN number is required. Stromasys installs this number on a thumb drive, which is then plugged into the Intel-based server powering CHARON. There's a 36-hour grace period for using CHARON if that thumb drive malfunctions, or comes up missing, according to CHARON customer Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative.
But the HPSUSAN process and requirement is different for the freeware, A-202 model of CHARON that can be downloaded from the Stromasys website. As of this spring, users of this non-commercial/production model simply must enter any HPSUSAN number -- and affirm they have the right to use this number. Neither HP or Stromasys checks these freeware HPSUSAN numbers. That model of CHARON software isn't meant to replace any production 3000, or even a developer box.
The freeware situation and installing strategy all makes the newsgroup's answers more interesting. One consultant and 3000 manager suggested that a number from a Dell server would be just as binding as anything from a genuine Hewlett-Packard 3000 server.
September 04, 2014
TBT: Practical transition help via HP's files
10 years ago, at the final HP World conference, Hewlett-Packard was working with the Interex user group to educate 3000 users. The lesson in that 2004 conference room carried an HP direction: look away from that MPE/iX system you're managing, the vendor said, and face the transition which is upon you now.
And in that conference room in Atlanta, HP presented a snapshot to prove the customers wouldn't have to face that transition alone.
The meeting was nearly three years after HP laid out its plans for ceasing to build and support the 3000. Some migration was under way at last, but many companies were holding out for a better set of tools and options. HP's 3000 division manager Dave Wilde was glad to share the breadth of the partner community with the conference goers. The slide above is a Throwback, on this Thursday, to an era when MPE and 3000 vendors were considered partners in HP's strategy toward a fresh mission-critical future.
The companies along the top line of this screen of suppliers (click for a larger view) have dwindled to just one by the same name and with the same mission. These were HP's Platinum Migration partners. MB Foster remains on duty -- in the same place, even manning the phones at 800-ANSWERS as it has for decades -- to help transitions succeed, starting with assessment and moving toward implementations. Speedware has become Fresche Legacy, and now focuses on IBM customers and their AS/400 futures. MBS and Lund Performance Solutions are no longer in the transition-migration business.
Many of these companies are still in business, and some are still helping 3000 owners remain in business as well. ScreenJet still sells the tools and supplies the savvy needed to maintain and update legacy interfaces, as well as bring marvels of the past like Transact into the new century. Eloquence sells databases that stand in smoothly for IMAGE/SQL on non-3000 platforms. Robelle continues to sell its Suprtool database manager and its Qedit development tool. Suprtool works on Linux systems by now. Sure, this snapshot is a marketing tool, but it's also a kind of active-duty unit picture of when those who served were standing at attention. It was a lively brigade, your community, even years after HP announced its exit.
There are other partners who've done work on transitions -- either away from HP, or away from the 3000 -- who are not on this slide. Some of them had been in the market for more than a decade at the time, but they didn't fit into HP's picture of the future. You can find some represented on this blog, and in the pages of the Newswire's printed issues. Where is Pivital Solutions on this slide, for example, a company that was authorized to sell new 3000s as recently as just one year earlier?
HP probably needed more than one slide, even in 2004.
September 03, 2014
Moves to Windows open scheduler searches
Some HP 3000 sites are migrating from HP 3000s to Windows .NET systems and architecture. While there's one great advantage in development environment during such a transition -- nothing could be easier to hire than experts in Visual Studio, nee Visual Basic -- companies will have to find a scheduler, one with job handling powers of MPE/iX. Native Windows won't begin to match the 3000's strengths.
More than three years ago, MB Foster built a scheduler for Windows sites, and customers are sizing up this MBF Scheduler. There's even been interest from IT shops where a HP 3000 has never booted up. They are ofter users of the JDA Direct Commerce (formerly Ecometry-Escalate Retail) software on Windows servers. These companies never seen an MPE colon prompt, but some need that level of functionality to manage its jobs.
"If senior management has simply decided that Windows was the place to be," said CEO Birket Foster, "we could help automate the business processes -- by managing batch jobs in the regular day and month-end close, as well as handling Ecometry jobs and SQL Server jobs." Automating jobs makes a Windows IT shop manager more productive, like creating another set of hands to help team members. And for a 3000 shop making a transition, something like an independent job handler means they'll be able to stay on schedule with the expected level of productivity.
September 02, 2014
Archival presents prospects for CHARON
Five years ago this week we chronicled the story of Yosemite Community College, a 3000 site that fell to the Unix alternative hosted on then-Sun servers. The MPE apps at Yosemite were from a vendor who'd left the 3000 market, and so the college was doing its own app maintenance. There's a limit to how much of that which an IT department will perform. Eventually the pain of re-developing someone else's source code drives you into re-training and installling new datacenter mission-critical operations.
Edward Berner of Yosemite couldn't hold out, even though he said as far back as 2006 he could use such an emulator product. He was planning, back in 2009, to rent a 3000 for archival purposes.
Fortunately (for the college, but unfortunately for the emulator companies) we've finally managed to retire our HP 3000. I'll start advocating that we sell the hardware to a vendor or something. After that we can rent a system, or use a service if we need to refer to something from our backup tapes.
But we're hearing from 3000 sites which are in archival mode with their 3000s, and several such customers have been installing and evaluating the Stomasys emulator CHARON.
An emulator wouldn't have kept MPE/iX and those applications in production use at Yosemite. "Our main use for an emulator would have been for running the HP 3000 software for a couple years after the migration was mostly done, for historical data and while the last few stray things were migrated," Berner said. "The attraction being that a 1- or 2-processor Intel system is a lot smaller than a 979 -- and the HP 3000 A Series always seemed too expensive to me."
At the University of Washington Medical Center, an HP 3000 has been in archival mode for more than three years. Computer Services Coordinator Deane Bell said the archival system might be in place for a total of 10 years. Given enough time, emulator providers usually catch up to and then lap the used hardware markets. Nobody's forecasting that the UW shop is buying CHARON. But around 2017, it might look better than a well-used Series 900 -- or even a by-then 14-year-old A-Class.
August 29, 2014
Finding the Labor Your 3000 Site Needs
Homesteading on the HP 3000 — whether it's the bridge until migration, archival operation where little changes except backup tapes, or unlimited future-style — takes labor to maintain. Labor is on our minds here at the NewsWire this weekend, when much of the US has taken a few days off from the office or away from the computer keyboard to celebrate the American labor movement.
We're taking those days off, too. And we'll be back on Sept. 2, like a lot of you with work to do. There's a printed issue for the Fall for me to edit and write for, after all. We're flying in the face of advice that says it's a ticking clock to produce paper based information. We're betting you still count yourself as a pro who knows the movement to digital is not yet complete. When we started the NewsWire, we flew in the face of advice that said, 19 years ago, there was little future for the MPE user.
Your community has been experiencing that much movement, so any tools to track the travels of skilled 3000 pros can be useful. Let me recommend LinkedIn once again. The HP 3000 Community Group at the website -- and LinkedIn has started to specialize in finding people prospects for work -- well, the 3000 group began with a couple of questions that can still kickstart discussions. Again, the LinkedIn advantage is connecting to pros to share with specific work experience details, plus the chance to draw on others' networks through introductions.
Anybody can join for free. Since I launched the HP 3000 group in 2008, we've added 600 members in the group, and there are many others in the LinkedIn network with 3000 experience. Michael Boritz commented on our Group question back at the beginning about who's doing what with the HP 3000 these days.
I’m still working on the 3000. I’ve been working on 3000s since the 1980s, at J.D. Abrams at that time. Since leaving JDA, I worked at Tivoli in Austin (i.e., Unison-Tymlabs) for a couple of years. Since then, I have moved four times — all for new HP 3000 positions.
August 28, 2014
TBT: Days of HP's elite software outlook
At the end of August of 1983, Hewlett-Packard mailed out a 92-page brochure that showed HP 3000 owners where to get the software they didn't want to create themselves. The Hewlett-Packard Business Software Guide covered the options for both the HP 3000 and the just-launching HP 250. The latter was a system that would sit on a large desktop, run software written for its BASIC operating system, and receive just six pages of specific notice out of the 90-plus in the HP sales guide.
What's interesting about this document -- apart from the fact that nearly all those photos have people in them -- is that HP's own programming development software and application tools are listed first in these pages. And in that order, too; owners of a system in 1983 seemed more likely to need software to create the bespoke applications so common in a system of 31 years ago. Applications from HP were always pushed before anything without the Hewlett-Packard brand.
But as I paged a bit deeper into this Throwback Thursday treasure, I found the genuine vitality that sold 10,000 of these minicomputers in less than 10 years' time: Third-party software, both in tools and in applications. HP made a distinction in this giveaway document for these programs, which they called HP PLUS software. A product could be Listed, or Referenced. But to get more information on either one of them, HP expected you to purchase a catalog with a lot more detail.
Not only was it an era without a Web, but these were the days when you'd pay for paper just to have a complete list of things you might purchase. The biggest issue was "will this run on my system?" That, and whether it really existed.
August 27, 2014
A Virtual Legacy from the Past to the Future
VMworld 2014 wrapped up this week, with more than 25,000 IT pros and suppliers attending the San Francisco conference. Although the show was wrapped entirely around the VMware offerings -- and few other genuinely available products look to the future as much as the virtual machine vendor's -- there's also a legacy story to be told. As it turned out, that story was a message that virtualized 3000 vendor Stromays got to share.
West Coast sales manager Doug Smith, a 3000 veteran from the enterprise resource planning world, checked in on his way out of the Bay Area to report on the proximity between decades-old MPE/iX and just-days-old VMWare innovations like the enterprise cloud vCloud Air. VMware is offering the first month of vCloud Air free.
"VMWorld is a lot of people looking forward," he said, "and we're pulling people back, out of the past. It was great to see those little guys walking by and knowing what MPE, VMS and Alpha means. People were looking up and saying, 'Oh yeah, I've got one of those HP 3000s in my datacenter.' It was a sight to see."
The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 runs on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, operating inside a Linux cradle. But plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work. But ample server horsepower is a recommended spec for using a VMware-CHARON combo.
August 26, 2014
See how perl's strings still swing for MPE
The HP 3000 has a healthy range of open source tools in its ecosystem. One of the best ways to begin looking at open source software opportunity is to visit the MPE Open Source website operated by Applied Technologies. If you're keeping a 3000 in vital service during the post-HP era, you might find perl a useful tool for interfacing with data via web access.
The 3000 community has chronicled and documented the use of this programming language, with the advice coming from some of the best pedigreed sources. Allegro Consultants has a tar-ball of the compiler, available as a 38MB download from Allegro's website. (You'll find many other useful papers and tools at that Allegro Papers and Books webpage, too.)
Bob Green of Robelle wrote a great primer on the use of perl in the MPE/iX environment. We were fortunate to be the first to publish Bob's paper, run in the 3000 NewsWire when the Robelle Tech long-running column made a hit on our paper pages.
You could grab a little love for your 3000, too. Cast a string of perls starting with the downloads and advice. One of HP's best and brightest -- well, a former HP wizard -- has a detailed slide set on perl, too.
August 25, 2014
Shopping While Lines are Dropping
HP's third quarter financial report showed that a company making adequate profits can also be making products that are not popular any more. The time comes to every product line, but the Hewlett-Packard of 2014 has made steady progress toward commodity-style enterprise computing. The pull into Windows has become a vortex -- and in a bit of irony, Windows' age helped HP's sales this quarter.
The overall numbers were impressive to the markets. Investors lifted the price of HP's stock more than $2 a share, after the briefing, sending it closer to $40 than it's been in years. Meanwhile, the continued downturn of Business Critical Systems scarcely earned a minute's mention. It's off 18 percent from the same 2013 quarter. But it gets less than a minute because BCS products like the HP Unix line, and VMS computing systems -- even the steady but meager business of NonStop -- only comprise 3 percent of the company's enterprise sales. In the circle above, BCS is the rounding error, the most slender slice. Click it to see a bigger picture of that smallest piece.
And Enterprise represents just one dollar out of every four that HP earns in sales. This is activity in the Industry Standard Systems. These are the ProLiant servers driving Windows and Linux, business that grew 9 percent. Specialized operating environments like HP-UX just aren't producing new business, and they're losing old customers. If you look over the last three years of Q3 numbers, each and every one shows a double-digit BCS decline. There's only so much clock time on that product wall before irrelevancy pushes a community off HP's futures map. It happened to the HP 3000, but MPE never ruled over HP business computing like Unix once did.
"When I look at the way the business is performing, the pipeline of innovation and the daily feedback that I receive from our customers and partners, my confidence in the turnaround grows stronger." -- Meg Whitman, CEO
So when HP's business in your installed platform shows poor numbers, what do you do? The rest of the company's report looked tame, although you'd wonder why anyone could be sanguine about the future of the company. Printing, Services, Software and Financial Services all dropped their sales top lines. The Enterprise Group grew its business 2 percent overall on a $27.5 billion HP sales quarter. This was accomplished by $57 million of expense cuts.
Only PC sales grew along with enterprise business. How can a company reporting a 27 percent drop in profits, one that missed its forecast by more than 10 percent, be rewarded on the trading floor? Jim Cramer of MSNBC said there's just enough to like about HP now. That might be due to the history the company has turned back. Everybody on the trading floor remembers HPQ at $12 a share with a fired CEO having followed an ousted CEO. Historic lows are a faded memory now, although the company's gotten no bigger over that stretch of clock time. The good feelings come from a turnaround tale that's still in the middle of its story.
August 22, 2014
30 years ago, 1984 seemed like news
I've been writing about my own experiences of the year 1984, since this has been the week that marks my 30th anniversary of my technical journalism career. It was the era of personal 1200 baud modems manufactured by US Robotics, now owned by PowerHouse's parent company Unicom Global. It was a time when HP's PC, the Touchscreen 150, operated using a variant of CPM -- the alternative to MS-DOS that lost like Betamax lost to VHS. It was a year when HP's worldwide software engineering manager Marc Hoff announced that 1,783 new products would enter HP's price list on April 1, products ranging from less-expensive software to "application-experienced CEs" called CSRs.
HP's new PICS phone support centers in California and Georgia each operated from 8 AM to 6 PM, giving the customers a whole 13 hours a day of call-in "toll-free" support in the US. It was an era when toll-free mattered, too, and to save money in your DP shop (we didn't call it IT) you could read a column on how to make your own RS-232 cables for the HP 3000, based on instructions from the Black Box Catalog. The HP 3000 could output graphics to magnetic tape, files that could be passed to a service bureau to create 35mm slides for your Kodak Carousel projector for those important boardroom meetings. But there are stories that 3000 community members have shared about that year, too. Here's a sample of some.
Alan Yeo, ScreenJet founder - In 1984 I had just gone freelance for a contract paying “Great Money” and spent the whole year on a Huge Transact Project. Actually it was the rescue of a Huge Transact Project, one that had taken two elapsed and probably 25 man-years and at that point was about 10 percent working. A couple of us were brought in on contract to turn it around. We did, and we used to joke that we were like a couple of Samurai Coders brought in to Slash and Burn all before us. (I think Richard Chamberlin may have just starred in the hit TV epic Samurai at that time.)
We were working on a Series 70, configured as the biggest 3000 in our region of the UK (apart from the one at HP itself). We used to have lots of HP SEs in and out to visit -- not because it was broken but just to show it to other customers. That was the year we started hearing rumors of PA-RISC and the new “Spectrum” HP 3000s. It unfortunately took a few more years for them to hit the streets.
I have lots of good memories of HP SEs from that time. HP employed some of the best people, and a lot of them were a great mix between Hardware Engineers, Software Engineers and Application Engineers. Great people to work with who sort of espoused the HP Way, and really made you want to be associated with HP. Where did they go wrong?
Brian Edminster, Applied Technologies founder -- As you've said, bespoke software was the meat and potatoes of the early 3000 market. I still believe that a custom software application package can be warranted -- as long as it gives your business a competitive edge. The trick is to make sure the edge is large enough to justify the expense of having something that's not Commercial Off the Shelf.
August 21, 2014
TBT 1984: The Days of Beauty and Wonder
When I arrived in the HP 3000 world, three decades ago this week, spreading the word about DP was supposed to be an attractive effort. We brought the workmanlike, newsprint-with-staples Chronicle into a marketplace where the leader was a slick-papered, four-color magazine bound like a book and produced as if it were a high-end design assignment.
In a Throwback Thursday covering the week my career started, the covers of Interact look like concept art. Much of what was inside was black and white with line drawings at best. But the outsides and even the big ads on the inside told the story of presentation in '84 style: focus on the beauty of the concept, and tout the details of the wonders of features. And some advertisers reached for the same level of art in their messages. Adager's ads often ran with little except a picture of the tape that carried the software, set in a mountain landscape or like the above, converted to a globe.
How else but with high concept could you make a full page of copy about a terminal that only worked with HP 3000s? There was a story in the HP ad, well-written, but like almost every other page of the user group's magazine, it was bereft of images of people.
The DP workers in these ads look flummoxed and beaten much of the time, because they don't have the invention of the year that will making using their 3000 the value it was promised to be. Some of the magic of the day included HP's Dictionary/3000, designed to eliminate the tedious writing of COBOL Identification Divisions. A cartoon depicts those who still perform this task as cave dwellers. Meanwhile, the wonders of fourth generation languages were touted as if these would soon become as universal as anything such as COBOL. Technically that would have made things like these 4GLs third generation languages. One of the things that made COBOL universal was that everybody knew it and you could find it running anywhere.
August 20, 2014
Small office — but a modest, social market
The building in Austin, Texas wasn't even devoted to the newspaper entirely. Off in the northern side, the single-story offices housed a insurance company and an optician. The beginnings of the HP Chronicle matched the position of the HP 3000 in 1984. It was not the most significant tenant in the Hewlett-Packard building of products. It was never the biggest earner on the HP ledger. It was just the most social office of the HP structure. People built events and associations around it.
HP closed out its fiscal 1984 a couple months after I arrived in the offices of the Chronicle. We were so cautious that we didn't even include "HP" in the publication name at first, because we were not welcomed at that year's Interex user group conference. I heard about the argument on the show floor, where it was plain we'd started a publication to compete with the user group. They'd cashed the check, said the publisher John Wilson. They had to let us in. But seeing that resistance, nobody was going to make us change our name in that kind of environment. Leave the HP off the front page.
It never occured to us to make a big story out of the annual HP numbers which were reported in mid-November. HP wasn't a sexy stock (trading in the mid $40s, with good profits) and its board of directors was full of technical expertise and HP management experience. John Young, the company's CEO on the August day I began, was not the chairman. That job was in the hands of one of the company founders, David Packard. His partner Bill Hewlett was vice-chairman. HP management moves didn't involve mergers or acquisitions as the splashy plays of today. The photo of the HP Touchscreen connected to a 3000 at left was one of just four in the annual report with a person in it. This was still a company that knew how to connect with customers, but struggled to sell its story about people.
There was a full range of things which the 1984 Hewlett-Packard was not. One of them was an adept player at being in a partnership. The Not Invented Here syndrome was in full throat on the day I arrived and looked at the PC 2622 box atop that PC monitor. Walker, Richer & Quinn was selling an alternative to HP's hardware. Within a few years HP would be launching a product to compete with WRQ, Advancelink. Because HP believed that every dollar, from supplies to support, had its best chance to help the company if it were on the HP ledger.
Computer-related sales made up the biggest share of the $6.1 billion that HP posted 30 years ago, but test and measurement systems were not far behind. $3.2 billion for computers, $2.2 billion for test gear. The latter was the best-known product for the company, as the Silicon Valley's hardware engineers were likely to have HP measurement products in their development labs. Test and Measurement was also more profitable than computers. Used in hospitals, medical labs, research facilities -- this was the business that started the company, and it was still the major driver in profitability, with strong sales.
Test and measurement was also completely outside my beat, thank goodness. But that didn't mean I only had the HP 3000 to learn. The Chronicle covered HP 1000 real-time systems and HP 9000 engineering computers, but mostly because our California competitors at Interex did so. The serious ad revenue came from the most social side of HP's $3.2 billion: business computers, charting the lives of companies and their employees. But even a chart off an HP business computer had a radical distinction from today. It used six pens to make its appearance.
August 19, 2014
What Changed Over 30 Years: Bespoke
I arrived here in the community of my career when gas was $1.15 a gallon in the US, the Dow was at 1,200, a new truck sold for $8,995, the Cold War Olympics featured no Soviet atheletes in LA, and Stevie Wonder had a top hit on the record charts. Because there were still records being sold for pop hits, along with cassettes. Nary a CD could be bought. The Mac was brand new and still didn't sport a hard drive. Those fellows to the right were right in style with warm-up suits that you're likely to see in a senior's happy hour cafeteria line today.
There were thousands of applications in the Hewlett-Packard software catalog of 1984. It wasn't a new idea to collate and curate them, either. MB Foster had one of the first compendiums of HP 3000 software, several years before it occured to HP to offer products the vendor did not make (or buy up, then sell back). But in the month when I entered this market, during that August you were at least as likely to find custom, bespoke software running a corporation as any Commercial Off The Shelf package.
People built what they needed. The bespoken software was often created with the help of fourth generation langauges, so Speedware and Cognos' Powerhouse were big players during 1984. Not the biggest of the 3000 vendors, in terms of customer size. Unless you counted several thousand MANMAN sites, all running the Quiz reporting tools that ASK Computer included with the MRP package. Back in those says, Enterprise Resource Planning hadn't been conceived.
Because so much of the community's software was customized, being well-versed in IMAGE/3000 -- not yet TurboIMAGE, let alone IMAGE/SQL -- was a key skill. Mastery of the database was more attainable if you had a database management utility. Adager was most widely installed, with Bradmark just getting off the ground in 1984. I nearly crashed my reputation with Adager and co-founder Alfredo Rego, less than a month after I began my career in the community.
The problem was a lack of MPE and IMAGE experience. Since I didn't understand the technology first-hand, I felt compelled to contribute to the effort of the HP Chronicle. Not by writing an article, but instead closely red-pen editing the writing of Rego. I didn't know yet that anything he shared with a publication -- his technical treatise was a big win for us at the HP Chronicle -- had already been polished and optimized. A writer well-steeped in mastery of his subject can insist an article be published with no changes. In the publishing business, stet means to ignore a change. I'd have been helped if someone had grabbed my inked-up printout of Rego's paper and marked "stet all changes" on the front. He had a legitimate beef.
Instead, we ran it and then I got to enjoy a rare thrill -- having my corrections corrected by the author, live in front of a local user group audience. Writers forming the troika of big independent vendors -- Bob Green at Robelle, Eugene Volokh at VEsoft, and Rego -- certainly had earned stet-all-changes. Their software became crucial in managing a 3000 that was gasping for new horsepower. Creating and maintaining customized software was a popular way to get the most out of the six-figure HP 3000s, already at the end of the line at the top but still more than two years away from getting a refresh.
August 18, 2014
This Is Where I Came In
It's the third week of August, but it's 30 years ago. I wear my wide tie and my oxfords to an office in Austin's northwest tech territory and start to write and learn about the HP 3000. I'm 27, father of a boy not yet two, a community news reporter with a new community to creep into -- because that's how it's done when you don't know anyone or much of anything. You ask a lot of questions and try to understand the answers.
The office is ribbed with wood paneling and mini-blinds and sports an IBM-PC knockoff, a Columbia. It's got an amber display and no hard drive. A box with the manual for Walker, Richer & Quinn's PC2622 software is on top of that monitor. It's connected for something called time-sharing, and it also connects to something called Compuserve. I watch my boss dial up on a phone with a modem -- I knew about those from using an Apple II at home -- and read the news. None of it's about HP, though. That's our story to tell.
Inside my editor's office there's a telephone transcription machine for recorded interviews, plus a Kaypro II portable. It weighs 28 pounds and has a screen that's nine inches across. Imagine two Samsung Galaxy phones side by side, and that's about it. There are two books on the shelf, both printed by Hewlett-Packard. One is a catalog of third-party software and specialized hardware, all written in something called MPE V for a computer people are wild about, the HP 3000. The other book is a listing of the phone number of everyone in HP's Bay Area campuses. HP is not yet selling $7 billion of gear, support or software in 1984 -- and that includes medical and measurement systems that are so much better known than its computer products.
In my first week of a career writing about HP, one of the first things that I learn is that we've been scooped. The latest HP 3000, a real ground-breaker, is already in the pages of Interact magazine. The user group Interex has won again, because being physically near those HP Bay Area offices makes a difference. There's nobody on our staff or theirs who wrote news for newspapers, though, not until this week. It's the only chance we've got to learn something first: Get on that phone, son.
Read "This Is Where I Came In" in full
August 15, 2014
The 3000's got network printing, so use it
Ten years ago this summer, HP's 3000 lab engineers were told that 3000 users wanted networked printing. By 2005 it was ready for beta testing. This was one of the last enhancements demanded as Number 1 by a wide swath of the 3000 community, and then delivered by HP. The venerable Systems Improvement Ballot of 2004 ranked networked printing No. 1 among users' needs.
MPEMXU1A is the patch that enables networked printing, pushed into General Release in Fall, 2005. In releasing this patch's functionality, HP gave the community a rather generic, OS-level substitute for much better third party software from RAC Consulting (ESPUL). It might have been the last time that an independent software tool got nudged by HP development.
The HP 3000 has the ability to send jobs to non-HP printers over a standard network as a result of the enhancement. The RAC third party package ties printers to 3000 with fewer blind spots than the MPEMXU1A patch. HP's offering won't let Windows-hosted printers participate in the 3000 network printing enhancement. There's a Windows-only, server-based net printing driver by now, of course, downloadable from the Web. The HP Universal Print Driver Series for Windows embraces Windows Server 2012, 2008, and 2003.
Networked printing for MPE/iX had the last classic lifespan that we can recall for a 3000 enhancement. The engineering was ready to test less than a year after the request. This software moved out of beta test by November, a relatively brief five-month jaunt to general release. If you're homesteading on 3000s, and you don't need PCL sequences at the beginning and end of a spool file, you should use it. Commemorate the era when the system's creator was at least building best-effort improvements.
August 14, 2014
TBT: Affordable IT in Acquisition Aftermath
There it is, in all of its comfy, trustworthy glory: The only two-page spread advertisement HP ever bought to promote the HP 3000. From a 1998 issue of Computerworld, it's a ThrowBack Thursday entry, from an era when the 3000 was battling for prime position in datacenters. (Click it to have a closer look.) Harry Sterling was the general manager of the 3000 group by that year. Serious business.
As part of another ad series, Terry Simpkins, now the Business Systems Director of Measurement Specialties Inc., testified to the value of running HP 3000 ERP systems. At the time MANMAN was owned by Computer Associates, who'd dubbed the software's owner the MK Group. (Click to have a closer look at his testimony.)
Now comes word that Simpkins' current company -- probably one of the single largest users of MANMAN -- has been purchased. An acquisition can be a trigger for change. Some HP 3000s have been decommissioned as a result of running a company which now must march in a new corporate file.
It may not be so at MSI. We've heard through the MANMAN support network that TE Connectivity Ltd., which will own MSI perhaps as early as next month, was impressed by the low costs of operating more than 10 separate ERP installations around the world. MSI was purchased for $1.4 billion, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
There have been some instances in the system's past where the HP 3000 edged out other mid-size enterprise platforms during a merger. AS/400s got replaced in one case. At MSI, the system is running manufacturing for a company that is moving into stronger business.
August 13, 2014
When a taxing situation might shuffle plans
Out in the 3000 community some select customers are seeing subpoenas. According to a source familiar with the matter, a vendor's been having some issues with the Internal Revenue Service, and the US Government is intent on gathering what it believes it's owed.
Tax matters go to subpoena when information is being demanded in a case against a corporation or an individual. We're still seeking confirmation of the information about which vendor's name is now out among its customers, attached to a subpoena. [Update: And we have gotten it, plus a copy of the vendor's response. It's a long-term battle with the IRS, the vendor says. We've found documents going back more than 15 years. They claim that the fight is personal, not related to their company. Nonetheless, the vendor's customers got subpoenas.]
It illustrates the unpredictable nature of doing long-term business in the IT industry. HP 3000 users often do long-term business. They have a reputation for sticking to suppliers, especially in these days when companies are shifting focus away from MPE. When you get a tool that works, and a company that pledges to support it, you stick with it while you stay with the 3000.
"What do I do if they go out of business?" one of the customers has asked. The answer is simple enough: the products will go onto the open market to be purchased as assets. Software with customers who pay support fees, well, that's likely to be bought up sooner than later. An IT manager will have to manage new product ownership -- and perhaps new strategy and roadmaps for the product.
But just because there's change at the top of a product's ownership doesn't mean all else changes. It's pretty easy for a company to acquire a product and change little. Especially if the customer base is providing a profit to the vendor at the same time that the software continues to earn support contract renewals.
August 12, 2014
Where a Roadmap Can Lead You
In preparation for its upcoming VMS Boot Camp, Hewlett-Packard has removed some elements of its roadmap for the operating environment. What's disappeared are no small thing: dates.
HP 3000 customers saw their roadmap get less certain about its destination. At the end of the vendor's interest in selling and creating more systems, an elaborate PowerPoint slide showing multiple levels of servers. The roadmap actually got a cloud creeping in from the right hand margin.
Okay, that was 13 years ago this very month in Chicago. But it was not the last HP World conference -- that would be one decade ago, this month -- not any more than next month's Boot Camp for VMS enthusiasts and customers will be the last. But there have been times when VMS had promises from HP's management of another decade of service. Here's the before, and the after.
Very few products last for lifetimes. Knowing when they're going, and how soon to make plans for replacement, is serious business for an IT manager.
During an August in 2001 when the future looked certain and solid for some customers, a PowerPoint slide told more than could be easily read in Chicago for HP 3000 customers. For the record, the slide below delivered everything promised up until 2003. The PA-8800 never made an entry into the N-Class.
That would be known, in the roadmap parlance, as a PA-8xxx. The PA-8yyy (8900) never made it into a 3000, either.
Roadmaps might be an old tradition, but they're moments to establish and renew trust in a partner. Specific, and follow-through, make that possible. Some VMS customers are already underway with their migration assessments.
August 11, 2014
Classic lines push homestead tech designs
Sometime this week I expect to be updated on the latest restructure at Stromasys. That's the company that has created a 3000 hardware-virtualization product installed in more sites than we first thought. They hold their cards close to the vest at Stromasys, especially about new installs. But we keep running into MPE support vendors who mention they have emulator-using clients. These companies are reticent about reporting on emulation.
3000 people have dreamed about emulators ever since 2002. And for the next eight years, people figured emulation wouldn’t matter by the time HP approved MPE emulator licensing. Better not tell that to the customers who have plans to go deep into the second decade of the 21st century with their 3000. Emulation was rolling by 2012 for the 3000. Within a couple of years between now and 2023, that technology could be well polished for MPE. Enough to stop using HP's 3000 hardware, boxes that will be at least 20 years old by that time. Most of them are at least 15 years old right now.
A great deal of time has passed since the 9x9 3000s had their coming-out, but much has changed that we couldn't predict back then. Come with me to the magical year of 1997. We had little idea what we'd see in just 10 years' time.
It’s 1997. (Humor me a minute, and turn back the year.) You're here? Okay, think about what we don’t have yet. Google. BluRay. DVDs, for that matter. Hybrid cars. Portable MP3 players of any kind. PayPal. Amazon turning a profit. YouTube. eBay was so new it was called AuctionWeb. Thumb drives. Digital TV. Viagra. Caller ID. Smartphones, warmed baby wipes, online banking, Facebook and Twitter. Blade servers, cloud computing, Linux, virtualization — the list of technologies and designs we didn’t have 17 years ago is vast.
We don’t even have to talk about clouds, tablet computers or 3D TVs. Now, roll ahead to 2023. In that year, there will still an HP 3000 running a factory in Oklahoma. That’s the plan for Ametek’s Chandler Engineering unit. By that year MPE will be 50 years old, COBOL more than 75. And what will keep those two technologies viable? Well, probably technology that we don’t even have out of design now, nine years ahead of that shutdown date. People have been throwing rocks at old stuff for years, but it hangs on if it’s built well.
August 08, 2014
Classic Advice: Adding a DLT to an HP 3000
I'm trying to add a DLT to a my HP 3000 939KS and it keeps reporting media as bad. I can FCOPY but not run an Orbit or MPE store. It does mount the tape normally. The MPE store gives the following error:
STORE ENCOUNTERED MEDIA WRITE ERROR ON LDEV 9 (S/R 1454)
SPECIFICALLY, STORE RECEIVED ERROR -48 FROM THE IO SYSTEM (S/R 1557).
The server which this drive is being added to has DDS-3s on it, but we are adding another disk array, so we are going to outgrow what we have very quickly.
DLT8000s have not been manufactured in perhaps 10 years. Even five-year-old drives are SDLTII or DLT VS160, or some form of LTO. Also, using HVD-SCSI is so last century. At any rate, the heads on the DLT drives do get used up depending on the media used. Try another DLT drive, if possible.
Unfortunately, this is the exact issue facing homesteaders and others who are delaying their migration off the HP 3000, especially if they have pre-PCI machines like the 939. The hardware to run with it can be difficult to find, but it's out there, although it can be of varying level of readiness. You have many options open to you, but as time goes by they will more difficult to implement.
August 07, 2014
Who's got our history, and our future?
Migration takes on many problems and tries to solve them. A vendor stops supporting the server. Investing in a vendor's current product by migrating makes that go away. Applications slide into disrepair, and nobody knows how to re-develop them. Ah, that's a different sort of problem, one that demands a change in people, rather than products.
Yesterday we heard a story of a company in Ohio, running a 3000, whose IT manager planned to retire rather than migrate. Telling top management about your retirement plans is not mandatory. Frankly, having an option to retire is a special situation in our modern era. Figuring that you could be replaced, along with all of your in-company experience and know-how about things like COBOL, is far from certain. Legacy systems still run much of the world, but the people who built and tend to them are growing older, out of the workforce.
It's a glorious thing, knowing that your server's environment was first crafted four decades ago. Some of the brightest players from that era are still around, though not much active. Fred White built IMAGE, alongside Jon Bale at HP. Neither are at work today. Fred's now 90, as of April.
In another example of a seasoned 3000 expert, Ken Nutsford's LinkedIn account reports that he celebrates 45 years at Computometric Systems, the development company he founded with his wife Jeanette. In a Throwback Thursday entry, here they are, 10 years ago and now, still together. Not all of us wear so well, but they've retired enough to have travelled the world over, several times, on cruise ships. That's what more than 40 years will earn you.
It's been a decade since there's been a HP World conference like the one pictured at left, hosted by the Nutsfords, complete with a hospitality buffet as well as a board of trivia (below, click for detail) technical details that just a tiny set of experts might know. The number of people who know the operating system and the hardware at hand at that level has been on the decline. Not just in the MPE world, but throughout the computer industry.
BusinessWeek recently ran an article titled, "Who'll keep your 50 year old software running?" Even though the Nutsfords retired from leading SIGCOBOL in 2004, there's plenty of COBOL around. But not anywhere near enough people to maintain it, although companies continue to try.
The baby boomers that brought us the computer revolution, developing the products and programs we now rely on, are retiring. But many companies are still using programs written in such software languages as COBOL and Fortran that were considered “cutting edge” 50 years ago. Indeed, the trade publication Computerworld has reported that more than half of the companies they surveyed are still developing new COBOL programs
"Staffing is the first thing to go these days," said Birket Foster in a Webinar briefing this week. His MB Foster company is still doing migrations, including moving a Unix customer off the Progress database and onto SQL Server. Progress is a youngster compared to COBOL and IMAGE. Some people decide to migrate because of the migration of their most expert people.
August 06, 2014
Password advice for migrating managers
More than a billion password-ID combos were stolen by a Russian gang, according to a report from a cybersecurity company. Mission-critical, revenue-centric passwords are probably the ripest targets.
Once you're making a migration of mission-critical systems from MPE to more-exposed servers, passwords will become a more intense study for you. Windows-based servers are the most exposed targets, so a migrated manager needs to know how to create high-caliber passwords and protect them. Given the headlines in current news, today's probably the day when you'll get more questions about how safe your systems are -- especially in the coming era of cloud computing. Here's some answers from our security expert Steve Hardwick.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
Everything needs a password to access it. One of the side effects of the cloud is the need to be able to separate information from the various users that access a centrally located service. In the case where I have data on my laptop or desktop, I can create one single password that controls access to all of the apps that reside on the drive, plus all of the associated data. There is a one to one physical relationship between the owner and the physical machine that hosts the information. This allows a simpler mechanism to validate the user.
In the cloud world it is not as easy. There is no longer a physical relationship with the user. In fact, a user may be accessing several different physical locations when running applications or accessing information. This has lead to a dramatic increase in the number of passwords and authentication methods that are in use.
I just did a count of my usernames and passwords and I have 37 different accounts (most with unique usernames and password). Plus, there are several sites where I use the same usernames and password combinations. You may ask why are some unique and why are some shared. The answer is based on the risk of a username or password be compromised. If I consider an account to have a high value, high degree of loss/impact if hacked, then it gets a unique username or password. Let's look at email accounts as a good example.
August 05, 2014
Boot Camper laying down migration steps
More than a decade after HP began its migration away from MPE and HP 3000, there's another underway among the vendor's enterprise systems. OpenVMS customers are starting to look into what's needed to make a transition off the Digital servers. HP's announced that it will curtail the use of the newest VMS to the very latest generation of hardware. Thousands of servers are going to be stuck on an older OpenVMS.
That will be one element to spark the offers at next month's VMS Boot Camp in Bedford, Mass. We heard from a veteran HP 3000 and MPE developer, Denys Beauchemin, that his company is headed to the Boot Camp for the first time this year. There's engagements and consulting to be made in moving HP enterprise users to less HP-specific environments.
"We migrate them from VMS to Linux or other platforms," said Beauchemin, who was the last working chairman at the Interex user group before the organization went dark in 2005. "Another HP operating system comes to an end."
Boot Camp is a VMS tradition among HP's most-loyal general purpose computing community. (You can't call the 3000 community HP's any longer, now that the vendor is coming up on seven years without a working lab.) Boot Camps in the past were annual meetings to advance the science and solutions around VMS. But in more recent times they haven't been annual. Now there's migration advice on hand for the attendees. Some may view it with disdain, but when a vendor sends up signals of the end of its interest, some kinds of companies make plans right away to migrate.