June 17, 2015
Passwords, MPE, and Security Flaws
Editor's note: in the past 24 hours the world has faced another breach of the LastPass security database, putting hundreds of thousands of passwords at risk. LastPass assures all of its users their passwords are secure after the breach — but change your master password anyway, they add. This makes it a good time to revisit security practices as they relate to the HP 3000 (thanks to Vesoft's Eugene Volokh) as well as our resident security expert Steve Hardwick. Sound advice stays fresh.
More than 30 years ago, VEsoft's Eugene Volokh chronicled the fundamentals of security for 3000 owners trying to protect passwords and user IDs. Much of that access hasn't changed at all, and the 3000's security by obscurity has helped it evade things like Denial of Service attacks, routinely reported and then plugged for today's Unix-based systems. Consider these 3000 fundamentals from Eugene's Burn Before Reading, hosted on the Adager website.
Logon security is probably the most important component of your security fence. This is because many of the subsequent security devices (e.g. file security) use information that is established at logon time, such as user ID and account name. Thus, we must not only forbid unauthorized users from logging on, but must also ensure that even an authorized user can only log on to his user ID.
If one and only one user is allowed to use a particular use ID, he may be asked to enter some personal information (his mother's maiden name?) when he is initially added to the system, and then be asked that question (or one of a number of such personal questions) every time he logs on. This general method of determining a user's authorizations by what he knows we will call "knowledge security."
Unfortunately, the knowledge security approach, although one of the best available, has one major flaw -- unlike fingerprints, information is easily transferred, be it revealed voluntarily or involuntarily; thus, someone who is not authorized to use a particular user id may nonetheless find out the user's password. You may say: "Well, we change the passwords every month, so that's not a problem." The very fact that you have to change the passwords every month means that they tend to get out through the grapevine! A good security system does not need to be redone every month, especially since that would mean that -- at least toward the end of the month -- the system is already rather shaky and subject to penetration.
There's a broader range of techniques to store passwords securely, especially important for the 3000 owner who's moving to more popular, less secured IT like cloud computing. We've asked a security pro who manages the pre-payment systems at Oxygen Financial to share these practices for that woolier world out there beyond MPE and the 3000.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
There has been a lot in the news recently about password theft and hacking into email accounts. 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 PC, 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.
Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP e3000 resource
June 16, 2015
Migrating Like Mercury, or NoSQL Is Plenty
More than a decade ago, database advocate Wirt Atmar said that "killing the HP 3000 was a little bit like hitting a drop of mercury with a hammer; it caused the drops to squirt out in every direction, with people migrating every which way to a whole host of new systems and new databases." The newest databases of that decade were modernized iterations of SQL, like MySQL and Postgres. In our current era, however, the schemas of Structured Query Language data management have begun to turn into a liability. What were once touted as an advantage over IMAGE (at least until IMAGE acquired SQL queries to become IMAGE/SQL) are now being viewed as not fluid enough.
The reason lies in how much we track today. Billion-record databases are not uncommon anymore. Establishing a query structure that remains in place for every search is slower than devising the best one on every search. That's the promise that NoSQL and its cousin file system Hadoop offer. When data leaps into the realm of the Internet of Things and tracks instances as small as light bulb blowouts, then database technology like SQL devised in the 1980s, no matter how much it's updated, won't be able to keep up.
SQL will be replaced with NoSQL, once the messiness of data becomes the norm. Oracle and PostgreSQL and MS SQL rule today. Even Microsoft Access has a ready enterprise base, as simple its structure is. But data is growing fast enough to become BigData. And the HP 3000 community which has migrated, or soon will, is going to look for newer data structures and tools to send its SQL data into NoSQL's schemas.
MB Foster is working to be this kind of tool provider. Tomorrow on June 17 the company will demonstrate how its UDACentral product moves the data today. The aim for versions in the years to come is support for BigData's tools of NoSQL and Hadoop.
June 15, 2015
ERP floats changes for classic models
Since the HP 3000 got popular in the 1970s, manufacturing has always claimed a majority share of its business use. MANMAN and the work of ASK led the new minicomputer into major corporations and thriving manufacturers. To this day, that software runs operations in places like Rockwell Collins, Calsonic, and Amatek Chandler. But the day of changes to classic ERP is coming. One of the things that's sparking it is the regularity of change.
Terry Floyd of the Support Group, which provides app support for companies using MANMAN and other ERP software, updated us on the use of alternatives to MANMAN. With a package as comprehensive as that suite, companies have to be cautious when replacing it. "Things have changed," he said. "The new stuff is NetSuite, Workday, Plex, and Kenandy, and a dozen others," he said. It's a lot better than Microsoft Dynamics, a solution we reported on earlier. The trend is illustrated in the chart above (click for detail.)
And among the changes taking place today is adoption of cloud ERP.
Kenandy says it's is making headway because it's more flexible and responsive to change in business than the classic ERP platforms. Cloud-based ERP is becoming a replacement choice because its fluid design can be responsive when business grows.
As a small company running on a combination of business applications, what happens when your business expands? Can you easily integrate new business lines? Can your systems easily adapt to new processes? What happens when you decide to scale and develop a global presence? Do the applications support multiple sites, multiple currencies and multiple languages? Moving to a cloud ERP solution allows you to easily scale across all these dimensions.
June 12, 2015
Find hardware specs, move DTCs, and more
Is there a command or way to see the hardware specs of a HP 3000 via MPE or its installed utilities? This machine has no other utilities, like MPEX. I am looking to document the processors, memory, number of hard drives, and size of those drives.
Jack Connor replies
Depending on MPE/iX version, you can use SYSDIAG for 6.0 and older or CSTM for 6.5 and later. In SYSDIAG, type SYSMAP, then IOMAP, and GENERAL for the IO components, then exit and go to CPUMAP for the CPU info.
In CSTM, type MAP, then SELECT ALL, then INFO, then IL (InfoLog) to get a listing of everything that MPE owns.
I don't work that much with COBOL these days, but I wanted to compile a program and I got an error message,"size of data segment greater than 1 gig or 64 bytes" How do I get around this?
Steve Cooper replies
That means that the total space you asked for in your Working Storage Section is more than 1 GB. Now, there are ways to work around that, but my guess is that you don't need to work around that. My guess is there is a typo or some other unintended problem, where you are asking for way more storage than you intended. Check your OCCURS clauses and PICs to make sure you mean what they say.
We have to move a DTC into our network. Along the way there are Procurve switches and a Cisco router or two. I know that somehow the switches and routers must be configured so as to allow multicasting on addresses 09-00-09-xx-xx-xx to be forwarded and not filtered, but our Procurve administrators aren't quite sure they know how exactly how to do this. What is Procurve-ese for configuring what's necessary to allow remote DTC operation across our network?
NewWave was once Poe-tic to some
Our NewWave article yesterday seemed to limit the impact of NewWave's design to a new GUI and some object oriented computing, but HP intended much more for it. Alexander Volokh of the Volokh enterprise — also known as Sasha — even penned a poem in 1988 to celebrate the networked environment that would only last until Windows 95 was release. [Tip of the hat to his dad Vladimir, as well as Adager for hosting the poetry on its website.]
NewWave — A Ballad
By Sasha Volokh
Sasha Volokh is the Vice-President of Poetry of VESOFT. He tells us this poem is in the style of "Ulalume -- A Ballad" by Edgar Allen Poe, and offers his apologies to Mr. Poe.
The skies they were shining and lacquered,
And the programmers looked very brave,
Looked confident, happy and brave --
'Twas the day that the firm Hewlett-Packard
Unveiled its great product, New Wave,
Its magnificent product, New Wave.
New Wave worked in conjunction with Windows
(The version two point zero three);
It would function with Microsoft's Windows,
But only two point zero three.
Too long had it stood in the back rows,
For no one had witnessed its might --
For example, its system-wide macros
That could make heavy tasks very light
(It deserved to be brought to the light!)
There were "hot links" between applications
To do many things at a time --
Icons could represent applications
And could save you a whole lot of time.
Here, performance and swiftness were wedded,
Which made integration just right
(And again, HP leads us aright);
In New Wave, ease of use was embedded
To the users' content and delight
For New Wave brought an end to their plight!
Yes, it lit up the sky through the night!
It was written to work on the Vectra
In the language that people call C.
You can even transfer, on the Vectra,
Many programs not written in C.
June 11, 2015
TBT: When NewWave beached on Mail shore
NewWave Mail makes its debut in an effort to give HP 3000 users a reason to use the GUI that was ahead of its time. Apple took the interface seriously enough to sue Hewlett-Packard over similarities. The GUI lasted more than five years in the wild before Microsoft's Win95 emerged.
Twenty-five years ago this summer, the HP 3000 got its first taste of a graphical user interface. NewWave, the avant garde GUI rolled out a year from the Windows 3 release, got a link to HP DeskManager when the vendor pushed out NewWave Mail. Not even the business-focused user base of the HP 3000 — in that year HP's largest business server community — could help a GUI released before its time. Or at least before the time that Microsoft finally made Windows a business default.
NewWave introduced a look and feel that one-upped Apple's GUI of 1990. It seemed a natural product to pair with DeskManager, the mail system so efficient and connectable that HP used it and massive farms of 3000s to link its worldwide employee community. NewWave was developed in the HP's Grenoble software labs, not far from the Bristol labs that birthed DeskManager.
During that era, the vendor was looking forward to products more accessible to its customers than a memristor. A concept video called 1995, aired for summertime conference attendees two years earlier, included simulated workstation screen shots of advanced desktop interfaces. NewWave got its first customers in 1989, but uptake from the developer community was slow. PC software makers like Lotus were the target of HP development campaigns. But a NewWave GUI for software as omnipresent as Dbase or 1-2-3 wasn't created by Lotus. Its Ami Pro word processor got a NewWave version, pairing a little-known PC product with HP technology ahead of its time.
HP scored a breakthrough with Object Oriented Computing with NewWave, though, the only vendor of serious size to do so. NeXT was rolling out object-based software a few years later, tech that Apple acquired when Steve Jobs returned to the company he helped to found. Agent-based computing, intended to use work habits of each user, was another aim for NewWave.
For all of those far-reaching concepts, though, NewWave Mail was "totally dependent on HP DeskManager," according to HP's manuals. It was as if a GUI skin were put on the minicomputer-bound HP Desk. Microsoft needed little more than PCs to spark its first useful version of Windows, 3.0.
It wasn't the first summer that Hewlett-Packard got upstaged by Microsoft. Twenty years ago this summer, that year's Interex show rose its curtain while Redmond unfurled the Win95 banner, 300 feet worth literally draped off a tower in Toronto in the week of the show. Win95 grounded NewWave, marking the end of HP's unique R&D into GUI.
June 10, 2015
Making Migrations of Data Your Big Tool
Data is the one element that every business computer user has in common. Whether they're still using MPE/iX or never had a single 3000 online, data is what defines a company's profile and mission. Even within the Windows environments that have been so popular for migrating 3000 sites, data must be migrated. The benefits go beyond consolidation and efficiency, too.
Birket Foster checked in with us to catch us up on what he's been showing IT managers for the past year about managing and migrating data. The tool for this kind of project is MB Foster's UDACentral. The software has been the crucial element in the company's services work, both for the 3000 sites on the move as well as companies that have no 3000 history at all. Foster's company does more business all the time with the latter kind of customer, he said.
"Not every 3000 vendor made this leap," he said. "These are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our revenues."
The UDACentral mission is going beyond a tool for MB Foster to use in engagements. The company's now offering it as Software as a Service. It can be rented for the duration of a migration, either of data or systems. On June 17 at 2 PM Eastern, the tool will be demonstrated in a Wednesday Webinar.
Foster said the software has evolved to include an entity relationship mapper, and the migration speed now clocks in at just 8 hours to move 300 million records. "Rows," Foster reminded us, because at one site the SQL term used for them illustrates how IMAGE never ran a day there.
June 09, 2015
What to Expect Out Of a Free Emulator
Emulation has been in the toolset of HP 3000 users for decades. It began with emulation of HP's hardware, yes, but it was the hundreds of thousands of HP terminals that were soon replicated in software. Just like with the Stromasys product to mimic 3000 CPU work, terminal emulators like those from Minisoft and WRQ virtualized hardware using Intel-based PCs.
Early in this century, even those emulators received some tribute: the first high-functionality 3000 terminal emulator distributed as freeware. But can you make that QCTerm software do the work of a Reflection, or MS/92? We asked Brian Edminster, curator of the open source repository MPE-OpenSource.org. An early adopter of QCTerm who worked to beta test the early versions, he says he uses the latest version and compared it to Reflection's V. 14.
"QCTerm has a number of things to recommend it," he said. "It's fast, and it's free. In addition to regular Telnet, it also supports Advanced Telnet — which can reduce bandwidth use and feels more responsive over a slow connection, because it works more like NS-VT."
Edminster says that QCTerm is simpler than Reflection, and acts more like a cross between a browser and conventional Windows program. But he notes that there are some drawbacks, too, such as the lack of support for the software.
"It also doesn't do NS-VT," he said, "which is not really a problem, since Telnet and Advanced Telnet are available for all late-model versions of MPE/iX. It is also less sophisticated than Reflection -- not as configurable, no file-transfer ability, and has no 'programmatic' interface."
Another downside for this free emulator is that it won't accommodate using the vi editor and Advanced Telnet. But the list of technology that QCTerm can employ is thorough.
June 08, 2015
In 20th year, NewsWire digital turns 10 today
A decade ago today, this blog received its first post. On June 8 of 2005, a death in the 3000's family was in the news. Bruce Toback, creator of several 3000 software products and a man whose intellect was as sharp as his wit, died as suddenly as HP's futures for the HP 3000 did. I wrote a brief tribute, because Toback's writing on the 3000-L made him a popular source of information. His posts signed off with Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about a candle with both ends alight, which made it burn so bright.
I always thought of Bruce as having bright ends of technical prowess along with a smart cynicism that couldn't help but spark a chuckle. His programming lies at the heart of Formation, a ROC Software product which Bruce created for Tymlabs, an extraordinary HP software company here in Austin during 1980s and early 90s. Toback could demonstrate a sharp wit as well as trenchant insight. From one of his messages in 2004:
HP engineer [about a Webcast to encourage migration]: During the program, we will discuss the value and benefits of Transitioning from the HP e3000 platform to Microsoft's .NET.
Bruce: Oh... a very short program, then.
In the same way Toback's candle burned at both ends, I think of this blog as the second light we fired up, a decade after the fire of the NewsWire's launch. Up to this year we burned them both. Now the blog, with its more than 2,600 articles and almost 400,000 pageviews, holds up the light for those who remain, and lights the way for those who are going. This entry is a thank-you for a decade of the opportunity to blog about the present, the future, and the past.
We always knew we had to do more than give the community a place to connect and read what they believed. We're supposed to carry forward what they know. The NewsWire in all of its forms, printed and digital, is celebrating its 20th year here in 2015. A decade ago our June 2005 blogging included a revival of news that's 20 years old by now. It's news that's still can still have an impact on running a 3000 today.
June 05, 2015
Plan B: Stay on the HP 3000 to 2027?
Could you really stay on the HP 3000 through 2027? What follows is a classic strategy for 3000 owners. Wirt Atmar of AICS Research wrote the following column in the months after HP's 3000 exit announcement. The article is offline for the moment, so I thought we'd put it here as a reference document for any IT manager who's trying to defend the case for remaining on their HP hardware a few more years. When Atmar passed away in 2007 the community lost a dynamic advocate for MPE computing. His company eventually migrated its QueryCalc application for IMAGE reporting to Windows. But not before he organized advocacy like the World's Largest Poster Project, at left. Few 3000 experts did more for MPE owners than Atmar — including thinking outside of HP's box.
Plan B: Staying on the HP 3000 Indefinitely
By Wirt Atmar
Hewlett-Packard and a few others are stating that staying on the HP 3000 for the long term is your least desirable option, the one that puts you at the greatest risk. Let me argue here that remaining on the HP 3000 is not likely to be all that much of a risk, at least for the next 25 years. It will certainly be your least expensive option and the one that will provide you with the greatest protection for your current investment in software and business procedures.
AICS Research, Inc. wholly and enthusiastically supports the evolution of an HP 3000 MPE emulator, another path that has been described as "risky." But there's nothing risky at all about the option, should HP give its blessing to the project. It is technically feasible and completely doable. Indeed, the emulator actually offers the very real possibility of greatly expanding MPE's user base. However, staying on the HP3000 does not require HP's blessing. It's something you can decide to do by yourself. And should you decide later to move off of the HP 3000, you've really lost nothing in the interim. Indeed, you've gained time to think about what is best in your circumstances.
A part of calculating your "risk" is really nothing more than sitting back and determining what part of the computer market is rapidly evolving and which part is more or less stable.
The HP 3000 is well-known for its qualities: a very nice CI scripting language, a very robust job scheduler, an extremely stable and scalable database, and its simple, English-like commands. Beyond that, we have also been lucky that the HP e3000 has also recently had put into it several standards-based attributes: network-based IP addressable printing, telnet and FTP, and all of these qualities are now very stable.
But all of the other processes of modern computing, the material encompassed by POSIX (Java, Samba, Apache, bind, DNS, etc.) are the qualities that are rapidly evolving. And none of these need to be on the HP 3000. In fact, you're probably better off if they weren't on the platform.
June 04, 2015
More open HP shares its source experience
It's not fair to Hewlett-Packard to portray its Discover meeting this week as just another exercise in putting dreams of industry-rocking memristor computing to rest. The company also shared the source code for one of its products with the world, a tool the vendor has used itself in a profitable software product.
HP’s Chief Technology Officer Martin Fink, who also heads up HP Labs, announced the release of Grommet, HP’s own internal-use advanced open source app. The platform will be completely open source, licensed for open use in creating apps' user experience, or UX as it's known in developer circles. Fink said Grommet was HP’s contribution to the IT industry and the open source community.
HP says "Grommet easily and efficiently scales your project with one code base, from phones to desktops, and everything in between." The vendor has been using it to develop its system management software HP OneView for more than three years. The code on GitHub and a style guide help create apps with consumer interfaces, so there's a uniform user experience for internal apps. Application icons like the one on the left are available from an interface template at an HP website.
The gift of HP's software R&D to a community of users is a wide improvement over the strategy in the year that followed an exit announcement from MPE/iX futures. A campaign to win an MPE/iX open source license, like the Creative Commons 4.0 license for Grommet, came to naught within three years of that HP notification. There were some differences, such as the fact that HP still was selling MPE/iX through October of 2003, and it was collecting support money for the environment as well.
The 3000 community wanted to take MPE/iX into open source status, and that's why its advocacy group was named OpenMPE. It took eight more years, but HP did help in a modest way to preserve the maintainability of MPE/iX. The vendor sold source code licenses for $10,000 each to support companies. These were limited licenses, and they remain a vestige of what HP might have done -- a move not only echoed by Grommet, but reflected in HP's plan to move OpenVMS to a third party.
"I guess there is a difference between licensing the MPE code and then distributing it," our prolific commenter Tim O'Neill said last week.
I have heard that HP hangs onto the distribution rights because they are afraid of liability. Surely they do not, at this point, still seek to make money off it, do they? Is there some secret desire within HP to once again market it?
It feels safe to say not a bit of desire exists in HP today, even though Grommet shows the vendor can be generous with more mainstream tech. In at least one case, HP's offer of help with MPE's future was proactive, if not that generous.
June 03, 2015
HP's Machine dream migrates off OS plan
The HP Discover show has wrapped up its second day, an annual event full of sales and engineering staff from the vendor as well as high-line customers. The show included an introduction of the new logo for the Enterprise half of Hewlett-Packard, a spinoff the vendor will cleave off the company in October. It's an empty green rectangle, something that drew some scorn an an icon bereft of content or message.
CEO Meg Whitman said the green represents growth and the rectangle is a window on the future. We can only hope that a logo for a $65 billion corporation that turns out to be a rectangle in green has a good discount attached to the project's invoice.
But another session today that can be consumed on Livestream.com showed a consistent removal of substance from HP's dream factory. The Machine, a project that reportedly was attracting more than half the R&D budget for the full corporation, had its mission backed away from the platform that promised to lead into computing's future. A computer built around the long-pursued memristor will make a debut sometime next year, but bearing standard DRAM chips instead. Of greatest interest to HP 3000 customers, former and those still current, is abandoning the R&D to create a Machine operating system.
An OS for the Machine would have been HP's first such project since MPE. HP hasn't built an environment from scratch since MPE was introduced in the 1970s. Its Unix began in Bell Labs with System V, NonStop was created at Tandem, and VMS was the brainchild of DEC. The Palm OS came from the company of the same name, and HP sold that software to Samsung to be used in refrigerators. HP's head of Labs Martin Fink said that Linux will be the software heartbeat of the Machine going forward. Creating a computer that runs Linux: Nothing there to suggest there's new love for software R&D in Fink's labs.
June 02, 2015
Migrating Data Makes First Step Away
Beginning at 2 PM Eastern US time tomorrow (June 3), Birket Foster leads a Successful Data and Application Migrations webinar, complete with a breakdown on the strategy and ample Q&A opportunity.
Registration for the webinar is through the MB Foster website. Like all of the Wednesday Webinars, it runs for about an hour. The outline for the briefing, as summed up by the company:
A successful migration – application and data - has three major sections. We like to start with the end in mind. What does the business want to accomplish through this transformation? In fact, the best way to organize things is to create a dashboard for the “Application Portfolio” and to visualize the current and future fit of IT investments in aligning with the business needs and where the business plan is going.
As an example; if you use fleet management techniques (capital cost, estimated useful life of asset, next review inspection, number of service incidents, etc.) on your IT assets, a map and the value of each application to the business will emerge. A barometer status of green, yellow or red can be assigned based on a scorecard. A three year forward projection will show the parts of the portfolio that will need attention over time, a forecast of investment of both capital and labor can be forecast; as a result budgets and projects can be put in place so there are no surprises.
June 01, 2015
Older laptops find current use for 3000s
By Brian Edminster
Back in the MPE-III, MPE-IV, and MPE-V days, I often advocated using a printing terminal as a console (i.e. an HP 2635), in order to leave a permanent hardcopy audit trail. A little loud, sometimes, but it made it hard to hide what was going on, and allowed you to flip back through prior 'pages' of history. And unlike PCs, the messages were persistent (that's to say they would survive a power-fail).
Since then, I've been an advocate for using PCs as a system console workstation -- often ones that would otherwise be ready for retirement.
Actually, I prefer to use laptop PCs, as they're typically smaller and lighter, have a battery in them that can act as a short-term UPS, and many can be configured to allow folding the screen closed while leaving them turned on and active. A laptop saves space, and if the system's been configured to shut off the display and spin down the drives when there's little to no activity, it can save power as well.
Key documentation and/or other useful info can also be kept on the laptop as well -- so you don't have to look things up on paper. If the laptop is old enough, either it (or a docking station for it) will have a serial port, or you can also go the USB to Serial adapter route, if necessary. Something like this Compaq Armada is quite old, but it does include a serial port.
May 29, 2015
Retrieve What's Lost With Wayback
Even when things go dark on the Web, their history doesn't. The Internet Wayback Machine is always watching and recording, taking snapshots of sites or their content that's been removed. So long as there's a Wayback, there's a way back, so to speak.
I discovered this yesterday when checking on freeware from AICS Research. The company still supports its HP 3000 users of QueryCalc, but at the moment the feature-rich website has nothing on its face but a static graphic. AICS did business long ago as a tax service, and all the website reports is a gaggle of details about that enterprise.
As 3000 users know, a lot more resided at aics-research.com. In years past, there was a 3000 Relative Performance Chart, an essay to guide users on remaining on the 3000 indefinitely (called Plan B at the time), as well as a rich history of early Hewlett-Packard computing products. But most of all, there was QCTerm, the free 3000 emulator that AICS created for the 3000 community. QCTerm has always been "freely distributed to all users for their personal and corporate use, without time limit or any form of obligation being incurred by any party."
QCTerm is a full-function HP700/92 terminal emulator, very similar to other terminal emulators, running in Windows. The only difference is that QCTerm carries no cost "and may be freely distributed to as many users as you wish."
QCTerm was not constructed as a precise mimic of an HP700/92 terminal, although it identifies itself as such. "Rather, we wanted to make QCTerm simpler, more browser-like, and more intuitive, while retaining the full functionality that would be expected of an HP terminal," the software's description reports.
May 28, 2015
Managing Printers Via Windows and Clouds
Spooled printing can be a feature tough to duplicate for migrating companies. A software program is being offered by a developer with decades of HP 3000 experience -- and now serving Windows enterprise users. In expanding its lineup beyond HP 3000 utilities, Software Devices is making a product that creates a more productive experience on the environment where most migrating 3000 shops are headed.
From the notable spooling and printer developer Rich Corn at Software Devices comes Cloud Print for Windows. Corn's used his expertise at RAC Consulting, attaching print devices to HP business servers, to help create software that helps Windows systems employ the Google Cloud Print virtual printer service. So long as your printer's host can connect to the Web, Cloud Printing can be accessed from other desktops online.
Cloud Print for Windows then monitors these virtual printers and prints jobs submitted to a virtual printer on the corresponding local PC printer. In addition, Cloud Print for Windows supports printing from your PC to Google Cloud Print virtual printers. All without any need for the Chrome browser.
People expect Windows to be a more affordable platform per desktop, but the costs can add up. Employing cloud services can keep things more manageable in a budget. Cloud Print for Windows costs just $19.95 a seat. There's other levels of functionality — even one for free — including a Professional Edition for integrating with Microsoft's Windows Server environments.
May 27, 2015
Make old PCs do a console's work
Got a wheezing PC someplace in your IT shop? Believe it or not, even the creakiest of desktops can still serve your HP 3000: as a console, a la the HP700/92 variety. This is the kind of PC where, as one veteran puts it,"the keyboards have turned to glue."
...Trying to type a coherent instruction (or even worse, trying to talk someone through that task remotely) where random keys require the application of a sledgehammer to make them respond, at which point they auto repeatttttttttttttttt.
It's enough to give a veteran manager a pain in the posterior, but hey -- some HP 3000s (of the 900 Series) demand a physical console as part of their configuration. Can't you just hook up such an antique PC straight to the 3000's special console port and let it work as a console? Yes, you can.
May 26, 2015
The Legacy of Trusted 3000 Access
In plenty of HP 3000 customer sites -- or the IT operations that include a 3000 among the servers -- MPE has been an outlier. An important one, however, and that's a good reason that access to the TurboIMAGE data has sparked a generation of tools. Linux, Unix, Windows systems all need to connect to the 3000's data. UDALink software has a track record of keeping 3000s in the computing Circle of Trust. Now there's a new generation.
Finance might need 3000 data to get a firm grip on the current operational profitability of the business. Customers will need to gauge supplier and vendor performance, based on data in 3000s. Accurate data, delivered in a timely way, improves customer relations and sales. And manufacturing processes must measure the time it takes to complete or commit to a product delivery date, for example. 3000 data might be on a legacy system, but it can be crucial to corporate objectives.
MB Foster is showing off the setup, configuration and enabling of secure ODBC/JDBC connections in UDALink to access a HP 3000 or another environment, starting at 2 PM Eastern on Wednesday. The webinar lasts about an hour, and you can register through MB Foster for the free briefing. This is software that connects 3000s to the rest of the world by way of direct access to data.
May 25, 2015
A Memorial to 3000 Advocacy
It's Memorial Day in the US, a holiday where we celebrate those fallen in combat. There's that ultimate sacrifice in uniform and on duty for this country, worthy of a parade. But here on a day when many of us take time away from the job, it's worth a moment to remember those who've left our MPE community after good work to benefit all.
Wirt Atmar was one of those fellows. He passed away more than six years ago of a heart attack, but he's got a living memorial up on the archives of the 3000-L newsgroup. The lifespan of HP's business with the 3000 got a benefit from his work as well. It's safe to say that MPE's 1990s would've been poorer without his advocacy for IMAGE.
1990 was a high-water mark in HP 3000 advocacy. From his company AICS Research, Wirt created the report tool QueryCalc as well as QCReports and a free QCTerm emulator. In the fall of 1990 he helped spark a change in HP's business practices about the 3000 — a change that remains important to those who are changing little about a stable HP 3000 environment.
May 22, 2015
The 3000's Growth: Built Upon Basics
IT managers with MPE applications still hold hope of better futures for the HP 3000. The future of the system is the same as it ever was in many places, companies and organizations that protect the value of the custom apps they've built. HP miscalculated the value of these in-house, hand-tooled apps. The vendor's warnings of a shrinking ecosystem placed little value in these home-grown systems.
Tim O'Neill rarely misses a chance to illustrate what HP missed in 2001. When our report on the fate of Carly Fiorina's presidential run emerged, O'Neill wrote about the vitriol aimed at all things HP including Carly.
Despite all the errors and vitriol and despair that HP inspired — continuing to this day and even in this space (where space refers to my space) — the world still could use an operating system dedicated to managing data for business and industry, and doing so effectively and affordably, and without the risks contained in other systems not designed for such real purposes.
With proper system engineering planning, oversight, and new development, and modern hardware (e.g. using the product from Stromasys,) MPE/iX could fill the requirement not being met by a few popular proprietary operating systems and dozens of competing alternatives. In the mode of the HP 260 business system, a New Age HP 3000 from Stromasys could be a dedicated multi-user business system with storage on a SAN of choice.
But what is this HP 260 in O'Neill's memory, and why was it successful in its era of the late '80s and into the '90s? Business Basic drove that system. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies reminded us of what made an HP-designed integrated solution a good enterprise choice.
May 21, 2015
HP disses synergies as Q2 flows downhill
Penetration rates increased for HP's Business Critical Systems in the company's second quarter of 2015, year over year. And the corporation that sold thousands of HP-UX systems from that BCS to HP 3000 migrators reported that it has spent more than $400 million in dis-synergies in the just-finished quarter. Such were the milestones of financial jargon delivered to explain Q2 business. On the strength of profits that met expectations, analysts said the last 90 days of business didn't sink the SS Hewlett-Packard any further.
But the $25.5 billion in sales dropped from last year's Q2, and the revenues fell from the previous quarter as well. HP is selling less -- especially in the enterprise servers it created like Integrity -- and its already spending hundreds of millions to split itself into Enterprise and PC-printer companies. Halfway through the final year when all of that business is under one corporate banner, the company is looking ahead to rising reports as a split-up entity.
"HP is becoming stronger as we head into the second half of our fiscal year and separation in November," said CEO Meg Whitman at this afternoon's analyst briefing. The stock had closed at $33.83 and rose about 40 cents a share in after-hours trading.
The strength of the company, a subject of interest only to the 3000 customers who've chosen HP for migrations, must be measured in more than the price of its stock. HP hopes so, at least, since HPQ is trading in the same middle $30 range of 2011. Whitman has held her job since then, a time when PC pursuits and big-ticket acquisitions were the order of the day.
Now HP is merging with a new sense of focus. Merger and acquisition plays have both negative and positive prospects. Savings come through synergies. Declines come through dis-synergies, something HP wrote off as restructuring and separations costs that totalled more than a half-billion dollars.
May 20, 2015
Discovering HP's Futures
In a couple of weeks HP computer users will gather for an annual conference in North America. For the past five years, the meeting has been called HP Discover. This year's event is promising to show off visions of the future. Pictures of stalwart enterprise community members will be harder to find.
Among the HP technologies developed as computing environments, only HP's Unix will have a Special Interest Group Forum at the June 2-4 conference. Searching the sessions database for the letters VMS -- pretty special to the Digital customers that HP preferred to serve futures to versus 3000 sites -- yields no hits. If VMS is being discussed at HP Discover, it's likely to be just a topic on the floor.
Stromasys will be on that floor, talking about several platforms whose HP futures have already or will soon enough expire. Charon HPA, emulating the HP 3000 hardware, as well as virtualization products for the Digital systems and even Sun's Solaris computers will be demonstrated. Sarah Smith of Stromasys says it's a regular stop in the company's itinerary.
"At the booth we'll be doing demos of Charon," she said. "We've been going for years. VAX, Alpha, and PDP were all DEC products, so we talk about all of them at Discover."
Meanwhile, HP will be talking about many commodity solutions along with The Machine, its project to deliver six times more power than current computer systems on 1.25 percent of the energy. Its big idea is universal memory, driven by the elusive memristor HP first began discussing in 2008. Universal memory is as inexpensive as DRAM, as speedy as static RAM, as non-volatile as flash memory, and infinitely durable. The Machine is an HP Labs project reputed to have requisitioned 75 percent of the Labs' resources. Its delivery date is far enough out in the future that hearing about its potential is still just about all anybody expects this year, or next.
Read "Discovering HP's Futures" in full
May 19, 2015
MANMAN migrations posed by new player
A new resource has begun to scout the MANMAN customer base, hoping to pose the potential for migrating off the venerable ERP solution. Merino Consulting Services contacted us to try to survey the field of MANMAN users that Merino might try to serve. Terry Floyd of The Support Group and Terri Glendon Lanza of Ask Terri know a good deal more about who's still running MANMAN on a 3000 today. The list used to include Rockwell Collins, E.D. Bullard (makers of the iconic three-ridge construction hats) and semiconductor test maker Delta Design.
MANMAN has been in place for decades at places like Delta Design, which installed the ERP suite in 1995.
Merino would like to help migrations off of MANMAN, something that's been an active mission in your community for more than 20 years, according to Floyd. We're scheduled to hear more from Merino next week about what they'll bring to an MPE user in the way of environment expertise during a migration.
Even among the companies that use homesteader solutions for manufacturers, there's a sense that a long-term ERP plan will involve Windows rather than MPE. The length of that term varies, of course, depending on the outlook for the current software in place. Customization keeps MPE systems in charge at companies very small and some large ones (albeit in small spots at those giants, like Boeing.)
May 18, 2015
Portfolios That Make a Path to the Future
Wednesday afternoon (2 PM Eastern time, US) MB Foster is educating IT managers on the business case for using Application Portfolio Management. (Register here for the free event.) APM has gained a lot of traction in boardrooms and the places where analyst reports score points.
Gartner's researchers report that "Application portfolio management is critical to understanding and managing the 40-80 percent of IT budgets devoted to maintaining and enhancing software." HP 3000 managers, and especially those who are on the move to a new computing path, understand how much of their work has always gone into extending and repairing apps that make a difference.
Foster's team says that APM "changes the way you manage IT assets. Without proper visibility, IT executives can never be sure that they are investing appropriately by acquiring enhancing or retiring, the right application at the right time. Without visibility, APM is simply impossible without an ongoing view of IT investments."
In this Wednesday's webinar, Birket Foster will highlight the business case for APM, and outline "where you should start, mapping your portfolio, building a score card, examining business and technical fit, understanding benefit and risks and other subject related content." Foster's been talking about APM for more than 10 years, just about the whole time 3000 migrations have been in play.
APM can begin by delivering a means to increase the visibility of HP 3000 apps. And if that MPE visibility leads to a more energized transition plan — because now the executive management sees how vital the MPE/iX application is to meeting company goals — that's a good thing as well.
May 15, 2015
SSDs in use on 3000s: Virtualized by now
Earlier this week, a 3000 devotee and technician asked if anyone was using solid state disc (SSD) on HP 3000s in place of the aging SCSI drives in most servers. "It sounds like a great concept," said Jon Jonston, who's working on a preservation project for the HP Computer Museum.
We are just looking to restore images onto a disc for demo purposes. So, even powered down life is not important, but cost is. We have found that IDE->CF works great as a hard disc replacement in old DOS PCs. SCSI2SD is a great low-cost solution (for Apple), but doesn't work with HP. We are looking for a low-cost, single disc SSD for HP 3000 computers.
After one newsgroup user compared putting SSDs in 3000s to a McLaren racing engine in an SUV, a more plausible solution emerged: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."
But there was a time in another May when SSDs running native in HP's 3000 hardware was a possibility worth investigating.
May 14, 2015
TBT: The Day that HP's 3000 Division Died
On a day in May 13 years ago, Hewlett-Packard took the designation of "division" out of its HP 3000 business. And so that summer started the first era in 36 years when the 3000 and MPE had no dedicated company unit or general manager to call its own. Its final GM believed selling 3000s was not his exclusive focus.
Only six months before the 3000 left the org chart, the vendor announced the term of its swan song for the system. But through the early months of 2002, there was still a Commercial Systems Division -- CSY in the HP naming conventions -- to issue software, business decisions, and pronouncements about the future. General Manager Winston Prather ended that era as he stepped away from the GM post. (The photo at left comes from the Chicago HP World, where HP told customers nothing about a 3000 pullout announced 90 days later.)
As 2002 began, we asked Prather what he saw in the future for CSY as an HP unit and MPE as a computing environment. Asked if he'd be the last 3000 division manager, Prather said, "Gosh, I don’t know. Part of me wants to say ‘I hope so.’ But there’s a negative sound to that, too." He sounded positive that MPE users would outlast the vendor's lifespan, unless HP planned to be around longer than forever.
Here’s the bottom line: MPE will be around forever. And we want to help that. This is in no way HP trying to kill MPE. We will explore and look at all the different options to enable what I’d call the afterlife — or at least the after-HP life, beyond 2006.
Prather was stepping away from a 3000 whose futures he claimed to have curtailed with a personal decision. "It was my decision," he told a user group publication, adding that the server had stopped being strategic to its owners and users. He told us that as GM it wasn't his job to sell 3000s -- just to deliver the right server to the customer from HP's many choices. Later that year he ended HP's 3000 life. He'd been doubling as a GM for another HP division for more than a year by the time HP took CSY off its org chart. And so the community began an eight-year period of referring to a Virtual CSY, and the vCSY nickname earned a place in user group communications.
May 13, 2015
Deciding Which Cloud Cabin To Ride
Trends in IT management are pushing server management into co-located and cloud-based service providers. If a path toward migration seems to lead toward services rather than servers, there are some developments to note while choosing a place to relocate the apps on critical servers.
Amazon is the leader in the cloud computing space with its AWS business. But just until recently, the world didn't know specifics of how well AWS was earning. It turns out that cloud services are one of the few Amazon products making a generous profit. And the existence of profits goes a long way toward protecting the future of any product or service. The 3000 is supposed to have crossed over from profitable to not so during the period after Y2K.
Once the system's projected revenue line dipped below the projected expense line, at that point you could say even those inside HP considered MPE servers a dead product. It didn't happen until after that Year 2000 bubble, though. The HP 3000 owner, having experienced this, will be wary of any single point of solution failure.
AWS is well above such a line. Other companies, such as HP, are not breaking out their cloud business results. But HP is making a point of promoting its latest HP Discover conference around the cloud concept. You can even ride in a cloud, the vendor promises, next month in Vegas.
May 12, 2015
3000 sites of some size still checking in
Last week we were on the hunt for HP 3000 customers of some size. These are organizations that are big enough to be publicly traded. The distinction can be important to any customer who wants to retain their HP 3000 apps after a merger as part of an enterprise-wide portfolio.
A note here on portfolios: they're not just for publicly traded securities. Applications can be managed, portfolio-style. MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster has shared several lessons with the 3000 community on how Application Portfolio Management practices keep a company prepared for discussions about keeping apps, no matter what environment hosts them. The right time to migrate is a question that APM data can answer for any CIOs who are asking about MPE apps.
As for the 3000 sites of size, three more have checked in. The largest line of candy shops in the US, an online resource for IT products, and a worldwide nutrition company are all current 3000 sites. They all have corporate ownership which must bear the burden of shareholder scrutiny.
May 11, 2015
Who'd ever know where everyone would go?
Business practices have changed enough over the last decade that even history can't teach us much. When HP dropped its 3000 practices, we all cared about environments and platforms, which OS supported the apps we wanted, and which system maker we could count upon. Then HP embraced Windows to puff itself up, and no platform the vendor created would be as strategic again.
One old story was that customers didn't want to invest in an HP product that was called strategic during an HP presentation. It could easily be the kiss of death. The genuinely strategic parts of the 3000, like IMAGE, never needed that blessing. And sure enough, only about a year after Carly Fiorina anointed the 3000 as a strategic product, HP was pushing it aside.
Fiorina is on my mind today because of a figure related to the destination for 3000 migrations. I told a Computerworld reporter who called about Fiorina last week that I believed that 80 percent of the installed base that left after 2001 didn't land on an HP platform. Long-term, maybe not a good choice.
Not so fast, I heard from a retiring HP employee. My 80 percent was way overstated, because HP tracked where people were going. Nowhere near that percent were leaving HP altogether.
Sure, to the extent anybody could track moves in a base where HP didn't know more than two-thirds of the customers by the late '90s. "Hey, lots of them are headed to HP-UX. We're working with so many." I'm reminded of the cheery lab reports delivered about MPE XL stability during 1985 or so. Then a one-year delay, while lab management dealt with the less-attractive realities. Whenever the real answer is not popular, effort spent to confirm it will only make you correct. What would anyone in HP do with knowledge that the migration push was separating 3000 sites from HP altogether? HP wouldn't have changed its course.
On to that percentage figure. It didn't come from speculation, just a third-party report of an HP executive's explanation.
May 08, 2015
Wiping An MPE Past Clean: Tools and Tips
The 3000 newsgroup readers got a query this week that's fit for our migrating epoch. "It's the end of an era, and we're going to dispose of the HP 3000," said Krikok Gullekian. "After deleting all of the file, is there a way to wipe out the operating system?"
Such wipe-outs are the closing notes of the migration's siren song. Nobody should leave evidence behind of business data, even if that 3000 is going out to a tech recycle house. A piece of software, a classic part of hardware, and even wry humor have been offered to meet the wipe-out request.
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro Consultants pointed to WipeDisk, a program that's hosted on the computer that will no longer know its own HPCPUNAME once the software finishes its job. It will sanitize an MPE/iX disk drive. (Versions for MPE/V, HP-UX, Mac OS X and Linux are also available.)
"You install WipeDisk on your target system and run it when you're really, really really sure you're ready to say good-bye to your old friend," she said.
It's not complete enough just to run MPE's VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL command, Allegro notes on the product's webpage. "You cannot count on VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL to ‘erase’ a disk. It might, or might not, depending upon the disk vendor’s implementation of the device firmware."
Hardware to fully erase the disks magnetically was also offered as a solution. Then there was the reference to the Hewlett-Packard of the era of this month's new Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina.
May 07, 2015
Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too
We've just reported on a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and is using HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running up to 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which the operating system will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?
The CALENDAR intrinsic that may block HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that year's New Year's Day, less than 13 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.
A voyager might see CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is one part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.
"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.
But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.
May 06, 2015
Big companies still use the HP 3000
From time to time, HP 3000 managers need specifics on the community's use of the 3000. Who's out there of any size who's devoted to making MPE a realistic 2015 business tool? As it turns out, there's an array of current customers who are large enough to trade on the stock market, even while they use an operating environment first booted up before their companies went public.
Size of company is one measure of the 3000's success over all of those decades. Another way CIOs try to gauge the staying power of a server that doesn't have vendor support is to see how many sites count MPE as an essential corporate business tool. This census-style of measure won't impress anybody in an era where Windows Server powers hundreds of thousands of businesses. (Windows Server customers are facing a migration this year, though, one that's not voluntary anymore.) Forced to an estimate, we'd say there are 2,500 HP 3000s running around the world, with about half as many customers.
But this is a computer still in regular use by publicly-traded companies. Several 3000s run at 3M, where they'll be part of the IT environment for a few more years. Manufacturing and ERP are the usual jobs for long-term, large-company MPE systems. But some sites are using the servers for e-commerce, for distribution, and for general finance operations.
One of the higher-profile organizations using the server is AMETEK, a company which is part of the S&P 500. Two divisions run MANMAN on their 3000s. At last report, one of these systems isn't going to power down until 2023 -- just four years before MPE date-management will start to report the last century's first two digits.
May 05, 2015
When Migrations Are Easy Replacements
One day ago Computerworld asked me whether I thought Hewlett-Packard had done the right thing about HP 3000 futures. The deed that changed most of the lives in the 3000 community happened long ago, but those 13-plus years have been put in current focus by the candidacy of the CEO at the time of the 3000 exit plan. Carly Fiorina wants to be America's next president. Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, having covered 3000 events for close to two decades, knew there would be some permanent marks here from that dark decision of 2001.
But there are people who have come to accept and even embrace the change forced upon customers and suppliers. These are sharp and savvy people who've made changes themselves in the wake of the end of HP's 3000 business. Most of them have extended their skills or product line or service offerings. All of that came at a cost, the risk that entrepreneurs take in business.
Migrations made business in this market too, just like the Y2K deadline lifted a lot of COBOL experts' revenue reports for 1996-2000. There's one insidious angle to that "new business from HP changes" strategy, though. It's the idea that the HP 3000 was easier to replace than other enterprise systems because it was general purpose and transaction-based.
That's a label that also fits the Digital VMS line as well as IBM's Series i (AS/400). IBM had the good sense not to walk away from its midrange servers, and HP decided to protect a larger customer base in the VMS systems (larger than the MPE base by a factor of 10). But the 3000 was not targeted because of any ease of replacement. "VMS and MPE were general purpose, transaction systems that were much more easily replaceable," the assertion goes, more easy than replacing something like the NonStop fault-tolerant environment.
Using that line of thinking, HP's Unix is up for the next cut, now that VMS has been ushered out of HP's long-term enterprise futures. Nobody who's invested in VMS, MPE, or HP-UX wants to hear that their general purpose computer would lead to a costly long-term choice. It was never about a customer's choice. This was always all about business and HP's hard choices — and so that's why Computerworld wanted to know how your community was adding up the cost, now that Carly's will begin taxing political credibility.
May 04, 2015
Candidate Carly looms like 3000 migrations
3000 community pundits and veterans will say Hewlett-Packard's pushing the server off its price lists was inevitable. Today that migration slog seems to hold the same charms as the just-announced candidacy of the HP CEO during that era: Carly Fiorina.
Announcing her run for the presidency will assure Fiorina of much attention, from the requisite Secret Service detail to a raft of coverage about being a female candidate running against another inevitability, Hillary Clinton. The attention will continue to mount upon her term at the HP helm, though, a period that even her fellow Republicans struggle to present as a success.
The similarities between government politics and tech business politics are now in the spotlight, though. Computerworld was writing a story about the intersection today.
Regarding the US presidency, citizens and voters can't go back for more Barack Obama. The 3000 owners couldn't go back for more servers after HP stopped making the computers in 2003, either. Everybody must move on from our current president, just like Fiorina's HP forced the 3000 owners to move away. So very many have moved. But so very few are using any HP product to replace their 3000 operations.
Showing off the hubris that would be echoed in her other attempts, first business and then political, Fiorina's HP alleged in 2002 that more than 4 of 5 customers would be off MPE within four years. Counting the unfinished or un-funded migration projects, close to 4 in 5 customers remained on MPE and the 3000 when that four-year-deadline rolled past. It was more complicated to curtail 3000 computing, just like it'll be complicated for Fiorina to paint her 5-plus HP years as a success.
But that doesn't mean she won't try. However, as the San Jose Mercury News wrote in an editorial, “She takes the Silicon Valley motto that it’s ‘OK to fail’ a tad too literally.” The paper's calling for more women in politics – except Carly Fiorina. The 3000 community only seems to embrace Fiorina's latest political jitney romp as an alternative in the last resort to a Hillary Clinton presidency.
"Killing the HP 3000 was a small pittance compared to the disaster she did to HP," said EchoTech's Craig Lalley today. "No, I would not vote for Carly. But then again, if the two final candidates are Carly and Hillary..."
May 01, 2015
Message Files Editing, DLT Autoloading Tips
What tools can I use to 'edit' a message file without destroying the file? I learned the hard way that if you’re using FCOPY to copy from a message file, it destroys the records read from the message file. Can you "COPY" a message file without destroying the records that are copied?
François Desrochers says
You can use non-destructive reads by specifying the COPY option on a file equation as in:
There's also an FOPEN Aoptions (bit 3:1) to enable the option.
As for editing a message file, the only safe way I know is to extract all the records into a regular flat file, edit it and load it back into the message file.
April 30, 2015
TBT: The Legacy of 3000 Creators
The creators of some of the 3000's earliest pieces are still with us, most of them. A notable exception is the legendary Fred White, pictured above in a photo taken from the years before his death in 2014. He's holding up his end of a memory board for an early-model 3000. The Series II server behind him introduced the 3000 line to most of the computer's first wave of users.
Holding the other side of the board is Ed Sharpe, who created and curated the first networking resource online devoted to the 3000, a bulletin board system he called The Forum. Throughout the first decade of the 3000's life, BBS communication was the only way to exchange information about MPE technical details other than attending user group meetings. HP did not launch its teleconference sessions, broadcast to customers through HP sales offices, until late in the 1980s.
The Forum earned the support of system managers reaching out to connect with each other. The character-based BBS interface was not much less sophisticated than the mailing-list-based HP3000-L of about a decade later. Downloads of contributed software were a big feature of the Forum. It connected users in an era when long-distance was still a serious business expense.
The biggest drawback to the Forum was the long distance charges for the users when downloading Forum CSL files! I am sure I caused some corporate phone bills to increase. Over in Europe, they had greater accessibility to X.25 at that time.
April 29, 2015
Linking Yesterday's Data To Today's Server
Another migration is underway in the world of enterprise computing, one that will transport millions of customers. It's not from one OS to another, or even from one model of computer to something much newer. It's a transition from one Windows Server release to the latest, although the latest Windows Server doesn't bear the name of our current year.
Business is making a shift from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012, triggered by applications. The apps are making use of a larger computing space, going from 32- to 64-bit software. And in so doing, these IT shops need an upgrade to their data links. HP 3000s that are networked into a Windows Server enterprise have a newer model of connectivity software to handle this migration.
UDALink is the progeny of MB Foster's ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. Now UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration.
The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."
April 28, 2015
Locating Help for 4GL 3000 Projects
A phone call -- how old-school -- to the NewsWire offices today posed an interesting question: Who'd be able to help a site that's got Speedware applications which appear to be layered with Visual Speedware? The list of independent Speedware experts who know MPE isn't a long one. A few months ago we compiled the a collection of 3000 experts into a single webpage here on our website. Only three companies named Speedware skills specifically in their company profiles.
"The Speedware here feels like it's hidden behind high walls," the caller said. "There's an aspect of Windows running in there, and the site doesn't really know where their development server is." Visual Speedware is still a product of Fresche Legacy -- the new name of Speedware since 2012 -- and the software that was created for "Enterprise Client/Server Development" has a presence on the Fresche website. The product's data sheet from 2002 is on the hpmigrations.com wing of the Fresche Web addresses.
Readers here will know there's an opportunity to help with a Speedware installation. It's a skill set in declining supply, this kind of 4GL expertise. PowerHouse users have a mailing-list newsgroup, but there's nothing like that for the Speedware user.
The two brands of 4GL have widely differing early days; Speedware was sometimes white-labeled to create apps sold by other software companies. SoftVoyage is a memorable example. PowerHouse always had its name out front where it was deployed. Later installs of these two 4GLs, through the late 1980s onward, were more similar.
In the ways of the IT world in 2015, both of the vendors of these products consider their 3000 customers to be ready candidates for migrations. The transition arrives in various flavors, but all of it is designed to leave the Hewlett-Packard-branded 3000 hardware behind.
April 27, 2015
Sendmail, Group Purges, and ACD Removal
Is there a proper or "right" way to shut down sendmail?
Donna Hofmeister replies
• Use the Posix kill signal from SERVER.SENDMAIL or any user with SM capability. (The following can be easily turned into a job!)
kill $(head -n 1 /etc/mail/sendmail.pid)
• Only use :ABORTJOB as a last resort! (This is true for all of the Posix things that got ported to MPE)
If you don't need to run a mail server (e.g. sendmail) on your 3000, you shouldn't. In most cases, using a mail client will be "just the ticket." Point the client at your in-house (SMTP) mail server and enjoy.
How can I easily purge all the files in a group without destroying the group structure?
If GRPNAME is the name of the group then either:
1. chgroup GRPNAME and
Or, purge @.GRPNAME
[Ed. note: Vladimir Volokh notes this last command does not purge databases from a group, although it purges everything else. You must be an SM user to purge everything in one account from another account. Of course, MPEX's %purge will purge everything, and will report the list of what is to be purged. %purge(ISPRIV) for a selection of databases only, for example.]
How can I convert an SL to an XL?
Jeff Kell and Gavin Scott reply:
You can OCTCOMP an SL, which will make the code in it run in mostly-Native Mode (though using several times the memory) and with exactly the same limitations as the original CM code. OCTCOMP just adds a pre-translated version of the CM code to the end of the file that will be invoked when you run the program or SL on an MPE/iX system.
April 24, 2015
Solutions for Keeping Passwords Fresh
Our management wants our 3000 users to be forced to change their password on a regular basis. Also, certain rules must be applied to the new password. We don’t have VEsoft’s Security/3000, although we do have MPEX. I therefore have two options. 1. Write something myself, or 2. See if there is anything in the Contributed Software Library that will do the job, or can be modified to supply the required solution.
Homegrown and bundled solutions follow. Jeff Vance offered this:
There is a pseudo random password generator available among the Jazz files which knows MPE’s password rules. See RANDNAME. There are also UDCs which force a password to be supplied when using NEWUSER, NEWACCT and NEWGROUP CI commands. These required passwords can be random or user entered with a minimal length enforced.
Then he added as an afterthought, a strategy to program your own password system:
I haven’t thought about it much, but it seems you could have a password file (maybe a CIRcular file?) for each user on the system. This file would have their last N passwords, and the modified date of the file would be the date their password was most recently changed.
A logon UDC could detect if the password file for that user exists. If not create it and require a new password right then. If the password file exists then get it’s modified date and compare that to today’s date. If greater than X days then in a loop prompt for a new password. Validate the entered password against previous N passwords and your other rules. Maybe run a dictionary checking program to make sure the password is not common, etc.
Update the user-specific password file with their new password, and then logon the user.
April 23, 2015
TBT: The Rise of Superdome to Blades
Earlier today, a 3000 manager asked if the Moonshot line of HP servers was part of the plans to establish the Charon HPA PA-RISC emulator in the community. "I think it would be great if someone would demonstrate MPE/iX running on HP Moonshot server," said Tim O'Neill. "[Stromasys might be using] Charon to do something like this, but are they doing it on a Moonshot?"
Moonshot is not the best fit for the Stromasys product, because the HP bladed server is aimed at far larger processing needs. The targets for Moonshot are providers of networking services, cloud hosting co-location providers, customers as large as PayPal, and 20th Century Fox. The studio now distributes its movies around the world digitally, movies that are hundreds of gigabytes per file, and it reduced its datacenter footprint by more than 80 percent and sends those files 40 percent faster.
It's not that the movie business didn't ever use MPE; Warner Brothers had a European distribution center for movies that used a 3000, but that was back in the day when canisters of 35mm film were shipped to theaters. Evoking the name Moonshot, however, recalls the hope that the 3000 community held for HP's first massive enterprise server, Superdome,15 years ago.
The first Superdome computers were PA-RISC systems that ran with the same PA-8600 and PA-8700 servers that powered HP 3000s. When HP started to talk about Superdome in the months after Y2K, 3000 customers wondered "Why not us?" as part of the product's target audience.
An IT manager with beta-test experience on Superdome said at HP World that he believes there’s no reason Superdome can’t work with MPE/iX. “It’s PA-RISC hardware,” he said. “I asked our technical contact from HP why it wouldn’t run with MPE. He replied to me, ‘Yes, why wouldn’t it run MPE?’ ” In a future version, the computer will use its advanced partitioning to run more than one operating environment at once, according to HP’s presentations.
Five years ago this week, HP announced at the HP Technology@Work 2010 conference the first server technology that bridged the multiple-processor designs of Superdome into the blade server concept that would become Moonshot. Even more so than the original Superdome, the Superdome 2 had zero chance of becoming an MPE/iX hardware host, because by the Spring of that year HP was counting down the months until it stopped MPE support completely. (Officially, anyway. Right up to this month, rumors are floating that HP is supporting customer 3000s somewhere.)
April 22, 2015
Essential Skills: Avoiding A King's Ransom
Editor's Note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for multi-talented MPE pros.
In a recent message on a 3000 developer mailing list, one MPE expert warned of the most common malware attack of 2015: Ransomware. "This is probably the most likely thing to happen to your computer if you click on the wrong thing today," Gavin Scott reports.
It's a nearly perfect criminal scheme.You get the malware on your system and it encrypts all files of value with a randomly generated key, and directs you to send $300 in bitcoin to them in order to get the encryption key to get your files back. It will encrypt every drive it can get access to, so a lot of people get their backups infected in the process of trying to recover. If you pay the $300, then by all reports they do give you the key, you get all your files back, and they don't bother you again. They even direct you to bitcoin ATM companies who reportedly spend much of their time these days providing technical support — to help Grandma operate the bitcoin system to pay her computer ransom.
To explain the fate of having to toss out computers in the IT shop which cannot be ransomed, we call on our security expert Steve Hardwick for some insights.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
In a previous article I looked at a Man in the Middle attack using SuperFish. That malware effectively bypassed the encryption built into HTTPS and so allowed Lenovo to inspect secure web traffic. There's another type of encryption hack that's becoming a serious threat: Ransomware.
In standard symmetric encryption, a key — a password — is used to scramble the information to render it undecipherable. The same key is then used to allow a valid user to convert that data back into the original data. Encryption systems ensure that anyone without a key will be unable to reconstitute the original data from encrypted data. Another key component (forgive the pun) is the password used to generate the encrypted data. If a valid user is not able to access the key, then they no longer have access to the data.
In many situations as a security professional, I've been asked how to recover encrypted data after the encryption key has been lost. Despite what TV shows depict, this is not as easy as it looks. Typical recovery of encrypted data is time consuming and costly. The first thing any security professional will say when an encryption key is lost is, "Just recover your data from your backup." But today there's a type of virus out there that uses this weakness, and can compromise backups, too.
April 21, 2015
Scheduling Time for Job Management
Starting Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern, MB Foster will demonstrate in a Webinar what Windows-based scheduling software should look like. The template for success comes from a strong jobstream management design: the one on HP 3000s.
3000 managers are making moves to Windows. It's been the most popular migration destination ever since HP announced it was leaving the 3000 space. Going to Linux is popular too, and the older generation of the Linux concept, Unix, had good scheduling software choices. Managers buy their own scheduler for all of these migration platforms, because what's included won't do anything close to what MPE delivers.
Over at the IT operations of Idaho State University, the scheduler that's recommended for the Banner/Ellucian ERP package under Unix has been installed. "We went with Automic's UC 4," said IT analyst John MacLerran. "That is the one recommended for use in Banner and it has worked quite well for us. We are currently on Solaris, with some Windows servers (for our report writer, named Argos), and Linux servers for the Oracle middleware servers. We will be moving the Solaris bits to Linux in the next 12 months or so, as we undergo a hardware refresh on our servers."
That's well and good for Unix or Linux sites, but Windows installations don't have such clean choices. MBF Scheduler is a selection that Measurement Specialties made a few years ago. That 3000 shop added Windows to its IT mix and needed 14,000 3000 jobs managed.
April 20, 2015
Replacing Apps, and Adding On, to Migrate
At Idaho State University, migration away from HP 3000 operations has been underway since before 2007. The school directed nearly all of its business functions using MPE/iX software, a good deal of it hand-tooled in PowerHouse. Within a couple of years of the migration launch the higher-education application Banner, running on Solaris Unix servers, took over for key parts of the 3000 operations. The last set of applications of the project now has a target for completing by July.
John MacLerran, senior IT analyst, updated us on the work at the university, noting that there are three applications, as well as control of the school's PBX, that must still be replaced from the 3000. The bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," he said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law."
These revisions are following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."
It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. (MB Foster calls these migration targets Commercial Off The Shelf apps.) "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."
Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.
April 17, 2015
Hardware appliance bolsters MPE encryption
HP 3000 sites still need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software. There's a reasonable amount of promise in SFTP of today for MPE/iX, but the solution isn't likely to satisfy security audits.
FluentEdge Technologies encrypts data moving through applications including the Ecometry ecommerce suite, as well as databases themselves, using software solutions that tap into apps and don't require any rewrites.
There's also a hardware solution, one that's been tested with the 3000, that offers a universal method to keeping data secure in transit. The 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances. A few years ago, Jack Connor put one of these appliances between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host. Now there's a new version of the device.
Similar to 10ZiG's Q3 appliance, the Q3e is the newest version of this state-of-the-art technology. Providing complete security for backup tapes, the Q3e appliance is designed to be easy-to-use and non-intrusive. Installation takes only minutes and key management is strong, yet simple. For the highest level of security, each Q3e appliance includes a hardware encryption chip that is unique to each customer. The Q3e is available with user selectable AES-128 or AES-256 encryption modes and supports up to four tape drives.
April 16, 2015
TBT: When 3000 Training Went Digital
Twenty-five years ago, HP was making history by integrating CBT for MPE XL on a CD-ROM, running from an IBM PC-AT. Or a Vectra. Ah, what we learned in those years by using acronyms.
At a user conference in Boston better known for a 3000 database showdown, the mashup of acronyms promised Computer Based Training for the 3000's operating system from a Compact Disc Read Only Memory drive. Here on Throwback Thursday, we're celebrating an industry first that leveraged the HP 3000, something of an anomaly for Hewlett-Packard. CD-based information delivery was still in its first steps in the computer industry, and just ramping up in the music business as well. It would be another 10 years before Apple shipped desktops with built-in CD-ROMs.
An HP official who would later come to lead half the company as executive VP, Ann Livermore, was a humble Product Manager for this combination of HP CD classes and an HP CD-ROM player. "It's the equivalent of having a system expert looking over your shoulder while you work," Livermore said. "The audio on these training product adds significant value to the learning experience." The interactive courses show users a typical HP 3000 console on the PC, accompanied by verbal instructions and explanatory text and graphics.
In an era where Bulletin Board Systems were cutting-edge information channels and web browsers didn't exist, having CD-ROM as a tool for support broke new ground for HP's enterprise business. HP sold about six hours of training on CDs for $950. The breakthrough was being able to use the training repeatedly, instead of putting each new operator or end-user in an HP classroom for a week.
April 15, 2015
Patches Are Custom Products in 2015
Last spring we visited the state of HP 3000 patching and found that new work has been making its way into the customer base — one customer at a time. HP Support once created such custom patches, engineered specifically for the configuration at the customer site. Independent support providers who have access to the MPE source code do this today. It's a elite number of support providers. Ask yours if they've got the source.
Last year a 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s. This mention of MPE bug repair was a reminder, actually, that Hewlett-Packard set the internals knowledge of MPE free back in 2010. Read-only rights to the operating system source code went out to seven companies worldwide, including some support providers such as Pivital Solutions and Allegro Consultants.
The latter's Stan Sieler was watching a 3000 newsgroup thread about the error winding up. Tracy Johnson, the curator of the 3000 that hosts the EMPIRE game and a former secretary to OpenMPE, had pointed out that his 3000 sometimes waits longer than expected after a PAUSE in a jobstream.
I nearly always put a CONTINUE statement before a PAUSE in any job. Over the years I have discovered that sometimes the CPU waits "longer" than the specified pause and fails with an error.
A lively newsgroup discussion of 28 messages ensued. It was by far the biggest exchange of tech advice on the newsgroup in 2014. Sieler took note of what's likely to be broken in MPE/iX 7.5, after an HP engineer had made his analysis of might need a workaround. Patches and workarounds are a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get 'em if you want 'em.
April 14, 2015
Finding Your Level of MPE Patches
Patches to the HP 3000 never were a popular item in the base of production servers. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen Development once said that "about three things can happen when you patch a 3000, and two of them are bad." In essence, a static 3000 system is a stable system, and managers give away the promise of better features for the certainty there will be no errors or aborts. At least none that the management has not already seen, logged, and worked around.
However, the years which have rolled by have pushed 3000s into new territory. For example, the ability to see larger LDEV 1 drives -- and by larger we mean bigger than 4GB -- only comes through a series of patches. Drives fail, and then replacing them with something not strictly approved by HP is an obvious option.
It's not obvious to determine what a 3000's patch level is, though, considering most of the systems haven't been patched in years.
One of our editors and sponsors pointed out a tool in the 3000 community that can help. To be clear, of course, maintaining independent third party support is one of the best ways to track patch levels. While they can't say it out loud, many support vendors keep a full complement of MPE/iX patches on hand, too.
April 13, 2015
How MPE Talks to Its Network Neighbors
Our networking team reports they're going to refresh the hardware on our IP gateways. Our Telecom manager says they will
- Change the physical gateway, because the hardware is being replaced
- Not change the IP address and gateway address
- Change the MAC address of the gateway (because of different gateway hardware)
What do I need to do on our MPE boxes to ensure that they will see the new hardware? Does MPE cache the MAC address of neighbor gateways anywhere? I was thinking I needed to restart networking services, but I wasn't sure if anything more will be needed.
Jack Connor replies
If you're taking it off the air for the network changes, I'd go ahead and close the network down until the work has completed and then reopen it. MPE will be looking for the IPs as it opens up. I know you can see the MAC addresses in NETTOOL, but I don't think they're of any import other than informational and for DTC traffic.
Donna Hofmeister adds
Halt the network (even the system if possible -- because it's almost the same thing) while the larger network work is being done. When the new gear is in place and seems stable, "wake up" the 3000 and watch what happens.
April 10, 2015
Putting ERP Securely On Your Wrist
HP 3000 ERP solutions are hosted natively on servers, and some of them can be accessed and managed over Apple's mobile tablets. But the Apple Watch that's due in two weeks will bring a new and personal interface for enterprise servers. Indeed, a well-known alternative and migration target for MANMAN and other MPE apps is climbing aboard the Apple Watch bandwagon from the very first tick.
Salesforce has a Watch app coming out on launch day that ties into a business installation of the storied application. Incredible Insights Just At A Glance, the promo copy promises.
Access the most relevant, timely data in seconds. Swipe to see dashboards, explore with lenses or use Handoff to work seamlessly between Apple Watch and iPhone. And use Voice Search to surface a report, view a dashboard, or find other vital information in seconds.
As mobile computing takes a new step with the Watch -- a device that Apple's careful not to call a smartwatch, as it's more of an interface for a smartphone -- security remains a concern. Apple has been addressing it by recognizing the Four Pillars of Mobile Security. A little review can be helpful for any IT pro who's got mobile devices coming into their user base. That's the essence of BYOD: Bring Your Own Device.