December 04, 2014

TBT: When Poetry Sang the 3000's Story

Our extended report on the occasion of Fred White's death let a memory of a poem float to the foreground of collective consciousness. The HP 3000's fans and fanatics have dreamed up verse to go along with the acres of prose written about the computer. One of the youngest fans of all time owns the copyright to three such poems. There has been other verse in song, as well.

SashaComputer poetry -- that is, poems written about a computer -- goes back to the tradition of IBM's company songbooks. Orly Larson of Hewlett-Packard was the chief bandleader for such music about White's creation, IMAGE. A rousing medley of Larson's compositions became part of HP conferences during the mid-1990s. But on another end of the age range, Alexander "Sasha" Volokh (at left, at an HP conference of the day) penned a poem celebrating the Boston Tea Party protest led by White in 1990.

Sasha's The Unbundling of IMAGE (full text at the Adager website) was an account of the SIGIMAGE meeting during that show, "In the style of The Man From Snowy River by A.B 'Banjo' Paterson"

Now Fred White had written IMAGE and was sad, as you can guess.
He said the word "unbundling" was a lie.
IMAGE isn't like a product, but is part of FOS
And that's why you get it when HPs you buy.
But IMAGE, it has always been mistreated by HP
And I wouldn't like to think the end is near.
And I'm working with Alfredo, but in this, I speak for me,
'Cause if not for me, you wouldn't all be here.

There was more, plenty more to protest about at that meeting of 24 years ago. Some of the poem included a reference to an open letter, this one written by a 3000 legend also deceased. That letter of Wirt Atmar's was another means to dispute the vendor's plans for the 3000's future. MPE systems have retained their value to homesteading users, in large measure because the unbundled database scheme was shouted down.

Read "TBT: When Poetry Sang the 3000's Story" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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December 03, 2014

Cyber-shop for networked storage this week

AmazonAs Cyber-Week -- the extension of Cyber Monday shopping -- continues to unfold this week, the holiday sale might provide new resources for your old 3000. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a powerful enterprise resource, full of value now that disk prices have plummeted. Everything is even lower this week. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has shared his secrets for making NAS an HP 3000 tool.

"Like most HP 3000 shops we were looking for a cheap way to [store many gigabytes of data] — and there was no way we could afford a DLT," he said. Digital Linear Tape boasts massive capacities, but most storage these days is going straight to another disk.

LinkstationYeo said that fundamentally, the method to include NAS as an option involves creating STORE to Disk files, "and then you FTP those STORE files up to your NAS device. A simple half-terabyte (500 GB) RAID-1 NAS device is the equivalent of 40 12-GB DDS tape drives." 

It's a little unsettling to hear how many HP 3000 backups still go onto DDS tapes. Even the DLT tapes are a pain to handle, Yeo added.

Read "Cyber-shop for networked storage this week" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2014

Data leads way to migrations, via support

Migration patternThe heart of a 3000 homestead operation is its collection of IMAGE/SQL databases. Almost 20 years ago, IBM was mounting an effort to turn 3000 customers into AS/400 sites. I commented on the effort for Computerworld, "They'll have to do something about converting IMAGE/SQL data, if they expect to have any success." IBM had little luck in that effort, and not a great deal more nine years later, after HP announced an exit date for its 3000 operations.

From a reader and system manager on the US East Coast, we've heard more about data leading the way to the future. At this long-time 3000 site, the systems are getting a new support provider to keep them online and reliable. Not many sites are changing this sort of arrangement these days. It's been almost four years since HP closed its 3000 and MPE support operations in 2010.

A new company will be supporting that A-Class server on the East Coast before long. The new support is going to open the door to a revamped future, however. 

Our purchasers are still in the process of signing up our new vendor for HP 3000 support. What is sad is that part of the deal includes migration of some TurboIMAGE databases to MS Access or something like that, which will lead to the eventual demise of the HP3000.

There is still the chance the new support might extend the 3000's utility, though. Self-maintainers who don't use support run risks that the 3000 doesn't really have to bear. A stable server is just one short-term reward for signing up with a support provider specializing in 3000s, like Pivital Solutions or The Support Group.

Read "Data leads way to migrations, via support" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:20 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2014

HP Q4, FY static; 3000 replacement sales fall

Enterprise Group totals Q4 2014Despite all of the challenges Hewlett-Packard faced over the past fiscal year, the company has reported sales and earnings that didn't fall much from FY 2013 levels. Falling sales of HP 3000 replacement systems remain on the balance sheet, however. Nothing has changed but the depth of the plunge.

Both the 2014 fiscal year and the Q4 numbers (click on graphics for details) reflected an ability to keep some declines off the HP financial report. The latest quarter improved on Q2 and Q3 results overall. HP reported a profit of $2.62 per share for 2014. That's nearly $5 billion in earnings company-wide.

If the company sticks to its plan, its total of $115 billion in 2014 sales, only down 1 percent from last year, covers the penultimate period HP reports as a full company. By the end of FY 2015, the corporation will separate its businesses and spin off HP, Inc. for consumer and PC products. Hewlett-Packard will remain to sell servers and enterprise computing products and services. Analysts expect the companies to be of equal size.

Revenue shares Enterprise Group Q4 2014The total of HP's Business Critical Systems revenues took another hit in the fourth quarter, dropping almost 30 percent from Q4 of 2013. Double-digit percentage drops in BCS sales are commonplace by now. The unit produces the HP-UX systems HP once designated as replacements for the HP 3000. Intel-based systems, contained in the Industry Standard Servers operations, also saw their sales decline slightly. Networking revenues were slightly higher for the quarter.

The company's CEO was thrilled about the overall picture for the full company, calling it a sustained turnaround.

"I'm excited to say that HP's turnaround continues on track," said Meg Whitman. "In FY14, we stabilized our revenue trajectory, strengthened our operations, showed strong financial discipline, and once again made innovation the cornerstone of our company. Our product roadmaps are the best they've been in years and our partners and customers believe in us. There's still a lot left to do, but our efforts to date, combined with the separation we announced in October, sets the stage for accelerated progress in FY15 and beyond." 

Read "HP Q4, FY static; 3000 replacement sales fall" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:58 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 26, 2014

Something to give thanks for, and envy, too

On the eve of a holiday invented to promote thanks as well as outsized eating, Thanksgiving reminds us of what a 3000 user can thank the gods for -- and something to envy, too.

OpenVMS-HPProlific commenter Tim O'Neill asked, "Can you write about the current futures of other no-longer-supported systems such as HP 1000, Alpha, and old HP 9000s such as Series 300/400/700?" We can write that the HP 1000, a product line which HP turned off just after Y2K, still has third parties who will maintain and support RTE operating system applications. The HP 1000 got a proper emulator from Strobe Data, engineered in time to capture the business of companies who couldn't part with RTE apps.

A similar story is true of the AlphaServer line from HP. Killed off in the last decade, Alpha is a third-party supported product. No other Alpha computers were built after HP shunted its users to the Integrity line, a migration path of dubious future by now. Alpha has a good emulator in the AXP version of Charon from Stromasys, the company providing a future for long-serving MPE/iX apps, too. The presence of Charon prompts thanks from companies who can't support the concept of decade-old HP hardware running MPE/iX.

But while the Alpha and the 3000 will live on in the virtualization of Stromasys, they can be envious of the deal another retiring environment received this year. OpenVMS will live on in an exclusive license to VMS Software Inc. (VSI). The company got the arrangement to carry OpenVMS forward with new versions using the HP source code for the operating system.

The details released haven't yielded much more than a third-party road map for the OS, up to now. But that's a future with some tantalizing what-if's, both for the OS and for the 3000 user who wanted more MPE/iX future back in 2002. OpenMPE campaigned for use of HP's source code for MPE and got an arrangement that was announced six years ago this week. That source was limited to a technical support resource, however.

If, as happened with OpenVMS, that source had been promised to a single third party, six years before HP would drop support, there could be more to be thankful for this week. Extended third party applications. Support for newer technologies. A replacement vendor, blessed by HP, to mention in boardroom meetings about the 3000's future.

Perhaps OpenVMS customers should be thankful for something else, too: The lessons HP faced about ending the life of a business operating environment, an OS that brought HP to the computing game. Third parties that love and care for a legacy computer were on hand for the 3000. They fell short of convincing Hewlett-Packard to turn over a marketplace. Maybe HP learned that leaving customers with no better choice than replacing a system with Windows wasn't great business.

We'll give thanks for a few days off to celebrate this holiday with family in the Great Lakes -- regardless of frigid weather. We'll be back on Monday.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:07 AM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 25, 2014

Open source SED manages 3000 streams

Open source resources make it possible to use SED, a stream editor built in the open source community. Since 2001 SED has worked on the HP 3000, thanks to Lars Appel, a former HP support engineer who ported Samba to the platform in the 1990s.

SED's main MPE page is on a page of Appel's. SED is an at your own risk download, but support is available through the 3000 community.

Dan Barnes, working on a problem he had to solve in his 3000 environment, asked:

The issue is incoming data from another platform that is being fed into MM 3000. This data occasionally has some unprintable characters, which of  course wrecks havoc on the MM application when it is encountered. To address this, the user, using a cygwin (Unix-like) environment on their Windows PC, developed a SED script. When they test the script in the cgywin environment it works just fine. But when done on the target HP 3000 it gets an undesirable result.

Barnes added that "The user thought that because MPE/iX is Posix-compliant, that this should work." He explained his user created the expression

sed -e 's/[\x7F-\xFE]/*/g' < COMSHD > COMSHD1

But Appel noted that hex 7F thru hex FE portion of the expression isn't supported on the MPE/iX version of SED. It's a limitation of MPE/iX, but there's a workaround.

Not sure if the regular expression usage here matches Posix or GNU specs, but my guess is the "\xNN" format, that seems to indicate a char by hex code, doesn't work.

How about something like using the command sed -e 's/[^ -~]/*/g' instead, i.e. map the characters outside the range space through tilde?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:05 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2014

Building a Portfolio Away From Retirement

ClutteredclosetUsing analogies of moving out of a house and filling out scorecards, an hour of last week unreeled off a Webinar that showed how portfolios offer a plan for migrating and sustaining applications. Birket Foster and his crew at MB Foster showed how continuous and thorough software management helps available budget meet the most crucial needs.

A classic four-quadrant chart outlined the scoring of applications. One axis showed a business fit, the other a technical fit. Like all of the four-box charts, nobody wanted software in the bottom left, low in both aspects. But it's a business decision that drives most of the changes in IT these days. Scorecard the business fit of applications in a portfolio first, Foster said. If it scores well in that fit, go on to the technical fit.

The portfolio is the tool of governance, he added. Governing is a classic process to ensure the most needy get resources as required. Application Portfolio Management has been a favorite topic at MB Foster. It's only possible if a company knows its applications very well — and very well means with documentation that can be shared over time. The assets in a portfolio can be judged to be worthy of migration based on their risk-benefit-value. What helps a company most, and what could you least afford to let fall into that dreaded lower-left box?

QuadrantOnly about 5 percent of the community's applications can fall off that chart completely, ready for retirement. The largest group are suited for a same-capability migration, when they creep down. That 70 percent of the apps can get a lift-and-shift of their functionality, usually through replacement. It takes hundreds of hours per application.

What makes it less painful and swifter is cleaning in advance. As Foster said, "It's like moving out of a house. If you go through your closets regularly, you'll be moving less that you don't need." In this analogy, the closets are your data, which "has to be made available to the new app. It's not automatic."

Read "Building a Portfolio Away From Retirement" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:40 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2014

TBT: When Joy of Tech Was Necessary

SuperGroup Fred White


The cover above of the SuperGroup Association magazine from January, 1985 came to mind here on ThrowBack Thursday. Fred White passed away this week, and it's been a delightful trek down the lane of memories to recall his gusto about the art of technology.

The cover above shows some of that gusto which is not easy to describe. SuperGroup understood the MPE and IMAGE technology of the '80s as well or better than any magazine of the day. But that 3000 publication edited by D. David Brown had a sense of humor and whimsy about it no other publication has been able to eclipse. (Even on my best day as HP Chronicle editor I was only cooking up editorial cartoons about PA-RISC that somebody else would illustrate, and there have been those Ken-Do strips from the NewsWire. But nothing as savvy as what was staged above.)

The players in the little romp were, from left, White, Adager's Alfredo Rego, and Robelle's Bob Green. The photo was a teaser into a great technical paper about a perceived need to acknowledge that databases needed "uncomfortable Procrustean designs... [using] methodologies associated wth normalizing and relating."

Procrustean creditsLike the paper that Eugene Volokh wrote in the following year, the technical report put relational databases in their place -- capable of permitting multiple views of data, but with a steep performance price to pay compared to IMAGE/3000. The article was on the vanguard of unmasking the shortcomings of relational databases of that era, as I read it. Also clever and playful, two words not often associated with technical writing. The paper was authored by more than the three in the picture; Allegro's Stan Sieler and Steve Cooper got credits, as did Leslie Keffer de Rego for editing.

Read "TBT: When Joy of Tech Was Necessary" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:15 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 19, 2014

Fred White, 1924-2014

FredWhiteCourtesy of his long-time collaborator and partner Alfredo Rego, this picture of Fred White was taken in 2004, when Fred was 80 and several years into retirement. The legendary co-creator of IMAGE and the SPL expert in Adager's Labs, White was a Marine Corps veteran. Rego said while offering this portrait, "I took this photo with my Olympus E-1 on October 26, 2004 (just a bit over 10 years ago!) in Cedar City, Utah, where he and Judy lived for a while. Fred invited Judy and me to lunch, and I snapped this image across the table. I loved everything there: The warm light, the delicious food, the stimulating conversation, the young college students rushing about..."

The creator of the heartbeat of the HP 3000, Fred White, passed away on November 18, 2014 at the age of 90. White died peacefully in the presence of his wife Judy and family members, of natural causes. He had relocated to Arizona after retiring from Adager in the year after Y2K. His work in building the essential database for MPE, alongside Jon Bale, was the keystone of the 3000 experience. Rego took note of a key identifier inside the IMAGE internals, one that signified a database was sound and accurate. The flag was FW, or as Rego said in a short tribute to his partner, "%043127, the octal representation of “FW” — the flag for a normal IMAGE/3000 database (and TurboIMAGE, and IMAGE/SQL)."

White's work for the 3000 community came in two stages. The first was his innovations while working for HP, building a network database which won awards until HP stopped selling IMAGE and included it with the HP 3000. (Bundled software would not be considered for prizes like the Datamation award bestowed on IMAGE in 1976.) IMAGE, integrated at a foolproof level with the MPE intrinsics and filesystem, delivered a ready field for a small army of developers to plant applications and tools. Without White's work, the 3000 would have been just a footnote in HP's attempts to enter the computer business.

The second stage of White's gifts to the community began when HP had infuriated him for the last time. Never a fan of large organizations, he left Hewlett-Packard when it became clear the vendor had no interest in enhancing IMAGE. But before he departed HP, White met with Rego when the latter was visiting HP in an effort to learn more about IMAGE from the vendor, in preparation for a forthcoming database manager he'd create. As the legend is told, White decided he'd try to help Rego just to ensure that the creation to be called Adager could emerge a little easier.

"He hoped we would answer his questions," White said in a post-retirement interview. His partner Jon Bale "said that kind of help would be contrary to HP company policy. I said to him, 'Jon, this guy’s going to get this done whether we help him or not. All we’re doing is helping a fellow human. Whatever it takes, Alfredo’s going to do it anyway.' "

"At that point, Jon said it was up to me, but he couldn’t do it because it wasn’t HP company policy. He wished Alfredo the best of luck and left. So I answered his questions, and even told him things he couldn’t possibly have thought of, such as privileged mode intrinsic calling and negative DBOPEN modes, things peculiar to the software rather than the database. We chatted for an hour and a half or so."

The exchange in 1977 pointed toward the door to the Adager segment of White's career. The years between 1980 and 2001 allowed Fred to make up for his reticence inside corporations by becoming the conscience of accuracy and fairness. Innovations for IMAGE finally arrived in the middle 1990s. But White's most saucy moment of advocacy came in Boston when HP was trying to make IMAGE a separate product once again.

Read "Fred White, 1924-2014" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:34 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 18, 2014

Replacing rises as migrator's primary choice

Key_to_replacementIt's the end of 2014, just about. Plenty of IT shops have closed down changes for the calendar year. Many 2015 development budgets have been wrapped up, too. Among those HP 3000 operations which are still considering a strategy for transition, there's only one assured choice for most of who's left. They'll need to replace their application. Not many can rehost it.

We've heard this advice from both migration services partners as well as the providers of tools for making a migration. An HP 3000 is pretty likely to be running an application with extensive customization by this year. We've just now edged into the 14th year since HP announced a wrap-up of its interest in all things MPE/iX. Year One began in mid-November of 2011. After completing 13 years on watch during the Transition Era, there's a lot of migration best practices to report. More success has been posted, at a better price and on schedule, when a replacement app can be integrated along with a new server and computing environment.

Of course, massive applications have been moved. One of the largest was in the IT operations of the State of Washington Community College Computing Consortium. It was a project so large it was begun twice, over enough elapsed time that the organization changed its name. The second attempt better understood the nuances of VPlus user interface behaviors. There were 40 staffers and at least four vendor services groups working on the task.

One of the issues that's emerged for rehosting organizations is a reduction in MPE expertise. Companies can still engage some of the world's best developers, project managers, and rewriting wizards for MPE/iX. It's harder to assign enough expert human resources who know your company's business processes. That's why a top-down study of what your apps are doing is the sort of job that's been going out-of-house. By this year, it would be better to engage an outside company to replace what's been reliable. This hired expertise ensures a company doesn't lose any computing capability while it makes a transition.

You'll need the use of tools to manage data in a replacement, though. Everything else is likely to change, even in a replacement, except for the data. "Replacement requires reorganizing data," Birket Foster of MB Foster told us this summer. "You could start cleaning your data now." Foster is presenting a Webinar on the subject of the Three Rs -- Rehosting, Replacing, or Retiring -- tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2PM Eastern Time. 

Read "Replacing rises as migrator's primary choice" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:04 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 17, 2014

HP's 3000 power supply persists in failure

Amid a migration project, Michael Anderson was facing a failure. Not of his project, but a failure of his HP 3000 to start up on a bad morning. HP's original hardware is in line for replacement at customers using the 3000 for a server. Some of these computers are more than 15 years old. But the HP grade of components and engineering is still exemplary.

"I was working with a HP 3000 Series 969, and one morning it was down," he reported. "All power was on, but the system was not running; I got no response from the console. So I power-cycled it, and the display panel (above the key switch) reported the following."

Proceeding to turn DC on

On the console it displayed garbage when the power was turned on, but the message on the display remained. I wasn’t sure what to replace. I was thinking the power supply — but all of the power was on. As it turned out, even in the middle of a power supply failure the 3000 was working to get out a message. The back side, the core I/O, FW SCSI, and so on, all appeared to have power. That is why I found it hard to believe that the power supply was the problem.

Read "HP's 3000 power supply persists in failure" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2014

Our World's Greatest Cartoon, Ever

101 MigrationsBecause it's so crucial, and because Alan Yeo was brilliant in commissioning it. Mark your calendars. (Click it for detail)

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:39 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2014

Thursday Throwback: IMAGE vs. Relational

As a precocious 18-year-old, Eugene Volokh wrote deep technical papers for HP 3000 users who were two or three times his age. While we pointed to the distinctions between IMAGE master and automatic datasets recently, Eugene's dad Vladimir reminded us about a Eugene paper. It was published in the fall of 1986, a time when debate was raging over the genuine value of relational databases.

While the relational database is as certain in our current firmament as the position of any planet, the concept was pushing aside proven technology 28 years ago. IMAGE, created by Fred White and Jon Bale at HP, was not relational. Or was it? Eugene offered the paper below to explore what all the relative fuss was about. Vladimir pointed us to the page on the fine Adager website where the paper lives in its original formatting.

COBO HallThe relationships between master and automatic and detail datasets pointed the way to how IMAGE would remain viable even during the onslaught of relational databases. Soon enough, even Structured Query Language would enter the toolbox of IMAGE. But even in the year this paper emerged, while the 3000 still didn't have a PA-RISC model or MPE/XL to drive it, there was a correlation between relational DBs and IMAGE. Relational databases rely on indexes, "which is what most relational systems use in the same way that IMAGE uses automatic masters," Eugene wrote in his paper presented at COBO Hall in Detroit (above). QUERY/3000 was a relational query language, he added, albeit one less easy to use.

Vladimir admits that very few IT professionals are building IMAGE/SQL databases anymore. "But they do look at them, and they should know what they're looking at," he explained.

Relational Databases Vs. IMAGE:
What The Fuss Is All About

By Eugene Volokh, VESOFT

What are "relational databases" anyway? Are they more powerful than IMAGE? Less powerful? Faster? Slower? Slogans abound, but facts are hard to come by. It seems like HP will finally have its own relational system out for Spectrum (or whatever they call it these days). I hope that this paper will clear up some of the confusion that surrounds relational databases, and will point out the substantive advantages and disadvantages that relational databases have over network systems like IMAGE.

What is a relational database? Let's think for a while about a database design problem.

We want to build a parts requisition system. We have many possible suppliers, and many different parts. Each supplier can sell us several kinds of parts, and each part can be bought from one of several suppliers.

Easy, right? We just have a supplier master, a parts master, and a supplier/parts cross-reference detail:

Relational-IMAGE Fig 1Every supplier has a record in the SUPPLIERS master, every part has a record in the PARTS master, and each (supplier, part-supplied) pair has a record in the SUPPLIER-XREF dataset.

Now, why did we set things up this way? We could have, for instance, made the SUPPLIER-XREF dataset a master, with a key of SUPPLIERS#+PART#.  Or,  we  could have made all three datasets stand-alone details, with no masters at all. The point is that the proof of a database is in the using. The design we showed -- two masters and a detail -- allows us to very efficiently do the following things:

  • Look up supplier information by the unique supplier #.
  • Look up parts information by the unique part #.
  • For each part, look up all its suppliers (by using the cross-reference detail dataset).
  • For each supplier, look up all the parts it sells (by using the cross-reference detail dataset).

This is what IMAGE is good at -- allowing quick retrieval from a master using the master's unique key and allowing quick retrieval from a detail chain using one of the detail's search items. 

Read "Thursday Throwback: IMAGE vs. Relational" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:48 PM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2014

Public server with a mission: CHARON cloud

About a month ago, Stromasys announced that the CHARON HP 3000 emulator was going to be finding a home in the cloud. The company says it's talking to prospective partners to put such a 3000 capability onto a standard cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services. That would establish a working environment where the 3000 has already performed a mission. More than a decade ago, Hewlett-Packard believed that a 3000 for public use would help the 3000 community.

The server was dubbed Invent3K, because its mission was to further the 3000's lifespan through the invention of software. HP stocked it with subsystems, offered accounts for free, and let development commence. Some useful products came out of Invent3K. The first that comes to mind is a version of perl ready for MPE/iX. That's a version that continues to work.

Now CHARON might do similar work to help extend the MPE/iX lifespan. Plenty of people want to experience the emulator's powers. Tapping a free server, including free accounts where homesteaders' applications and test databases could reside, would offer the world a useful test bed for transition onto Intel hardware and away from HP-branded boxes.

Last fall the MPE expertise inside Stromasys suggested if there would be interest, from a volunteer, in putting a public-access CHARON-fueled machine on the Internet." It's the sort of mission OpenMPE might have done in its heyday. A lot has changed since HP's labs shut down and OpenMPE was left without much mission. A public access server for the world's only HP 3000 emulator would get ample traffic. It could also be a vital proof of concept for using a 3000 based in the cloud.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 11, 2014

Veterans get volunteered for transition's day

1stCavHere on Veteran's Day — I'm a vet of the '70's-era military — I'm remembering there are IT pros with another kind of veteran status. They are people who count more than a couple of decades of experience with the HP 3000, managing their servers since before the time that Windows was the default computing strategy. They've been through a different kind of conflict.

I've learned that the most embattled managers employ a surprising tool. It's a sense of humor, reflected in the tone of their descriptions of mothballing the likes of 25-year-old independent apps during migrations. They have to laugh and get to do so, because their attempts to advance their positions might seem like folly at first look, or even in a second attempt.

Really, an assignment like putting Transact code into an HP-UX environment? Or take the case of working around a financial app software from Bi-Tech -- an indie vendor that "really stopped developing it for the 3000 years ago," according to City of Sparks, Nevada Operations & Systems Administrator Steve Davidek. There's been some really old stuff doing everyday duty in HP 3000 shops. The age of the applications was often in line with the tenure of the project's management.

These pros typify the definition of veterans, a term we'll use liberally in the US today to celebrate their sacrifices and courage. Facing battle and bullets is not on par with understanding aged code and logic. But two groups of people do have something similar at heart. Both kinds of veterans have been tested and know how to improve the odds of success in a conflict. Youthful passion is important to bring fresh energy to any engagement, military or technological. What earns the peace is experience, however grey-haired it looks next to Windows warriors.

With each mission accomplished -- from what looks like the Y2K effort of 14 years ago to embracing a roll-your-own Unix that replaced MPE's integrated toolset -- these veterans moved forward in their careers. "Our knowledge base is renewed with this work," one said after migrating apps that served 34 Washington state colleges. "We're on the latest products."

Recruiting IT talent into small towns — and the 3000 runs in many small cities where manufacturing labor is less costly — meant hiring for Windows experience. Adopting Windows into an organization means leaving proprietary environments even more popular than MPE/iX. Like HP-UX.

Read "Veterans get volunteered for transition's day" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 10, 2014

Sharing the Source of SLEEPER for MPE

Sleepy penguin,jpgSLEEPER is one of the best-known Contributed Software Library (CSL) programs in the history of the HP user group Interex. For years after the user group shut down, the CSL tapes -- created once a year and refreshed with new programs after every annual user meeting -- were the most significant Interex asset left to the community. But making the CSL a public asset, after the Interex shutdown, encountered a snag. How could those useful programs like SLEEPER get shared, if they didn't have clearance from the contributing companies?

SLEEPER and BOUNCER were the programs most often cited in the snags, since they were shared by way of the 3000 shop at Boeing. It was heard a lot, this caution, while people were searching for CSL collections after the Interex meltdown. "Oh, we can't go and release that swap tape," people like the Interex curators would say. "There's BOUNCER on there, and we'd have to get permission from Boeing." Well, that's not exactly true.

Maybe one email would've gotten the process of permission started. It's different times by now. The SPL source for SLEEP, a progeny of SLEEPER, was shared up on the 3000-L mailing list last week. (That's a link to the 3000-L archive message, containing the code in the message body.) Ray Legault offered the code when John Korb, a 3000 consultant, was asking around for it.

Korb thinks so highly of SLEEPER that wants to port the program to PHP, for use on a Linux system. "My goal is to create a PHP version of SLEEPER," he said, "something that can run on Linux desktops and servers and Windows 8.1 desktops -- so I can avoid cron on the Linux box, and avoid the Windows task scheduler."

Read "Sharing the Source of SLEEPER for MPE" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:39 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2014

Manual and Automatic Masters, Detailed

A few days ago we included a Hidden Value question about how manual and automatic masters work in TurboIMAGE. Our ally and friend Vladimir Volokh called to note that in part of the question, the system manager had found "one detail data set that has thousands of entries which do not appear to be connected to any master.

It wasn't exactly a question, but in a reply on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup, Roy Brown gave a fine tutorial on how these features do their jobs for MPE and the 3000 -- as well as how a detail dataset might have zero key fields.

Manual masters can contain data which you define, like Detail sets can, along with a single Key field. Automatic masters contain only the Key field.

In both cases, there can be only one record for a given key value in a Master dataset.

A Detail dataset contains data fields plus zero, one, or many key fields. There can be as many records as you like for a given key value, and these form a chain accessible from the Master record key value. This chain may be sorted, or it may just be in chronological order of adding the records.

Zero key fields in a Detail dataset would be unusual, but is permissible.

Read "Manual and Automatic Masters, Detailed" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:55 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2014

Throwback: Today's Empire of Invent3K

Five years ago today we watched for notice about a fresh 3000 resource on the Web. Invent3K, a public access development server created by HP in 2001, was searching out a new home in November 2009. The vendor shut off Invent3K in November 2008, along with the Jazz website that hosted shareware utilities created by HP and the user community.

Invent3K was an OpenMPE adoption project five years ago. The community probably didn't need a public access development web server by the end of 2009. But replacing HP's withdrawn assets seemed important. Invent3K harkened back to a more hopeful time. 3000 developers were first offered access to MPE accounts on that HP server only about six months before the vendor announced it would end its 3000 programs.

Invent3K was unique in the 3000's history. The server was the first and only place that hosted free, development-use-only subsystem software from HP. Working from an Invent3K account, a developers employed COBOL II, TurboStore, and other HP-branded products while building apps or utilities.

InventFor a time, OpenMPE wanted to sell $99 yearly development accounts on its replacement Invent3K. The community was not accustomed to paying for public access, so sales were slow. OpenMPE was trying to generate revenues for operating things like a Jazz replacement host where contributed tools could be accessed. By that time, much of Jazz had been re-hosted at servers owned by Client Systems and Speedware. Things were not hosted quite the same as on Jazz, though. HP insisted that those two vendors make users click through an End User License Agreement before using the contributed tools re-hosted from Jazz.

Last month, two of the replacement servers for delivering Jazz and Invent3K had online glitches. Speedware's server went offline for a weekend, so its hpmigrations.com website that hosts Jazz delivered only an error. The HP 3000 where Invent3K was headed in 2009 had a small hiccup, too: the 3000-based Empire 3.9 game server lost use of its domain name for awhile in October. Tracy Johnson is the caretaker for the Empire server and its parent -- Invent3K, whose domain name is invent3k.openmpe.com.

But Invent3K is operating today, at least for anyone who had an account established before OpenMPE curtailed its operations. Access is through any terminal emulator with Telnet or VT/Mgr protocol. Once you've configured your terminal emulator, connect to the address invent3k.empire.openmpe.com.

Read "Throwback: Today's Empire of Invent3K" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:42 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2014

Migration plans: Rehost, Replace, or Retire

CircleRMigration begins with an inventory. Application by application, an IT manager does triage on every program on their 3000. The goal is to come up with a disposition for each app. Some ccan be rehosted. Apps built with PowerHouse might be moved to other servers, for example. For other apps, they can be replaced. Ecometry sites could adopt the CommercialWare application, in some cases. Or in other instances, an in-house program suite can be replaced by a Commercial Off The Shelf app. Migration services company MB Foster likes to call those replacements COTS. The company has a Wednesday webinar scheduled on Nov. 19 to explore planning to replace COTS and more.

Foster calls the strategy the Three R's of Migration: Rehost, Replace, Retire. At 2 PM Eastern Time in a couple of weeks (register here), Birket Foster will lead a slide talk with time for questions about what to do if you're migrating away from any one of the above types of applications. The word Retire is already on the minds of MPE-savvy managers, since most of them are older than 50. It turns out that applications can find the end of a career even before their caretakers do.

It's not always this way. At the San Bernadino County schools, the apps to run the California district will have a retirement date from the 3000 that falls after the district's 3000 expert. Sometimes, though, a migration can become easier when older programs that have fallen into disuse are simply erased. There's no need to migrate such an app.

However, there's only one sure way to discover these retirees: inventory and analysis. MB Foster's summary for the Nov. 19 webinar breaks that triage process into inventory of app environments; rating the functionality vs. business suitability of each app; then organizing and prioritizing with a study of interfaces and grouping used that applies to each app. COTS carries a different set of requirements to study during migration planning, the company says, than in-house apps.

Read "Migration plans: Rehost, Replace, or Retire" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:18 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 04, 2014

Tips for Listing SCHEMAs, and FTP Listings

From my existing TurboIMAGE database, I want to generate a listing of data sets, data item names, and their relationships (master, detail). One detail data set has thousands of entries which do not appear to be connected to any master. 

Oh, and I cannot remember the difference between manual and automatic masters.

Francois Desrochers first replies, "Use Query's FORM command."

RUN QUERY.PUB.SYS
B=dbname
PASSWORD = >> password
MODE = >> 5
FORM

Manual masters: programs have to explicitly add entries before you can add related entries in detail sets. Programs have to explicitly delete entries when there are no related detail entries left. In other words, you have to do master dataset maintenance.

Automatic masters: entries are automatically created when a related detail set entry is created. Entries in the master are automatically removed when the last related detail entry is deleted. IMAGE takes care of the maintenance.

Consultant Ron Horner adds, "If you have a tool like Adager or DBGeneral, it can create a file of the database schema. The other way is by using QUERY to get a listing."

Read "Tips for Listing SCHEMAs, and FTP Listings" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:19 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 03, 2014

10 years ago, was the 3000 halfway gone?

I revisited a set of user conference slides from 2004 recently, and I found a scheduling milestone. A presentation at that final Interex show in Chicago included a schedule warning. In that year, it was about halfway through the period HP gave the community to get away from their HP 3000s. The deadline for the end of HP support was December 31, 2006, as of the week the presentation rolled out in Chicago.

Go 95%"Put your plan into the budget during this summer of 2004," one slide suggested. Using that timeline, an IT manager could commence migrating by the summer of '05 and complete a migration by the end of 2006. To be sure, 18 months is a swift migration schedule, but it's possible -- if a company can budget for some outside expertise for project management and coding. The tests will usually be handled in-house. That's up to one third of a migration project's timeline, according to migration services experts like MB Foster.

By the next fall, HP was pulling the carpet out from under such companies. That deadline for HP support got extended by 24 months. With that change, that halfway-gone point was still at the moment of HP's rescheduling. But now there were more than 36 months left. People had not migrated in enough numbers. A greater factor: HP made a business decision to keep support business alive and earning revenues for another two years. It was high-profit revenue. High enough that the deadline got moved again, out by another 24 months.

Since those days, we've seen many customers use the same sort of rolling-forward deadline for their migrations. They plan for the end of 2013, for example, then push out to the end of 2015. Just like HP, customers in places like California school districts and manufacturers in the Southwest are taking more time because they like the return on investment. They can afford to reset the halfway mark.

But what if 2004 was the start of 95 percent of migrations, and the decade since then represents halfway-gone? What's left by now in the user community still includes companies of serious size.

Read "10 years ago, was the 3000 halfway gone?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:25 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 30, 2014

ITMGR3K + YOLO = CHARON COSTINFO?

The formula above translates into an appeal for budget reporting. IT managers of HP 3000s can complete this formula. YOLO is the ubiquitous You Only Live Once, sometimes broadcast in a tattoo. When added to 3000 IT managers' experiences, the formula may yield some of the most crucial costs of the CHARON virtualization engine for emulation.

Elder-tattoosThe daring of YOLO is required because there's plenty at stake, even at MPE's advanced age. 3000 owners are often working with reduced budgets. Cost-effective computing is one good reason why the MPE/iX apps survive in a company. But some managers could acknowlege you'll only live once through homesteading your MPE/iX applications. It's not the hardware you're saving with Charon. The operating environment, your TurboIMAGE/SQL data, and the apps with their software helpers -- those are the orphans being rescued from any failing HP-branded computer.

So it figures that managers with nothing to lose can help other homesteaders get better information on the costs to virtualize. Costs can be fatal to a project. Many managers know they have something significant at stake: their relations with the software vendors who supply the help for HP 3000 operations. Surround code, it's been called. Some vendors are everywhere, like Robelle, Adager, Vesoft, PowerHouse, and so on. Add in the suppliers of key data transfer tools such as MB Foster. Everybody's got virtualization licensing practices in mind, if not executed yet.

The above list of vendors can include a show-stopper, by some customer reports. PowerHouse products, even something as fundamental as Quiz reports, have still been quoted at rates that can shelve a virtualization project. We recently heard about one at a 3000 manufacturer. The COSTINFO specifics were not forwarded. But in a budget-conscious community like the 3000's, even such prices in the low five figures can cause a HALT.

Then there's the manager whose operational best practices include lowering a profile with vendors. "I'm not old enough to retire," we often hear -- meaning that high visibility on vendors' radars could invite higher costs. Not good for any career built on economic prowess. No, not every vendor operates by watching for such an extra-fee opportunity. But enough do; some can be hungry for back-support revenues when they bring a customer back onto vendor support. Then there are the applications. Update fees for virtualizing an Ecometry installation, or something from the Infor stable of manufacturing apps, are not common-enough knowledge. Not for HP users.

Read "ITMGR3K + YOLO = CHARON COSTINFO?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:18 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2014

Security experts try to rein in POODLE

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

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

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

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

Read "Security experts try to rein in POODLE" in full

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

October 28, 2014

Strategies for Redirecting App Spoolfiles

An HP 3000 manager wrote that a 24x7 application at his shop is stable and never goes offline unless it's required. But the everyday management had to include aborting the app once a week.

We take that application offline to close out the spoolfile that the application generates. Is there a way to keep the application running, and just redirect the output to a new spoolfile? We're using an N-Class server.

Robert Schlosser of Global Business Systems replied: Short of closing and reopening the application after n number of pages, you could have the application read (without wait and checking status codes) a message file. It could then close and open the output file on demand, and possibly even close down the application gracefully (no abort).

Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper replied: I think the only way you could do that would be to actually modify the application program to periodically (say, for example, every 10 pages or every 100 pages) close then re-open the print file.

Olav Kappert of IOMIT International added:

If the program can be slightly modified, then I would suggest creating a message file as a conduit to the application. The program would do a read of the message file with the nowait option every once and awhile.  If the application encounters a keyword indicating a new spoolfile, then the program would close the spoolfile and reopen it.

An alternate method would involve the application being modified to close and open the file at a particular day and time during the week.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2014

Early 3000 Flights: A New Embattled History

Bill FosterThe world is still full of computer aces who flew in the earliest skies of minicomputers. The HP 3000 has history to share about the dogfights to bring interactive computing to businesses and organizations. The new voice of a pilot of that early age, Bill Foster, tells a fresh story about historic 3000 events. (A tip of the hat here to former OpenMPE director and Allegro support engineer Donna Hofmeister, who spotted Foster's blog.)

Bill Foster was in charge of engineering for the first HP 3000 that became a production-grade computer, the Series II. Foster went on to co-found Stratus Computer. In a blog he's called TeamFoster he tells his compelling story I Remember HP, complete with characters memorable and regrettable, about the earliest times in the Data Systems Division labs in California. Up to now, most of the stories about the 3000's birth have had a more abbreviated telling, or they're summarized in less vivid accounts.

Foster's written 15,000 words on his blog to tell his Hewlett-Packard story, which begins in 1971. In that year the HP 3000 is still more than a year away from its ill-fated debut, so he can chronicle the inner workings of a lab where "The engineers were mostly out of control, particularly the programmers."

HP Journal 1973Foster's story about the earliest days of the 3000 includes accounts of important players such as Barney Oliver, Paul Ely and Ed McCracken. There's even a note about Jim Hewlett, son of HP co-founder Bill Hewlett. A golfer and a nature lover, Hewlett's son got Foster in trouble. As part of the system's revival there was even a face-saving video interview, designed to revive the ruinous reputation of the 3000.

Read "Early 3000 Flights: A New Embattled History" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:10 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2014

Legacy Management: More than Rehosting

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

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

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

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

Read "Legacy Management: More than Rehosting" in full

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

October 23, 2014

TBT: There Used to Be a Lab Around Here

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 4.56.26 PMAbove, the Glendenning Barn Picnic Area, one of the signature elements of Hewlett-Packard's Pruneridge Avenue campus, heartland of HP's 3000 business. It's all been razed to below-ground level, as Apple builds its new intergalactic headquarters on the site.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 4.58.02 PMOne of the lesser-known tunes from the Frank Sinatra songbook is There Used to Be a Ballpark Around Here. The sentiment of the song wraps around the wistful view that something unique is now gone. Apple has posted the greatest quarter of business in the company's history. All through this year, it's been steadily displacing the HP labs where the 3000 and other products were designed and improved.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 4.57.21 PMOne 3000 engineer posted pictures of the current state of the 3000's estate. Only a multi-story mound of earth can be seen where handsome walkways, cooperative parking and stately poplars and pines were once the sentinels around the campus. People called their journeys to this location "a factory visit." One day while I was there on a press briefing, I was shown downstairs to a lower level -- where a manufacturing line was rolling out Series 68 servers.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 4.56.51 PMHP's been cutting back on many things to maintain its profitability. Real estate has been at the head of the list the company no longer needs. You can consider that HP has closed its MPE/iX labs in California, yes. But the labs themselves -- cubicles and miles of network cables and office furniture and meeting rooms named after types of trees like Oak and Maple -- those are all gone now, the home of more than 3000 enterprise computing. It's all been moved away and changed.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 5.15.43 PMSteve Jobs and Larry Ellison once walked the streets of Palo Alto and bemoaned the changes at Hewlett-Packard, not quite five years ago this fall. Apple, Jobs hoped, would be built to last as long as HP and become the kind of headwater for inspiration and innovation that Hewlett-Packard was. The street that faced that Pruneridge Avenue entrance had Tandem Computer on the facing curb. Tandem, spun off from HP by James Treybig, until HP assimilated it to become its NonStop group. Now the spinning comes anew to this street, soon enough to be the site of a spaceship-sized Apple HQ.

Apple has done all that it can to become the HP of innovation, plus added an ability to capture the lightning in a bottle of excitement about new tech. It's a fulfullment of Jobs' dream to see the company rise up on the ballpark site of HP's enterprise computing labs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:27 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2014

What Needs Replacing, at Its Heart?

Porsche-getaway-carHewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware has started to show its age this year. Even the newest of servers was built at least 11 years ago. Although that's an impossible age for PCs or tablets, more than a decade isn't outrageous for systems created by HP. These things were built to the specs of spacecraft, on the good days of the manufacturing line in Roseville, Calif. and elsewhere.

However, even a server of rigorous construction has moving parts and electrical components with a finite lifespan. Lately we're been hearing from customers whose managers have awoken from a peaceful slumber, dreaming of limitless hardware lifetimes. Hey, say they, how did we ever get to be relying on computers built before Y2K?

At this point there are no questions about MPE/iX, or TurboIMAGE, or the pedigree of bash shell software, or the built-in the ODBC data connection capabilities, or jobstream management. These are all stand-up, solid citizens, even through their range of motion can be limited. (So is mine, but like the software above, I work to stay limber.)

No, this is all about the age of the iron. HP stopped building servers that ran MPE apps more than a decade ago. So, is it out those apps go, the baby tossed with the hardware bathwater? It's a simplistic way to approach system reliability. However, until recent years there was no newer hardware to lift those apps onto. Fresh steeds, in the shape of faster and newer computers, hadn't been in the stable in many years.

Users would like to move to implementation straight away, once they get that "What's up?" inquiry from the boardroom. The fastest path to Get Me Outta Here -- indeed, the most ready getaway car -- seems to be the Stromasys virtualization solution. There are more complete, wider-ranging moves. They take a great deal longer, because their details demand they move slower.

Read "What Needs Replacing, at Its Heart?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:14 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2014

Macworlds expire. Apple soars. Not linked.

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

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

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

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

HP World 2005


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

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

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

Read "Macworlds expire. Apple soars. Not linked." in full

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

October 20, 2014

3000's class time extended for schools

SB County schoolsThe San Bernadino County school district in California has been working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. COBOL and its business prowess is proving more complicated to move to Windows than expected. Dave Evans, Systems Security and Research officer, checked in from the IT department at the district.

We are still running two HP 3000s for our Financial and Payroll services. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015, and then I would shut the HP 3000s down as I walked out the door for the last time. That has now been extended to 2017, and I will be gone before then. 

We are rewriting the COBOL HP 3000 apps into .NET and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technologies. Ideal says they can support our HP 3000s until 2017.

And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.

Read "3000's class time extended for schools" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:26 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2014

Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock" in full

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

October 15, 2014

Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes" in full

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

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.

Inside Pocket GuideBut 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. 

Pocket GuideOur 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.

Read "Making a Migration Down the Mountain View" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:22 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:06 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2014

When Smaller Can Be Better

SmallgoldfishHewlett-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.

Read "When Smaller Can Be Better" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:48 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 09, 2014

TBT: A 3000 Newsworthy Birth Day

Inaugural IssueThe 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.

Read "TBT: A 3000 Newsworthy Birth Day" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:49 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

RhumbaMicro 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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:10 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2014

HP decides to break up the brand

HP Enterprise Corp. StrategyAnd 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.

AnalysisTo 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.

Read "HP decides to break up the brand" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:55 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2014

HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies" in full

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

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.

Print-ExclusiveOne 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.

Editorial-IconIt 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.

Read "Wearable computing, cloud IT: not news" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:30 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2014

TBT: A Race to Engineering Discipline

WhatIfHorsesA two-page ad, many months after the reckoning of the prior fall, asked the business community to imagine More Raw Horsepower from a system called the HP 3000 Series 930.

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.

Series 930 SuperminiThose 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?

Read "TBT: A Race to Engineering Discipline" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:20 AM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2014

Steady pace means un-news isn't no news

By Ron Seybold

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

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

I work a lot out of the files these days.

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

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

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

Read "Steady pace means un-news isn't no news" in full

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

September 30, 2014

Reflection touchstone: a screen benchmark

Reflection boxThe 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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:46 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Read "Classic advice: COBOL Choices, Years Later" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:25 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2014

Making History By Staying Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Making History By Staying Together" in full

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

September 25, 2014

TBT: Early winter's taste visits Interex '94

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

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

Welcome to Winterex 1994.

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

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

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

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

Read "TBT: Early winter's taste visits Interex '94" in full

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

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.

Integrityrx2660_frontHewlett-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.

Read "Did Charon get to where HP could've gone?" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:31 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

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
X

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.

Read "Pre-Migration Cleanup Techniques" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:50 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Read "Ways to Create PDFs from 3000 Output" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:43 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2014

Passing FTP Capabilities to MPE

Ws-FTP ProHP 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.

Read "Passing FTP Capabilities to MPE" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:05 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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