April 11, 2016
Yes, Virginia, there is MPE at the Terminal
One of the first HP 3000 migration success locations might have hung on to an MPE/iX app since its story was introduced by the vendor. A lively discussion popped up last week when Don Seay asked on the 3000-L mailing list about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualizer software. The chatter included updates on the work to cross the 2027 hurdle for MPE/iX use, as well as reports on the speediest settings for Charon.
Seay was emailing from an address at VIT.org, the legacy location of Virginia International Terminals. It's the port authority for all shipping in Norfolk, Newport News and environs. A shiny website handles just about all of the data requests at portofvirginia.org. But there's still data being fed to VIT.org, and Seay's request seems to hint that an application continues to work there. We're checking in with him.
Taking a full-on approach to a migration is a typical opening strategy, but there are sometimes good technical reasons why apps remain on 3000 hardware. This didn't seem likely when we first heard about the 3000 and VIT in 2002. HP was promoting the practices and concept of retiring 3000s during that time, the first full year after Hewlett-Packard's announcement it would leave the 3000 marketplace.
VIT’s assistant IT director at the time, Clark Farabaugh, said at HP World 2002's migration roundtable the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.” That summer, IT began to migrate at VIT. The organization took delivery of a HP 9000 rp8400 server to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” We took note of the report of 13 years ago.
The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The IT director said the migration project will take 12 to 18 months to complete using the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.
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April 08, 2016
Hardware's emulation puts software at ease
In the earliest days of the 3000's Transition Era, advocates for MPE/iX formed the OpenMPE user group. But the first campaign for these engineers (and a few businesspeople) was for the emulation of MPE itself. The ideal was that if MPE/iX source code could be turned over to the community -- since HP had no real interest in the future of the 3000 -- then the OS and its subsystems would be pushed onto newer hardware.
The ideal was open source for MPE/iX. That campaign assumed plenty of change was in the future of 3000-based software. The reality that formed about compatibility of software is illustrated in the everyday experience of Charon users.
One checked in this month with a summary of how smooth his software slipped into the Charon HPA environment. The emulation that paid off was virtualizing the RISC hardware. The caliber of the solution made things easy for Jeff Elmer.
I can say that since what is emulated is the PA-RISC hardware and not MPE, it seems unlikely that there would be any software incompatibilities. Everything we use (multiple third-party tools plus in-house COBOL/IMAGE software systems) just worked. It really was true that no one would have noticed a difference unless we told them.
The single item that we had to modify was in our backup job stream. We had a tape rewind command in the job that was no longer needed and which the emulator at that point (in 2013) did not understand. The "fix" took less than 60 seconds when I removed that clause from the job.
April 06, 2016
Stromasys reports aim at speed, and help
The fine art and craft of tuning an Intel-based server to mimic HP's 3000 hardware has evolved. The Charon HPA emulator has been in production shops for more than three years. In the beginning, the software's demands on hardware were outlined in a table of preferred servers. Or in calls to a product manager. The latter has always produced more robust performance than the former. A recent string of messages on the 3000-L showed why. They also showed that a 3000 jobset that ran three times faster, after "setting power management to dynamic."
Performance tips on the L about selecting and tuning for the best hardware have included the following advice
Set other settings for performance
System Isochronous Mode enabled
Hyper-thread off or 1
Intel Speed Step enabled
If this set of instructions doesn't make much sense to a prospective user, it illustrates why Charon HPA is a fully-guided product by now. Customers and prospects buy services from Stromasys to deploy this solution. There's no other way. Downloadable freeware copies left the marketplace last year.
Emulating a legacy hardware server to run enterprise-grade applications is not a hobbyist's mission. Stromasys product manager Doug Smith says the customers have been better served with engineering-driven integration insights. He's got success statistics to prove it.
April 04, 2016
Working to Set MPE's Future to Forever
When a 3000 manager asked about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, the question evolved quickly. In just a few hours, MPE experts were talking about how long the OS could keep running. The detour of the 2027 CALENDAR intrinsic came up. It turns out the community experts are already working on that.
Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative, whose success story with Charon was part of our 2014 reporting, told the readers of the 3000-L that he's pleased with the way the Stromasys product cut out HP's MPE/iX hardware. The words "run MPE forever" were part of his message.
We used HP's 3000 hardware for 30 years. We've been using the HPA3000 emulator in production since December 2013. Our users would have never known the difference if we had not told them.
We had a 969KS 100 and went to a 2-CPU A-Class on the emulator. Performance is essentially identical but all concerns about "ancient" hardware went away. (Our RAID array hard drives were older than our web developers). Charon is running on a 1U "off the shelf" Proliant server under the Red Hat Linux environment (if we didn't have a DLT8000 and a DDS tape drive attached to it, all that it would take up in the rack would be the 1U). We run our disaster recovery version of the emulator in another location under VMware on OmniCube hardware, although we have never used it for anything other than testing.
"Based on our experiences we would recommend it to anybody," Elmer said. "You could run MPE forever with this setup and over time your performance would only improve as you put newer, faster hardware under it." Whoa, forever? It's the promise of virtualized servers that emulate antique hardware. But MPE/iX has that calendar problem that'll rear up at the end of 2027, right? Not so fast there, said one MPE expert.
April 01, 2016
MPE source code ID'ed as key to encryption
In a news item that appeared in our inbox early this morning, the researchers at the website darkstuff.com report they have identified the key algorithm for iPhone cracking software to be code from the 1980 release of Q-MIT, a version of MPE. The iPhone seized as part of an FBI investigation was finally cracked this week. But the US government agency only reported that an outside party provided the needed tool, after Apple refused to build such software.
The specific identity of the third party firm has been clouded in secrecy. But the DarkStuff experts say they've done a reverse trace of the signature packets from the FBI notice uploaded to CERT and found links that identify Software House, a firm incorporated in the 1980s which purchased open market source code for MPE V. The bankruptcy trustee of Software House, when contacted for confirmation, would not admit or deny the company's involvement in the iPhone hack.
A terse statement shared with the NewsWire simply said, "Millions of lines of SPL make up MPE, and this code was sold legally to Software House. The software does many things, including operations far ahead of their time." HP sold MPE V source for $500 for the early part of the 1980s, but 3000 customers could never get the vendor to do the same for MPE/iX.
Lore in the 3000 community points to D. David Brown, an MPE guru who ran a consulting business for clients off the grid and off the books, as the leading light to developing the key. An MPE expert who recently helped in the simh emulation of Classic HP 3000s confirmed that Brown's work used HP engineering of the time in a way the vendor never intended. Simh only creates a virtualized CISC HP 3000 running under Linux, so MPE V is the only OS that can be used in simh.
"Lots of commented-out code in there," said the MPE expert, who didn't want to be named for this story. "Parts of MPE got written during the era of phone hacking. Those guys were true rebels, and I mean in a 2600-style of ethics. It's possible that Brown just stumbled on this while he was looking for DEL/3000 stubs in MPE."
The FBI reported this week that its third party also plans to utilize the iPhone cracker in two other cases that are still under investigation. Air-gapped protocols were apparently needed to make the MPE source able to scour the iPhone's contents, using a NAND overwrite. The air gapping pointed the DarkStuff experts toward the HP 3000, a server whose initial MPE designs were years ahead of state-of-the art engineering. "Heck, the whole HP 3000 was air-gapped for the first half of its MPE life," said Winston Rather at DarkMatter. "It's a clever choice, hiding the key in plain sight."
March 30, 2016
Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch
This month marked the 150th anniversary of General Mills, the benevolent cereal giant that started its business just after the Civil War milling flour. The maker of Wheaties, Gold Medal Flour and Play Doh, the company known as the Big G got a rousing eight minutes of celebration on the CBS Morning News this weekend. When the report turned to Wheaties, it triggered a memory of one special era for the HP 3000. MPE/iX once managed a giant boxcar-load of operations for the food company, a firm so large it acquired fellow 3000 customer Pillsbury in a 2000 deal that teamed century-old rivals to make the world's fourth-largest food company.
Powerhouse was an essential part of the Pillsbury legacy, but the reach of the 3000 was even deeper at General Mills. Mark Ranft, who operates the Pro 3K consultancy, said his time at the Big G covered the years when core corporate functions were controlled by a fleet of 3000s.
March 28, 2016
For any fate, applications need budgets
At Idaho State University, the HP 3000 is moving into its final months of production use. It's been more than eight years to bring all of the MPE-based applications' duties into a new hosting environment. Sun was the early winner in this migration, but after taking the early round of replacement apps onto Solaris, the university is settling on Linux. This was a migration that didn't give Hewlett-Packard any place as a host.
Even in the realm of replacement software's big bounty, some apps moved across more slowly. Payroll, financials: these things moved in a straight line to Ellucian's ERP software for universities. But telecomm, inventory, motorpool — the 3000 ran all of this — had to be moved separately.
Along the way, the prospect of keeping those extra applications alive included the option of virtualizing the 3000 onto a Stromasys server. The timing didn't work for the university because it was so close to decommissioning its last 3000 apps, according to Senior IT Analyst John MacLerran.
We were hoping to use the emulator for a year or two while we finished migrating our remaining applications off the 3000. However, it was decided that the effort required to obtain software licenses from all of the vendors would be better spent accelerating our migration off the platform.
Whether an application remains on MPE servers, or makes its way to Linux as a replacement or a rewrite, applications require budget. The word "effort" means the expense in man-hours and dollars. Staying has a cost. Analyzing the timing can help a 3000 owner decide when its budget should be turned to departure dollars. It's only possible when the Hewlett-Packard hardware remains sound and healthy.
March 25, 2016
Replacing apps: a migration option, or not?
More than seven years ago, HP was still offering advice to its HP 3000 customers about migration. The vendor sent everyone down an evaluation path once it announced it was dropping the 3000 from its 2007 lineup. Sales halted in 2003; the HP Services lineup included MPE and hardware support for another seven years, though.
That's by way of noting that HP's plans saw lots of waffling before its time ran out for stewardship of the servers. In the years between its cutting-out announcement and the end of formal support, HP plans to migrate had two major options. Rewrite whatever you had running on MPE, or replace it with a work-alike app. At the time, HP had a VP who'd talk about this. Lynn Anderson was the last HP executive who would even address the 3000 before the press. Her expertise was in services. You can imagine how replacing apps set with her. Bad idea, she said at the time. Bake a fresh loaf, using the sourdough starter of 3000-based business processes.
Anderson was pretty unique in the HP management ranks. She could show IT experience on the HP 3000. She started her career working on an HP 3000 in the mill town where she grew up. A Series II system displayed her first MPE colon prompt. Later on in programming and system engineering for HP, she was a network specialist for MPE, a job that included the high point of bringing up the first HP 1000-to-HP 3000 local area network.
To the HP of 2008, a rewrite looked like the best way to preserve what you'd created. However, MB Foster is going to talk about replacing apps next week. Wednesday the 30th at 2 PM Eastern, George Hay will examine this Replace option. "You will learn the factors that affect application replacements and the steps in the replacement process," the company said in its email notice of the webinar.
In 2008, Anderson spread HP's message that the company preferred rewrites to getting an off-the-shelf app to duplicate years of architecture and development under MPE/iX. She cited an HP-funded study that predicted nearly half of the 2008 IT workforce would be retired by 2011 — a figure that had all the accuracy of HP's 2002 prediction that 80 percent of its customers would leave the 3000 by 2004. Speaking at the HP Technology Forum, Anderson talked about replacements chosen to match existing MPE/iX apps, versus rewrites.
"Matching can disappoint," she said at the time. "We say don’t look at what you want your application to do today, but what do you want it to do tomorrow. For the DIY customer, do you have the personnel?" The question was about brain drain, a very real prospect for a legacy technology customer. It was also the question you'd expect to hear from a services vendor.
March 23, 2016
Putting a CPUNAME on HPSUSAN's profile
The MPE is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by ownership of an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX. When a copy of MPE is moved onto a Charon virtualized server, it must come from one that's been assigned to one of HP's 3000s.
We reached out for clarity about this when a major manufacturer was looking into replacing HP's 3000 iron with Charon licenses on Intel systems. After the MPE/iX software is turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.
So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the Charon emulator? Mc Rae explained.
The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist.
In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.
However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the Charon emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.
March 21, 2016
Free software worth the time to track it down
It's entertaining and heartening to discover someone who's new to the HP 3000 and MPE. Fresh users tend to run in the hobbyist lanes of the IT race these days. Sometimes, however, they can ask questions that uncover values for the existing managers of the MPE server.
That's been the case with Michael Kerpan. He's just discovered the new freeware simh emulator engine for creating MPE V Classic HP 3000s. Kerpan is just pursuing this as a hobby project. "I'm not retired, but I'm also not in the IT business at the moment," said, "though I do maintain my SF club's library catalog server, which is a Linux box."
On the HP 3000 front, his box is a Windows server running simh, but Kerpan wants more than just the stock MPE V Fundamental Operating System to use. Kerpan specifically asked about the old Interex Contributed Software Library. The CSL started out as a swap-tape built from reel tapes that attendees at conferences brought along. Drop off the programs you wrote on your reel -- or eventually, DAT tape -- and pick up a compilation of such contributed software when the conference adjourned.
The CSL dropped off the radar of the 3000 community once Interex went bankrupt. The collection of programs wasn't even listed in the organization's bankruptcy assets. In some places out in the community CSL tapes still exist, but trading them hasn't been a compelling pasttime. However, MPE contributed software, now called open source and freeware, still exists. Knowing where to track it down is often worth the effort, if managing a 3000 is still your job.
March 18, 2016
Big files get zipped, moved on HP 3000s
A computer manager who's new to the HP 3000 is looking for CSL files this week. The Contributed Software Library is just an oasis to this IT veteran, something shimmering in his future that holds a highly useful thicket of utilities and more.
Someone in the 3000 community is bound to connect our new user with this CSL, for one reason: he's looking for MPE V programs to supplement his discovery of the emulated Classic HP 3000, simh. That's the MPE V-ready version of a virtual HP 3000: what amounts to a CISC skin for a 3000 on top of the simh code. Whenever the newbie connects with a CSL resource, if they've got their files on a 3000 they're bound to need to send about 24MB to him. That's going to require zipping them.
The act of zipping to compress for a transfer is an essential in 3000 management. Although the code for compressing files on HP 3000s is more than a decade old, like a lot of things on the system, it continues to work as expected.
Tracy Johnson, who manages the Invent3K server operated by OpenMPE, noted he's using the MPE/iX Posix shell's compress and uncompress. "It creates a file that ends in capital Z. Seems the compressed format is compatible with both GNU-zip and Winzip programs or any other Unix/Linux machine."
Lars Appel, who ported the Samba file sharing tool to MPE, offers a comprehensive answer. He points to an HP 3000 Web starter software kit that resides on a development server, open to the public.
March 16, 2016
Brain drain reduces migration options
At a large Eastern Seabord organization in the US, the exit of MPE-skilled staff has cut away the migration choices for its HP 3000 operations. The server ran the organization's management of equipment parts. Some of the parts are being tracked back into the 1980s, so unique are those components.
It's like taking the durability of an HP 3000 and applying its model to vehicles, for example. Old F-150 pickup trucks, or the most beloved Jeeps, need parts that might've been designed decades ago. Get a large enough fleet and you need an extensive and fast database.
IMAGE/SQL drove all of the enterprise business operations until 2002, when other solutions started to rise up at this enterprise. The HP 3000 9x9s there stepped back into a support role, running the parts application. When HP announced the 3000 was leaving its product list, the organization started to plan for a database migration.
"I still had a licensed HP-UX server (HP9000/I70) with paid software support at that time," said the IT manager, who didn't want us to use his name. "The plan was to purchase Eloquence for HP-UX, move IMAGE data to Eloquence, and rewrite our data entry and retrieval programs from their original Pascal to something on HP-UX, which might have been Pascal (if available) or C."
The migration to Eloquence, with what the manager called "universal homing capabilities," would be moved to Linux, which might have required another program rewrite. It could have been as simple as going from C on HP-UX to C## on Linux. Then expertise started leaving the organization.
March 14, 2016
Upgrade bargains on 3000s remain in play
"We still have units that are licensed and salable," said Pivital Solutions' president Steve Suraci. "We still have customers occasionally looking to upgrade."
Prices for even the largest of HP's MPE system line are being quoted below $10,000, and in some locations, a deeper discount than that. Like the goods sold in the basement at the legendary Filene's, the word cheaper comes to mind—because the pedigree of each 3000 system's MPE license is sometimes the most important element. (Healthy disks are pivotal, too.)
Bonafide machines have valid HPSUSANs. It's essential for moving MPE apps and utilities during an upgrade. In the scruffiest days of the 3000 resale history, HPSUSANs were being slapped onto HP's L-Class hardware with rogue software, making a 3000 out of a cheap 9000. People went to jail over that episode from the end of the 1990s.
But even a valid HPSUSAN is not the same thing as a proof of license. A continuous chain of ownership paper trail makes for a fully-licensed system. Such a license can be important to the customers who care about keeping auditors happy. That level of validation isn't required for a support contract, though, since HP's long been out of of the MPE/iX business.
March 11, 2016
New 3000 simulator looks back, not ahead
Community members on the 3000-L newsgroup have been examining a new entry in the emulation of HP hardware. However, this simulator creates a 3000 under Windows that only runs MPE V. The MPE version of SIMH — a "highly portable, multi-system simulator" — is a Classic 3000 simulation, not something able to run PA-RISC applications or software.
Some 3000 users are embracing this software though, maybe in no small part because it's free. It's been more than 15 years since HP supported MPE V and the CISC-based systems that launched the 3000 line starting in 1972. One of the experts in PA-RISC and MPE/iX computing, Stan Sieler, briefed us on what this freeware simulator can do, and what it cannot — in addition to not running MPE/iX.
Currently only Charon from Stromasys runs PA-RISC. Thus, the SIMH runs only the Classic HP 3000. At the moment, it’s an old version of MPE V (Q-MIT, release E.01.00)
And, the machine probably has no networking support. It probably has some kind of serial datacomm support, but I haven’t looked at that yet (all my use has been via the simulated console, LDEV 20).
I’ve put several hundred CM programs on the “machine” to see which will load and run. Many won’t, because they use newer features (e.g., FLABELINFO intrinsic which came out on the T-MIT with the Mighty Mouse).
So, you ask, can you put a newer version of MPE V on the emulated 3000?
March 09, 2016
Powerhouse MPE futures clouded in silence
Users of Powerhouse have a mailing list, much like the one that HP 3000 owners and managers have enjoyed for decades. Powerhouse-L has traffic on several flavors of the Cognos creations. It's that range of product platforms that gives readers a chance to compare.
The news for MPE users of Powerhouse is that there is no news. This isn't a fresh take on the future of Powerhouse, Quiz, and the other products like Axiant which remain in use in the homesteading marketplace. Ken Langendock, a consultant in the market, asked on Powerhouse-L about the future of the products. He added that getting a response from Unicom Global, the owner of the products, has been difficult for his boss. It's not a good sign when a customer cannot get multiple calls returned.
Langendock was plain-spoken about which Powerhouse he needed an update for. A webcast from the vendor on March 4 didn't include Powerhouse futures by the 30-minute mark, so he pulled the plug on his viewing. He said MySQL support was high on his list of needs.
"The HP version to me is dead," he said. "I expect nothing more to happen on that version." That tracks with the reality of 2016 management from Unicom. When the software changed hands at the start of 2014, hope for changes to licensing and features rose in the MPE user base, but not for very long. Unicom owns scores of products by now, using a model that runs smoothly for Infor, owners of MANMAN.
Ownership of a product includes a paid support option, but not much will change for the 3000 world. An update from Bob Deskin, longtime Powerhouse product manager who consulted with Unicom in 2014, made no mention of MPE/iX after he reported his contact with Unicom.
We've reached out to Russ Guzzo, who heads the company's communications efforts and led the integration of Powerhouse into the company, but didn't get a reply to our question about, as Landendock put it, "doing something with Powerhouse."
March 04, 2016
3000-L breaks silence with DTC primer
On the verge of four weeks without a new message, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup delivered a primer on the control of DTCs on MPE/iX networks. A longtime contributor to the community set up a question about using these venerable devices that connected HP's terminals and other devices to a 3000.
I have multiple HP 3000s sharing one DTC. My problem is, which one controls the DTC? In the event of a power cycle, there is a race between them for which 3000 will download the new configuration. I need system A, my A-Class, to be in charge. However, systems B or C are most likely to download first, leaving me with the manual step of unplugging the network from B and C, power-cycling the DTC, and then waiting for the A-Class to download the configuration. Is there anything that can be done to just leave the A-Class in charge?
Tracy Johnson replied, "It's always been a crap shoot. I'm of the opinion the first HP 3000 to notice the DTC needs downloading will do the job. Which usually means the less busy machine." As it was just the first answer on the newsgroup, there was still a need to do unplugging.
March 02, 2016
Data in motion follows 3000 archival project
HMSHost has been an HP 3000 shop since long before the start of this century. The company that operates duty-free outlets in major US airports has made changes to its datacenter structures that have put its 3000 in cool standby. Regular operations have moved to another server. Archival has become the mission for the MPE/iX server.
Brian Edminster told us about the changes to the company's IT operations, having managed the 3000 solutions for HMSHost for many years.
The live and current data that was hosted on the application under MPE has been migrated to systems belonging to the new owner of the retail division of HMSHost. Several years ago, HMSHost sold off their retail division to World Duty Free, USA (the US arm of the global World Duty Free Group, WFDG). In a surprise move, WDFG was then acquired by one of its rivals, Dufry. In talking with some friends that still work there, the former-3000 data will likely need to be migrated to yet again—to the Dufry systems. Talk about “data in motion!”
But as it turns out, the historical 3000 data (from before WDFG acquired the retail unit) still has to be retained for compliance reporting for about three more years. They've decided to keep an A-Class system, basically in a cool backup environment. The server is still racked in their server room, but is kept powered off, until one of these events occur:
1) a compliance report and/or analysis is required (a fairly low probability), or
2) a quarterly reboot/confidence check is scheduled.
February 29, 2016
Making the Years Count in One that Leaps
He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And for a few more years, he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 48th birthday today. The co-creator of MPEX must wait every four years to celebrate on his real day of birth: He was born on Feb. 29 in the Ukraine.
Like the HP 3000 and MPE itself, years do not appear to weigh heavy on the community's first wunderkind.
Although he's no longer the youngest 3000 community member (a rank that sits today with Myles Foster, product manager for MB Foster in this first year after his recent double-degree graduation from Carleton University) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known member outside our humble neighborhood. He built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft. Then Eugene earned a law degree, clerked at the US 9th Circuit Court, and went on to clerk for now-retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- all en route to his current place in the public eye as go-to man for all questions concerning intellectual property on the Web and Internet, as well as First and Second Amendment issues across all media.
Eugene's profile has risen enough since his last birthday that the Associated Press included him in its latest "Born on This Day" feature. He's appeared on TV, been quoted in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, plus penned columns for that publication, the New York Times, as well as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law reviews.
When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast. He's a professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, and the father of two sons of his own by now. Online, he makes appearances on The Volokh Conspiracy blog he founded with brother Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University). Since his last birthday, the Conspiracy has become a feature of the Washington Post.
In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I met him in Orlando at the annual Interex conference in 1988, when he held court at a dinner at the tender age of 20. I was a lad of 31 and people twice his age listened to him wax full on subjects surrounding security -- a natural topic for someone who presented the paper Burn Before Reading, which remains a vital text even more 25 years after it was written. That paper's inception matches with mine in the community -- we both entered in 1984. But Eugene, one of those first-name-only 3000 personalities like Alfredo or Birket, was always way ahead of many of us in 3000 lore and learning.
February 26, 2016
21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L
The slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.
However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.
"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."
Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.
"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."
Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.
February 24, 2016
Bringing a First 3000 Love Back to Life
Stories of HP 3000 longevity are legend. Less than 10 years ago, Paul Edwards could report on a Dallas-area customer who was running a Series 70 system in production. Paul was circumspect about who the lucky company was — lucky because they were still leveraging a system HP stopped selling in the late 1980s.
We heard from a longtime 3000 lover in Buffalo recently who wants to turn back the calendar on his Series 42 system. By his system, we mean that literally: Matthew Bellittiere took personal possession of the same system which he learned MPE upon in the early 1980s. The 42 was a server that considered a DDS tape drive an upgrade. Reel to reel was the standard backup peripheral for any computer HP first sold during the early half of the 1980s. HP gave the Series 42 its debut in 1983.
Bellittiere waited awhile to rekindle his old flame. About 20 years ago, he took the Series 42 into his home, but only this month is he working on getting it up to speed. A system that is 30-plus years old, that hasn't been started in 10 years: some might think this is scrap, or worse. But listening to his request, we hear a man who's finding a long ago sweetheart, rescued from the mists of time.
This HP Series 42 is the first HP mini mainframe that I started on around 30+ years ago. I arranged many updates over its active life. Some of the updates include increasing the memory by exchanging the 1/2 meg cards with 1-meg boards. I upgraded to the HP670H disc drives, and also to the DDS tape drive. In 1996 the company upgraded to a Series 947, and HP did not want the 42 back. It was going to scrap, so I requested it and it was given to me. I have had it ever since with plans to get it up and running.
I had to ask: Is the Series 42 project a hobby, or a work system? "Yes," Bellittiere admitted, "it is more of a project for me." But he needs the help of MPE V experts in our community to bring his old flame back to life.
February 22, 2016
Technologies to study beyond MPE skills
As 3000 experts have seen their jobs eliminated, and their employers focus on other platforms, they have faced a challenge. What should they study next to learn marketable skills? One obvious answer is the tools in the community for migration. Some of these open a new world of learning to 3000 veterans. Learning the tools provides an entry to get familiar with new concepts.
However obvious it has seemed to study .NET and Visual Basic, there are many shops planting outside that Windows-box. Open source software is the choice for prospects that reach farther.
Michael Anderson left the Spring, Texas school district six years ago to found his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Even then, when Linux and open source did not dominate IT plans as they now do, Anderson knew Microsoft wouldn't hold its market share.
In 2009 he suggested a good place to start learning beyond MPE were tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, as well as ScreenJet, are both great products," he said. "They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to them that's within reach of small companies and independent developers." That's a statement on pricing as well as capability.
A caliber of tools like this is not yet available in the Linux/open source market, though. James Byrne, an IT manager at Harte & Lyne, says his company's "progress towards a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped. The main reason is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the *nix community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s."
Complaints about the "Cognos Products," now owned by Unicom after a five-year adoption by IBM, have legendary status. But the gripes have been about licensing and pricing, not the subtle efficiency those advanced development tools provided. Byrne's company has been using Powerhouse and its cousins since before the products were named as such. Close to 40 years after they were introduced, the tools are still doing a better job for Byrne than open source alternatives.
February 19, 2016
How hot plug disks can replace DDS offsite
I need to find an alternative to DLT and DDS tapes for offsite storage. Sure, there's DS2100 and Jamaica drives. But a few $35 300GB Ultra SCSI drives would hold a lot more data with less points of failure. I'll set up a BACKUP_VOLUME_SET and use the internal disks to do store-to-disk backups of the system.
I've always used my A-Class and N-Class systems with fiber-attached disk. Are the internal disk drives hot-pluggable?
Jim Hawkins, IO maven for HP 3000 systems at HP, replies with details.
There are multiple layers of changes for actual hot plugs or swaps to work.
- You need the disk HDD to handle this electrically.
- You need HDD physical carrier and physical interface to comply.
- You need the system physical interface and receptacle to comply.
- You need your Host System Bus Adapter (HBA) to electrically support this.
- You need the OS to be aware enough of the HBA to not get flustered by absence of the device and deal with any notifications from the HBA of the activity.
Given that the N-Class disk cage has a screw-based cover and the HDD carriers have no quick release levers (as compared with HASS/Jamaica or VA7400) I would state definitively that there is no hot-plug intention.
At the same time, the SCSI bus is pretty low power and low voltage, so it would be generally not-too-unsafe to experiment. But you're also close to AC inputs and they are not low power.
February 17, 2016
Free trial UDACentral makes its debut
A corporate-grade migration tool gained a free trial version for datacenters including the HP 3000 this week, as MB Foster introduced UDACentral's latest version.
"Data migrations are challenging when you need to change database types or attempt to perform data transformations during the migration," said Myles Foster, the company's new head of product development. "With the availability of a free trial our data migration product UDACentral is now easier than ever to obtain.
Along with the free version, MB Foster is also offering corporate and enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) licenses for UDACentral. "I realized that SaaS models of UDACentral will help companies reduce costs to free up capital for other business priorities," Foster said, "and enable strategic decision-making around IT investments."
UDACentral isn't limited to MPE/iX hosts, but Foster said the tool's target includes HP 3000 sites. The software began its lifecycle in 2002 as a means to "gives migration projects the centralized switchyard for replacing data securely while preserving its integrity,” said Birket Foster at the product's rollout. For more than a decade the software was employed in migration engagements, integrated by MB Foster’s Platinum Migration Partner team, working alongside a customer’s IT group.
February 15, 2016
Details deserve closer look for XPs and 3000
Last week we reported that late-generation XP storage arrays from HP work with the HP 3000. Two system integrators supplied more details on how to make a beast like the $14,000 XP20000 serve an MPE/iX server -- along with other hosts running more popular operating systems. HP ran a YouTube video back when the system's top-end was the XP12000. The video was called Bulletproof, featuring an array that continued to work after it was shot with a high-calibre rifle.
Craig Lalley pointed out some warnings about these new XPs. He called them catches, as in, "there's a catch."
The last XP array sold when the HP 3000 was given HP's death sentence was the XP1024. In order for the 3000 to talk to and control the XP array — i.e. split the mirrors, resync the mirrors and mirror status — the HP server uses a piece of software called RaidMgr. It is on every HP 3000, and it goes out with Posix. You find it in the account /tmp/raidmgr
However, the newer systems, XP10000 and up, require a different version of RaidMgr. Usually it can be found on the XP array CD. That CD holds all the firmware and documentation.
Pivital Solutions also sells and supports disk arrays. The company aids 3000 sites through MPE/iX software contracts as well as hardware service. Steve Suraci of Pivital had stronger reservations about using the XP20000 and XP24000.
"In theory, I can’t see why not — but in practice, I would be a bit hesitant," he said. "I’m not sure that a customer big enough or savvy enough to want one of these would be a good candidate to be a guinea pig, testing a theoretical solution."
February 12, 2016
How to get specific about IP access for PCs
I want to give a 3000 a static IP, so I can permit a user to access the HP 3000 from that PC with that static IP. Is there a way to force a particular user ID to use a specific IP address?
Tracy Johnson replies:
A simple logon UDC should suffice:
IF HPREMIPADDR = "aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd" then
ECHO Evil message here.
Bob Schlosser adds:
You can set up a logon UDC that checks that the var HPLOCIPADDR is equal to the device (PC) that you want them to use. Something like this:
IF "!HPLOCIPADDR" <> "123.456.789.321" change "123.456.789.321" to
your IP address
Using this, we verify that the user is on the correct (assigned) IP address, and log them off if not.
February 10, 2016
Linux box feeds Series 918 for daily needs
HP never designed a smaller PA-RISC 3000 than the Series 918. The server that was released in the middle 1990s helps untold 3000 sites keep MPE/iX in the production mix. While surveying the customer base to learn about the 2016 state of the server, James Byrne of Hart & Lyne reported that a 918 at the company processes data FTP'd from a Linux system. The reason for sticking with MPE/iX, Byrne said, is the state of today's toolset for Unix and Linux. We'll let him explain
By James B. Byrne
Our firm has been running its business applications on HP3000s since 1982/3. First on a time-share service, and then on our own equipment. Our first in-house HP 3000 was a Series 37 ("Mighty Mouse") running MPE IV, I believe. Anyway, that is what my little brown MPE software pocket guide tells me.
We subsequently transitioned to a Series 42 and MPE V, and then a 52, and then to a Series 925 and MPE/XL, which soon became MPE/iX. Then through a 935 to our present host, a Series 918LX running MPE/iX 7.5.
And in all that time we ran the same code with the same database. We still can produce reports of transactions going back to 1984.
Presently the HP 3000 runs the greater part of our online transactions and handles all of our billings and payables. Due to changes in our business model, our main business operational application is now provided by a service bureau. Twice each working day a separate process, written using the Ruby on Rails framework, scans the PostgreSQL database, extracts all unbilled items, and produces a transaction file that is then forwarded via FTP to the HP 3000. Once the transaction file is transferred, the same FTP process triggers a job on the HP 3000 to process that file into invoices.
Our intent is to move off of the HP 3000 and onto Linux, moving away from proprietary solutions to open source computing. This includes bringing our operational software back in-house and off of the service bureau. We are actively developing software in pursuit of this strategy. However, the progress toward a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped.
There are many reasons for this but the main one is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the Unix-Linux community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s.
February 08, 2016
Newer XP storage works for HP 3000s
HP 3000 systems often use antique disks for storage and as boot drives. No device HP has integrated in a 3000 server is newer than 2003 in age, and even some later-generation disk arrays have design dates that throw back to more than 10 years ago. (We're looking at you, XP12000.)
Thankfully, there's newer storage available to HP 3000 sites. The XP20000 and XP24000 can be integrated with HP 3000s. We know of a couple of support and resale companies which do this work. Pivital Solutions continues to support 3000 sites, including integration like this. Newer storage can assure more confidence in the HP-built versions of the 3000. Older hardware gets dinged during datacenter audits, after all.
Other companies that don't write 3000 support contracts are able to connect these XP arrays. One of the other providers calls these newest StorageWorks devices "amazing storage devices for HP 3000 servers." HP put out an end-of-life notice for these arrays' XP12000 predecessor more than two years ago.
February 05, 2016
Number, Please: Finding the 3000 Set
When I started in this line of work in 1984, writing about the Hewlett-Packard community, I had a directory. Literally, a perfect-bound directory of HP staff that worked in the company headquarters and labs in California. HP shared it with me as HP Chronicle editor, updating it every year. When someone's number at HP came up missing, you'd call up company HQ and ask for the division operator. It was the 411 of the middle 1980s. It's obvious the 3000 world needs something similar today.
As it turns out, the community does have it. The most dynamic directory resource is the 3000-L, still in use this month to locate information about contacting experts. What makes it powerful is the wetware behind the bits. Knowing which of the 3000-L posters are customers, rather than consultants, is one example of the power of that wetware.
As the week began, Bob from Ideal Computer was searching for Brian Edminster, he of Applied Technologies. Bob slipped a message under the door of 3000-L, then got an answer back about a current email address. I followed up today, just to make sure Bob got something useful. Brian's on the lookout for consulting opportunities, as well as longer engagements.
Yesterday Al Nizzardini was seeking an email address for Vesoft. A couple of replies on the L misinformed Al that Vesoft doesn't use email. That might have been true 10 years ago, but the address firstname.lastname@example.org lands in the offices of Vladimir Volokh and his team. Vladimir far prefers to use the phone, but he's old-school enough to enjoy an in-person visit, too.
In another update, 3K Associates and Chris Bartram are now at 3kAssociates.com. Bartram, one of the very first of the 3000 community to set up shop in the Internet, sold his two-character domain name 3k.com for a tidy sum. "We continue to sell and support our entire like of HP 3000-based software products from 3kAssociates.com," he reported on the L.
February 03, 2016
MPE site sizes up Linux distro for Charon
When we interviewed one HP 3000 manager who's homesteading, James Byrne had a question about the kind of Linux that's used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. Byrne's heart rests in the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps, a thing Charon can help make possible. There's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary solution, though, no matter how stable it is.
There's another issue worth looking at in his organization, Hart & Lynne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward there have to meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter there. Nobody wants to be caught in the vendor-controlled blind alley again.
Bynre's got a problem about about something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system and is therefore Open Source software.
Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."
KVM users have strong feelings about hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License that many open source solutions utilize.
February 01, 2016
Loyalist, laggard, loser: who are you now?
When 2016 arrived on our calendar, we looked for signs of the 3000's present and its future. A survey of frequent 3000-L contributors was answered by about half of those we polled. Among that group we found half of these IT pros — selected to be sure they owned 3000s, not just consulted on them — have plans for MPE/iX in their companies in 2016 and beyond.
If you're still using HP 3000s here, getting on to 15 years after HP announced the system's "end of life," then who are you? Among your own kind, you're possibly a loyalist, devoted to tech that's still better than the alternatives to your company. After all, almost 5 percent of every Mac user runs their systems on Snow Leopard, an OS released six years ago and decommissioned by Apple in 2013. Some experts in the community say it runs faster on the newest Macs than any other OS release, though.
The glove on this page came from a Mac conference of 2006, when Snow Leopard was three years away. Maxtor was sure we'd be losing files unless we backed up to their disks. They gave us a set of three instead of a pair of gloves. The way things turned out, Maxtor lost its company status that year, purchased by Seagate. The Maxtor brand went dark in 2009, the year Snow Leopard made its debut. The OS got a small update this month, though, to keep the door open to a newer OS X.
Your 3000 loyalty may label you a laggard. That's one way to describe somebody who's among the last to migrate somewhere when anybody who's savvy has already departed. Tough word, that one. It can inspire some dread and maybe shame about holding out. Or holding on. If the vantage point and the capabilities of MPE/iX in 2016 suit you, though, laggard is just a way to segregate you from someone else's visions.
The implication and suggestion is that laggard would mean loser. Nobody will actually use that word while identifying advocates for old tech. It surely doesn't fit when your applications are solid and cannot be replaced by a migration project priced at more than a full year's IT budget. There's also the matter of keeping IT headcount lean. The most expensive parts of running a datacenter are the people. That's why cloud solutions are getting airtime in boardroom planning. MPE demands fewer heads.
"We're still using our HP 3000s," said Frank Gribbin, running the servers for the law firm of Potter, Anderson. "It's just too useful a tool to do without."
January 29, 2016
Building manufacturer joins MPE, Windows
Plenty of migration stories put HP 3000s to rest, either outside of the production circle or off the premises entirely. At Victor S. Barnes, which fabricates plastics, MDF, and fiberboards, the MPE/iX server which continues to run does both kinds of duty. It's an archival system, but for one key client, the 3000 continues to process orders.
"As a company we have moved on to a Windows Server package to run our company," Tom Hula reports. "The HP 3000 is largely used for reference. With that said, we are still relying on the 3000 to process orders for a large customer."
The newer Windows server package doesn’t yet support the needs of that customer. When the needed changes have been made, than the 3000 will be reference only, and eventually not used at all.
The route of migrating to a package has it’s pros and cons. I would say that the largest drawback is a loss of flexibility... of having to depend on others for making needed changes, or even having to tell someone something can’t be done because of the software's constraints. On the other hand, we see the largest advantages as new capabilities on the Windows package, ones that were never going to be possible on the HP 3000.
January 28, 2016
TBT: A Terminal Commemoration
Thirty years ago today I sat at a Columbia PC, reading the reports of the Challenger disaster on Compuserve. The news flashed over an amber display attached to the PC, an IBM wannabe that had another life for us at the HP Chronicle. That PC was our link to an HP 3000 in downtown Austin. A printer there managed our subscription database. The software that made it possible was PC2622. The product from Walker, Richer & Quinn was the first independent terminal emulator in the Hewlett-Packard market, a way to link to 3000s without purchasing a dedicated terminal.
The purple PC2622 box sat atop that amber monitor like it perched in many 3000 shops. HP's 2622 terminal was a staple in an installed base that was growing from 10,000 to 20,000 installed servers. The HP products were priced much higher than third-party terminals. There was independent hardware to mimic the HP engineering inside the 3000-only boxes. By 1986, however, PCs were in every office and companies needed desk space for the new tools and wanted to reduce costs with a single tube at each workstation.
HP was trying to promote a combo idea of its own in the era, the HP 150 PC. It was not compatible with much of the software of the day, but a Touchscreen 150 was automatically ready to be a console for MPE applications. In contrast, the Walker, Richer & Quinn PC2622 gave companies compatibility on both fronts: MS-DOS, and MPE. George Hubman was the point man for pushing the purple boxes into 3000 shops. An array of resellers around the world was making converts, too.
The late Doug Walker, founder of the company who recently died in a tragic accident, said the earliest days for PC2622 were entertaining in a "may you live in interesting times" setting. HP was not giving ground to the strategy that independent companies could deliver key software. Well, the management wasn't. But HP's field engineers, the SEs of the day, were big fans of terminal emulation, according to Walker.
"Version 1.1 of the product had an HP 3000 file transfer program," Walker said. "The problem was how to get the file transfer program onto the 3000 side."
January 27, 2016
Keeping up lets you receive what you give
We've been checking in on how companies are keeping their MPE/iX servers up to date. One element is consistent in successful updating: continuing maintenance contracts for the software that's in production or development use. It's the heart of a healthy body of IT resources.
In one recent story we followed up on Reflection, the Attachmate HP 3000 terminal emulator product. Things have changed in PC desktop environments, since Microsoft has been hawking its Windows 10 update automatically. To get the latest Reflection version from Attachmate, keeping up on support is required. It's a paid enterprise to work on making changes to software like Reflection to support new environments such as Windows 10. Not many software solutions update themselves, said Birket Foster.
"Even free, open source software has programmers that are paid," he said when we checked up on Reflection updates. MB Foster has sold many copies of the product over the last 25 years. "Even for open source, there's some support and other positions also being compensated if these volunteers are working for a university or a large company like HP."
Foster says yes, there is an upgrade fee to bring Reflection up to date. "For customers that have been using the software for 10 years, they might want to remember that there is a cost to keeping the software in sync with the Microsoft changes," he said. "Continuous development is required and the programmers need to be paid."
One alternative to Reflection terminal emulation is Minisoft 92, from the company of the same name. CEO Doug Greenup said his product's got Windows 10 support, but even more interesting is the fact that it's got as many as 25 sites using the Charon emulator. Moving from HP's 3000 iron to Charon is a complimentary relicense at Minisoft, without a fee — so long as there's a current support contract.
January 26, 2016
Migrating apps creates years of 3000 work
A double-handful of HP 3000s, 10 in all, remain on duty a few more years at a North American manufacturer with multiple sites. The systems are a mix of 9x9 and N-Class systems, waiting on a project to complete that will replace the 3000 apps with comparable software on Windows.
This app replacement is an example of one of the three flavors of migration discussed tomorrow (Jan. 27) in an MB Foster webinar. The first of a four-part series, Application Migrations / 3R's of Migration, starts at 2 PM Eastern US time.
At the North American manufacturer, according to systems engineer Dan Barnes, the Fortune 1000 company uses Lawinger Consulting for HP 3000 application management.
Our client has four remaining production locations using individual HP 3000s, plus one EDI server and one development server. All are awaiting conversion to a Wintel-based application alternative, which is still two-to-five years down the road for them. We have an additional 4 DR servers as backup to these systems.
January 25, 2016
VMware solution assists Win10's 3000 debut
Windows 10 is making its way into HP 3000 shops. Earlier today a manager had loaded up Win10 and then discovered that Reflection, the terminal emulator built for HP 3000 access, wasn't working anymore.
"My Attachmate Reflections v22.214.171.124 does not work — it has an error when trying to start," said George Forsythe. He wanted to know about any available updates for the former WRQ product. It's not a former product, but Reflection for HP, as it's known today, is a Micro Focus product. Last year Micro Focus bought Attachmate, the company that purchased WRQ.
The short answer is version 14.1.543 (SP4), according to Craig Lalley. It's a matter of an update, but a mission-critical connection might demand a faster solution. One well-known program that aids Windows migration of 3000-attached desktops was mentioned by Neil Armstrong, developer of the Robelle data utility Suprtool. VMware can have your back if you're taken a PC onto Win10 and something critical like the 3000 connection stops running, he said.
This is why I've "virtualized" some key environments that are used for development. If something like this comes up, you're not stuck with a critical problem at a key moment.
January 22, 2016
A 3000, awaiting replacement, still at work
If the above headline sounds like your homesteading situation, then you're an interim homesteader. Or a wannabe migrator, which can amount to the same thing if the pain of retaining a 3000 and MPE is low. In the hospital they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. Nobody says 0, unless they're deep into morphine. There's usually some.
At Cerro Wire, the pain level must be not more than a 2, but the 3000 is being targeted for replacement. As part of our survey of the 3000 managers who speak up on the 3000-L, we got a report back from Herb Statham. He's led the 3000 computing at the manufacturer based in Alabama, with operations elsewhere in the US, too. Statham notes that the MPE server at Cerro continues to work. It's something like staying on your job even after you've been laid off, because they can't find a replacement yet.
Uncommon for an employee. Commonplace among interim homesteading systems. Statham, who was hiring for 3000 operations as recently as 2014 -- and had a contract 3000 expert at work until October — reports that Intel-based systems are preferred now at Cerro.
We are still running an A500 box at Cerro Wire. The game’s afoot to replace our current business applications with ones that are Intel- and Microsoft-based. I do not know when the final decision will be made, but the HP 3000 just keeps chirping along. I am trying to get “semi-retired” to only work two or three days a week, until the “new and better” system is in place.
Intel had prospects earlier at Cerro, in a different capacity. Statham was public about a 3000 emulator's chances there, even before the Stromasys Charon software had a big footprint. Cerro was going to be a classic 3000 manufacturer pushing their MPE apps into a long-running role. Leaving the HP hardware behind looked to be important, but other apps on other platforms were already working there.
January 21, 2016
Taking a Charge at Transition's Costs
Changing your IT infrastructure might become more critical in 2016. Hardware is older, especially the hardware HP built and sold to run MPE/iX servers. One solution is to migrate to a new OS environment. Another refresh for IT might come from emulating the PA-RISC servers with Intel-based servers. But in either case, some software will have to come along, a move to help contain transition costs.
License transfer practices come into focus during these projects. While moving from MPE/iX to another OS, most shops would like to keep what's been working, if the software's got prospects to grow along with IT's needs. In some cases that's possible, because the vendor has put in its work to adopt a new platform. A couple of middleware providers have done this. MB Foster and Minisoft both reached out to HP-UX users coming out of their MPE/IX environments. Minisoft's Doug Greenup reported this week that Summit Information Systems Spectrum users — whose vendor is now Fiserv, post-migration — headed to HP-UX when leaving the 3000 credit union application. Their target was Eloquence, the database designed to embrace IMAGE applications into an SQL world.
"We have quite a few Eloquence customers," he said, "more then 100. Many of the Fiserv Credit Union customers moved from MPE to HP-UX and use our ODBC driver for Eloquence." Minisoft's also got an ODBC for IMAGE product. That's an example of a cross-platform development strategy, something to keep costs under control. When your existing vendor does a version of your product for a migration target, that's fortunate. It's even more fortunate when you're not expected to re-license the product.
Last week the Minisoft ODBC for IMAGE product became the target of a competitive upgrade campaign. MB Foster says it will let a Minisoft ODBC customer switch to UDALink for MPE/iX for the price of a support contract. We took note of that campaign, a classic move from the days when new MPE/iX software was being sold in a market active enough to support multiple vendors for a single product like middleware. Going into competition, and retaining customers in the face of it, smacks of moxie in a market that's quiet and stable by now. It helps if your product has feature differences, so a 64-Bit ODBC driver, and the ability to use Suprtool's Self Describing (SD) Files, are getting touted in that offer.
Both vendors say they support Windows 10 with their middleware. No matter how much grief the new Microsoft environment is causing, it's still a certain part of IT futures. Windows 10 support is essential to keeping a 3000 current with the latest PC clients tapping IMAGE/SQL data.
Vendors in the 3000 market had to go where new system sales were happening, though. For MB Foster, its HP-UX version of UDALink is preserving investments at a site where the biggest single group of 3000s was migrated. At the same time, this site is using Minisoft's middleware on HP-UX, too. The situation at the college group looks like a lesson in preventing extra costs in a transition. Migration has plenty of prerequisite costs.
January 20, 2016
Pricing, Value, and Emulating Classics
Editor's Note: Yesterday we ran a story about the impact of proprietary software lock-in, as reported from a manager's office where HP 3000s still do their work. Amid that story was a quote about predaceous pricing (love that word), the act of outre increases to the cost of emulator MPE server solutions because of upgrade charges. It's blocked several adoptions of Charon HPA, even among managers who love the ideal of non-HP hardware that keeps MPE apps alive. Tim O'Neill wrote the following editorial, prompted by our article. Although companies do need to generate capital to keep supplying software, the matter of how much to charge for a shift to an emulator remains a flash point.
Editorial by Tim O'Neill
James Byrne brings up important point about proprietary software running proprietary hardware: it enabled predatory pricing, both by HP and by third parties.
At this stage, it appears that Charon could be bought affordably, but the problem is the third parties' still seeing the opportunity to gouge existing customers.
This is why businesses become former customers and change to shareware and open source operating systems and databases, e.g. Linux and open database systems like Postgres. There are still costs as a part of such a change. They might need to hire more in-house staff to do what HP and third parties used to do for that one huge cover-all price. It might not be wise to entrust critical applications to shareware, but are customers avoiding doing so?
January 19, 2016
It's becoming an MPE Server, this HP 3000
Hewlett-Packard stopped building 3000s in 2003, cutting off a product line in the belief that users would leave the server. But after thousands of them did just that, thinking there would be no more MPE/iX servers to be purchased, an emulator emerged. After more than four years, it might be changing the concept of what is an HP 3000. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies wonders what's the future for the system that delivers MPE/iX apps.
"It seems to me that it's almost more accurate to call these beloved hosts 'MPE/iX' systems," he said, "rather than 3000s, since — eventually, at least — no one will be running 'original' HP hardware."
We have asked around the community about how this concept plays out. James Byrne, 3000 manager at logistics provider Hart & Lyne, offers one view on what makes up his idea of a device to use MPE/iX.
I consider our systems to be MPE/iX rather than HP 3000. The hardware does not really matter to us any more, since most of the rest of our critical infrastructure is already running on commodity Intel 64 bit boxes. We simply keep two or three of everything running on different 3000 hosts most of the time, and have them continually cross checking each other. That approach has covered us well in the one or two serious incidents we have experienced these past 15 years since HP gave up on the 3000.
If the Charon emulator was priced in the same range as a used HP 3000, and ran on Linux, and used KVM virtualization, then we would in all probability move to it as an interim step, if only to escape the aging hardware MPE/iX is running on.
January 18, 2016
The GSP makes the A and N worthwhile
It's a powerful part of an HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. The Guardian Service Processor (GSP) is the maintenance control console commanding the ultimate class of the server to reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the 3000. Consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech has noted the GSP has one fewer feature than its Unix counterpart, though.
"On HP-UX it is possible to reset the GSP from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."
From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services on A-Class and N-Class servers. If your 3000 gets loving care from a consultant or service provider outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep up service levels.
The GSP can also reveal the 3000's speedometer, as profiled near the bottom of a webpage from Allegro Consultants.
The gap between 3000 and HP's HP-UX Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That lack of Unix can sometimes be a good thing when a security breach opens up in the Unix world.)
But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a telnet command doesn't work. You can telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset. But you can also get someone to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. It's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a magic paper clip bent just so.
Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.
The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.
It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.
It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, this reset can be done during business hours.
January 15, 2016
Competitive upgrading lives on for 3000s
In the 1990s, HP contracted to send its ODBC middleware development to MB Foster. The result was ODBCLink/SE, bundled into MPE/iX from the 5.5 release onward. The software gave the 3000 its first community-wide connection to reporting tools popular on PCs. HP decided that the MB Foster lead in development time was worth licensing, instead of rebuilding inside the 3000 labs. Outside labs had built parts of the 3000's fundamental software before then. But ODBCLink/SE was the first time independent software retained its profile, while it was operating inside of the 3000's FOS. Every 3000 running 5.5 and later now had middleware.
Other ODBC solutions were available in that timeframe. Minisoft still sells and supports its product. That's one reason why MB Foster's running a competitive upgrade offer for users of the Minisoft middleware. The upgrade was announced yesterday. 3000 owners who make the switch from Minisoft for IMAGE ODBC to Foster's software will get a full version of UDALink for the cost of only the annual support payments.
This kind of competitive offer was one of Minisoft's sales tools while it competed with WRQ for terminal emulation seats. There was a period where NS/VT features were not a part of every Reflection package, but were a staple in the Minisoft MS/92.
Foster's ODBC software has been extended to use 64-bit ODBC drivers, embrace Suprtool's Self Describing Files, and more. UDALink was a part of the migration that the Washington State community college consortium pulled off in 2011 when it moved 34 systems to Unix. The vendor has continued to develop to make a state of the art middleware solution.
Almost as notable: seeing MB Foster compete for business like vendors did routinely in the 1990s. The upgrade offer tells us that there are 3000 sites out there still looking to extend their development cycles. UDALink is also built for platforms other than the 3000, but any outreach to capture MPE/iX customers is news here in 2016. Chris Whitehead is fielding the calls and emails for the upgrade offer, which runs through June of this year.
January 14, 2016
HP's 3000 now at $149 until Sunday
Google is happy to trawl the Web for HP 3000 news, a search that I've had in place for the past 10 years. I receive a lot of notices about horsepower of auto engines (the HP) and a few about printers. But today a link showed up that features a computer called the HP 3000, currently selling for $149 plus shipping.
There are a few unique and important qualifiers. To start, this is an HP3000 model with an Intel server, literally a PC powered by an Xeon X3330 CPU at 2.8 MHz. That's a quad-core processor, though, and the box is already loaded with 4GB of memory. (It's a start, but nowhere near enough RAM to power software such as, for instance, the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator.)
In short, this is an HP3000 built by Hewlett-Packard that can run MPE/iX, but does not use PA-RISC. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has not restricted the use of "3000" to the PA-RISC servers well-loved by the MPE community. Over on the HP Inc. side, there's a large-scale printer also called an HP 3000.
This HP3000 running a Xeon chip has another, less significant qualifier. It's being sold by a New Zealand owner on TradeMe.co.nz, "Where Kiwis Buy and Sell." And the shipping options don't go beyond Auckland, or the North and South Islands.
However, this TradeMe model might be something that could be shipped to the 3000 stalwarts Ken and Jeanette Nutsford. The former chairs of SIGRAPID and SIGCOBOL still live in NZ, when they're not gadding about the globe on their epic cruise calendars. Their total mileage easily runs into the hundreds of thousands. Trans-Pacific flights are embedded in their history. So perhaps the 6,693 miles to the US is not completely out of reach, in a hop. The Nutsfords travel regularly to the US, and this PC looks like it would be cargo-bay ready.
Yes, you could file this article under clickbait. It's an online auction after all, and $149 is only today's price. However, if you consider your systems to be MPE/iX servers by now, rather than the Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC 3000 hardware that hosts that OS, this is technically a server that can run your apps.
January 13, 2016
Using Store-To-Disk for Backup Preservation
By Brian Edminster
Second of two parts
Yesterday I outlined some of the powers of the Posix program pax, as well as tar, to move MPE/iX backup files offsite. Here’s a warning. There are some file types that cannot be backed up by tar/pax while also storing their attributes: ;CIR (circular) and ;MSG (message) files (and possibly others. I haven’t tested all possible file types yet. Also, there is an issue with tar that is a fairly well known and has been discussed on the 3000 newsgroup. Occasionally it does not un-tar correctly. It is unclear if and when this was fixed, but I’d love to hear from anybody that might be in the know, or which specific situations to avoid.
Regardless of these limitations, I’ve found a simple way around this. Use store-to-disk to make your backup, then tar to wrap it, so as to preserve the store-to-disk files’ characteristics, before shipping the files off-system. Later, when you retrieve your tar backups and un-tar them, you’ll get your original store-to-disk files back without having to specify the proper ‘;REC= , CODE= , and DISC=’ options on an FTP ‘GET’. I’ve been doing this for several months now on several systems, and I have not had any failures.
January 12, 2016
Backing Up Your 3000 Backup Files
By Brian Edminster
Once store-to-disk backups on the 3000 are regularly being processed, it’s highly desirable to move them offsite — for the same reasons that it’s desirable to rotate tape media to offsite storage. You want to protect against site-wide catastrophic failures. It could be something as simple as fire, flood, or a disgruntled employee, or as unusual as earthquake or act of war.
Regardless of the most pressing reason, it really is important to keep at least some of your backups offsite, so as to facilitate rebuilding / recovering from scratch, either at your own facility, or at a backup/recovery site.
The problem comes in that the MPE/iX file system is far more structured than Unix, Windows, or any other non-MPE/iX file system-based storage mechanisms. While transferring a file off MPE/iX is easy via FTP, sftp/scp, or rsync, retrieving it is problematic, at least if you wish the retrieved files and the original store-to-disk files to be identical (i.e., with the same file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type, and so forth).
What would be optimal is automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.
January 11, 2016
What HP's Synergy is Poised to Deliver
"Over the next several months, the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will be shipping a fresh IT platform it calls Synergy. This won't feature a new processor family and it's not going to feature a new operating environment for business customers. Understanding what Synergy might do was a big topic in last month's HP Discover show in London. The product seems to be aimed at changing your plans for IT investment, without sacrifices, as a regular business process.
HP and IBM have sold this concept before, going as far back as the days when you'd buy more computing power than you first planned, just by turning on CPUs and cycles. The vendors levied a temporary charge back then, a bill that would show up like extra long distance fees. Synergy is leagues more complex than that, but it's got a similar aim. Overprovisioning -- stacking up too much power in reserve — will be the black mark to be erased in IT planning.
Like all of HP's innovations, Synergy's only connection to the world of the 3000 exists in leaving the MPE platform. It's a destination, this product HP expects to ship before mid-year. No one knows about its pricing, but the fluid resource pools, auto discovery capabilities, and containerized applications are supposed to reduce the overprovisioning by as much as 60 percent. HP says that will cut immediate capital expenditures up to 17 percent, and cost of ownership capital expenditures up to 30 percent.
The challenge in adapting a new mindset that focuses on resources rather than platforms, one that thinks of apps as pop-up shops, lies in translating the IT-speak of our current decade. We've found an article that does a good job of that, so you can see the hardware and software inside Synergy from a perspective of the IT planning of 15 years ago.
January 08, 2016
Calculating Classic Value of 3000s
The market price for HP 3000s on the used market can hover between $1,500 and $3,000, using quotes from Cypress Technology. Jesse Dougherty just posted an offer for an A-Class single-CPU system at the low end of that range. Licensing such a 3000's MPE is usually a second step. If it's a replacement 3000, there's a chance no upgrade fee would be involved.
But for the company that's seeking a fresh 3000, determining the market value with license gets to be trickier. HP 3000 gear is available from Pivital Solutions and other resellers, systems that ship with license documentation.
What's a license worth in 2016? We found a classic price point for MPE/iX in the archives of 3000 news from the winter of 2007. It was a year when HP support was still available in full-on versions, so HP was selling something it called the Right to Use License. This was the means to upgrade a 3000, and the extra power could cost as much as $89,000, less the current value of your MPE system. Business manager Jennie Hou explained.
There seemed to be confusion in the marketplace on how customers could ensure they had valid e3000 systems. We’re putting a product back on the price list to enable this for the 3000. We’re really doing this to accommodate customers who need to upgrade their systems.
Client Systems was called out as the resource for the software upgrade, but that outlet may not be online in the market anymore. Midrange five-figure HP pricing for a server whose manufacture had halted more than three years earlier marked the final time the vendor put MPE/iX on its corporate price list. It's something to measure against when calculating licensed HP hardware value against the cost of virtualized HP 3000 gear.
January 07, 2016
TBT: Client Systems wanted, or missing?
In a routine check of what's available to help 3000 managers, over the holiday break I poked into a few Web locations to see where HP's Jazz papers and software were still hosted. Links from 3k Associates to those papers came up empty when they directed to the Client Systems website in late December. From all reasonable research, it appears the company itself may have gone into the everlasting shadows.
Many 3000 customers never did business directly with Client Systems, but the company had a hand in plenty of official 3000 installations. The vendor rose in community profiles in the late 1990s when HP appointed the firm its lone North American HP 3000 distributor — meaning they stocked and configured systems destined for companies around the continent. Thousands of servers passed through the Denver offices, each assigned the unique HPSUSAN numbers as well as the official HP CPUNAME identifiers that made a 3000 a licensed box.
That official license became a marketing wedge for awhile. We'd call it an edge, but the company's claim that re-sold 3000s from anywhere else could be seized by the FBI was designed to drive used systems away from buyers. There was never anything official about the FBI claims passed along by the company then. But in the era of the late '90s, and up to the point where HP pulled its futures plug, buying a 3000 included a moment like the ones from WW II movies: "Let me see your papers," an HP support official might say.
This was the strike-back that Hewlett-Packard used to respond with after widespread license fraud ran through the marketplace. By 1999 lawsuits claimed that a handful of companies had forged system IDs on PA-RISC hardware. A low-end L-Class box could be tricked up as a high-end 3000, for example. To push back, after the HP lawsuits were settled or had rulings dispensed, Client Systems started Phoenix/3000, something like an automaker's official resale lot.
Client Systems did lots of things for the marketplace much more laudable, operating a good technical services team that was upper-caliber in its depth of hardware knowledge. At its peak, the company provided 3kworld.com, an all-3000 portal in the days when portals were supposed to be important on the Web. The company was a partner with the NewsWire for several years, as we licensed our stories for use on the free 3k World website. 3kworld.com folded up, but the current clientsystems.com site still has Jazz tech information available, at least as of today.
Over the last two weeks we've received email bounces, even while the website is online. The whois information points to one physical address of a personal injury attorney's practice in Seattle. Our phone calls have gone unreturned, and we're not the only ones. Pivital Solutions, one of the last standing official HP resellers in that time when such things existed, still serves 3000 customers with hardware and support. Pivital's president Steve Suraci also has searched to find a light on.
January 06, 2016
Emulation's bones bared, speeds boosted
The year 2015 marked significant changes for the virtualization stable at Stromasys. The company now sells five products in all, providing emulation of processors from HP, Sun, and three off the Digital lineup: PDP-11, VAX and Alpha. Those last two Digital models represent the most mature virtualization software from the company. Homesteaders might consider what's being done with those models as a target for futures of the HPA product.
Stromays is making no predictions about whether the Barebones feature in its VAX version of Charon will emerge in Charon HPA. But the newest release for the oldest product line will strip down what's required.
CHARON-VAX Barebone brings the same security and peace of mind as traditional Charon solutions -- but with a Linux microkernel embedded in the Charon software. Barebone uses only the essential components of the Linux OS, increasing your datacenter's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.
It seems that reducing the need to manage Linux would be a good selling point for Charon in any of its platform versions. "CHARON-VAX allows customers to easily create and deploy new virtual VAXs," product manager Alexandre Cruz reports. "It uses a stripped down Linux version (with GUI) that saves the hassle of host OS installation, configuration and licensing."
This streamlining is not a part of the Charon HPA model yet, but the newest 3000-ready release will make the Intel-based emulation of the PA-RISC faster.
January 05, 2016
Migrating 3000 Data from Spoolfiles to Excel
I need assistance with putting an output spool file from MPE/iX 7.5 into Excel or other readable format. The file is generated by Query, then processed by Editor, then sent to the printer. Instead of printing it, I want to put it into a readable format.
I do not have QEdit or any smart tools on MPE, so my approach thus far has been to move the file to a PC before doing anything. However, that carries with it the initialization sequence for the printer to which the job is spooled. The job is set up to print on a PCL 5 laser, which means it has hundreds of lines of control before the data starts.
Tom Moore replies
I would put commas in between my columns (in the query, or using Editor). I FCOPY from the file to a new file with NOCCTL to get rid of carriage control byte. You could also remove the PCL 5 lines by subset in the FCOPY command. Depending on the data, I would use EDIT3000 to change all " ," to "," and all ", ","," to compress the file, removing the spaces before and after the commas inserted above, then save the file for download to the PC.
I would also consider using ODBC to directly extract from the IMAGE database, rather than Query and all the subsequent steps. The HP free ODBC driver would do the job very well.
Birket Foster of MB Foster notes
Not only did we make that free ODBCLink/SE as HP's lab resource from 1998 to 2006, but we have continued to develop the ability to work with data in all kinds of file formats. We do supply 32- and 64-bit versions for ODBC to the HP 3000.
UDALink-MPE was designed for the HP 3000. We provide data in several different formats including XLS for Excel, XML, CSV etc. We can have a discussion about what you are trying to do with data; perhaps UDACentral is the right product for your challenge and we can organize a demonstration for you.
January 04, 2016
Accident claims WRQ founder Doug Walker
Doug Walker, the man whose brilliance and energy helped found the 3000 community's largest connectivity vendor WRQ, died over this past holiday weekend in an accident on a Washington state snowshoe trail on Granite Mountain. Walker, 64, is the first 3000 community member of wide renown to pass away by way of accidental death.
In the early 1980s when Walker — along with Mike Richer and Marty Quinn, the other two WRQ initials — joined forces with co-founder George Hubman, minicomputer access required hardware terminals. The advent of the personal computer had the potential to expand that access. The WRQ purple boxes carrying a manual and floppy disks for PC2622, software named after the HP 3000 terminal the product emulated, became a fixture in HP 3000 shops by the mid-1980s.
Walker was reported missing December 31 while snowshoeing on Granite Mountain. Search-and-rescue volunteers found his body the next day. The Seattle Times reported that Walker had been hiking with friends when winds intensified.
His companions decided to turn back and wait for Walker, who continued climbing. He likely was caught in an avalanche, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“He has done this easily 200 times, he just does it for exercise,” said Karen Daubert, executive director of the Washington Trails Association and a close friend who has climbed the same route with Walker. “I have been up several times with Doug, including in winter.”
Close friends and partners expressed dismay at the loss of a man who'd devoted his life to philanthropy and mentoring after retiring from WRQ.
"Doug's death came as a shock and is a tragedy," said Hubman, who led the company's marketing and sales before retiring late in the 1990s. "It goes without saying that Doug was a genius. I often joked that if anyone could write a program that required no memory and no time to execute, it would be Doug."