May 08, 2015
Wiping An MPE Past Clean: Tools and Tips
The 3000 newsgroup readers got a query this week that's fit for our migrating epoch. "It's the end of an era, and we're going to dispose of the HP 3000," said Krikok Gullekian. "After deleting all of the file, is there a way to wipe out the operating system?"
Such wipe-outs are the closing notes of the migration's siren song. Nobody should leave evidence behind of business data, even if that 3000 is going out to a tech recycle house. A piece of software, a classic part of hardware, and even wry humor have been offered to meet the wipe-out request.
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro Consultants pointed to WipeDisk, a program that's hosted on the computer that will no longer know its own HPCPUNAME once the software finishes its job. It will sanitize an MPE/iX disk drive. (Versions for MPE/V, HP-UX, Mac OS X and Linux are also available.)
"You install WipeDisk on your target system and run it when you're really, really really sure you're ready to say good-bye to your old friend," she said.
It's not complete enough just to run MPE's VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL command, Allegro notes on the product's webpage. "You cannot count on VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL to ‘erase’ a disk. It might, or might not, depending upon the disk vendor’s implementation of the device firmware."
Hardware to fully erase the disks magnetically was also offered as a solution. Then there was the reference to the Hewlett-Packard of the era of this month's new Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina.
Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP e3000 resource
May 07, 2015
Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too
We've just reported on a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and is using HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running up to 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which the operating system will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?
The CALENDAR intrinsic that may block HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that year's New Year's Day, less than 13 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.
A voyager might see CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is one part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.
"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.
But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.
May 06, 2015
Big companies still use the HP 3000
From time to time, HP 3000 managers need specifics on the community's use of the 3000. Who's out there of any size who's devoted to making MPE a realistic 2015 business tool? As it turns out, there's an array of current customers who are large enough to trade on the stock market, even while they use an operating environment first booted up before their companies went public.
Size of company is one measure of the 3000's success over all of those decades. Another way CIOs try to gauge the staying power of a server that doesn't have vendor support is to see how many sites count MPE as an essential corporate business tool. This census-style of measure won't impress anybody in an era where Windows Server powers hundreds of thousands of businesses. (Windows Server customers are facing a migration this year, though, one that's not voluntary anymore.) Forced to an estimate, we'd say there are 2,500 HP 3000s running around the world, with about half as many customers.
But this is a computer still in regular use by publicly-traded companies. Several 3000s run at 3M, where they'll be part of the IT environment for a few more years. Manufacturing and ERP are the usual jobs for long-term, large-company MPE systems. But some sites are using the servers for e-commerce, for distribution, and for general finance operations.
One of the higher-profile organizations using the server is AMETEK, a company which is part of the S&P 500. Two divisions run MANMAN on their 3000s. At last report, one of these systems isn't going to power down until 2023 -- just four years before MPE date-management will start to report the last century's first two digits.
May 05, 2015
When Migrations Are Easy Replacements
One day ago Computerworld asked me whether I thought Hewlett-Packard had done the right thing about HP 3000 futures. The deed that changed most of the lives in the 3000 community happened long ago, but those 13-plus years have been put in current focus by the candidacy of the CEO at the time of the 3000 exit plan. Carly Fiorina wants to be America's next president. Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, having covered 3000 events for close to two decades, knew there would be some permanent marks here from that dark decision of 2001.
But there are people who have come to accept and even embrace the change forced upon customers and suppliers. These are sharp and savvy people who've made changes themselves in the wake of the end of HP's 3000 business. Most of them have extended their skills or product line or service offerings. All of that came at a cost, the risk that entrepreneurs take in business.
Migrations made business in this market too, just like the Y2K deadline lifted a lot of COBOL experts' revenue reports for 1996-2000. There's one insidious angle to that "new business from HP changes" strategy, though. It's the idea that the HP 3000 was easier to replace than other enterprise systems because it was general purpose and transaction-based.
That's a label that also fits the Digital VMS line as well as IBM's Series i (AS/400). IBM had the good sense not to walk away from its midrange servers, and HP decided to protect a larger customer base in the VMS systems (larger than the MPE base by a factor of 10). But the 3000 was not targeted because of any ease of replacement. "VMS and MPE were general purpose, transaction systems that were much more easily replaceable," the assertion goes, more easy than replacing something like the NonStop fault-tolerant environment.
Using that line of thinking, HP's Unix is up for the next cut, now that VMS has been ushered out of HP's long-term enterprise futures. Nobody who's invested in VMS, MPE, or HP-UX wants to hear that their general purpose computer would lead to a costly long-term choice. It was never about a customer's choice. This was always all about business and HP's hard choices — and so that's why Computerworld wanted to know how your community was adding up the cost, now that Carly's will begin taxing political credibility.
May 04, 2015
Candidate Carly looms like 3000 migrations
3000 community pundits and veterans will say Hewlett-Packard's pushing the server off its price lists was inevitable. Today that migration slog seems to hold the same charms as the just-announced candidacy of the HP CEO during that era: Carly Fiorina.
Announcing her run for the presidency will assure Fiorina of much attention, from the requisite Secret Service detail to a raft of coverage about being a female candidate running against another inevitability, Hillary Clinton. The attention will continue to mount upon her term at the HP helm, though, a period that even her fellow Republicans struggle to present as a success.
The similarities between government politics and tech business politics are now in the spotlight, though. Computerworld was writing a story about the intersection today.
Regarding the US presidency, citizens and voters can't go back for more Barack Obama. The 3000 owners couldn't go back for more servers after HP stopped making the computers in 2003, either. Everybody must move on from our current president, just like Fiorina's HP forced the 3000 owners to move away. So very many have moved. But so very few are using any HP product to replace their 3000 operations.
Showing off the hubris that would be echoed in her other attempts, first business and then political, Fiorina's HP alleged in 2002 that more than 4 of 5 customers would be off MPE within four years. Counting the unfinished or un-funded migration projects, close to 4 in 5 customers remained on MPE and the 3000 when that four-year-deadline rolled past. It was more complicated to curtail 3000 computing, just like it'll be complicated for Fiorina to paint her 5-plus HP years as a success.
But that doesn't mean she won't try. However, as the San Jose Mercury News wrote in an editorial, “She takes the Silicon Valley motto that it’s ‘OK to fail’ a tad too literally.” The paper's calling for more women in politics – except Carly Fiorina. The 3000 community only seems to embrace Fiorina's latest political jitney romp as an alternative in the last resort to a Hillary Clinton presidency.
"Killing the HP 3000 was a small pittance compared to the disaster she did to HP," said EchoTech's Craig Lalley today. "No, I would not vote for Carly. But then again, if the two final candidates are Carly and Hillary..."
May 01, 2015
Message Files Editing, DLT Autoloading Tips
What tools can I use to 'edit' a message file without destroying the file? I learned the hard way that if you’re using FCOPY to copy from a message file, it destroys the records read from the message file. Can you "COPY" a message file without destroying the records that are copied?
François Desrochers says
You can use non-destructive reads by specifying the COPY option on a file equation as in:
There's also an FOPEN Aoptions (bit 3:1) to enable the option.
As for editing a message file, the only safe way I know is to extract all the records into a regular flat file, edit it and load it back into the message file.
April 30, 2015
TBT: The Legacy of 3000 Creators
The creators of some of the 3000's earliest pieces are still with us, most of them. A notable exception is the legendary Fred White, pictured above in a photo taken from the years before his death in 2014. He's holding up his end of a memory board for an early-model 3000. The Series II server behind him introduced the 3000 line to most of the computer's first wave of users.
Holding the other side of the board is Ed Sharpe, who created and curated the first networking resource online devoted to the 3000, a bulletin board system he called The Forum. Throughout the first decade of the 3000's life, BBS communication was the only way to exchange information about MPE technical details other than attending user group meetings. HP did not launch its teleconference sessions, broadcast to customers through HP sales offices, until late in the 1980s.
The Forum earned the support of system managers reaching out to connect with each other. The character-based BBS interface was not much less sophisticated than the mailing-list-based HP3000-L of about a decade later. Downloads of contributed software were a big feature of the Forum. It connected users in an era when long-distance was still a serious business expense.
The biggest drawback to the Forum was the long distance charges for the users when downloading Forum CSL files! I am sure I caused some corporate phone bills to increase. Over in Europe, they had greater accessibility to X.25 at that time.
April 29, 2015
Linking Yesterday's Data To Today's Server
Another migration is underway in the world of enterprise computing, one that will transport millions of customers. It's not from one OS to another, or even from one model of computer to something much newer. It's a transition from one Windows Server release to the latest, although the latest Windows Server doesn't bear the name of our current year.
Business is making a shift from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012, triggered by applications. The apps are making use of a larger computing space, going from 32- to 64-bit software. And in so doing, these IT shops need an upgrade to their data links. HP 3000s that are networked into a Windows Server enterprise have a newer model of connectivity software to handle this migration.
UDALink is the progeny of MB Foster's ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. Now UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration.
The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."
April 28, 2015
Locating Help for 4GL 3000 Projects
A phone call -- how old-school -- to the NewsWire offices today posed an interesting question: Who'd be able to help a site that's got Speedware applications which appear to be layered with Visual Speedware? The list of independent Speedware experts who know MPE isn't a long one. A few months ago we compiled the a collection of 3000 experts into a single webpage here on our website. Only three companies named Speedware skills specifically in their company profiles.
"The Speedware here feels like it's hidden behind high walls," the caller said. "There's an aspect of Windows running in there, and the site doesn't really know where their development server is." Visual Speedware is still a product of Fresche Legacy -- the new name of Speedware since 2012 -- and the software that was created for "Enterprise Client/Server Development" has a presence on the Fresche website. The product's data sheet from 2002 is on the hpmigrations.com wing of the Fresche Web addresses.
Readers here will know there's an opportunity to help with a Speedware installation. It's a skill set in declining supply, this kind of 4GL expertise. PowerHouse users have a mailing-list newsgroup, but there's nothing like that for the Speedware user.
The two brands of 4GL have widely differing early days; Speedware was sometimes white-labeled to create apps sold by other software companies. SoftVoyage is a memorable example. PowerHouse always had its name out front where it was deployed. Later installs of these two 4GLs, through the late 1980s onward, were more similar.
In the ways of the IT world in 2015, both of the vendors of these products consider their 3000 customers to be ready candidates for migrations. The transition arrives in various flavors, but all of it is designed to leave the Hewlett-Packard-branded 3000 hardware behind.
April 27, 2015
Sendmail, Group Purges, and ACD Removal
Is there a proper or "right" way to shut down sendmail?
Donna Hofmeister replies
• Use the Posix kill signal from SERVER.SENDMAIL or any user with SM capability. (The following can be easily turned into a job!)
kill $(head -n 1 /etc/mail/sendmail.pid)
• Only use :ABORTJOB as a last resort! (This is true for all of the Posix things that got ported to MPE)
If you don't need to run a mail server (e.g. sendmail) on your 3000, you shouldn't. In most cases, using a mail client will be "just the ticket." Point the client at your in-house (SMTP) mail server and enjoy.
How can I easily purge all the files in a group without destroying the group structure?
If GRPNAME is the name of the group then either:
1. chgroup GRPNAME and
Or, purge @.GRPNAME
[Ed. note: Vladimir Volokh notes this last command does not purge databases from a group, although it purges everything else. You must be an SM user to purge everything in one account from another account. Of course, MPEX's %purge will purge everything, and will report the list of what is to be purged. %purge(ISPRIV) for a selection of databases only, for example.]
How can I convert an SL to an XL?
Jeff Kell and Gavin Scott reply:
You can OCTCOMP an SL, which will make the code in it run in mostly-Native Mode (though using several times the memory) and with exactly the same limitations as the original CM code. OCTCOMP just adds a pre-translated version of the CM code to the end of the file that will be invoked when you run the program or SL on an MPE/iX system.
April 24, 2015
Solutions for Keeping Passwords Fresh
Our management wants our 3000 users to be forced to change their password on a regular basis. Also, certain rules must be applied to the new password. We don’t have VEsoft’s Security/3000, although we do have MPEX. I therefore have two options. 1. Write something myself, or 2. See if there is anything in the Contributed Software Library that will do the job, or can be modified to supply the required solution.
Homegrown and bundled solutions follow. Jeff Vance offered this:
There is a pseudo random password generator available among the Jazz files which knows MPE’s password rules. See RANDNAME. There are also UDCs which force a password to be supplied when using NEWUSER, NEWACCT and NEWGROUP CI commands. These required passwords can be random or user entered with a minimal length enforced.
Then he added as an afterthought, a strategy to program your own password system:
I haven’t thought about it much, but it seems you could have a password file (maybe a CIRcular file?) for each user on the system. This file would have their last N passwords, and the modified date of the file would be the date their password was most recently changed.
A logon UDC could detect if the password file for that user exists. If not create it and require a new password right then. If the password file exists then get it’s modified date and compare that to today’s date. If greater than X days then in a loop prompt for a new password. Validate the entered password against previous N passwords and your other rules. Maybe run a dictionary checking program to make sure the password is not common, etc.
Update the user-specific password file with their new password, and then logon the user.
April 23, 2015
TBT: The Rise of Superdome to Blades
Earlier today, a 3000 manager asked if the Moonshot line of HP servers was part of the plans to establish the Charon HPA PA-RISC emulator in the community. "I think it would be great if someone would demonstrate MPE/iX running on HP Moonshot server," said Tim O'Neill. "[Stromasys might be using] Charon to do something like this, but are they doing it on a Moonshot?"
Moonshot is not the best fit for the Stromasys product, because the HP bladed server is aimed at far larger processing needs. The targets for Moonshot are providers of networking services, cloud hosting co-location providers, customers as large as PayPal, and 20th Century Fox. The studio now distributes its movies around the world digitally, movies that are hundreds of gigabytes per file, and it reduced its datacenter footprint by more than 80 percent and sends those files 40 percent faster.
It's not that the movie business didn't ever use MPE; Warner Brothers had a European distribution center for movies that used a 3000, but that was back in the day when canisters of 35mm film were shipped to theaters. Evoking the name Moonshot, however, recalls the hope that the 3000 community held for HP's first massive enterprise server, Superdome,15 years ago.
The first Superdome computers were PA-RISC systems that ran with the same PA-8600 and PA-8700 servers that powered HP 3000s. When HP started to talk about Superdome in the months after Y2K, 3000 customers wondered "Why not us?" as part of the product's target audience.
An IT manager with beta-test experience on Superdome said at HP World that he believes there’s no reason Superdome can’t work with MPE/iX. “It’s PA-RISC hardware,” he said. “I asked our technical contact from HP why it wouldn’t run with MPE. He replied to me, ‘Yes, why wouldn’t it run MPE?’ ” In a future version, the computer will use its advanced partitioning to run more than one operating environment at once, according to HP’s presentations.
Five years ago this week, HP announced at the HP Technology@Work 2010 conference the first server technology that bridged the multiple-processor designs of Superdome into the blade server concept that would become Moonshot. Even more so than the original Superdome, the Superdome 2 had zero chance of becoming an MPE/iX hardware host, because by the Spring of that year HP was counting down the months until it stopped MPE support completely. (Officially, anyway. Right up to this month, rumors are floating that HP is supporting customer 3000s somewhere.)
April 22, 2015
Essential Skills: Avoiding A King's Ransom
Editor's Note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for multi-talented MPE pros.
In a recent message on a 3000 developer mailing list, one MPE expert warned of the most common malware attack of 2015: Ransomware. "This is probably the most likely thing to happen to your computer if you click on the wrong thing today," Gavin Scott reports.
It's a nearly perfect criminal scheme.You get the malware on your system and it encrypts all files of value with a randomly generated key, and directs you to send $300 in bitcoin to them in order to get the encryption key to get your files back. It will encrypt every drive it can get access to, so a lot of people get their backups infected in the process of trying to recover. If you pay the $300, then by all reports they do give you the key, you get all your files back, and they don't bother you again. They even direct you to bitcoin ATM companies who reportedly spend much of their time these days providing technical support — to help Grandma operate the bitcoin system to pay her computer ransom.
To explain the fate of having to toss out computers in the IT shop which cannot be ransomed, we call on our security expert Steve Hardwick for some insights.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
In a previous article I looked at a Man in the Middle attack using SuperFish. That malware effectively bypassed the encryption built into HTTPS and so allowed Lenovo to inspect secure web traffic. There's another type of encryption hack that's becoming a serious threat: Ransomware.
In standard symmetric encryption, a key — a password — is used to scramble the information to render it undecipherable. The same key is then used to allow a valid user to convert that data back into the original data. Encryption systems ensure that anyone without a key will be unable to reconstitute the original data from encrypted data. Another key component (forgive the pun) is the password used to generate the encrypted data. If a valid user is not able to access the key, then they no longer have access to the data.
In many situations as a security professional, I've been asked how to recover encrypted data after the encryption key has been lost. Despite what TV shows depict, this is not as easy as it looks. Typical recovery of encrypted data is time consuming and costly. The first thing any security professional will say when an encryption key is lost is, "Just recover your data from your backup." But today there's a type of virus out there that uses this weakness, and can compromise backups, too.
April 21, 2015
Scheduling Time for Job Management
Starting Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern, MB Foster will demonstrate in a Webinar what Windows-based scheduling software should look like. The template for success comes from a strong jobstream management design: the one on HP 3000s.
3000 managers are making moves to Windows. It's been the most popular migration destination ever since HP announced it was leaving the 3000 space. Going to Linux is popular too, and the older generation of the Linux concept, Unix, had good scheduling software choices. Managers buy their own scheduler for all of these migration platforms, because what's included won't do anything close to what MPE delivers.
Over at the IT operations of Idaho State University, the scheduler that's recommended for the Banner/Ellucian ERP package under Unix has been installed. "We went with Automic's UC 4," said IT analyst John MacLerran. "That is the one recommended for use in Banner and it has worked quite well for us. We are currently on Solaris, with some Windows servers (for our report writer, named Argos), and Linux servers for the Oracle middleware servers. We will be moving the Solaris bits to Linux in the next 12 months or so, as we undergo a hardware refresh on our servers."
That's well and good for Unix or Linux sites, but Windows installations don't have such clean choices. MBF Scheduler is a selection that Measurement Specialties made a few years ago. That 3000 shop added Windows to its IT mix and needed 14,000 3000 jobs managed.
April 20, 2015
Replacing Apps, and Adding On, to Migrate
At Idaho State University, migration away from HP 3000 operations has been underway since before 2007. The school directed nearly all of its business functions using MPE/iX software, a good deal of it hand-tooled in PowerHouse. Within a couple of years of the migration launch the higher-education application Banner, running on Solaris Unix servers, took over for key parts of the 3000 operations. The last set of applications of the project now has a target for completing by July.
John MacLerran, senior IT analyst, updated us on the work at the university, noting that there are three applications, as well as control of the school's PBX, that must still be replaced from the 3000. The bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," he said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law."
These revisions are following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."
It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. (MB Foster calls these migration targets Commercial Off The Shelf apps.) "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."
Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.
April 17, 2015
Hardware appliance bolsters MPE encryption
HP 3000 sites still need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software. There's a reasonable amount of promise in SFTP of today for MPE/iX, but the solution isn't likely to satisfy security audits.
FluentEdge Technologies encrypts data moving through applications including the Ecometry ecommerce suite, as well as databases themselves, using software solutions that tap into apps and don't require any rewrites.
There's also a hardware solution, one that's been tested with the 3000, that offers a universal method to keeping data secure in transit. The 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances. A few years ago, Jack Connor put one of these appliances between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host. Now there's a new version of the device.
Similar to 10ZiG's Q3 appliance, the Q3e is the newest version of this state-of-the-art technology. Providing complete security for backup tapes, the Q3e appliance is designed to be easy-to-use and non-intrusive. Installation takes only minutes and key management is strong, yet simple. For the highest level of security, each Q3e appliance includes a hardware encryption chip that is unique to each customer. The Q3e is available with user selectable AES-128 or AES-256 encryption modes and supports up to four tape drives.
April 16, 2015
TBT: When 3000 Training Went Digital
Twenty-five years ago, HP was making history by integrating CBT for MPE XL on a CD-ROM, running from an IBM PC-AT. Or a Vectra. Ah, what we learned in those years by using acronyms.
At a user conference in Boston better known for a 3000 database showdown, the mashup of acronyms promised Computer Based Training for the 3000's operating system from a Compact Disc Read Only Memory drive. Here on Throwback Thursday, we're celebrating an industry first that leveraged the HP 3000, something of an anomaly for Hewlett-Packard. CD-based information delivery was still in its first steps in the computer industry, and just ramping up in the music business as well. It would be another 10 years before Apple shipped desktops with built-in CD-ROMs.
An HP official who would later come to lead half the company as executive VP, Ann Livermore, was a humble Product Manager for this combination of HP CD classes and an HP CD-ROM player. "It's the equivalent of having a system expert looking over your shoulder while you work," Livermore said. "The audio on these training product adds significant value to the learning experience." The interactive courses show users a typical HP 3000 console on the PC, accompanied by verbal instructions and explanatory text and graphics.
In an era where Bulletin Board Systems were cutting-edge information channels and web browsers didn't exist, having CD-ROM as a tool for support broke new ground for HP's enterprise business. HP sold about six hours of training on CDs for $950. The breakthrough was being able to use the training repeatedly, instead of putting each new operator or end-user in an HP classroom for a week.
April 15, 2015
Patches Are Custom Products in 2015
Last spring we visited the state of HP 3000 patching and found that new work has been making its way into the customer base — one customer at a time. HP Support once created such custom patches, engineered specifically for the configuration at the customer site. Independent support providers who have access to the MPE source code do this today. It's a elite number of support providers. Ask yours if they've got the source.
Last year a 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s. This mention of MPE bug repair was a reminder, actually, that Hewlett-Packard set the internals knowledge of MPE free back in 2010. Read-only rights to the operating system source code went out to seven companies worldwide, including some support providers such as Pivital Solutions and Allegro Consultants.
The latter's Stan Sieler was watching a 3000 newsgroup thread about the error winding up. Tracy Johnson, the curator of the 3000 that hosts the EMPIRE game and a former secretary to OpenMPE, had pointed out that his 3000 sometimes waits longer than expected after a PAUSE in a jobstream.
I nearly always put a CONTINUE statement before a PAUSE in any job. Over the years I have discovered that sometimes the CPU waits "longer" than the specified pause and fails with an error.
A lively newsgroup discussion of 28 messages ensued. It was by far the biggest exchange of tech advice on the newsgroup in 2014. Sieler took note of what's likely to be broken in MPE/iX 7.5, after an HP engineer had made his analysis of might need a workaround. Patches and workarounds are a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get 'em if you want 'em.
April 14, 2015
Finding Your Level of MPE Patches
Patches to the HP 3000 never were a popular item in the base of production servers. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen Development once said that "about three things can happen when you patch a 3000, and two of them are bad." In essence, a static 3000 system is a stable system, and managers give away the promise of better features for the certainty there will be no errors or aborts. At least none that the management has not already seen, logged, and worked around.
However, the years which have rolled by have pushed 3000s into new territory. For example, the ability to see larger LDEV 1 drives -- and by larger we mean bigger than 4GB -- only comes through a series of patches. Drives fail, and then replacing them with something not strictly approved by HP is an obvious option.
It's not obvious to determine what a 3000's patch level is, though, considering most of the systems haven't been patched in years.
One of our editors and sponsors pointed out a tool in the 3000 community that can help. To be clear, of course, maintaining independent third party support is one of the best ways to track patch levels. While they can't say it out loud, many support vendors keep a full complement of MPE/iX patches on hand, too.
April 13, 2015
How MPE Talks to Its Network Neighbors
Our networking team reports they're going to refresh the hardware on our IP gateways. Our Telecom manager says they will
- Change the physical gateway, because the hardware is being replaced
- Not change the IP address and gateway address
- Change the MAC address of the gateway (because of different gateway hardware)
What do I need to do on our MPE boxes to ensure that they will see the new hardware? Does MPE cache the MAC address of neighbor gateways anywhere? I was thinking I needed to restart networking services, but I wasn't sure if anything more will be needed.
Jack Connor replies
If you're taking it off the air for the network changes, I'd go ahead and close the network down until the work has completed and then reopen it. MPE will be looking for the IPs as it opens up. I know you can see the MAC addresses in NETTOOL, but I don't think they're of any import other than informational and for DTC traffic.
Donna Hofmeister adds
Halt the network (even the system if possible -- because it's almost the same thing) while the larger network work is being done. When the new gear is in place and seems stable, "wake up" the 3000 and watch what happens.
April 10, 2015
Putting ERP Securely On Your Wrist
HP 3000 ERP solutions are hosted natively on servers, and some of them can be accessed and managed over Apple's mobile tablets. But the Apple Watch that's due in two weeks will bring a new and personal interface for enterprise servers. Indeed, a well-known alternative and migration target for MANMAN and other MPE apps is climbing aboard the Apple Watch bandwagon from the very first tick.
Salesforce has a Watch app coming out on launch day that ties into a business installation of the storied application. Incredible Insights Just At A Glance, the promo copy promises.
Access the most relevant, timely data in seconds. Swipe to see dashboards, explore with lenses or use Handoff to work seamlessly between Apple Watch and iPhone. And use Voice Search to surface a report, view a dashboard, or find other vital information in seconds.
As mobile computing takes a new step with the Watch -- a device that Apple's careful not to call a smartwatch, as it's more of an interface for a smartphone -- security remains a concern. Apple has been addressing it by recognizing the Four Pillars of Mobile Security. A little review can be helpful for any IT pro who's got mobile devices coming into their user base. That's the essence of BYOD: Bring Your Own Device.
April 09, 2015
Labels leap over legacy support hurdles
An invention in shipping labels is making headway this year, riding the power and promise of marketing. But DuplexPackSlip, while it's a novel product, still manages to reach back to legacy servers like the HP 3000. One reason the label has gained traction is that it's been shaped around a commerce process rather technology choices.
Minisoft, one of the foundational vendors for HP 3000 connectivity, still sells terminal emulation products to link MPE. But one aspect of its cross-platform support comes from eFORMz, a forms management product that ties into any WMS or WRP system. The labels are an all-in-one duplex label shipping solution that combines a shipping label with a packing slip, using the front and back sides of the same label. The new generation of the solution includes marketing on the reverse of the label.
eFORMz has always been platform-agnostic. The software is driven off PCs that tie into business servers including the HP 3000. But choosing to use eFORMz doesn't lock a company into a particular computing environment. That makes the software something to carry forward during a migration, or choose without being concerned about what environment will come next.
Minisoft says that DuplexPackSlip can streamline warehouse shipping operations and reduce costs by 30 percent. The tie-in with the Minisoft software and the labels lies in eFlex Laser Forms. The multi-use laser forms employ label designs so retailers can incorporate special offers, pre-paid returns, targeted cross-sells, loyalty rewards, or gift cards while fulfilling every customer's order.
First released 15 years ago, eFORMz was created using the ubiquitous platform of Java. That language's promise was write once, run anywhere. Java was developed in an era when the silos of technology were tall and stout. The information industry has mowed down those silos by now, but legacy tech still wants to be included in novel solutions. Cross-platform software that can be implemented into future tech, but used in legacy solutions, presents a great means for looking forward with a flexible view.
April 08, 2015
Essential Skills: Man In The Middle Attacks
Editor's Note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for such multi-talented MPE experts.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
Lenovo recently made news in the security industry, and it was not good news. The PC manufacturer was shipping a copy of the Superfish malware with its machines. The software executes a threat known as “man in the middle.” Once it was discovered, companies were advised to remove it, yes. But what is a man in the middle attack, and why is it so dangerous?
Superfish compromises the HTTPS security protocol. It will intercept HTTPS requests made by a browser. It then uses a program to connect to the target website. At the same time it sends its own public key to the browser, and has it trust it. Instead of data coming back from the website to the browser, it now comes to the Superfish program.
Normally, encryption is viewed as using a password or phrase to generate a key. The key is then used to encrypt a set of data in clear text. The resulting cyphertext is then sent to the recipient, who must have the original key to decode it. This is commonly referred to as symmetric encryption: used just for a session, the same key both encrypts and decrypts the data.
The Superfish malware extracts a symmetric key from the website and passes it on. The browser thinks it has a secure connection to the website, when in fact Superfish is now listening to all of the communication from the PC to and from the website. Superfish was originally used to intercept Web traffic and surreptitiously record where the PC's user went on the Web. In addition, it opens up very nasty holes for hackers to use.
April 07, 2015
Operating Systems Of Our Lifetimes
Managers and owners of HP 3000s are the kind of customers who understand what an operating system does. Most of us in the community remember when there were countless OS's out there to run our businesses, if not necessarily our lives.
The HP 3000 stands out in a healthy legacy comparison because its birthdate in the initial generation of minicomputers. Unlike nearly all, its OS remains in business use today. Other OS's which are not in use: MCP from Burroughs (a source of MPE inspiration); Univac's VS/9; NCR's VRX; Control Data's Kronos; and Honeywell's CP-6. 3000 veterans will recognize those as BUNCH companies, whose mini and mainframe products were swept away by IBM's, HP's, and Digital's.
MPE has not yet outlasted the VS minicomputer operating system from Wang Labs, since that mini still has support from its latest third party owner, TransVirtual Systems. There's more than blind loyalty there when an OS can move into the four-decade lifespan. There's commercial value, too. VS still has about a decade to go to get to MPE's 41 years.
For the 3000-savvy, the cartoon above would have a few extra boxes in it. The longest one is likely to be MPE, in its II-V, XL, and iX generations. There are a few others that pre-date DOS, of course. HP tried to sell PCs running CP/M, for example. You could insert the following boxes underneath the fine cartoon from XKCD, the work of brilliant cartoonist Randall Munroe.
That useful lifespan for MPE will run to 53 years, unless a rolled-over calendar is not a problem for your applications.
Hop over to Munroe's website to enjoy the irony and heart of someone who understands that Gnu (yup, the root of the 3000's iX generation) could be there at the very end, turning out the lights. And who can say for sure that MPE will truly end its days on Dec. 31, 2027 after all? Wang's OS has passed through several third party hands. HP's own VMS will become the property of a third party next year.
In-tribute plug: If you can't find something on the XKCD store to buy, or a cartoon to link to, then all of the above is probably nonsense. For the rest of you, let me know if Gnu could really rule the planet after civilization ends. We're already hearing that embedding a Linux microkernel would make the OS more useful for Digital server users. Something less complex is surely on its way. It might arrive before that fire.
April 06, 2015
Trail of support leads to indies, or an alt-OS
Independent support companies have been keeping HP 3000s running for decades. At one point the battle for support dollars was so profound HP tried to file lawsuits to restrict fair commerce in the maintenance marketplace. Companies with 3000 experts on tap have held their ground over more than a dozen years of the declining interest from Hewlett-Packard in the server and its OS.
Recently we've seen independent resources marshaling knowledge bases and documentation on the server. Much of the MPE/iX OS manual set is on hpmmsupport.com, a website set up by some of the creators of the MM II/3000 MRP software. It's a good thing that outside resources like this exist, because now there's more evidence that the archives of Hewlett-Packard are closing their MPE doors tighter.
This retraction of knowledge can lead a 3000 owner in two directions. They can either embrace operating processes that will require an independent expert to field support calls. Or if a company needs another reason to make serious steps to migration, then less vendor information to help fix bugs will be adequate to push the cart down the hill, away from MPE.
Tonight one set of information can be indexed at an HP Support website. There are patch notices and pointers to support documents, but everything is behind a demand for a valid support agreement. And this news about the successor to HP's IT Response Center (ITRC) shutting some MPE doors includes a confusing footnote. Somewhere out in the world, there might be a 3000 site still getting support from HP, deep under the covers of corporate policies.
While the vendor was public about its waning intentions for 3000 futures, it was also eager to preserve such support business. HP's reach for support contracts while advocating migrations slowed the migration business for the community. In the long shadows after two extensions of support deadlines, migration companies and homesteading firms have been finding no vendor help to portray and preserve the state of the 3000. The customers were promised otherwise, years ago, when the information was still fresh on HP's websites.
April 03, 2015
That final 3000 IO upgrade is still in use
More than five years after HP rolled out the ultimate release of MPE/iX, the vendor finished its work on an SCSI Pass-Through driver for the HP 3000. It was an one of the last HP-designed MPE enhancements. Independent support companies have the tech resources to create customized patches for their customers. The HP driver still makes it possible to connect and configure SCSI storage devices which HP has not certified for 3000 use.
Full instructions on how to use the software are on the ManualShelf free website. It's a tool for permitting an application to address SCSI devices without the use of the MPE/iX file system or high-level IO interfaces. But the software itself was built, lab-tested, then placed on the HP software improvements leash: It was only available to the HP support customer who was willing to take SPT, as HP called it, as a beta test version.
Patches MPENX01A, MPENX03A and MPENX04A were beta patches required to make the SPT work on MPE/iX 7.5. HP still makes these patches available to any 3000 customers at no charge. Two years ago, Allegro's Donna Hofmeister said "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person."
Consultants and companies which provide support have many of these patches in their resource bins. The entire patch collection is just 1.27GB, small enough to fit onto a giveaway thumb drive.
April 02, 2015
TBT: The Ultimate MPE/iX links big disk, FC
HP unveiled the final, ultimate generation of its 3000 operating system 13 years ago this month. On this Throwback Thursday we mark the month that MPE/iX 7.5 made its datasheet debut. It was less than six months after Hewlett-Packard announced an "end-of-life" for the 3000, but the OS was destined to be officially supported for more than eight years.
Independently, 7.5 is still supported by the community's third-party experts, such as Pivital Solutions. The data sheets and lab reports illustrate why the release has had such longevity, a run that rivals the lifespan of Windows XP.
When 7.5's data sheets moved into the customer base, the colorful paper was still commonplace as an information delivery device. What was uncommon about the release was its forward-looking view of fast storage support. HP had built in A-Class and N-Class hardware support for Fibre Channel IO connections, the fastest of their day. But it took the arrival of 7.5 to streamline and stabilize FC connections.
Previously, the 3000 could only be connected to FC devices through HP SCSI Fibre Channel router. In selling the benefits of 7.5 -- and with it, the upgrade sales of A- and N-Class servers -- HP admitted this router arrangement "not only added complexity and slowed FC transfer rates, but it also created multiple potential points of failure."
Access to the wide range of Fibre Channel devices was among the benefits, letting customers make the jump from the AutoRAID arrays to the more powerful and flexible VA 7100 series. Just this week, a customer made news in the community while troubleshooting a VA 7100. That storage platform remains in obvious use at 3000 sites.
The ultimate generation of 3000 processors, the PA-8700, got their complete support in 7.5, too. Fibre Channel proved to be a tangible benefit of the new PCI bus on the newest servers. One feature would have a reach even further than that CPU line: the ability to access a boot disk greater than 4GB. 7.5 opened up untold millions of gigabytes across the entire 3000 line.
April 01, 2015
River cruiser to ferry MPE exokernel mission
An obscure, elite set of EU computer scientists will tackle the looming challenge of slimming down the 3000's operating system this summer, working aboard a cruise ship plying the waters of Europe's river system. The fledgling coalition of seasoned developers will occupy the Norwegian Avignon Passion II on a route between Budapest and Prague, taking on Eastern Bloc developers at Regensburg, Melk, and Roth along the Danube.
The design team's leadership said they were inspired by the Salesforce Dreamforce cruise liner accommodations at this summer's conference. That 135,000-attendee event will handle some needs for lodging and services from the Celebrity Eclipse. The design team will go the next step and cast off its lines in Central Europe, rather than stay tethered to a pier of prior engineering.
"There's nothing we'll want for while we're afloat," said Jean Noosferd, the group's managing director. "It's just us, three million lines of code, and the passion we have to make MPE as popular as Linux." Microkernels for Linux are lifting the popularity for these slimmed-down instances of an OS.
Working from the concept of an exokernel — MIT designs that are much smaller than a normal kernel such as MPE/iX's current monokernel design, and even smaller than a microkernel — the group will leverage the work of open source teams such as the Polish-based Pjotr Mandate. The object is to reduce the installation and management footprint of PA-RISC-ready operating systems. If successful, the development cruise will dock at Prague and release its team of scientists.
"If not, we sail back to Budapest and rework our designs," Noosferd said. When a new version of MPE emerges from the work, the Passion II will remain afloat to preserve the legality of an adapted and enhanced 3000 OS. The software will be sold and distributed using cloud-based Moonraker servers. HP's restrictions on the MPE source code prohibit new versions to be released in any country. "We'll be sailing between countries," Noosferd said. "International law is in force, and so intellectual property ownership will be preserved."
File transfer tips flow to move databases
System managers in the 3000 community still want to know how to use FTP to ensure a safe backup of 3000 data. Of special interest is the KSAM XL database, but most managers don't know that FAK files are HP's special Keyed Sequential Access Method database files. What appears to be program files are moved over, but database files get left behind. There's a trick to getting such files over to a Windows server.
One rule of 3000 operations is that database files act differently than all others in transfers. So FTPing them to a Windows 2003 Server won't be a successful way to ensure a safe data recovery. Third party tools can help, but if a customer is stuck on an aging HP system running MPE/IX, it's probably going to have only the budget for the included HP STORE for file backups and transfers.
Donna Hofmeister, who's spent a career helping 3000 users via the community's newsgroup, suggests starting with creating a file called mystd to store the 3000 files to disk -- then transferring that Store To Disk file.
March 31, 2015
Emulation Without Need For A Cradle
Virtualized HP servers will be getting slimmer this spring. Stromasys has cornered the market on the emulation software that makes fast Intel systems behave like business servers HP released more than 20 years ago. The Stromasys Charon product is sitting on an announcement that it's getting a new version for its Digital customers, one that reduces the need for a Linux installation separate from the Stromasys software.
The HPA version of Charon, which emulates PA-RISC 3000s, is getting a speed upgrade in a few months, according to the vendor's head of communications Isabelle Jordain. But in the meantime, a new Backbone version of the company's VAX emulator is rolling out. The configuration is designed to increase stability as it simplifies configuration.
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 data center's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.
Emulator solutions ride in a cradle of Linux in the generation sold to 3000 customers. While the Charon-HPA will do so for the foreseeable future, it's got a shot at eliminating the need to mount up a Linux host environment. This Backbone edition runs emulation without a need for the tuning and maintaining of Linux licenses and support fees.
The VAX customer still can count on support in the future for their OpenVMS software. HP's making an intellectual property transfer to a third party of VMS. But that independent support of a business server OS is something HP 3000 customers are experiencing, too. Third parties making a business of handing both hardware and software needs for servers built 10 to 20 years ago. There must be something crucial in such systems for the customers using them.
March 30, 2015
Contractor-Consultant Resources for 3000s
We're opening up a new page for the NewsWire's site as part of our all-digital transition. The community's consultants and contractors have been posted for more than five years at the OpenMPE News blog, which I've maintained and administered. Now the listing of independent and company-based consultants from that website is online at this page at the NewsWire's site.
The list gained a new member recently, so there are still computer pros emerging who seek places to help the homesteading community members. If you're a consultant and you're not on our page, we'd be happy to extend you a place there, or update your listing from the OpenMPE News site. Email us your particulars, or include them in a comment below. Be sure to give us the snail-mail and phone contacts, since location can be important to some customers seeking expertise. A few lines on what you do will be helpful.
We've also got some unverified listings from prior to 2013 among the resources on the page. If you're in that category and would like to update us, send a note and any changes.
Some companies have wide-ranging nets of engagements they'd like to attract. But among our community, there's no one writing support contracts who focuses exclusively on the 3000 but Pivital Solutions. "It's our only business," says president Steve Suraci.
Some individuals are on the lookout for full-time, part-time, or temporary jobs at 3000-using companies. For example, we heard from one 3000 pro who offered his listing to the OpenMPE blog earlier this year.
March 26, 2015
Checkup Tips to Diagnose Creeping Crud
When an HP 3000 of the ultimate generation developed trouble for Tom Hula, he turned to the 3000 newsgroup for advice. He'd gotten his system back up and serving its still-crucial application to users. But even after a restart, with the server looking better, things just didn't seem right to him.
I am concerned, since I don't know what the problem was. It almost reminded me of something I used to call the Creeping Crud, where people started freezing up all over the place, while some people were still able to work. The only thing was a reboot. But in this case, it seemed worse. Only a few people on our 3000 now, but we still depend on it for a high-profile application. What should I check?
The most revealing advice came from Craig Lalley, who told Hula he'd try a Control-B into the 3000's system log. The steps after the Control-B command are SL (for System Log) and E (for Errors only.) Typing CO puts the 3000 back in console mode. Hula's system had lost its date and time on one error, and the Alert Levels showed a software failure along with lost boot functionality.
But amid the specifics of eliminating the Creeping Crud (it may have been a dead battery) came sound advice on how to prepare for a total failure and where to look for answers to 3000 hardware problems. The good news on the battery is that it's not in a Series 9x7. Advice from five years ago on battery replacement pointed to a hobbyist-grade workbench repair. More modern systems like Hula's A400 at least have newer batteries.
March 25, 2015
Places Where a Migration Can Lead
This afternoon on a Wednesday Webinar, IT managers were watching what advanced software can do to move the identity of a company. A company knows itself by its data. When transforming IT to a new generation, data's got to move, even if it's just to another generation of HP server. More likely, that shift will eventually be leading to a more comprehensive change: a new environment, new server, new database, new application.
Moving the application is an exercise that requires custom work, the sort of programming, development and testing that'll emerge from a team inside a 3000 shop, plus some help from outside. But moving to a new database demands the checking of database schemas, the review of naming conventions, and more. Carrying a company's identity from a TurboIMAGE database to Oracle or SQL Server has been viewed as a complex task for a long time.
It looked a lot less complex during today's demo of MB Foster's UDA Central. Choosing source databases, then selecting a target database of another type, was straightforward. More importantly, this software ensures that data makes its move in a way that delivers a useable resource, not one overrun with table errors and illegal dataset names. Warnings before the data's moved keep the identity of the company clear. There's a default data mapping between databases that's done automatically to get database administrators and managers started quickly.
Watching the software in action made me realize how far we've come in the task of making transformations to our IT enterprises. There was once a Computerworld reporter who asked me what barriers IBM might have to overcome if it stood a chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."
Database tools have evolved far enough now, 20 years later, that UDA Central's got everyday uses, not just a one-time utility. It's got operations for data stores, for pulling data out for analytics, and more. Those analytics are crucial. Birket Foster said that "If you've never done data analytics, you don't really have clean data." The company's experience with customers moving data taught MB Foster that, he explained.
March 24, 2015
Making a Way Forward by Riding Data
Around midday tomorrow, up-to-date instruction about migration will be offered on a webinar. The presentation is not about the platform and app migration that has galvanized your community. It's even more important, because everybody will need to do this migration. The movement is as undeniable as the tides. Data's got to be moved, because things improve as they change.
It's employing something better and more efficient to handle data — that's what sparks this migration.
At 2 PM EST in the US (11 AM Pacific) MB Foster's showing off the means to migrate HP 3000 data. For about 45 minutes, an interactive Q&A deals with the strategy and processes to move databases, a trip that can lead to MS SQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL and other targets. UDA Central is the means, but the advice goes farther than a straightforward product walkthrough.
You can sign up at the MB Foster website. The meeting gives a manager the opportunity to gather with some like minds. One of the most rewarding parts of a these Wednesday Webinars, as the company calls them, has been getting on the line with other managers. User group meetings used to be the only way to hear about best practices from community members.
For example, answers to these questions will be up for consideration this afternoon:
- How many internal resources are directly involved on a daily basis to extract, transform, migrate and supply supporting data for your organization?
- How much time and effort goes into this process?
- How can you speed up data delivery, reduce the time, effort and internal cost related to data migration?
Data migration is always about transformation, whether the target is outside the MPE realm or not.
March 23, 2015
The Distinction MPE Source Has Delivered
The long-sought MPE source code arrived in your community five years ago this month. Hewlett-Packard released CDs filled with millions of lines of Modcal and SPL, shipping them off to eight companies who'd paid $10,000 each for the resource. Companies including 3000 specialist Pivital Solutions, as well as corner-case outliers such as Ordat (makers of a TurboIMAGE middleware tool), as well as the ubiquitous Adager and Allegro earned the right to explore and adapt the 3000's heart and soul.
Hopes were sky-high when the source code quest began in 2002. Just a matter of weeks after Hewlett-Packard pulled its own plug on 3000 futures, a new organizaton called OpenMPE took up the pursuit of those lines. The ideal was to find a way to extend the life of MPE/iX beyond HP's plans. The maker of the 3000 had other ideas. Its goal was to cut off further development of 3000 resources.
Better fortune took eight more years to arrive, and even then the 3000's source rolled into vendor shops with a major restriction. To use the code legally, a licensee had to promise they wouldn't try to move MPE/iX beyond its ultimate 7.5 release. No new generation of the 3000 OS. By 2010, 7.5 had seen no significant advance for three years. The initial 7.5 release, sans PowerPatches, was eight years old.
But the vendors who earned the right to apply their skills and experience to that code, continue to distinguish themselves in the support and development sectors. Neil Aemstrong of Robelle summed up the advantage. "Seeing the source and reading it is certainly a large part of being able to develop patches and potentially avoid any issues," he said. "It may not be perfect, but it helps."
In addition to the above-named Pivital, Adager and Allegro, Beechglen, Neil Harvey & Associates, and Terix entered the elite source-ready roster. All but Terix remain in your community today. HP has standards for its licensees, and some (like Pivital) were even invited to join this cadre. One more license was assigned, but Open MPE couldn't complete its arrangements.
March 20, 2015
3000s still worthy of work to secure them
While an HP 3000 might be an overlooked resource at some companies, it's still mission-critical. Any server with 40 years of history can be considered essential if it's still part of a workflow this year. Managers of 3000s don't automatically think of protecting their essential resource from the malware and hackers of 2015, though.
That was illustrated in a recent thread on the 3000 newsgroup traffic. A 3000 manager serving the Evangelical Covenant Church needed help restarting an old Series 9x7. (By definition, any Series 9x7 is old. HP stopped building this first generation of entry-level 3000s more than 20 years ago.) The manager said the 9x7 had been "in mothballs," and he wanted to run an old in-house app.
I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS but cannot remember/find the password for MANAGER.SYS. Is there anyway to reset, clear, or overwrite the password file? I know the old machine is a very secure one, but now I am hoping there is a way around it.
And then on the newsgroup, advice on how to bypass 3000 security began to emerge. It surprised one consultant who's recently closed down a big 3000 installation full of N-Class servers. Should the community be talking about how to hack a 3000, he wondered? The conversation really ought to be about how to ensure their security, practices we chronicled a few years ago.
March 19, 2015
TBT: First 3000 priced at one million dollars
The highest price for any HP 3000 rolled into your community 25 years ago this month. HP announced its biggest system ever, a computer with designs of competing with IBM mainframes. Not many technical details were available in the New York City rollout, but one had everybody looking skyward. Here on a Throwback Thursday, we chronicle the Series 980 with two processors that would cost $1,090,000.
HP could have priced the system at $100,000 less, but why bother? A million dollars was part of the point. Its target was not really the 3000 customer who'd built their IT operations on servers that cost less than half of the 980/200. Hewlett-Packard hoped the fastest PA-RISC system that it'd ever designed could displace some of the multi-million-dollar systems IBM had been selling for more than a decade, probably even 20 years.
Oh, there was mention of upgrading to the big box from the Series 950 systems, the first computers from HP's MPE/XL RISC era that were actually fast enough to power through a very green operating system's overhead. No upgrade pricing was available at the 980's announcement, though. The specifications of the biggest server seem quaint compared the computing of today. You could put a full gigabtye — yes, 1 GB — into a million-dollar HP 3000. And storage? Wow, a full 85 GB, using the newest Fiber Optic linked drives.
The drives would be extra, and so that full-bore storage would top out at about the capacity of three thumb drives of today. Yes, a whole $67.40 worth at Walmart. HP had another deal, VPlus Windows for PC-based application screen services, and NewWave System Services, at no extra charge. Programmers had to translate their existing application forms file into a PC forms file for use on the PC. A PC running the mostly-stable Windows 3.0.
There was genuine and durable innovation coming out of HP in that month of March. The world's first DAT tape drives were being shipped. Backup would never be the same. "The tapes, the size of a credit card, are intended to adopt the middle ground between quarter-inch tape and nine-track tape drives."
March 18, 2015
Good news stories about keeping a 3000
On Monday we updated our community on some migrations away from 3000s in the education sector. One of our favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, was a touch dismayed at the exodus. We reported four migrations in all, working off of the news from the vendor's (QSS) website. But that was enough to elicit a forlorn, "Isn't there anybody out there still enjoying the service of their 3000?"
Yes, there is, and we've heard from some of them recently. Earlier this month I posted a notice about the birthday of the NewsWire's founding concept on LinkedIn. We first dreamed it in March of 1995. Among the congratulations were some passing remarks about 3000 durability. Just another one came in today, from Tom Moore in the UK. "I suspect we all look a lot older," he said, "but I just do not feel it. I still have a 3000 running behind me. It runs our accounts."
The HP 3000s are still doing their vital work at Measurement Specialities, the manufacturer with operations in the US and in China. MANMAN is serving in its second decade at that company. Terry Simpkins, IT manager there, just reported that he's hired new staff for his 3000 development team.
There's a nice nest of 3000-using companies in the world. They don't provide much news copy, because much of what they're doing has been proven a long time. But the system's biggest, most devoted fans still want to hear something from a successful installed base.
March 17, 2015
Tips to Reinstall Posix, DLT/LTO Tape Drives
What is the patch that installs Posix? I seem to have a corrupt version of Posix.
Donna Garverick of Allegro replies:
These are your instructions for MPE/iX 5.5 and 6.0.
Load the 5.5 or 6.0 FOS tape on a tape drive. For this example, tape drive on ldev# 7 is used. Log on as MANAGER.SYS
- HP36431 is the master product number of the Posix 2 Shell.
- I0036431.USL.SYS is the installation file.
- When launched, the job I0036431 should run for less than 5 minutes. When it is done, the Posix environment is re-installed.
[Gilles Schipper notes the process for 7.5 is the same, working from the MPE/iX 7.5 FOS tape.]
I have access to a Tandberg Data Ultrium LTO 3 tape drive. It has a SCSI Ultra160 interface. Would I have any luck hooking one up to an N-Class?
Chad Lester of MPE Support Group replies:
It's worth trying. You might have issues with the dual-port SCSI cards. Also, make sure the firmware is the latest on the single SCSI U160 card.
March 16, 2015
Tip on sizing up 3000 system replacements
HP 3000 managers who are still looking at migrations might be sizing up replacement hardware. It's getting a little old-school to think of installing a standalone server to replace something in the 3000's ultimate generation like an A-Class. Using a cloud-based server, or just a partition on an HP-UX or a Windows Server, is a more nouveau choice. Eventually, HP-UX will have that desert island feel to it. You can survive, but getting off it will take quite a swim.
Clouds and partitions aside, smaller companies might want to keep their architecture rather than transforming it during a migration. Their planning includes trying to calculate how much box needed to replace an HP 3000. There's good news. Moving out of the HP-hamstrung MPE/iX environment opens up performance room. It's a widely-recognized fact that the A-Class 3000 systems, and just about all of the N-Class servers, aren't running as fast as they could.
In the past -- at least 10 years ago -- HP actually told 3000 customers this hobbling was a benefit. Something about "preserving the customer's investment" by hobbling the PCI-based systems, so the customers using older and more costly systems wouldn't feel so left out. It was never logical to think anything could be preserved through hobbling except the status quo.
Back in 2005 when the president of a 3000 app vendor gave a migrating A-Class user tips on how to size up a new box. During that year at QSS -- where the vendor has been replacing HP 3000s with Linux installs of a new Oasis app for its K-12 and education sector customers -- Duane Percox offered a migrating user advice on sizing up a replacement. His answers back then compared a 3000 to HP's Unix servers, but the notes on the 3000's shortcomings are still valid. The advice began with a warning: You might not have as much HP 3000 power to replace as you think you do.
March 13, 2015
Fiorina campaigning again, against Clinton
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina pushed herself to the front of news again, as a story in the New York Times chronicled her campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fiorina has spent the last several years aiming criticism at Clinton, including a recent swipe that attempts to smear Clinton's travels around the world.
"Like Hillary Clinton, I too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe," Fiorina said, "but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something.” The claim recalled memories of Fiorina's most lasting accomplishment from her HP days: hawking a merger that pushed out the values and influence of the Hewlett family.
Thirteen years ago this week, a raucous stockholder showdown in Delaware ended with Fiorina's forces victorious, approving the Compaq merger. Walter Hewlett, son of HP founder Bill Hewlett, contested the vote in a lawsuit. HP directors on Fiorina's team responded by refusing to nominate Hewlett to keep his seat on the HP board.
Many actions of that period were designed to make HP bigger. Low-growth product lines were cut or de-emphasized, most particularly in the HP 3000 world. Despite the efforts to puff up HP, though -- and continue revenue growth to satisfy shareholders -- the plan had no effect on stock value. By the time Fiorina was fired in a board move -- 10 years ago this month -- HP shares sold in the low $20s, just as they did on the day of that Delaware merger victory.
Those inflated accomplishments of her go-go strategy were not misunderstood by the Times writer. "Her business career ended... in one of the more notorious flameouts in modern corporate history," Amy Chozick wrote today. "After orchestrating a merger with Compaq that was then widely seen as a failure, she was ousted in 2005."
The failed merger with Compaq did give HP a product with some foothold in 3000 migration projects, though. The ProLiant servers from Compaq are competitive with Dell and Lenovo systems for installations of Windows Server, the most-chosen alternative to HP 3000s.
Fiorina's tone has been strident, much as it was during her tenure when the 3000 was cut loose by HP. She's most recently tried to assert Clinton has stolen concepts and intellectual property from her.
March 12, 2015
Unicom casts meet including PowerHouse
Last summer the new owners of PowerHouse invited the customer base, including HP 3000 sites, to a meeting at Unicom Systems company headquarters. At that time, the venerable automated development tool had only been in the Unicom strategy for about five months. Later this month, those users and the PowerHouse Advisory Board will meet again. This time the meeting will span a handful of user bases.
The March 27 gathering is at the PickFair mansion in Beverly Hills. That movie-industry icon is also a property of Unicom Global, the parent corporation of Unicom Systems. In the months since the PowerHouse acquisition, Unicom has also purchased the customers and products from four other former IBM operations. The latest, announced at the start of this year, was IBM’s Rational brand, which includes the Focal Point product portfolio and Program Management solution, along with the PurifyPlus dynamic Software Analysis Tools solution.
The scope of these purchases is significant for an enterprise software company. Company officials said the Rational acquisition expanded Unicom’s business by adding more than 2,000 enterprise customers in over 40 countries.
Unicom's 2014 event was for PowerHouse customers exclusively, since the other four IBM properties hadn't been acquired yet. But this month's invitation-only event is being called TeamBLUE, with PowerHouse users joining the Rational customers; users of solidDB, an in-memory relational database; and Unicom Finance, an analysis solution that was called Cognos Finance before Unicom acquired it.
The company said in its backgrounder on the meeting that "TeamBLUE represents a dramatic shift in the approach of leveraging technology assets to deliver leadership in your business, transforming technology discussions into management consulting."
March 11, 2015
MB Foster partners with PowerHouse owner
Data integration vendor and legacy app migration supplier MB Foster has announced a new strategic partnership with the owners of the PowerHouse app development suite. Unicom Systems, which purchased the PowerHouse suite of tools in 2014, will work alongside MB Foster to serve the software's users in the US and Canada.
The deal calls for MB Foster to sell, license and distribute PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web and Axiant 4GL. Unicom is launching its expansion of the PowerHouse reseller network with the deal. MB Foster will also undertake application and product migration, re-integration, and consulting services within Canada and with selected USA-based clients
Before IBM's 2007 acquisition of the Cognos Corporation and PowerHouse, MB Foster had a development relationship that included the interfacing of MB Foster’s UDALink for the HP 3000 with the PowerHouse PDL dictionary. MB Foster was working with Cognos to facilitate the transition of licenses to new platforms following Hewlett-Packard's announcement in 2001 to end sales of the HP 3000.
"The new partnership with Unicom Global enables us to continue a long-term commitment to PowerHouse users," said MB Foster’s founder, president and CEO Birket Foster. "We are committed to their use of it and the ability to continue leveraging robust capabilities of a 4th Generation Language.
March 10, 2015
Size matters not: Gigaom blog folds fast
News surfaced this morning about the landmark tech blog Gigaom. The New York Times reports that the massive operation switched off its news reporting in a rush sometime yesterday. The halt of news and postings was as swift as the one Interex experienced almost 10 years ago. Like the user group's demise, unpaid bills were Gigaom's undoing.
Gigaom was big enough to produce conferences. It also offered a white-paper research business. And like the NewsWire, it sold advertising. None of that was enough to keep away Gigaom's creditors. In an echo of what happened at the 3000's final user group that focused on the server, big was no protection against borrowing.
The Times story quoted the site's founder Om Malik in a confirmation statement. "Gigaom is winding down and its assets are now controlled by the company’s lenders,” he said. “It is not how you want the story of a company you founded to end."
One commenter asked, "What does this mean for upcoming events like GigaOM Structure Data next week?" Indeed, like the Interex meltdown, GigaOm has many commitments to keep and by now the lenders are taking control of operations. The scope of failure is similar to the HP World show that never opened in August, 2005. More than $300,000 in tickets were sold to this month's GigaOM conference. There's no word on refunds. For the moment there's no announcement of bankruptcy, though.
All-digital was the only platform GigaOM ever used to spread information. One comment suggested that tech journalists are writers who couldn't make it elsewhere in publishing. That's too broad a brush considering the number of online tech writers. But it's easy to fill a digital outpost with opinions and little news.
The caliber of content is important. So is a manageable mission. Being small and profitable has been the watchword for nearly all of the 3000 vendors and companies since I got here, more than 30 years ago. All of us have been managing risk in what's clearly a contracting market. Gigaom's shutdown is the sort of outcome an IT manager might experience if an app vendor went dark overnight.
March 09, 2015
Handicapping 3000's horsepower: it depends
Companies and organizations which depend on 3000s are seeing a new generation of answers to the classic question, "How much horsepower do I need in my system?" The prior generation's questions were limited to the official, HP-branded hardware for running MPE and IMAGE. Even a performance expert in the community would sometimes reply, "It depends."
This year the same kind of answer can be heard when a company's trying to replace an HP 3000 -- with non-HP hardware that can run MPE software. The Charon virtualization engine, the emulator, will run on a dizzying array of servers, powered by a raft of CPUs. Choosing the best one is just as particular a decision as it ever was, although the range of right answers is greater.
We learned about this matchup challenge when a reader asked what range of hardware installation might serve their A-Class MPE/iX requirements. In other words, how much Intel-based server do I need to procure to match the performance of HP's PA-RISC server? From the Stromasys VP of engineering, we learned this weekend that, as in the great technical tradition, it depends.
"It depends upon what you are trying to do," said Bill Pedersen. "I run different Charon cross-platform virtualized systems on a laptop for development and demos."
"It depends" is an answer that is rarely wrong. And indeed, seeing Charon for the 3000 run for the first time is usually a demonstration launched on a laptop. We've seen the demos trigger slack-jawed amazement. However, a production-grade system demands a great deal more server. How much depends on what you'd like to emulate: not just the hardware itself, but the demands of your software application, too.
The hardware investment level I like to toss back as an answer is not more than $15,000. But that's really a midpoint, accounting for fast and redundant disk, ample IO, responsive DRAM. In short, everything that HP wired into its 3000 hardware, albeit for a much higher price.
What's obvious is that specifying MPE-ready hardware isn't any less crucial than it ever was. But buying improvements on the horsepower is less costly. Additional Intel-based CPU servers are a commodity item, after all.
March 06, 2015
IMAGE was always the future of the 3000
We're all-digital now here, so we are working harder at providing resources that can only be served up online. In our archives we've got articles that exist only on paper, and so the transfer of these into digital becomes a way to preserve what we've learned. Even articles of more than two decades ago contain good logic about preservation of IT resources.
One look at news of a springtime more than 20 years ago yielded a couple of articles worth preserving. We've already shared the outlook of HP's Glenn Osaka on the 3000's future, circa 1993. A little deeper in that same issue of the HP Chronicle lay a greater treasure: A forecast for the system from Wirt Atmar, the late founder of AICS Research. Atmar was a tireless advocate for MPE, the 3000, and maybe most importantly, the IMAGE database. "The HP 3000 does only one thing, but it does it very well," Atmar wrote in The Future of the HP 3000.
A search for a Web page with the article didn't turn up any hits, so we're putting it into the NewsWire's resources. The article is a PDF available here.
In a wide-ranging two-part article from January and February of 1993, Atmar taught us all how an integrated IMAGE database provides the essential value for MPE systems. The good news about all of this is that it's software integration, so even the Stromasys Charon emulation of 3000s retains this benefit. IMAGE made the 3000 a success, and it continues to do so for the companies who still rely on the server.
The success of the HP 3000 is, and always has been, tied to the success of IMAGE. The machine and database have prospered as an indivisible unit. Although MPE is an absolutely superior operating system for business development, it is not strong enough to support the continued existence of the HP 3000 by itself. If IMAGE should disappear, the death of the HP 3000 will soon follow.
Although HP announced its impending death of its 3000 plans about nine years after that article, the 3000 itself has not died. In fact, after Atmar's articles, HP changed its plans to separate IMAGE from the 3000. The bundling of the database and its hardware was preserved. But IMAGE has always been — and always will be — bundled with MPE.
That's the important pairing which Atmar's article chronicles. It explains that the combination "has never been anything than an electronic substitute for steel filing cabinets." Those are the essential kind of furnishings you'll find in offices to this very day.
March 05, 2015
TBT: NewsWire's genesis flows off 9x9s
20 years ago this month, HP took its first steps into an affordable midrange for its Series 9x9 HP 3000s. During the same March, we decided to take our initial steps toward creating a specialized newsletter to serve what showed a glimmer of becoming a revived community.
The 9x9s, known as the Kittyhawk boxes, made their debut in 1994, but the initial models were no long-term bargain for the typical midrange customer. Inside our house, we had worked for two years to serve the information needs of the vendors in a marketplace that the entrenched publications were ignoring. The 3000 was dead, or dying quickly, the editors told us. And so, despite rousing writing and media outreach for software and hardware companies, telling the stories of 3000 success, nobody wanted to devote an editor's attention or the printed space to report that news.
Our independent marketing communications work was hitting a wall of disregard in the industry about MPE and the 3000. In a meeting over coffee in March, my wife and partner Abby Lentz said, "This market might be getting smaller, sure. But some businesses thrived in the Depression, didn't they? Let's do a newsletter."
Ever the sunbeam of my life, she proposed something that seemed outlandish. A dozen issues a year? Specialized publications like the HP Chronicle and Interact knew about focusing on HP, sure, but they were reducing space for 3000 stories. What good could come of selling a monthly pub that would have to try to find more than a dozen news items each month about the legacy system in HP's lineup? Who'd pay for something like that?
But those vendors who knew us had thousands upon thousands of 3000 customers out there, though. And thousands of messages a month on the 3000-L mailing list rolled through my AOL account. The spring of 1995 uncovered a rocky field to try to put down any seeds of hope, though.
March 04, 2015
Tablet opens new access window on 3000
HP 3000s have the ability to communicate with iPads, although the inverse is even more true. The software that makes this possible is in regular use at an ecommerce company in the US. A seasoned manager at the company checked in with us, on her way to setting up a link between an Ecometry box and Apple's tablet.
Chris McCartney of Musical Fulfillment reached out for assistance with configuring her 3000 and the TTerm Pro app from Turbosoft. Musical Fulfillment is the parent company to American Musical Supply, zZounds.com, ElectricGuitar.com, and SameDayMusic.com
Once McCartney located a back copy of the Newswire, she says, she found Jon Diercks article about the app when the software was first released in 2013. "We've been using Red Prairie Direct Commerce (aka Ecometry, Escalate, MACS) for more than 10 years and we moved to the [N Class] several years ago. We were hoping to get a few more years out of it before we had to make a decision to upgrade or move to a different ERP system."
By deploying TTerm Pro, McCartney now has a mobile way to check on the status of that N-Class server.
I am up and running on my iPad for those ‘just in case’ times when I am away from my office or laptop and I need to log in to check something on the 3000 or in Ecometry/JDA Direct Commerce. I am going into work over the VPN and using TTerm Pro to connect to our HP. I use the on-screen keyboard, but might switch to a wireless keyboard, so I have a little more screen and the comfort of a physical keyboard.
The 3000 at the company is established as a sensible solution. Up to now, there's been no compelling return on the investment to move to Ecometry hosted on Windows systems.
March 02, 2015
Software Repairs vs. Upgrade Budgets
HP 3000s around the world are running with old fashioned releases of software. Until a problem arises with those tools, platforms, or applications, it's not a problem. At least, it's not one to bother the budget officers at the users' organization. It's also an education in paying now, or paying later.
But come up with something odd, and a user might get an solution for a problem that will ripple the waters of IT budgets. On the PowerHouse user group mailing list, an enterprise server manager asked about an issue with subfiles. In time, the solution seemed to be adopting the newest version of PowerHouse.
Oops. Whether that version would repair the trouble or not, making a move to PowerHouse 8.40G wasn't going to fit on the manager's workbench budget. This wasn't the challenge of paying for a user license upgrade. The expense for this enterprise HP server site would be all in the testing.
Truth is, using a more current version is not really an option. PowerHouse is only used for our legacy apps, and management will never expend the time and effort to do all the testing we would have to do to install a new version.
This kind of support solution can be a signal for starting a migration in earnest. If you've got a bug that only a new version of the software can fix, and there's a testing budget to approve, an IT manager can figure out which battle to fight. Neither is without costs. But one of the solutions is long-term. The homesteader just watches for the next bug to fix.
February 27, 2015
Dow hits record while HP shares fall out
On the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record pinnacle, Hewlett-Packard released quarterly results that pushed the company's stock down 10 percent.
HP is no longer in the Dow, a revision that the New York Stock Exchange made last year. HP is revising its organization this year in preparing to split in two by October. The numbers from HP's Q1 of 2015 indicate the split can't happen soon enough for the maker of servers targeted to replace HP 3000s. The company is marching toward a future more focused on enterprise systems -- but like a trooper on a hard course, HP fell out during the last 90 days.
HP said that the weakness in the US Dollar accounted for its overall 5 percent drop in sales compared to last year's first quarter. Sales would have only fallen 2 percent on a constant-currency basis, the company said. It mentioned the word "currency" 55 times in just its prepared marks of an earnings conference call this week. The 26.8 billion in sales were off by $1.3 billion on the quarter, a period where HP managed to post $1.7 billion in pre-tax earnings.
That $1.7 billion is a far cry from Apple's $18 billion in its latest quarter profits. HP's arch-rival IBM is partnering with Apple on enterprise-caliber deals.
Meanwhile, the still-combined Hewlett-Packard has rolled from stalled to declining over the last 18 months, which represents some of the reason for its bold move to split itself. "Enterprise trends are set to remain lackluster absent a transformative acquisition," said one analyst while speaking to MarketWatch this week. Two-thirds of the $5.5 billion in Printing came from supplies. Ink is still king in the printing group
Industry Standard Systems (Intel-based Windows servers) provided the lone uptick in the report. Sales of products such as the newest Gen9 ProLiants lifted the revenues up 7 percent compared to the Q1 of 2014. HP is ready to take advantage of upcoming rollovers in Windows Server installations.