March 28, 2013
OpenMPE's afterlife lives on a live server
Eleven years ago this spring, OpenMPE was calling itself OpenMPE Inc. and proposing a business around the HP 3000. The organization was just getting on its feet, led by Jon Backus, a consultant and systems manager who ran his own business and took the first steps toward advocacy for the computer HP was cutting from its futures.
The hopes and dreams of a shell-shocked community of 3000 lovers came to the window of OpenMPE. But even in 2002, the group of volunteers' founders knew the holy grail was hardware to replace the boxes HP would stop selling in about 18 months.
A petition, in the form of customers' Letters of Intent, got presented to HP during that year's Interex 3000 Solutions Symposium.
The document is asking customers if they would support the new organization’s mission to enhance and protect the HP 3000 community’s lifespan, though software development and creation of an emulator that mimics the HP hardware on Intel processors.
And after a decade, the community got its emulator. The software that's now making ripples in the calm pond of 3000 use emerged from hard work at Stromasys, to be sure. But OpenMPE laid the first tracks to demonstrating user interest, as well as an MPE license for emulated 3000s. The HP license is one of the few that were written specifically for the emulator. (Minisoft has announced another.) The other evidence of OpenMPE's work is an HP 3000, hosted at the Support Group in Texas, where it holds software that still matters to MPE managers.
OpenMPE pays a nominal amount to maintain this server inside a hardened datacenter. That's evidence there's still a trace of business going through OpenMPE, although the Support Group volunteers more than a payment can cover. (That's the way volunteers roll, after all. Nobody got paid a dollar for working with OpenMPE, although there was plenty of pay-outs of public scorn.)
But host software on an HP 3000 and you become one of the beacons across the inky landscape of MPE in 2013. One customer wanted a copy of GCC, the Gnu C Compiler that's the bootstrap code for all 3000 open source riches. Mark Klein created an MPE/iX version of GCC to enable printer and file sharing, Internet addressing and advanced networking, perl and so much more on a 3000.
One source for GCC is on Brian Edminster's MPE Open Source server, a repository of free software. But he tipped his hat toward the OpenMPE beacon while answering a question posted on the 3000 newsgroup.
There are several third-party software support providers that could help -- you can find 'em through searching the 3000 newsgroup. And there's also a few of us that are keeping copies available for download on sites of our own.
I have a site that has it as part of a 'OpenSSH sftp client' install (which also happens to include perl as well). But at the moment, probably the best place to get GCC for MPE/iX is from a site that's a partial copy of the old 'Jazz' server at HP.
The direct URL is: http://www.openmpe.com/jazz/MarkK/gnuframe.htm
As the page notes, GCC was ported to MPE by Mark Klein. The community owes him a debt of gratitude for this, even thought the latest version available isn't quite so current anymore. In spite of that, Mark's work has made it possible to port quite a bit of software to MPE.
Klein volunteered his hours to create the MPE GCC, and more than 30 people volunteered their hours through nine years to make OpenMPE a player during the darkest era of the 3000 -- those springtime months of 2002 when it was so easy to hear the HP user group Interex trumpet the "migrate, and soon" message that HP was hawking. Plenty of sites did, although not nearly as soon as HP hoped. During that era, however, HP got to be instructed about how to curtail business for a business computer community -- hearing all the things it overlooked for the transition, denoted by OpenMPE's volunteers.
March was the time of year when OpenMPE volunteers ran for elections, starting in 2002. Although there are just three directors at the group now, it still has its friends in places like Measurement Specialties, where former director Tracy Johnson manages 3000s and a shadowed OpenMPE server. Or at Applied Technologies, where Edminster supports the ideal of free software that drove OpenMPE during its first year. Or out at the datacenter building in Texas, where the live 3000 still dishes out software that homesteaders find useful, once they search for it.
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March 26, 2013
Review a plan for modernizing to migration
Many of the most dedicated HP 3000 users have plans. Not just for how to sustain a server HP hasn't built for nearly a decade. Not just for how to retain the tribal knowledge of business systems while preparing for a succession of IT expertise -- the latter in sync with MPE/iX issues. They're making plans to modernize their hardware and extend their software.
At a major healthcare provider in New England, there's an active project to bring an emulator to task, replacing the HP 3000s and their support expenses with inexpensive Intel servers. But the healthcare provider knows the long term probably won't include MPE/iX applications in production. It might be seven years, or 10. But migration -- or a lift and shift of applications -- is certainly down the road.
At another customer site, the prospect of eliminating HP 3000 applications would mean shutting off order entry, fulfillment, sales auditing. It's not impossible, of course. HP's Unix systems have taken over for a major financial module at this manufacturer. That means that somewhere deeper into the corporate calendar, those MPE/iX systems will give way to another OS. When the time is right, says MB Foster's Birket Foster.
March 27 is a Wednesday, so there's a Webinar on offer from Foster's team. Legacy Application Modernization starts at 2PM Eastern Time. Like all the others -- so many over the last three years -- signup is painless, free, and ensures a way to connect with other homesteaders who are eyeing migrations. They might need the latest strategy on what's important to succeed.
At that healthcare provider, the company is still creating development accounts on its HP 3000 N-Class servers. such organizations are often challenged to extend IT investments and modernize their applications, even as the true costs -- like power and cooling, recruiting competent professionals -- to maintaining their environments increase. Foster's webinar looks at the legacy modernization as one way to start the eventual transition.
Couple these challenges with a continual changing technology landscape, and you will find companies are researching alternatives and possibilities, but are uncertain of where to begin the migration process. During this webinar, you will be leveraging MB Foster’s certified migration specialists, who will help your team to successfully rejuvenate and modernize your legacy application.
Attendees will learn about best practices, and proven risk mitigation strategies that will allow you to get started and deliver a thought provoking synopsis to your senior management team, to drive the business forward with an eye towards moving and modernizing mission critical applications into the 21st century.
Attending these events, for just 45 minutes or so, is most enlightening because of what the 3000 owners can share. Solving a problem with new ideas is the aim for these advisory sessions.
March 25, 2013
Searching for help in all the right places
Today a long-time 3000 site in the candy business called to find out if anybody was available to help with a little contract work. Maybe about two or three years' worth, because that's how long it would take this 3000 stalwart to pull out of their existing 3000 applications.
They've already pulled out of some. Oracle Financials now takes the place of an MPE/iX app, for example. But while Oracle is more popular with the market's experts, the in-house software that it replaced performed better.
The search for 3000 expertise led us to recommend a couple of favorite webpages. The OpenMPE contractor-consultant page has added new consultants in the last few weeks. Over at LinkedIn, the HP 3000 Community is fast approaching 600 members. And while LinkedIn would like the employer prospects such as our candy company -- and its Call Center, Order Entry, Order Fulfillment and Sales Audit apps, all running on N-Class servers -- to pay $295 to list a job opening, it's not needed. You can start a discussion in several places for free about an available job.
Three months ago we dipped our line in the water to attract two dozen applicants with 3000 experience in just under 36 hours, using the redoubtable 3000-L mailing list. We heard from long-time consultants, independent contractors, and even 3000 pros who thought their current company's use of MPE/iX looked a little shaky.
LinkedIn will take on any discussion in the 3000 Community group, regardless of whether it mentions jobs or not. It's hard to describe how many of the nearly 600 are available for work there, but it's not a miniscule percentage.
There's also an HP 3000 Jobs subgroup, which is part of Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine out on LinkedIn. Apply for the Bill and Dave's membership (it's free) and the Jobs subgroup is open to your offering and your seeking, too. Bill and Dave's is another 780 members big, and it's got lots of retired HP 3000 expertise in there. You never know who will want to take on an outside contract, after leaving the good ship HP.
February 15, 2013
3000 pro uses open source version control
We've been polling the 3000 community about its choices for development tools, but the range runs wider than QUAD or versions of Notepad. One enterprising veteran has tapped the free, open source toolset git to create a batch transfer system for EDI.
The git solution is one of those software choices that seems to defy the traditional structures for care and feeding of software. Like the Joomla Content Management System, git is supported by a vast range of users, comes free of charge for any Windows, Unix or Linux-based workstation or server, and is used by very large companies as well as untold thousands of smaller ones.
One 3000 IT pro, James Byrne of the trading specialist and freight forwarder Harte & Lyne Ltd., checked in to report how git is helping him manage the development of new modules which connect to newer enterprise environments. The git techology supports Behavior Driven Developments. BDD provides developers and business analysts with shared tools and a shared process to collaborate on software development.
Last year I had to create an EDI batch transfer system from one of our suppliers into our billing system hosted on the HP 3000 and written in PowerHouse. For that project I created a git repository for the HP on our source archives' Linux host, and then transferred over all of our source code, job files, udc and cmd files -- and anything else I believed to be locally developed source -- into the git repository using the HP 3000s HFS layout.
I then checked out the specific directories and files into a working directory on my Linux workstation, wrote the new stuff and edited the old stuff in GVim, and checked everything back into the remote repository.
Byrne said he then FTP’ed the new stuff onto the HP 3000 and ran it. "If there were any bugs -- and when are there not? -- I edited the source on the workstation, checked it in to the repository, and FTP transferred it from there to the HP 3000 for the next iteration."
It seeems to me that written out it appears more cumbersome than it actually is. It all went fairly smoothly once most of the gotchas and ‘oops-I didn’t-know-that’ were gradually uncovered and weeded out the the workflow.
One of the major benefits of doing things this way was that everything was built using BDD methodology and the new systems is covered by reproducable tests. Recently a change occured external to our system that broke one of the transfer scripts. We were able to identify the exact problem in our code and fix it with remarkably little effort in an amazingly short time, all because the test suite identified exactly where the exception was occuring and in what way the new behaviour varied from what was expected.
Byrne said the next thing he expects to be writing for, if not actually on, the HP 3000 is a set of Quiz reports to extract the company's 3000 database data into XML files, for transfer and loading into a new billing system. "After that is done," he said, "it seems very likely that then we will bid adieu to our old workhorse."
February 11, 2013
What'll you do if they bring their own?
Whether you approve of outside devices or not, they are in your company. Pretty few places have no smartphone users checking their mail. Many want to tie into company mail systems. That's just the beginning of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) surge. It's said that PCs are pretty much considered dead tech, although that seems severe considering how many laptops you'll see. But the tablets and phones have already assumed their place, even alongside HP 3000s. What happens next is up to you.
HP pushed this message out last week in a small business newsletter article. Management of the BYOD's is their aim, a sound one for a company that's looking for business management opportunities.
Adopting a BYOD strategy can also lower your initial capital expenditures. To manage and secure a wide array of personally owned and hard-to-track devices, your IT team needs to implement clear policies, procedures and safeguards to protect applications and sensitive business data against malware, device loss and failure.
A Wednesday Webinar this week from MB Foster gives the 3000 community, migrated or homesteading, a chance to ask questions and see strategies localized for managers of these systems.Birket Foster, CEO, is your host for the Webinar at 2 PM on the 13th. You can register online. (It's a pretty nifty system that lets them call your number when you're ready to take the call. Pops up with a spiffy web app that includes a chat option as well as a way to see the slides while you listen to Birket speak.)
It is not a question of if, but when companies will embrace BYOD with confidence.
In this webinar we will outline and guide you through some of the key considerations related to the implementation of BYOD polices; including
Virtualization: Provide remote access to computing resources.
Walled garden: Contain data within a secure application so that it is segregated from personal data. Allow secure access to email, applications, and data from outside the corporation.
Limited separation: Policies to ensure minimum security controls.
January 15, 2013
Foster looks into IT crystal ball Wednesday
Journalists like me are always a sucker for trend stories. People expect a message of the future to emerge from analysis, and IT consumers look farther ahead into the future than most buyers. You're expected to be ready for change at the moment it occurs. I enjoy it when somebody else is doing the trending.
That's why it will be most interesting to see what Birket Foster and his team at MB Foster have to say about IT trends tomorrow, January 16, starting at 2 PM Eastern Time. This is the first Wednesday Webinar of the new year for the company. They're reaching out to predict what will happen in a wide array of 10 sectors:
- Big Data
- Social Media
Registration for the event is free, at the MB Foster website. The webinars usually take less than an hour, including questions and answer sessions.
Foster and his team have been on the HP 3000 scene for 35 years, starting from his work as an independent software representative and consultant in the days before Cognos was named Cognos. That's why he asks
Remember when we used Excel or Lotus spreadsheets to create sophisticated reports? Whereas today Business Intelligence (BI) and the future trend of analytics and ‘information is power’ are emerging as the norm.
We’ve got our eyes on a list of 10 Information Technology trends that should help anchor your business, present or future, and help you build a broader, more agile enterprise.
Every year we reflect on the IT world and the trends we see that will matter for the coming year. At MB Foster we have the advantage of working with customers in many industries and in different countries; this gives us a unique perspective on upcoming trends in technology.
Even though 2012 was a remarkable year for technology, we’ve got our eyes on a list of 10 Information Technology trends that should help anchor your business, present or future, and help you build a broader, more agile enterprise.
Attending will offer new understanding to tech advancements "that are sure to gain significantly greater mind and market-share over the coming year and by organizations around the globe." Birket loves this stuff and looks forward instinctively. We'll want to watch him connect the dots that lead away from the world of the 3000.
January 09, 2013
Secure the Enterprise: Understand, Pentest
Editor's Note: HP 3000 shops which are on the move will be encountering greater challenges in security. Whether it's a move to Windows, to Unix, or to Linux, all non-3000 environments carry greater risk of breaches. Certified Information Security Professional Steve Hardwick explains the investigation and penetration testing that will be needed to secure any enterprise that's migrating away from the obscure-but-less risky MPE operating environment.
By Steve Hardwick
CISPP, Oxygen Finance
First of a series
When making a move in the HP 3000 environment, your first order of business is to understand the security solutions that are currently in place. Many organizations conduct a security assessment in response to a specific regulation, such as a compliance initiative. However, using a broader risk assessment approach can result in a much stronger security posture.
For example, a HIPAA assessment — common in the 3000 healthcare billing environments — may only be directed toward healthcare information. Other users may not be included in that assessment, so would pose as a target for would be hackers. Among the wealth of information regarding how to approach a security assessment — many auditors provide security assessment services — one good free tool is a publication from NIST, a guideline for the Federal government that’s been in place for several years.
SP800-30 has just undergone a revision and a September 2012 version is now available at the NIST website. This document gives a good framework for a general risk assessment. It can form the basis of assessments for specific compliance projects. There is also SP800-63, a more in-depth overview of password and authentication methodologies and vulnerabilities.
An important part of risk assessment methodology is testing. The next countermeasure to look at is penetration testing, or pentesting. Penetration testing actively seeks vulnerabilities within a security architecture.
Unfortunately, in most cases this type of testing is limited to testing technical security countermeasures only. One common approach is network scanning. Network scanning involves presenting network data that’s specifically designed to exploit technical vulnerabilities within a network.
A second type of penetration testing is physical: trying to exploit physical weaknesses within the environment. This type of pentest launches social engineering attacks (trying to trick users into revealing password information through phishing) and searches for physical copies of password information. Pentesting, especially physical, can be a very revealing tool that highlights physical password vulnerabilities.
User training is one countermeasure that is often overlooked. What’s more, this testing can be badly delivered. A lot of user training is dedicated toward telling users what not to do, without explaining the justification for the instruction. This can easily result in users not taking any ownership in the overall security solution. The common response is that the training is viewed as a check-mark on a compliance report, and has little overall value.
IT managers show users the value of security training by showing the impact of a lax approach to security. All too often, security training is a reactive response rather than a proactive response. This results in a view that the training is punitive. When coupled with a good penetration testing philosophy, users can understand how easy it is to gain unauthorized access to their systems.
Other Physical Countermeasures
It can be fairly simple to steal usernames and passwords of individuals by shoulder-surfing. It may seem that the solution to this is fairly simple: make sure no one can see you type in your credentials. You can show your users certain steps to take that facilitate this. First, positioning the computer screen in a way that prevents this type of attack.
However, with mobile devices this may not be so straightforward. There are display solutions which limit the off-angle view from the screen, in order to help reduce shoulder surfing. User training can help prevent this type of attack. This is a key area to include in a physical pentest.
Controlling information as it leaves the corporate environment is also part of physical security. This falls into two areas. Physical transfer of information while in use, as well as decommissioning of computer equipment.
Physically transferring information is typically employed when using back-up media such as tapes. However, it can also include mobile devices, especially any with magnetic storage. One of the best tools for protection is encryption of data while it is at rest. In the case of back-up media and laptops, this involves encrypting any security data that is on the systems — not just user data.
A second option is removing the need to physically transport the data, using electronically transferred back-ups. Quite often a laptop can be lost or stolen. Even if the thief's target was not the data it contains, such a theft can surely compromise it and constitute a security breach.
One caveat regarding encryption: care needs to be taken in storage of encryption keys. The keys should be afforded the same level of protection as a password.
With regard to decommissioning equipment, prior encryption of the data significantly reduces this exposure. In many regulations, loss of encrypted data may not constitute a breach. The best policy is to have a disposal policy that renders any decommissioned machine or media useless. There are a lot of commercially available solutions that securely overwrite the data, or there are physical destruction methods.
One of my personal experiences involved receiving a replacement laptop hard drive. When I ran an unformat program, I found out that the previous owner was the CEO. I immediately returned the drive without viewing any of the data. (Incidentally, using an unformat command was not a violation of my acceptable use policy.)
Next time: Technical Countermeasures
January 04, 2013
3000 Contracting Help Collected and Ready
About three weeks ago we reported on the needs of a HP 3000 site, searching for contracting help to run and maintain HP 3000s systems. Their servers were acknowledged as being at "end of life" by the customer, but to keep them running the company needed help to back up its 3000-savvy staff.
Put plainer, if the IT manager who knows the 3000 retired, or was disabled, this company would need fresh help to keep their 3000s online. We reported that more than two dozen suppliers, both individual consultant-contractors as well as support firms, responded via the 3000 newsgroup -- where we first posted the notice.
We also got resumes, follow-up phone calls, plus a raft of emails at the Newswire asking for direct contact information for that prospective site. The customer didn't want their name used or spread out to these contractors, but we've forwarded the contractor names and resumes to the site. (It's just the way some companies who use the 3000 work -- they keep their operations under wraps. We respect this.)
That 3000 manager says he's contacted some of the leads we helped to gather. But he started off by asking if there was a webpage which listed available contracting suppliers. We've just finished updating such a page up on the OpenMPE News website, openmpe.wordpress.com/hp-3000-consultants. (That's a volunteer effort I began two years ago, sort of a skunkworks information outlet beyond the regular OpenMPE site.) There's a score of professionals and companies up on the OpenMPE news webpage, and no recruiters. It looks like there may be even more to come. Anyone available for contract work can add their information, using the comments section below the listings.
The 3000 Newswire is supported by sponsorship from some of these kinds of vendors. Pivital Solutions, the Support Group Inc., and the MPE Support Group serve 3000 sites, primarily in the support business. They also help make the Newswire possible. I'd be remiss if we didn't draw notice to those companies first.We've got those contractor-consultants on that OpenMPE page divided into verified (the ones who've responded to us, or on the 3000 newsgroup) and those we'd gathered from the long-ago-created OpenMPE website's consultant page. Among the 21 verified contractors, there's one UK-based and two based in Canada but also available for contracts elsewhere.
There's also 13 companies and independent consultants on that page we haven't verified. If you're reading this and are still in this line of business -- and can help a 3000-using company do its everyday operations -- we invite you to have a look at that webpage and see if you're above the verified line, or below it. Something as simple as a comment below on that page, or this one, will help us move you up into the verified listings.
We can't pretend that this web page is the biggest list of 3000 help, but at least it's among the most recently verified. We also received other email messages that reported a consultant might be interested, or would take on a project only if it was under 30 hours, or they knew a friend who'd like that 3000 site's contact name.
One other resource that comes to mind is the consultants page which Robelle maintains. It's got a built-in connection to using the Robelle tools -- Qedit and Suprtool -- but the skill sets range widely beyond those utilities. About a dozen of those consultants don't appear on the OpenMPE list we've just updated. Some of those dozen specialize in specific applications.
The community that continues to rely on the 3000 this year needs to know its back is covered. One way to do this is to contract with independent resources which supply support -- the kind where if you lose your only 3000 manager or systems administrator, they can take over day-to-day ops.
December 17, 2012
Freeware 3000 Emulator gets download link
After a mid-November teaser, Stromasys has made a 2-user, freeware version of its Charon HPA/3000 emulator available for downloading once again. The software that lets an Intel-based Core i7 PC, Linux system or Mac work like an HP 3000 has a new link, live from the Stromasys website in Geneva:
The webpage prompts downloaders for their name, phone number and email address, then asks them to affirm two licensing questions: agreeing to enter only a valid HPSUSAN number to identify their virtual HP 3000; and limiting the Freeware to be used only by individuals, for personal, non-commercial use, with no time restriction, or by companies for evaluation purposes only, for up to 60 days following the initial download.
Stromasys notes that the freeware emulator may not be used in commercial production environments. After submitting simple "yes" answers and contact data, Stromasys emails a download link and a link to a 2-page PDF Read Me file. Each emulator link remains good for only 24 hours. The download file is currently 1 GB, a collection of files which automatically works with VMware's Workstation or Player products on Windows or Linux systems, or using VMware Fusion on the Mac. It includes a 1GB LDEV 1 disc image.
"We've set everything up so that it's as simple as possible," said product manager Paul Taffel. "You don't need to know anything about Linux to actually run the emulator, although of course some knowledge will always be useful. VMware is an amazing product, and allows us to send the whole environment out, completely pre-configured."
The Freeware Edition emulator is a reduced-capability version of the company's commercial A-Class A400 emulator. The performance has been artificially limited to "approximately 2 EPUs, roughly 2/3 that of an HP 3000 A-Class A400 system (when run on a 3.4 GHz CPU) This A202 model is made available as a VMware virtual machine image of a Linux system, in which the HP 3000 emulator has already been installed and configured."
To run the emulator you just need to run the virtual machine using VMware on a Windows, Mac, or Linux-based system. When you start the virtual machine it boots into Linux, and the included HP3000 emulator then starts up automatically.
The CHARON-HPA/3000 emulator functions exactly as a "real" HP 3000 – you can load any HP, third-party, or user software onto the system, and it will run exactly the same as if you were running on HP hardware. It has no expiration date.
The 2-page instruction sheet also gives info on the Freeware Edition hardware requirements and installation process. After installation, the VMware Linux system places the Read Me file on the desktop.
The download link delivers a tar archive HPA-A202.tar.bz2, a file which when expanded provides the various files that make up the VMware virtual machine The tar archive is compressed using the bzip2 file compressor. it can be decompressed on Windows using the freeware 7-Zip utility, or by using the shareware WinRAR utility, as well as others. Stromasys reports that Mac and Linux users can expand the tar archive from the command line.
Stromasys says it will support the Freeware Edition on a best-effort basis. "However the emulator is supplied with no guarantees to its correct operation or performance. If you have technical questions, please email us at: email@example.com."
Hosting requirements for the emulator are a 64-bit Windows, Mac OS or Linux system, driven by Intel x64 architecture (Core 2 Duo, i5, i7, or Xeon) with SSE 4.1 instruction extensions, at least 2 cores, and a clock speed of at least 2 GHz. "We believe (but have not confirmed) that current AMD FX processors (starting in 2011 with Bulldozer codename systems) also implement SSE 4.1," Taffel said.
The Linux Virtual Machine is configured to use up to 3 GB. With VMware's overhead, you should be able to run Charon-HPA/3000 comfortably on Windows systems with 6 GB memory, and possibly less. The decompressed VMware virtual machine takes about 10 GB of disc, including the included LDEV 1 disc image.
When the Freeware Edition is run on a Windows box, you can connect to it using Reflection (or any other emulator) running on the Windows host. I don't know what your options are for terminal emulators that run on Mac OS.
You can also, in theory, connect to the virtual 3000 running inside VMware from other Windows systems on the same network, but it's considerably more complex to configure, and I'm still trying to work out the details.
Taffel added that the emulator's Freeware edition makes use of VMware's ability to define multiple virtual ethernet ports, so downloaders can run it on a qualifying machine with a single ethernet port.
"The regular full-blown Stromasys emulator is not (for performance reasons) officially supported inside VMware Workstation or Player, and Stromasys recommend two physical ports for all production purposes," he said.
December 14, 2012
3000s get healthy admin tool for iPhones
Allegro Consultants has followed through on its promise to bring an iPhone-iPad admin tool to 3000 users. The company's iAdmin software, coupled with a $9.99 a month subscription service, This week got an MPE/iX version for management of HP 3000 servers.
A free 30-day demo of the service for iAdmin is available for one server. OS Software Support customers of Allegro receive free subscriptions for all of their servers under Allegro support. Others may pay a small monthly charge per server.
The mobile app available is a free download from the Apple App Store, one which requires that back-end subscription based service. The utility for iPhones and iPads provides visibility into the most important datacenter servers. For example, the app identifies CPU loads for systems.
Using the iAdmin graphical interface, a system manager logged in to the service can explore server information as an aid to understanding a 3000's health. Allegro's Steve Cooper notes that "iAdmin displays a server's disk space usage using treemaps, in which files and directories appear as proportionally sized colored boxes allowing users to see at a glance how a system's space is being used."Earlier releases of iAdmin supported platforms running HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, and Mac OS X. The app and its service now supports all four operating environments, including MPE/iX.
For more information, screen shots, and instructions on how to view some real-world sample data within iAdmin, managers can visit the iAdmin web site. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Cooper at 408-252-2330.
December 10, 2012
HP 3000 contracting experience, all for hire
An HP 3000 site which wants to go unnamed was interested in a 3000 contractor website. A place that lists available help, I suppose, with information about what experienced MPE pros still do. I posted a simple request without much background information, midday Saturday on the 3000-L mailing list, to try to find someone interested in helping.
Within 48 hours I had the contact names for 22 companies and consultants, all ready to do business with this HP 3000 shop. It's a pretty good-sized system, and the IT manager expected some real effort in finding somebody. After all, HP 3000 expertise is supposed to be hard to find.
"I'll be looking for a couple of experienced HP 3000 MPE resources very soon, and I know they won't be easy to find," he said. "Been there and done that." He didn't want his company name, or his own, used in any report. Some companies are buttoned down like that; we can respect it.
It's a 750Mhz N-Class with four processors that's working at that company. Even their backup system is an N-Class, a 500Mhz 4-way. This recently-installed N-Class 3000 is not going away anytime soon, and about two dozen 3000 citizens would like to come along for the ride. Yes, even in 2012.Ever since HP announced its "end of life" for the 3000, the warnings about a lack of MPE expertise have hung thick in the air over the last decade. They hang around in this decade, too, seemingly more true with every passing week. It's been a continuing concern that is invoked during migration assessments. Sure, you can make that HP 3000 work longer. "But how much longer can you work?" say the companies which own HP 3000s.
I'd call our seeking-the-guru experience exceptional, but I only posted a three-line request on a weekend afternoon. The response was immediate. Responses continued to trickle in today. It wasn't even posted on the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community site. There are over 550 members there, although plenty of them don't contract. Some have retired from that business.
Not everybody is going to qualify for this work. The prospects range in size from companies booking several millions of dollars in business to individuals who aren't sure how much longer their employer will be using the HP 3000. There's also a range of experience, from before the PA-RISC days, to people whose first 3000 work was on a Series 9x8. That's still more than 15 years on the low end. One prospect said, "Whatever runs on the HP 3000, we know it. Qedit, Quad, Cognos, COBOL, Query, in-depth operations and repairs of hardware, HP987, etc., etc."
Several wanted to know where the work would be performed, and some were modest about their focused skills. Others have called, including one programmer-system manager who'd heard about the opportunity "and wanted to jump on this," because he wanted to leave the non-computer job which he's taken instead of 3000 work. That work was at a site which imposed an end-of-life on its 3000, but not on the veterans who maintained it. I got more than one resume emailed to me. It all has been forwarded to that IT manager who wants to remain out of the public eye.
This community may be on the cusp of an imminent shortage of 3000 contract help. Perhaps it's a little early to be considering a lack of MPE talent while sustaining a 3000 installation, however. Either that, or during this weekend everybody was done holiday shopping, or had finished up their last 2012 engagement.
There's a list of MPE contactors and consultants available at the OpenMPE News website, a free outpost where I'm still the nominal curator. Maybe that's the website where our IT manager should have a look. We'll do our best to include the names which are new to that list, as well as any who have refreshed their interest, in a special section there.
November 26, 2012
Experience a future of corrections, together
On the front page of our latest printed issue, now arriving, we've reported on a snarl that sprang up when Stromasys tried to give away HP 3000s over the Web. Not the actual hardware instances of the 3000, of course. These were the 2-user freeware emulators you will be able to download and install onto commodity computers.
The emulator itself is getting strong reviews for its capability. We'll have a report in full from the first production site soon, once our paper subscribers enjoy it first. However, a file full of HP's add-on subsystem software got slipped into the first zipped package, a mistake that didn't seem to meet Stromasys standards to introduce this virtual 3000's licensing strategy.
The calamity was held in check by the Internet. In the days before the Web, when we had only paper and land line phones and a fax machine, plus the delivery of the mails, this might have been a lengthy crisis. To start, thousands of customers would have had the incorrect bundle, not just the handful who downloaded that too-bundled Stromasys package over 24 hours, before it was withdrawn.
The postal mailboxes would have been full of DAT tapes, or even 9-track reels: the small ones which indie software vendors shipped out. You'd be expected to destroy those tapes and wait on the postman to deliver something a vendor had to re-manufacture, both in the coding sense as well as the writing of bits onto mylar sense. It might have taken weeks.
But now that it's nearly 2013, this kind of snarl becomes a bump in the road. A better version of the emulator freeware is being coded. And it may even be downloadable before our paper issue arrives in all mailboxes. We finished this issue's writing on a Wednesday. Less than seven days later, we were in print. The Personal Freeware version of the emulator will enjoy a uniform delivery schedule, a soon to South Asia as to South Dakota.Mistakes are a part of creating and learning, but the correction time has been reduced because we're so much better connected.
The curve of connection keeps bending us together. During our last US election the thrum of Twitter was only starting to mount. The newly elected President Tweeted, while his opponent had to yank down a transition website which appeared online, even before all the votes had been counted.
And even though that website was only up for a matter of minutes, it was captured so everyone could connect with the details of the story, re-reported and trumped and harrumphed and spun. All within a few hours.
Where does an HP 3000 stand in such a connected world? I would offer it a position of honor and grace, since it still holds the answers to questions which are asked over the Web. In a little while, new software will let handheld iOS devices monitor the status of HP 3000s. That will mean that the iPad Mini which came to my door this month, earlier than expected, could be carried easily in one hand to track the status of a computer conceived in the late 1960s. We once couldn't hold a console for the 3000, even with two hands, unless we lifted weights at the gym. From 70-plus pounds to 7.9 inches and a matter of grams, we're reducing while we're better connecting.
There must be something we read in our DNA that keeps us linking more closely. I like to believe that it's represented in A Machine with an Old Soul, my prospective title for the book that will flow from the 3000 Memoir Project. Your computer family was created to remember what's important. Connecting that data in every way possible, safely, just improves its powers to bring us together. Like on that special Tuesday evening this month in the US, we experienced our future together, and all at once. Anything that aids the art of community is worth preserving.
-- Ron Seybold
November 16, 2012
Running a Freeware Emulator: Just Ducky
Editor's Note: I asked several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation of the new freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator worked for them. In yesterday's article, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet led us through a weekend-long journey to get the right VMware and a 2GB Player-ready file onto a server, rather than a desktop. A genuine HP 3000 played a key role. Now with an ISL> prompt on his screen, Yeo plunges forward.
By Alan Yeo
Second of two parts
Okay, so with no documentation at hand (as of last weekend), let’s try ISL>START NORECOVERY
This starts the MPE launch, I get prompted for date and time which I correct, and it continues with a normal 7.5 launch, right the way through to starting JINETD and logging on as OPERATOR.SYS.
You know what they say. "If it looks like a Duck and quacks like a Duck, it’s probably a Duck," and this thing looks like an HP 3000 and would have probably quacked like one if it could.
As far as I can tell I'm sitting at the console of an HP 3000! I’m running in a Putty Terminal, so I'm not going to be able to do any block mode stuff, but it’s good enough to run a whole load of MPE commands and have a look at the created environment. Yes, it still quacks!I don't want to try doing too much perched on my stool in front of a rack in the computer room, so can I access this thing from our network? Immediate answer, is No. It is configured with some strange IP address, so I need to reconfigure it for our network. On an HP 3000 easy just go into NMMGR, but that's in block mode and I'm connected via Putty.
Looking around the screen I see another icon, which turns out to be for xhpterm (a nearly usable HP Terminal Emulator). I launch it, up pops a colon prompt and I logon as Manager Sys. So far so good, let’s try NMMGR; it loads and runs and I do some basic network configuration, validate and exit — and darn I have lost my connection as the IP address has changed. Now what do I do? as I don't seem to have any way to change the IP address that xhpterm is using, and my Putty window has disappeared somewhere.
Let’s try connecting from a real terminal; nope no luck, looks like I have broken this, maybe this demo version only works with its fixed IP? Anyway back to the i7, and decide that I'll shut down the VM and maybe reload. It may have been me but I couldn't find a way to shut down the VM without saving changes, which I didn't really want to do as I had obviously screwed something. So I saved changes.
I thought maybe I'd have to blow the files away and re-extract the CHARON files again, but I thought, well let’s just launch it again! I did, it went through the boot sequence again, during which I spotted that the new IP I had set had taken effect, and magically when I launched xhpterm again it connected. They must have configured it to use the current IP address of the emulator.
Can I get to it externally via Reflection now? Yes! Okay, now we are "Cooking with Gas." (For those non UK readers you'll have to Google that). File transfer a bunch of stuff, and everything works!
Think I'll finish tidying up in NMMGR, but it won't run from Reflection! Why not? What normally stops NMMGR running? Yep, hptypeahead was turned on, but how — I hadn't done it and it’s not a default. A quick search shows that this box has a whole bunch of SYSTEM UDCs set including:
setvar hpsysname 'CHARON-DEMO'
setvar tz 'PST8PDT'
setvar hptypeahead true
Now fine and dandy if I had actually been in Pacific Time, and if I had wanted hptypeahead set (I NEVER have hptypeahead set!).
Bit of a cleanup job to get rid of UDCs and replace with a set from one of our HP 3000s. Driving an HP 3000 with someone else's UDCs is rather like walking around in someone else's oversize boots. They are still boots, they keep the water out, but it just feels a bit uncomfortable, and you can't run!
I do a bunch of file transfers and restores, some COBOL and Transact compiles, restored a database, ran some programs, everything worked. And to be honest I didn't expect it not to!
For those of you thinking of trying the emulator, don't waste your time trying to find something in MPE that doesn't work properly, or a program that gives different results, You won't. I know this sounds too good to be true, but it isn't.
I was fortunate enough to have Mike Marxmeier explain to me a year ago how a hardware emulator works, and basically if you can get the OS to boot, it’s a done deal and anything that runs on that OS hasn't the faintest idea that the hardware has changed. And this is the real MPE we are booting, not an emulated MPE.
The only thing that is emulated is the hardware, so the only place where there might be problems would be in handling peripherals, or possibly the interpretation of error codes from them. Believe me, way beyond my capabilities or desire to go investigating.
So we now have a virtualised MPE 7.5 HP 3000 running on an Intel i7 server (which we have called "Sharon"). It only permits two concurrent users (hey, this is the free version) and I'd defy most people to logon and know that it wasn't a real HP 3000.
I don't know what the final hobbyist version of the CHARON-HPA 3000 package will look like, as I was just being used as a guinea pig tester by Ron. However, this 7.5 box came with all the subsystems I needed to do anything I wanted. If the final hobbyist version doesn't, then unless you already have a 7.5 box with an MPE license then it will be virtually useless to you.
CHARON-HPA 3000 is exclusively 7.5, so you won't be able to take subsystems of your aging 6.0/6.5 9x7/9x8 and use them. My opinion is that for the Hobbyist Licensed version this shouldn't be a problem, as it’s restricted to two users so it’s not like HP would be opening the floodgates on the use of unlicensed subsystems. What’s more, anyone moving from an earlier version of MPE already has a licensed version of them anyway. However, HP is a strange company these days, so I guess we just wait and see what happens.
Commercially, I'm sorry it works, as it will give people more excuses to homestead instead of using ScreenJet's software to migrate. Personally, I like it, as it sticks two fingers up in the air at HP and says "see, if you had wanted to keep all those HP 3000 customers you lost it was technically possible.” And who knows — as ScreenJet's Transact and VPlus migration products also run on MPE, and we now have a new MPE platform, maybe there may be emulator customers interested in advanced versions of Transact or VPlus with all the bugs fixed. And versions that are far more capable than the original HP versions, and are supported!
November 15, 2012
Installing the Emulator: Ahoy, the Disruptor
Editor's Note: As soon as the freeware personal edition of the Stromasys 3000 emulator went live for downloading, I sent the FTP links to several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation worked for them. Before we'd follow through on helping to host this freeware, I wanted to see the state of the packaging. Allegro's Gavin Scott also installed it at our request, and his report appears in the forthcoming 3000 NewsWire print issue.
By Alan Yeo
I'm not sure why I agreed to Install the Stromasys CHARON-HPA/3000 freeware. It's disruptive technology to the HP 3000 migration business that my company depends upon. However, as I have spent most of my working life using an HP 3000, it would be nice to always have one available after all the old hardware dies or becomes uneconomic to keep alive.
This is almost one of those stories that went nowhere. There seemed so many stupid obstacles to overcome that I almost gave up a few times -- and that was mainly down to lack of documentation that could have saved hours of work. There was also the fact that instead of wanting an emulated HP 3000 on my desktop, I wanted one on a server where a few of us could test drive it.
Hopefully, the lack of documentation last weekend will have been resolved by the time you try the freeware. But here, over today and tomorrow's articles, is the tale of getting my HP 3000 Emulator into the delivery room and smacking its little bottom until the first little colon prompt appeared.
Part 1: Getting things downloaded and installed, starting with a compatible VMware Player and a 2GB Stromasys file.
My only documentation for this was an email from Ron Seybold at the Newswire, with a link to a 2GB download on the Stromasys site.
- Intel i7/i5 or Xeon CPU with SSE4.1 support; 2 GHz minimum, 3GHz or above recommended.
- 8 GB RAM minimum.
- dDsk space - 0.1 TB + space required to keep HP3K disk images.
- 20 GB is the minimum requirement for the freeware package.
- Two Ethernet ports.
This is the full 2GB VMware kit, uncompress and open with VMware Player. (And an FTP link followed)
CHARON HPPA runs under any of three supported 64-bit Linux Desktop distributions.
Ubuntu 11.10 is our recommended Linux distribution, and is available at no cost. Ubuntu 11.04 is also supported; versions 12.04 and 12.10 can also be used for testing. Fedora 16 Desktop Edition (64-bit). Fedora is available at no cost. Fedora 15 and 17 are also supported. Red Hat 6.2 (64-bit) is available at www.redhat.com; it is a commercial distribution.
Fortunately we have an Intel i7 server that already has Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop as the host OS. Unfortunately it has Virtualbox installed not VMware, and there were a number of horror stories on the net about running VMware and Virtualbox on the same host. This it turned out was not true, however your mileage may vary.
So the first problem was getting the 2GB download. I don't have fast broadband, and to be honest I didn't see the "GB" and read it as "MB" (as who the hell downloads 2GB?) so it was a bit of a surprise when I browsed to the ftp location and started the download and was told it was going to take 23 hours! I think I looked at the screen for a few minutes just to let it sink in that it did say 23 hours and wasn't going to change its mind, it didn't and I killed the process.
The next day with the weekend looming I thought okay, I'll start the download to my PC in the evening and pick it up the following evening (if the connection has managed to stay up that long). This time it told me that it was only going to take just over five hours (don't know what had happened in the intervening day) but five hours meant I was able to check before bed, and as the download completed, plan to do some work on it the following day.
Saturday: The Second Shoot of the season, and me and the dogs were out after Pheasant and Duck, so "Sharon" was going to have to wait. Evening, glass of wine, let’s take a look at where to get this VMware Player thing. Find the VMware site, find the latest version downloads, Oh blast, another 200MB download. Ah I know, I'll logon to the i7 server and download it direct. Strange, if I went to the website from my PC with IE I was offered the downloads. If I browsed there from the i7 with Firefox I got the page, but no downloads offered. Since it is evening I can't be assed to find out why, so resort to downloading the correct Linux version for x86-64 to my PC, and will pick up the following day.
Sunday: Really nice sunny day, unlike the crap we have had for weeks, did I want to spend time working indoors? No, but if I didn't I might never get back to it. Fortunately as it transpired everything took so long and was so broken that all I had to do was wander back and check on progress every hour or so.
Okay I have this 2GB download I need to move from my PC to the i7 server. Easy I'll cut a CD, Windows refuses to copy the file! CD burning software refuses, nay, won't even show me the file to select! That's okay, I'll FTP it. Windows FTP won't even show me the file with a DIR let alone let me PUT it anywhere!
How do I move a 2GB file from my PC to the i7 server if I can't FTP it and can't burn a CD or DVD of it? I could try playing with my PC to see if I could share its drive and do an FTP GET from the i7, but life's too short. I then thought, I wonder what Reflection thinks of the file? Sure enough, it’s happy to show it, maybe it will transfer it? Where to? I need something with PCLink installed.
Ah what about an HP 3000? No problem, Reflection starts transferring the 2GB file (in Binary format Streams) to one of the HP 3000s. It says it’s going to take a fair while even over a 10MB link, but the sun is shining and I can wait.
Becoming a VMware Player
Okay, let’s get this VMware Player set up on the i7 so it's ready and waiting. 200MB is easy to move via a memory stick. Got the file on the i7, follow instruction to right click and open with gedit, it’s a shell script file that it says will do everything for me, including extracting and installing VMware Player if it isn't already installed. Off we go, it has to process the file but shouldn't take long —this is an 3.4Ghz i7 quad core with 8GB RAM.
Time passes. Time passes. Look at the bottom line of the screen: it says it is processing line 450827 and counting, Time passes, the count is on 600 thousand and something! How many lines could there be in a 200MB file? Time passes, I wander back about 30 minutes later it’s on line one million one hundred thousand and something, and as I'm watching it pops up a box to say its finished, but it has an error with some of the characters, do I want to continue? in which case the result will probably be bad! Or do I want it to try a different character set encoding to translate the characters? Okay, says I, "have a go." Oh blast, it’s gone back to line one and started processing the whole frigging file again! Yep running just as slow, time to get outside and do some real work and come back in another hour and a half.
I notice that the Reflection transfer of the 2GB file has finished to the HP 3000, so now I need to get it from there to the i7. No problem: open an FTP connection from the i7 and get the file (binary) leave it running, go get that sunshine.
Pop back a couple of hours later. I have a nice 2GB "Sharon" HPA/3000 file on the i7, and the VMware Player extract has finished! But has the same error! Okay, so on the latest 200MB VMware 5 something is broken and won't install. Give up, or get a long spoon and ask the evil Goggle Empire what it might know.
Okay, lots of horror stories about getting VMware Player 5 running (or rather not) on Ubuntu 11.10. But quite a few people having success with the older Player 4.5 version. Browse to the links from the i7, and this time I can see the version 4 downloads! Select the latest, slightly smaller, and let the download run. Come back, it’s finished, and this time the file has a .bundle extension, so I click and run and it unpacks and installs like a dream,
What next? Okay, find the now-installed VMware Player, and run it, up it comes. But what do I do next (remember, I have NO documentation). It must have something to do with that 2GB file that has a GZ2 extension, so let’s try opening it. Right click, get offered an open by something, which I do and then get an "extract" option. Okay, in for a pound, in for a penny, so off we go, everything unpacks clean as a nut.
Okay, there must be something I select from VMware Player. I click open and browse to the directory where everything "Sharon" had unpacked, and it showed me a single file that it obviously thought it could use. I select it and click open, and wait. I get a warning that something is trying to open Ethernet1 in "promiscuous mode" but that it has been denied, and that if I want to read all about it, a web link was supplied.
At this point I have been playing fast and loose with a bunch of software, so I don't give a damn about something else being a bit promiscuous. Wow! I get a "Sharon" screen, and then a Putty terminal window opens in a bright green. (I start thinking Putty, that ain't going to do Block Mode) but low and behold in the Putty window I see an HP 3000 going through a recognisable boot sequence ending with an ISL> prompt.
November 13, 2012
8 decommission tips on a significant 14th
Tomorrow is a very special day in the annals of the life of the HP 3000. A "where were you" afternoon 11 years ago -- but tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, Nov. 14) you can get free advice on how to decommission data that's no longer needed on your HP 3000.
Of course, HP never intended for anyone to leave data behind in that infamous Nov. 14 advisory. Just the rest of the mission-critical enterprise, software, a career full of expertise. At one point, I advised Computerworld that the data in IMAGE databases would be a serious drag on 3000 migration. Not so mcuh, by today. Well, enough of that tomorrow — and not a moment of it until after MB Foster has educated us on 8 Things to Consider when Decommissioning Legacy Data.
Decommissioning is the forgotten stage of an application migration project. All too often it is an afterthought – this webinar puts a framework around decommissioning. Experience has shown that there are eight things to consider when decommissioning legacy data
During an interactive presentation -- more than just PowerPoint slides, but one where CEO Birket Foster is certain to ask each attendee how he can help -- the first three things will be examined.
• Evaluation of application inventory
• Identifying data owners and stakeholders and their future needs for legacy data
• Identifying types of information
MB Foster also promises to give attendees a chance to learn of the other five things to consider, what decommissioning is and where to begin, as well as its benefits and cost savings.
November 09, 2012
Emulator freeware users input HPSUSANs
Stromasys has completed the engineering on its Personal Freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. The software is available for downloading will be available from the company's FTP servers once issues with subsystem software licensing are resolved. Several bundles are available -- more on that in a moment -- but even more flexibility comes through assigning an HPSUSAN number for the emulator.
According to the Stromasys CEO Ling Chang, a user who's downloaded and installed the freeware can simply type in the HPSUSAN which belonged to a legal HP 3000. No certified USB keys are required, an element that would've made the freeware a $50 item, according to CTO Dr. Robert Boers.
Chang said that a warning message upon bootup of what it calls the A200 emulator says "The configuration file of this freeware allows you to set the HPSUSAN number. Please know that you should only set the HPSUSAN number to a value that you are legally entitled to."
Chang added that Stromays would like freeware users to send a donation to the American Red Cross for superstorm Sandy relief.
The packages available include a full 2GB VMware kit, including the A200, which a user can uncompress and open with VMware Player.
A freeware user will also need a 64-bit Linux Desktop distro; the A200 freeware runs under Ubuntu and Fedora (both free) or commercial RedHat 6.2. A smaller set of files, without the VMware Player-ready kit, will also be available.Since that full VMWare 2GB download might take as many as five hours to retrieve, a shorter path to a bootable download exists on the Stromasys server. Stromasys supplied links for the emulator file itself (5MB) and a compressed disk image which includes MPE/iX (398MB).
We'll keep you updated on when those links will be up and running again.
This story was updated Nov. 10 to reflect the removal of the files from the download addresses which were forwarded by Stromasys.
November 02, 2012
Manufacturing Projects with HP Cloud
Hewlett-Packard has been promoting the concept of cloud computing for more than three years, culminating in the opening of its own HP Cloud service this year. This month there's a special offer of 1 TB of extra storage in HP Cloud. It's available by signing up for a Team Account at Gladinet, a provider of cloud storage access solutions. In its simplest configuration, Gladinet is a shared and collaboration workspace like Dropbox for Teams, or Box.
HP Cloud will chip in 1 TB of space with a Gladinet Cloud signup in the deal. There's also a Gladinet Enterprise version that can be modified for more extensive work sharing. But the HP Cloud's got some other possible uses for enterprise customers, perhaps as a means to host the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in to ask about an update on the Personal HPA/3000. Floyd's company supports manufacturing sites running HP 3000s, as well as some non-3000 operations and prospects.
"I recently joined a free partner program for HP Cloud and can supposedly specify what kind of system I want, and deploy anything I can make fly on it… for just a little bit a month," he said. Floyd's working on calculations about how big HP's little bit of cost will be, "and what happens when I decide to pull everything off of it and stop paying." Cloud-based hosting poses this "take-my-stuff-back" issue, one which is new to the 3000 IT manager who's hosted everything locally up to now.
This morning Floyd reported that "I have not activated my HP Cloud space yet. It would take a phone call to them to get the configuration I want – it wasn’t among their standard offerings." One thing that's held Floyd at bay about HP Cloud is the sophistication of the Salesforce cloud offering. "HP Cloud is probably a long ways behind what Salesforce is doing," he said after attending the recent Dreamforce '12 conference.
Salesforce doesn't need the lift of attraction which HP Cloud requires at the moment. HP's Cloud opened for business just this spring, while the Force products have been doing remote hosting of app services for years. But through Nov. 24, the Gladinet trial allows you to access an extra 1 TB of HP Cloud Object Storage as if it were a local drive. HP says that "This makes it extremely easy to manage and share documents, images and videos."
The Team Edition of Gladinet is free for the first 30 days with a minimum of three users per account. Then it's $9.99/user/month. Extra fees are billed for any HP Cloud Object Storage exceeding 1 TB.
Coming from the Force environment, however, Floyd sees a lot more maturity. It's an aspect that will come into play when manufacturing enterprises consider a new ERP platform. Those might not be 3000 sites, but they're pretty likely to be modest-sized companies -- which has often been the profile of the 3000 customer.
The only purpose I had in mind for HP Cloud was the Stromasys Emulator and that’s just a whim. I’m crazy about Salesforce and how they provide security and assurance of zero data loss and very little (almost 0) downtime. At Dreamforce 12 in September, I learned a lot about the internals and cannot believe the depth of their services.
Making a business out of cloud offerings (including the Kenandy Social ERP) looks like it's still in the early days. "I assume it will be the way things are done in the future, therefore I’m trying the learn as much as possible. I learn best by doing something real, so I’ll learn a lot doing the Stromasys freeware emulator," Floyd said.
But cloud computing on such small scales is still competing with low-cost local hardware. For example, instead of using HP Cloud for the emulator, Floyd said, "I just bought a refurbishes HP Elitebook 8470w with 8GB of RAM on an i7 with 500GB of disc. It should do nicely for Personal HPA/3000."
Even the older 3000 iron -- which the HPA/3000 freeware will emulate -- offers a cheap alternative to the HP Cloud. "I could potentially move my EDI business (which is now done on the Series 928 in our datacenter) to Stromasys in the cloud someday," Floyd said. "But that 928 is very reliable, so there’s no hurry that I can come up with."
October 25, 2012
CAMUS meeting to examine cloud ERPs
November 7 is more than just the day after the US 2012 elections. It's also the morning that the CAMUS user group is holding a call-in webinar to explore cloud-based ERP solutions to replace hosted software. Some of those hosts might be HP 3000s, if representatives from INFOR and Kenandy score any votes.
The meeting which starts at 9:30 PST (12:30 EST) will be open to anybody who registers at a page at Signup Genius. Over the following two and a half hours, the founders as well as the current holders of ASK technology will show off technology combos which want to eliminate the need to manage servers at manufacturing locations.
Warren Smith of INFOR will demonstrate SyteLine, a cloud-based application offered by the company which now holds the licenses for MANMAN, among several other ERP systems. Rob Elliot of Kenandy will take the Kenandy Social ERP for a spin via the web. Kenandy uses designs and systems architecture from ASK founder Sandy Kurtzig, who first developed MANMAN in the 1970s for an appreciative 3000 customer base rolling its own MRP solutions.
These software solutions rely on faith in offsite servers and secure bandwidth, elements which have become more proven in the years since Salesforce.com became a business standard. While INFOR draws itself into the cloud world by way of its installed MANMAN base, Social ERP relies on the force.com cloud reputation. Both companies claim to be able to eliminate local IT resource requirements, or at least the largest ones which demand veteran pros.But Social ERP isn't always aimed at 3000 sites using MANMAN, at least not this year. Terry Floyd of the Support Group, which serves MANMAN customers on 3000s, has worked closely with Kenandy for more than a year by now. His target is the small manufacturing company that needs a better ERP solution and knows nothing of MANMAN.
"We don’t intend to convert anyone from MANMAN to Kenandy within the next year," Floyd told us in January. "We are going for new customers who never heard of MANMAN, startups and tiny manufacturing companies." Tiny is a word that fits well with Social ERP, since it can erase the capital costs and staff resources of the classic local-host system. The Support Group has been working on add-ons and extensions to the Kenandy apps.
As for SyteLine, its a new branding of the INFOR10 ERP Business software, extended to the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. One of hte SyteLine options includes application managed services. The SyteLine configuration model expands choices in purchasing, deployment and managing of ERP. "With SaaS, manufacturers gain access to the same functionality available in on-premises software, with the flexibility of on-demand access from Infor," according to an Infor webpage on the product.
CAMUS meetings always include a "Talk Soup" segment where users can chat about implementation issues, workarounds and IT plans. Talk Soup starts at noon PST, after the Kenandy Social ERP demo.
September 07, 2012
The First HP 3000 You Can Download
We are on the cusp of a milestone here, one that's bigger than the impending start of our 18th year of publication. As part of our desire to help the 3000 community, we hope to be sending out HP 3000s. Virtually, of course. There's never been HP iron or MPE code here in our offices.
We've had an offer to distribute the freeware copies of a new Personal-sized Charon HPA/3000 emulator built by Stromasys. We haven't been shy about the prospects for this product, one that has no competition. One of the experts with the longest tenure in the marketplace, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, said at this time last year that the emulator has the potential to be a game-changer. It's already taken on the role of a governor — as in the part of an engine which keeps a limit on how fast an auto will barrel forward.
When we last checked in with Yeo, he was saying that the migration business had slowed to almost a trickle in the first half of this year. Six months earlier, he believed that emulator would be giving companies a reason to reschedule their migration plans. A tough economy would be another reason, but having a vision of a virtual 3000, to replace aging iron, would be the newer and more novel element in the postponements.
We've never served up anything off of our web hosts besides video, audio, PDF files and contents of web pages. So being an outlet for these freeware downloads is a new mission for me to manage. I ask your patience if there's a beta period of the downloading process.If we accomplish what we hope, we will just be helping the community get a taste of a low-powered version of a virtual 3000, something that might replace HP's hardware with anything built using an Intel chip of i7 or greater horsepower. Think a modern laptop and you get the idea of the typical host for freeware 3000s.
The very idea that you'd combine those two elements in a single solution — freeware to make an HP 3000 — shows how far the Web has carried us all to this new brink of virtualization. During the 18 years we've been in business, only one other company ever asked the NewsWire to deliver anything other than information and advice and entertainment.
The last time we got asked the Web was pretty brand-new, and that software had competition which we could not overlook. It's the unique nature of HPA/3000 that makes it possible to say yes this time. That, and how it could change the future for preserving an investment in MPE computing. That said, older iron will sell well. There are surprising values for the physical devices called HP 3000s.
Like the vapors of the Web, it's the substantial, invisible magic of MPE that's going to define owning an HP 3000 in the years to come. I'm already gathering stories for the 3000 Memoir Project, and plenty of them focus on the software that has made the computer great enough to keep running "just a few years longer." Year after year, that's what we hear.
So watch this space for details on how to download your first free HP 3000 off the Web.
August 15, 2012
MB Foster webinar shows best practices on legacy modernization, mitigating risks
Starting today at 2PM US Eastern (11AM Pacific) MB Foster offers another in its series of 45-minute webinars about IT strategies. The latest interactive broadcast (Birket Foster asks for questions throughout) is on legacy modernization. These are skills that can serve both homesteading and migration missions. Sometimes, this kind of modernization serves homesteading, and then modernization.
At times our community members mistake this era -- the second decade after HP's exit announcement -- as a static period. Good management doesn't see it that way. An IT environment should be evolving. Best practices on modernization can deliver ideas as well as field reports. From the MB Foster teaser about the webinar:
Organizations are often challenged to extend IT investments by modernizing legacy applications to both avoid the costs of maintaining legacy environments, and increase the supportability and usability of the applications. Migrations involve high-level planning, low-level detail study and budgets.
Attendees will learn about best practices and proven risk mitigation strategies that will allow you to get started and deliver a thought provoking synopsis to your senior management team.
You register online at the MB Foster website, a painless minute or two. You'll get an email with login directions. We'll follow up with a summary, but the value of being able to ask questions is only available if you log in this afternoon.
August 13, 2012
Securely Migrating to the Cloud
HP has pushed hard to entice the enterprise to make the cloud a new home for business data. While evaluating the pros and cons of making a cost-saving move from classic HP 3000 datacenters to the cloud, this guide of what's to be managed will help. Our security analyst Steve Hardwick looks closer at the challenges a manager must resolve if their onsite storage and systems can be replaced with remote infrastructure.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
There has been a lot of buzz around cloud-based solutions. There is a lot to be said for moving to this architecture, especially the lower operating costs. However, a lot of the press has been sourced by suppliers such as HP -- the same people who provide the cloud solutions. It is no surprise that the picture they paint is very rosy. Fortunately, if done well, a cloud transition can be a very successful endeavor. But what are some of the challenges in embarking on this adventure? Let me give you some background on the type of security challenges you are going to face. I will also offer a set of free resources that are invaluable in tackling this migration.
First of all, a little security 101. In the security world there is a very common acronym, CIA. It is not what you may think. It stands for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. Confidentiality is the part of security that is concerned with ensuring that only authorized users can view or copy information. This is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about security. Integrity is concerned with the accuracy of the data, only authorized users can create and change information. Finally Availability addresses the ability of authorized uses to perform these actions upon the information.
A few examples help illustrate these concepts. Confidentiality: a password protected encrypted file. Only the user with the password can access the data. Integrity: a password protected public web side. Although many people can view the data, only authorized users can create or modify it. Availability: data is backed up to a remote storage service. If there is a drive failure, an authorized user or IT manager can still get access to data by getting a copy of the backup.
Like any journey it is important to understand your point of origin. Let's take a look at some of the inherent security controls in an on-premise solution which is already in place.
First of all there are some physical controls that are normally in place that can be easily overlooked. For example, there is a strong physical relationship between a laptop and the user. Forgetting remote access for a moment, a manager attains a measure of security from the simple fact that the authorized user must be physically present to access the machine. There are also MAC address logs which can track who accesses the network and when.
Secondly, if I am not using my laptop I can physically secure it when not in use and provide physical measures, such as a locked filing cabinet, to further secure the data. Finally, if I want to help prevent unauthorized users from changing the data I can put users in a special area in my facility, HR or accounting for example. The physical separation provides a way of preventing unauthorized access.
Next, there is the capability to monitor who can access the data. This can either by done physically or technically. Physically involves putting in place a badging system to prevent unauthorized access to the facility. Logs are kept of who is allowed in and the failed attempts are recorded. Plus alarms can be added to signal unauthorized entry.
On a technical level, usernames and passwords are a baseline methodology for controlling virtual access to data. Again, logs are kept on authorized and failed access attempts. Logging analysis tools can be used to generate alarms based on failed attempts. To augment the logging systems, you can add intrusion controls to the mix. These solutions can detect intruders as they attempt to gain access and, in many cases, help prevent it.
Finally there is the availability of information. This varies, from the ability to restore an individual file to a user to restoring complete back-ups of the corporate email system. One of the main challenges is the speed at which data can be restored. End users expect data to be recovered in minutes to a couple of hours.
There is also a hidden challenge: How to ensure that the back-up copies are not compromised. In 2011 Science Applications International Corp. said backup computer tapes containing sensitive health information of 4.9 million Military Health Care System TRICARE beneficiaries treated in the San Antonio, Texas, area since 1992 were stolen from an employee's car Sept. 14. This is just one, albeit major, example of what can happen if backup data is not secured physically and encrypted.
In summary, an on-premise solution is a mix of different controls that help preserve confidentiality, integrity and availability. It is very important to take an inventory of these controls prior to beginning any migration to the cloud, for two reasons.
One, and somewhat obviously, the cloud solution must provide the same if not better security controls as the current system. Especially if the organization has to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Two, many controls that are currently in place may be overlooked – how to replace physical security for example. A risk assessment to catalog the security controls is a critical starting point in migrating to the cloud.
If you do not already have a risk assessment methodology -- or even if you do -- the National Institute of Standard and Technology NIST provides a free risk assessment guide “SP800 – 30 Risk Management Guide for Information Technology Systems” (you can download the PDF here). NIST provides these guides as a baseline for federal organizations to build their security programs. Using this document and running through an assessment will give you an idea of what you already have in place and what a cloud based solution will need to meet.
Looking at some these security controls, what sort of challenges occur in the cloud world? Often overlooked is the lack of physical security controls that mimic the ones in the on-premise solution. For example, my data in no longer in my control when not in use. I can't lock my piece of the cloud in my filing cabinet when I go home at night. Cloud solutions must be able to mimic the physical separation of the information by putting in place other types of controls, in this case it's typically encryption.
Similarly, with monitoring and alarms, how do my IT team get access to the logging information that they need to monitor the cloud based system? I also need to know what other systems are in place to detect and prevent unauthorized access to the data, plus let the IT staff know when there has been a security breach.
Finally there is the case of availability. In the cloud world this is handled with Service Level Agreements. Your agreement must specify how users will be assured that their data will be made available when they need it. Suddenly instead of dealing with backup solutions, this is now a contractual agreement and it needs a different skill set.
Fortunately there is one way to start getting ahead of the curve. NIST has a couple of other very useful SP800 series publications that are worth mentioning. Since cloud computing is a relatively new and fact changing technology, it is important to understand the concepts. At its website, csrc.nist.gov/publications, you'' find NIST SP800-145 “The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.” It gives a good overview of the basic concepts of cloud computing in a few pages (3-4). If you are just getting started, then this is a great primer.
Next is its companion NIST SP800-144 “Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud Computing” which goes into great details on how to put together a plan on addressing cloud security needs. It also outlines some of the security controls that should be in place and will be a complement to the assessment exercise I mentioned earlier.
In addition to NIST there is one other organization that is worth a mention. Formed in 2009, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within Cloud Computing. The organization produces a wealth of free information on the topic of cloud computing security. One CSA initiative is a GRC stack with a set of tools for Governance, Risk Management and Compliance. There are several components in the stack -- let's talk about two of them will be highlighted.
There are several training presentation on the site that give a good overview of the new security challenges that cloud computing brings. For example the original training documentation shows how the security requirements are changed in the cloud Then there is the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix CCM. This tool provides a spreadsheet that maps the CSA security control definitions to several different regulatory requirements (PCI, SOX, GLBA FISMA and so on.) It gives a quick and easy way to generate a checklist of the current controls in your on-premise environment, then map them to a set of requirements for the cloud provider. Furthermore, if you have some other regulatory requirements, or your own internal set, you can easily add these to the mapping.
NIST and CSA have provided a set of tested and freely available tools to help any IT organization in their journey to the cloud world. CSA also has a wealth of information that can help to train IT professionals and get them onto a cloud based way of thinking. In both cases they are independent bodies so they are not trying to highlight a specific solution. Consider adding these organizations in your list of cloud security references.
Moving to the cloud brings with it a new set of security challenges. It is now a world of hack once and expose everywhere. Knowing where you came from is critical to understanding the impact of these challenges as you move forward.
Steve Hardwick manages security for pre-payments provider Oxygen Financial, a Euro-founded company now extending its services to North American IT operations.
August 09, 2012
Finding HP's MPE Patches and Papers
Speedware has become Fresche Legacy this year, but the vendor's still got its storehouse of HP 3000 documents, white papers and even HP patches available online. You just have to poke directly at the pages you want to hit.
When it became Fresche in the spring, the company put a new face on its website. For awhile it was tough to hop into any HP 3000 page from those Speedware days. But a direct link opens the path to documents which are not found many other places on the Web. HP-authored MPE whitepapers, for example.
The company announced this summer that it's just booked five outsourcing agreements with North American companies worth more than $10 million. These are application outsource contracts -- the sort of business resource which Fresche Legacy continues to offer in the 3000 marketplace.
However, there's still a good deal of resource online from the many years when Speedware was an HP Platinum migration partner, as well as a supplier of migration software such as AMXW. That software's still available today. The HP 3000 paper and patch site has a front door of www.speedware.com/HPe3000_resourcesThere's some surprising advice online that seems to retain its value for the 3000 homesteader, too. This kind of customer might be the one holding off on migrations until the budgeting is better. It's been a tough year for the economy in North America, and even tougher in Europe. One way to stretch the 3000's capabilities might be through open source software. That speedware.com address has a Powerpoint presentation on creating ports for open source products to MPE/iX. (Even more information on using existing open source tools on the 3000, right down to Unix fundamentals like tar, is at the mpe-opensource.org website run by Applied Technologies.)
Such HP-written papers used to be hosted on HP's Jazz server, pulled offline in 2008 when the MPE labs closed down. HP once hosted patches online, too -- including some that made it into beta test, but not general release. You can grab these on the speedware.com pages, too.
There's a lengthy EULA agreement that pops up automatically when you drive into the website, something HP's lawyers insisted upon before licensing this content to third party partners such as Client Systems. We clocked it at about 40 pages when we hit the "Agree" button more than three years ago. HP's Jazz never had such a requirement while its contents were hosted inside Hewlett-Packard.
In a way, HP's outsourced these paper and patches by putting them in the hands of Fresche and Client Systems. Outsourcing can be a good arrangement when an entity, either vendor or client, wants to move on to other opportunities -- like Fresche president Andy Kulakowski said about his new North American outsourcing deals.
These new outsourcing contracts further strengthen our legacy management position and further support our vision to make our customers’ businesses run better by making their IT run better. Organizations that outsource, or are considering outsourcing application management functions, are a perfect fit for our complete service offering.
August 06, 2012
What You Need to Do and Check for SLTs
At a recent visit to a customer's shop, VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh spread the word about System Load Tapes. The SLTs are a crucial component to making serious backups of HP 3000s. Vladimir saw a commonplace habit at the shop: Skipping the reading of the advice they'd received.
"I don't know exactly what to do about my SLT," the manager told him. "HP built my first one using a CD. Do I need that CD?"
His answer was no, because HP was only using the most stable media to build that 3000's first SLT. But Vladimir had a question in reply. Do you read the NewsWire? "Yes, I get it in my email, and my mailbox," she said. But like other tech resources, ours hadn't been consulted to advise on such procedures, even though we'd run an article about 10 days ago covering CSLTs. That tape's rules are the same as for SLTs. Create one each time something changes in your configuration for your 3000.
Other managers figure they'd better be creating an SLT with every backup. Not needed, but there's one step that gets skipped in the process.I always say, "Do and Check," Vladimir reports. The checking of your SLT for an error-free tape can be done with the 3000's included utilities. The venerable TELESUP account, which HP deployed to help its support engineers, has CHECKSLT to run and do the checking.
There's also the VSTORE command of MPE/iX to employ in 3000 checking. If your MPE references come from Google searches instead of reading your NewsWires, you might find it a bit harder to locate HP's documentation for VSTORE. You won't find what you'd expect in a 7.5 manual. HP introduced VSTORE in MPE/iX 5.0, so that edition of the manual is where its details reside for your illumination.
It's also standard practice to include VSTORE in every backup job's command process.
There's another kind of manager wouldn't be doing SLTs. That's the one who knows how, but doesn't do the maintenance. You can't make this kind of administrator do their job, not any more than you can make a subscriber read an article. There's lots to be gained by learning skills that keep that 3000 stable and available, even in the event of a disk crash. Management might not respect the 3000's ability to take on new developments. But a company always respects the 3000's reliability.
CHECKSLT, and care and feeding of SLTs, are well-covered in a NewsWire column written by John Burke almost 13 years ago. His advice still holds today.
HP’s documentation tells us we need to have a current SLT. And that it can be created using the TAPE command within SYSGEN. If you look hard enough you will also find the warning that the CSLT you may have created when doing an update or manage patch is not adequate. That is about it for SLT recommendations.
Is this recommendation correct? Well, in the sense that it is necessary to have an SLT created by the TAPE command, then, yes, it is correct. You can re-install your system in the event you lose a drive in the system volume set using this SLT and appropriate other backups. But is this recommendation complete? I think not.
As has been proven countless times, the people who write manuals (and not just at HP) are not out in the real world. They are not running shops where if you get a six-hour maintenance window once a month you consider yourself lucky. They are not running shops where you have to have procedures that can be understood and followed by someone with only basic training in system operation. They are not running shops where cell phones go off like July 4th fireworks as soon as anything unusual happens.
You can find HP's VSTORE page in that 5.0 command manual online, just like the NewsWire's advice. Vladimir, you find him in your office, if he's traveling your way. But managers also find that he recommends our advice -- perhaps because we first get the instructions to do it, and then have our reports checked. Do and Check are words to live by, not just for managing 3000s.
July 30, 2012
Security patches still floating HP-UX cloud
Migrating from the HP 3000 can be an act of faith. Once a vendor has closed down a business platform, the alternatives might look less certain to survive -- at least until a manager can survey the security of a replacement host. HP genuinely dimmed the lights on its MPE/iX activity when it stopped creating security patches. Windows XP is still getting these, but Microsoft has said they'll stop patching in 2017.
Apple's starting to join the previous-platform shutdown crew. Its new OS Mountain Lion is blasting across the downloading bandwidth -- the vendor said more than 3 million copies went out in the first four days of release. With every copy of Mountain Lion that's downloaded, or shipped out on new Macs, the older platform of Snow Leopard loses a step in Apple's march. Snow Leopard shipped out in 2009. Some managers are on watch, waiting to see when that leopard will lose its security spots.
HP continues to support two earlier releases of HP-UX with security patches. Two separate breaches were repaired last week. One vulnerability could be exploited remotely to create a Denial of Service (SSRT100878 rev.2). Another patch (SSRT100824 rev.3) addressed vulnerabilities which "could be exploited remotely to execute arbitrary code or elevate privileges." Samba and BIND opened the gates to these hacks. Both have been supported in MPE/iX, but it's been many years since Samaba or BIND had any access to a security patch on the 3000.
The Mac's OS is built out of the girders of such open-sourced, Unix-based tools and software. Now there's a rising current of change flowing through the Apple community around the two latest releases of the OS. Lion and Mountain Lion change so many things that older, more experienced Mac managers find themselves learning new interfaces and administration in a forced march -- all because Apple sees profit in making Macs behave like mobile phones and tablets.
Whatever's been learned about managing a Mac is now being depreciated with each new OS release. That kind of change is only the early stages of what a 3000 manager experienced when HP stopped creating MPE/iX or patching it for security. The Unix customers of Apple (Mac OS managers) and HP have one thing in common: continuous re-learning and patching of their environments. This will stretch an IT pro's skill sets. It can also stretch out a workday into work nights and weekends. Enterprise customers must always hope that their vendor doesn't get too enterprising about the profits from churn. Apple seems to be doubling down on a strategy that churns up security issues: cloud computing.
HP added this level of capability to MPE once during the history of the OS, when it grafted a Posix interface onto MPE/XL in 1992 to create MPE/iX. The Posix namespace provided instant familiarity to adminstrators who knew Unix admin commands and programs. But MPE/iX didn't stop behaving like administrators expected who wanted nothing to do with Posix. They didn't have to trick the 3000 into the polished and proven processes that established reliability and security.
Apple's iCloud is the default file storage location in that 3-million download OS version. The vendor really doesn't believe in things like a desktop for file management anymore. Let the cloud take care of finding things and keeping them up to date. In other words, let Apple's server farm security maintain the sanctity of personal and professional data.
This turn of events was triggered by the sudden fortunes of Apple's computing business. Mobile devices make up more than 75 percent of the largest capitalized company in the world today. With so many ways to carry a computer out of the office, Apple figures a cloud is the only chance to keep documents and personal data up to date. When a business takes off enough to double a stock price, a company will pivot to capture the opportunity.
The situation illustrates the challenges in staying on a fast track of technology. Apple's "doubling-down" on iCloud, according to its CEO. HP is making a bid for this kind of computing, too, but not by pushing all the chips to the center of its enteprise table. Cloudsystem is good for some businesses, but the top reason that 3000 managers cite for avoiding it: security concerns. HP's got a Enterprise Cloud Services-Continuity version that the vendor says "is part of what makes this an 'enterprise' cloud service."
Some of the security freature include Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention (NIDS/NIPS), firewall and VPN monitoring and management, two-factor authenticated access to privileged user accounts, operating system hardening, physical datacenter security (access by key card or biometric palm scanning, video surveillance, and on-site security personnel) and SIEM monitoring.
That last bit of ackronymn soup stands for Security Information and Event Monitoring, real-time analysis of security alerts generated by networks.
Quite a bit like the MPE/iX customers of just five years ago, us managers of Snow Leopard systems haven't got the latest iCloud, update-everywhere powers, the place where we can abandon our regard for file system skills. We are still getting security patches like the ones that HP-UX admins processed last week through HP-UX Software Assistant.
Every vendor will judge when securing older releases -- like Snow Leopard, MPE/iX or HP-UX B.11.11 -- stops making business sense. Trying to estimate that date is as tough as guessing the thoughts behind the inscrutable face of any cat, either leopard or lion. But knowing that end-of-security deadline is on its way is easy to predict. Every OS gets such a day to test the faith of its customers. And the changes a manager must adopt to keep pace with their OS could be so profound that staying current feels like adopting a new set of administration skills.
July 27, 2012
MM/3000 stalwart serves, stocks 3000 docs
We're still thinking about how to organize and capture the wealth of lively links at hp3000links.com. This site has been without an administrator for most of a year, and it's still got more than 100 links on it that lead to useful information.
But the links to HP's documentation on the 3000's software and hardware go nowhere. Most of them were hosted on HP servers that have either been retired -- like the 3000 division's Jazz webserver -- or they point at a baffling HP webpage where somewhere or other there's a way to find documentation.
However, there's another web resource that seems to pop up quickly when we do a search for HP manuals like the MPE/iX 7.5 Maintenance Manual. It seems that one of the stalwarts of the HP Manufacturing Management application, Scott Petersen, has been stockpiling 3000 manuals at his hpmmsupport.com site. MM/3000, as it was called through the '90s, sold a lot of new 3000s -- because in choosing a platform it's all about the application, isn't it?
It is, until you make that choice, and then you're facing system administration like keeping an SLT up to date for your 3000. How to create a CSLT is part of that 7.5 manual. Petersen's site has it and much more.HP's official position on this kind of document archival has been in flux. For awhile in the 2008-2010 era, the manuals were supposed to be in HP's websites only, or hosted as part of a licensing agreement with a third party. At one point HP was saying the manuals wouldn't go public until 2015. But HP's got bigger woes to resolve than whether's there's too much exposure for its 3000 manuals. HP won't even sell you support for your system by now. Unless you insist.
Petersen said that access to these documents is vital to supporting the 3000.
I have needed the 3000 information in the past and felt that it was a good community service to place the manuals and other things oout there for all to see. I am a pack-rat and decided that having access to the information was critical.
Petersen adds that he's "always on the lookout for things that might go away relating to the 3000, and adding them to the site if it is appropriate." MM/3000 didn't go away after HP dropped it. The software was bought and revived and expanded by former HP employees who became eXegeSys, with products named to match. Manufacturers were surprised, too. But the apps have supported a diverse group of users from governments, sports clubs, job shop manufacturers, process manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
Many of these have migrated to other applications. Our goal is to continue the process of high quality support for those organizations that have either not been willing or able to move to another platform and application. We knew the application when it was designed, and we are aware of how customizations have allowed the application to change.
This was an application vendor as surprised as any about HP's exit from the 3000, if memory serves from my meeting with them in 2002. But they've perserved, well beyond HP's capabilities. Things don't go away easily in a community stocked with these kinds of stalwarts.
July 19, 2012
3000 vendor links, many lost in history
Early this year I started to explore the vitality of links on the hp3000links.com website. After four passes through a pop-up list that's larger than a paperback cover, I bring you to the final 15 suggested connections to 3000 vendors. This is a resource that's without an adminstrator for its content, seeking a volunteer or vendor's resource to maintain its links. After more than 100 searches of its biggest list, I have a summary in the wings about this Web resource, launched about 15 years ago.
1997 was a different time for Web interfaces, and so a vast list of vendors appears on a single pop-up click at the site. These final T-Z links run from TAG Business Computing through the Wick Hill Group. There are only three relevant links on that slice of the list by now.
Other reports on the fate of vendors appeared on this blog covering A-G, H-O, and P-S companies. After a recent talk with volunteer Olav Kappert about the project, I figured it was time to wrap up this safari, and sum up. Among this last group, Taurus Software not only remains vibrant and in business, but still sells software for HP 3000s. Its Bridgeware Bundle was launched last summer, a package of hardware and software that moves data between 3000s and other hosts. Both migrators and homesteaders have uses for Bridgeware.
VEsoft still serves over 1,600 HP 3000 sites with its MPEX and Security/3000 and VEAudit/3000 software. VEsoft's never had a robust Web presence, but that hasn't held the company back. "As the vendor of your software we do this unusual thing -- we visit the customer," says founder Vladimir Volokh. The 3000links pointer to VEsoft refers to the phone of Dan Howard, one of the better-known VEsoft distributors.
(To link to a rollicking website which flows from the Volokhs, visit the Volokh Conspiracy: articles and discussions led by Eugene Volokh, his brother Sasha, and a mighty crew of blog contributors. Politics and law rule that roost.)
The last bit of this T-Z vendor list is not totally bereft of value. Need a C compiler for your HP 3000? The Internet Agency still sells the CCS compiler and the Trax debugger. It also offers ADBC and ADBC-UX, "Java-based API's that provide direct real-time access to TurboIMAGE and Eloquence databases from client applications, without the overhead of ODBC."
However, other 3000-free links include:
• Telamon, now pointing at a "technology deployment partner."
• Tidal Software, a job management vendor that now reverts to Cisco’s website
• TJ Systems, which mentions no 3000 or MPE links
• Unison, another job manager vendor which reverts to the Tivoli IBM page
• Wick Hill, a UK firm which still offers consultancy and resells products -- but none mentioned involve MPE/iX.
Finally there's WRQ, which refers to the website of Attachmate, WRQ's owner after a 2005 merger. If you click on products at Attachmate, you can find the Reflection software, Windows-based products that were once the most widely-installed packages for 3000s.
Completely dead links: TAG Software, Telemarshal, URCA Solutions, Vaske Computer Solutions and Whisper Technology. If you're compelled to do searches on these companies, you might as well be using Google to start.
A great deal of time -- indeed, a generation in computing years -- has passed since hp3000links started its good work. By now the pop-ups that it uses are banned by default in the most modern of browsers, Google Chrome. There might be a last-resort mission that would spark using this site, but telling your every desire to Google's search engine looks like a swifter pursuit. There are resources online that will track most of what's related to the 3000 on the Web. More than anything, the current hp3000links.com pop-up (click above graphic for details) is a catalog of what was once vibrant in 3000 vending.
Even up at the quiet and stable OpenMPE website, a list of application vendor contact data was updated in 2011. The OpenMPE link at hp3000links.com is out of date.
If you're scoring at home, that's 15 vendor links this time, with only Taurus, the Internet Agency and WRQ leading to vendors which know the HP 3000. Over our four journeys, more than half of this epitaph of 110 HP 3000 vendor connections leads a browser astray. Back in January, I supposed there was a means to inform or update the site's caretakers about changes -- but a suggestions box on today's site is missing a "submit" button.
In my view, I'll submit that this website has become a history project. Ther site sports still another massive pop-up menu to track documentation and articles, plus one for some software products by name; many point to HP websites no longer in operation. James Byrne, whose server at Harte & Lyne is hosting the site, said that HP3000links.com has a limited lifespan remaining -- the web address has only been renewed through November 1.
Its pop-up menus are now crammed with blind alleys. The concept of a portal for all things 3000 was once a viable mission. It might remain so, if enough volunteers' help could extract the validated addresses, then concoct a simple, modern interface. Google is not the final answer to this kind of information challenge. But without more help, these link to these links will expire in a little more than 90 days.
The companies and the software and advice which they point to -- about half the time -- have a much longer lifespan. So long as a vendor still speaks MPE, there's some value in tracking them. After all, one of the most prominent links at the site which still operates points at the classic "Why Migrate?" article written by AICS founder Wirt Atmar. Wirt often pointed at less-obvious but logical strategies, such as in his 2002 advisory.
I do not believe that staying on the HP 3000 indefinitely to be a particularly risky strategy. If your code and business procedures work well today, they will work just as well tomorrow, a week from today, or 20 years from now. In great contrast, migration may be the riskiest thing you can do.
The real trick to operating obsoleted hardware and an OS is to buy multiple spare equipment. This equipment is going to become startlingly cheap in the next few years, so keep your eyes open for it. In your free time, configure these spare systems to be identical to your production boxes.
July 13, 2012
Use MPE Input Files to Create Output Files
Intrinsics are a wonderful thing to power HP 3000 development and enhancement. There was a time when file information was hard to procure on a 3000. It was a long time ago, as I was reminded by Olav Kappert in his call about his HP 3000 history. "The high point in MPE software was the JOBINFO intrinsic," he said. Kappert started with the 3000 in 1979.
Fast-forward 33 years later and you'll find questions from a different programmer still working on a 3000, adding features to a system. The Obtaining File Information section of a KSAM manual on MPE/iX holds an answer to what seems like an advanced problem. That manual sits in a tucked-away corner of HP's website today, the HP Business Support Center page for 3000 documentation and manuals.
I'm still using our old HP 3000, and I have access to the HP COBOL compiler. We haven't migrated and aren't intending to. My problem is how to use the characteristics of an input file as HPFOPEN parameters to create an output file. I want that output file to be essentially an exact replica of the input file (give or take some of the data). I want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program.
I'm using FFILEINFO and FLABELINFO to capture the characteristics of the input file, after I have opened it. After I get the opens/reads/writes working, I want to be able to alter the capacity of the output file.
Francois Desrochers replies
How about calling FFILEINFO on the input file to retrieve all the attributes you may need? Then apply them to the output file HPFOPEN call.
Donna Hofmeister adds
You might want to get a copy of the "Using KSAM XL and KSAM 64" manual. Chapters 3 and 4 seem to cover the areas you have questions about. Listfile,5 seems to be a rightly nifty thing.
But rather than beat yourself silly trying to get devise a pure COBOL solution, you might be well advised to augment what you're doing with some CI scripts that you call from your program.In a lively tech discussion on the 3000-L list, Olav Kappert added,
Since you want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program, the only way is to use one of the MPE intrinsics to determine all the characteristics of the file in question. Then do a command build after parsing that information.
Michael Anderson added details on how the 3000's CI scripting can build upon the fundamentals of file information and COBOL.
I like Donna's plan.This is a strategy that will also help whenever you want similar functionality on a NON-MPE platform. Also, although COBOL is very capable, an external script might be a better tool. You don't always need a hammer.
This is hypothetical, to try to make a point. From your MPE CI prompt, type HELP FINFO. You should be able to set some variables (SETVAR FILEA "XXX"), and using FINFO add some more variables. Then from COBOL using HPCIGETVAR, string together a BUILD command (with a bigger LIMIT maybe), and call "HPCICOMMAND". You could string the build command from a command, into a single variable, then COBOL only needs to HPCIGETVAR once.
You can also write a script to do everything you want, and call HPCICOMMAND to run the script, pass it parms. It's pretty cool, and it makes your COBOL application more portable. (Same program, different script).
For example: On MPE I once wrote (using COBOL) a small utility to CALL DBINFO, extract all the meta-data from any IMAGE database, and then create, and write to the NEW KSAM COPYLIB, ending up with all the COBOL copylib modules needed for all datasets for any database, including call statements and working storage. My point to all this: I used CI scripting to create and write to the copylib. I actually used ECHO to write the copylib ksam file from a CI script. Now, seeing how I work more on HP-UX and Linux, plus OpenCOBOL and Eloquence, I should be able to compile this same program on Linux with minimal modifications, only changing the external script.
I use this method to access SQL databases, and much more, using OpenCOBOL and the Tcl/Tk developer exchange. This way I can run the same program, same script almost anywhere, no matter, Windows, Mac, or Unix.
Eric Sand, another veteran of the 3000, commented that this kind of challenge really shows off the range of possibility for solving development problems. "You can create almost any cause and effect in MPE that you can imagine," he said. "Reading about your concern gave me a little rush, as I mentally organized what I wanted to do to address your concern."
July 02, 2012
A strike on the cloud lights up cautions
Late Friday evening, millions of people in North America saw a demo of the worst that can happen to cloud computing users. The streaming film service Netflix went dark, halting in mid-movie. At the same time the social networking photo site Instagram went down. These staples of communication and entertainment stayed down, too. Both were victims of a lightning strike on their host facility, Amazon EC2 in Virginia.
The outage was repaired over a span of several hours, and for the most part there was no loss of commerce. Netflix hasn't contacted customers to offer any compensation; Instagram would have no reason to do so, since it's free. But imagine if your cloud-based manufacturing service took a lightning strike. The disaster recovery scenario is significantly complicated when such a key element is outside IT's control.
Amazon's bandwidth for hire has been discussed as a resource for the forthcoming HPA/3000 emulator product that requires no local host. One lightning bolt won't spoil the track record for outside computing services. The new HP Cloud is also bound to weather an outage like this, sometime. However, taking hosting virtual as well as remote/offshore means reworking disaster recovery concepts. When relying on the cloud to run manufacturing, a rapid cutover capability to another provider could save millions of dollars in lost operations.
It could also save a manager's job. On Infoworld's website one of the most popular stories from June was "Adopt the cloud, kill your IT career." The point is not that cloud computing is less stable. Rather, "It's irresponsible to think that just because you push a problem outside your office, it ceases to be your problem." Since the start of 2012 Kenandy Inc. has been offering a replacement for HP 3000 MANMAN software, all based in the cloud. Its high-level answer about a cloud outage problem has been an interesting part of this kind of transition: We know redundancy. Regardless, salesforce.com experienced an outage Thursday, less than 48 hours before the Amazon lightning strike. A little under five hours of downtime ensued.Rob Butters of Kenandy told me the Social ERP solution gets its redundancy abilities through its alliance with Salesforce.com. "The good news for us is that Salesforce has been at this game for some time now," Butters said. "They've spent a lot of money on it and have a lot of datacenters. They have full redundancy and full replication. Their track record is extemely good. They even give people lots of notice when there will be a maintenance [downtime] window."
Salesforce is an equity partner in Kenandy, and there's no mention of using Amazon's cloud services in company presentations. Salesforce.com has had other outages in the past. Reports show that the operation is centered in a single Silicon Valley datacenter with data shadowed to another facility on the US East Coast. More than 70,000 customers count on the stability of salesforce.com.
Kenandy calls its product the first cloud ERP built entirely on salesforce.com’s social enterprise cloud computing platform, specifically for product companies. In May, Social ERP added financials and order management to the manufacturing management core. The prospective customer is more than just MANMAN sites. The target is companies that design, manufacture, and distribute products, so they can control and get visibility of their supply and distribution networks.
“With the addition of financials and order management, Kenandy Social ERP becomes the backbone of the social enterprise,” says Sandra Kurtzig, Chairman and CEO of Kenandy. “It’s time to re-think ERP, and that’s what we’ve done. Kenandy release 2.0 now offers fully integrated end-to-end ERP and it’s entirely on the cloud, easy to use, fast to deploy, mobile, global, and social.”
“Kenandy Social ERP gives our customers the ability to transform into social enterprises across both the front and back office, entirely in the cloud,” said Ron Huddleston, senior vice president, ISV and Alliances, salesforce.com. “With the rich set of add-on apps in the AppExchange and user extensibility through Force.com, companies are only limited by their imagination.”
That Virginia lightning strike could just as easily been a hammer thrown onto a single company's datacenter, or even upon a network service provider that links hosting to the rest of an enterprise. The cost savings in cloud computing go beyond elimination of hardware by moving it into the cloud. For $175 per user per month at Kendandy, you get your share of access to IT staff which won't pay to hire exclusively. But there's little you can do in the event of a problem except call that staff -- just as a half-million East Coast electric customers did starting after Friday night's storms. By Monday morning, 80 percent of them were still without power. As the InfoWorld article states
You're adding another avenue for the blame to follow. The end result of a catastrophic failure or data loss event is exactly the same whether you own the service or contract it out. The difference is you can't do anything about it directly. You jump out of the plane and hope that whoever packed your parachute knew what he or she was doing.
A company can't expect to be able to hire subject experts at every level of IT. In this view, working with a cloud or hosted service vendor makes sense because there's a high concentration of expert skill at a company whose sole focus is delivering that service. There's some truth to that, for sure, but it's not the same as infallibility.
The HP 3000 homesteading customers who are some of the best prospects for using cloud computing are those trying to trim IT budgets. They'll need assurance that the cloud providers of ERP, CRM or financials have those experts on call, as well as a backup set of servers -- not just data -- which are well-separated from bad weather.
Clouds turn out to be just as susceptible to weather disasters as in-house IT. The cautions which the 3000 customers have voiced so far might stem from the out-of-house recovery that the cloud demands. This has always been a belt-and-suspenders community. But that's an old-school expense that can seem less costly after a dark and stormy night, one when the movies flicker to a halt.
June 27, 2012
Marking Time To Recovery: No Mean Feat
MB Foster led users through 45 minutes of MTTRO fundamentals this afternoon in a webinar. That's Mean Time To Recovery of Operations, or the amount of effort measured to get an IT operation back online after a disaster like a hurricane. Here in Texas, the state's coastal cities including Houston were once bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Debby, which was predicted to make landfall later this week before it turned back out to the Atlantic.
MTTRO "really has to do with what it takes to get back in operation after the disaster occurs," said MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster. "Also, what the skill sets are for building the new environment." Communications between team members are one issue to consider, now that company operations are often spread out geographically.
"One of my favorite stories about a disaster recovery team was the one that was getting on plane to fly from New Jersey to their Colorado disaster recovery site," Foster said. "On check-in, the communications specialist was told that the test scenario was 'You're on vacation in Mexico and unavailable.' So he was told to go home, and the cross-training was then put to the test."
With HP 3000s often running in mission-critical mode, plans for DR are crucial. There are many items to track, starting with an estimate of what it will cost to recover. A good MTTRO plan calcuates the length of time that each business unit can survive without a system. In other words, estimating the pain and cost of each of the following timeframes: the increasing impact of disruption for the first hour offline; after 4, 8 and then 12 hours offline; then after one full day offline, then after one week offline.Foster's outline for the key issues recognizes that there's different MTTROs for different scenarios.
- Equipment (computers, phones, payment devices)
- Vendors – Hardware & Software – specs and versions, license keys
- Hot and cold standbys
- Have user procedures in a document that is current
- Each recovery scenario depends on the event
- A communications plan is everything
- Know who needs to be notified on System Management Team
- Who declares the emergency, and who executes the plan?
- What is the phone tree process for staff notification?
- Who is the media contact?
- What other vendors, customers, and service agencies need to be notified?
- Where will the recovery site be – the same or different for each scenario?
- What is integrated with each application?
- Are the interfaces real time or batch (asynchronous)?
- Can the application be made operational without the other apps (standalone)?
Foster's company, being a services provider as well as a software company, thinks through all these issues with clients. It's a timely issue here in the US during storm season. Unlike Debby, it's not a subject that's going to blow away, so to speak.
One of the biggest hurdles for one manager attending the webinar was keeping information current. "We have to research everything, to make sure it's current from the last DR test," said Wendy Durupan at Harvard Pilgrim Health. "We test twice a year."
June 14, 2012
Open Sourcing Access to Linux or Windows from MPE/iX
DSLINE is a classic networking access service provided for HP 3000s. The software is so classic that HP once charged separately for NS3000/iX Network Services. One user wanted to employ DSLINE to make connections, starting from MPE systems and into remote Linux and Windows servers. Sending commands was the task to be performed.
"I currently use a Reflection script to do the job," said Krikor Gullekian. "However, we are moving away from that and creating a JCL for it. I am using FTP to create a file on the host system which is activating commands to run, and that works, but it's a little cumbersome. That's why I was wondering if there were any other way."
Another community member pointed to using the ssh client included on the HP 3000. In theory, so long as the Linux and Window servers have an ssh server, then Gullekian should be able to run remote commands via ssh. But there's some hurdles to overcome in using ssh on a 3000 for remote command execution.
Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, who's maintaining a repository of these sorts of open source tools for 3000s, warns that ssh needs some improvements to let it perform the same level of work as Linux or Windows versions of the remote access tool.
Unfortunately, the available ssh client for MPE/iX is none too current, and is essentially 'broken' with regard to remote command execution. As I recall, it has something to do with SELECT being busted on MPE/iX. It works well enough to support scp and sftp though, but that's pretty much it.
Edminster has created workarounds for anyone who needs password-free invoking of secure remote scripts, however. What's more, it appears that the MPE way of writing such received files to disk is more secure than the other platforms' FTP services.
"What I've had to do in environments," Edminster says, "where I want passwordless secure remote script invocation (ala ssh) is to have a scheduled task (via cron or whatever) that looks for and executes specifically named scripts, one that then removes the script when done executing."
To avoid having the remote cron beginning to execute a partially sftp-put file, I'd send it with a '.tmp' suffix, and then rename it upon successful completion of the put and/or chmod the file to make it executable when I'm ready to have it run (rename and chmod being atomic operations). This is necessary because, unlike MPE/iX, many systems FTPd (and likewise, sftpd) will start writing the received content to disk as soon as it receives it -- making a partially received file 'visible'.
Yes -- we've been spoiled in MPE/iX Land.
For what it's worth, on my bucket list is either an update to the OpenSSH port (with an attempt to fix remote command execution), or port of other, simpler ssh implementations. If the OpenSSH implementation for MPE/iX is what you want to try, you can get the necessary files either from the fine folks at Allegro (from their website), or from www.MPE-OpenSource.org.
I'd be happy to work with anyone that needs help getting this OpenSSH port installed and operating -- including how to get around some of its limitations.
Over at the Allegro website, Edminster's MPE OpenSource site is named as the best destination for such software.
Those looking for MPE/iX ports of Open Source software that were formerly hosted at HP’s “Jazz” and other sites will appreciate http://www.mpe-opensource.org. Currently the site offers an updated all-in-one package of the components required to implement the SFTP Secure File Transfer Protocol on MPE/iX 6.5 or later. This package includes Perl, the Gnu Compiler Collection (GCC), as well as GNU tools, SSL, SSH, and required dependencies.
With that said, Allegro's Donna Hofmeister did point out that the company has a great whitepaper on using SFTP, as well as accompanying downloads. Look for "SFTP" on the Allegro whitepaper page.
June 12, 2012
ODBC provides link to analyzing data stores
An essential database feature of the HP 3000 is still providing the means for advanced analysis. A new alliance between the top-rank ODBC provider for MPE and a data analysis firm is also delivering better access to the value of deep data on HP 3000s, as well as other servers in the enterprise.
Tomorrow MB Foster and InfoPlanIT will show off tools and practices to make operational data stores and warehouses more valuable to companies. InfoPlanIT has been working with manufacturers who use HP 3000 and MANMAN for more than a decade. MB Foster created the bundled ODBC driver in MPE/iX, ODBCLink/SE. That product has evolved to become the UDA Series during the 15 years since HP wired ODBCLink/SE into the 3000's data services.
The June 13 Webinar at 2PM EDT (11AM Pacific) will show how to monitor the vital signs of a business by combining the InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer. The companies say that the Visual Analyzer is "web-based and works with virtually every desktop, laptop and mobile device." It can be fed with data from ODBC sources, not to mention the ubiquitious SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, MS Access, SQLite and even Excel.
MB Foster has created report templates that streamline integration with the Visual Analyzer capabilities. The 45-minute program will also show the benefits of using an operational data store or a data mart. You can sign up online for the presentation, which is free.Business applications such as MANMAN are especially reliable IT resources, but the reporting elements often can use help. There's been a healthy cottage industry that's grown up to serve ERP and MRP apps like MANMAN. The better ones make an offer to simplify analysis using connection wizards and templates for data. The InfoPlanIT product has got both of these. Visual Analyzer's very deep web page says the product can let users skip Excel skills to get business insights into circulation among managers.
The beauty of using InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer is that there is no need to take your data to Excel. InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer has a lot of built-in functionality that enables real time visual analysis. If you do find that you need to take your data into Excel, there is a built-in export for that.
The product also ships with a Microsoft Office Add-In that allows analysis results to be easily embedded into PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents. Using this add-in, users can simply choose a layout from their drop down and add it to their report. Next month, they simply have to update the chart with the latest numbers.
June 11, 2012
Learn more about the drop-in DB for IMAGE
Marxmeier Software is hosting the first in a series of instructional webinars about its Eloquence database today. In dozens of independent software vendor customer bases, and hundreds of other HP 3000 sites, Eloquence has been praised as a drop-in replacement for IMAGE/SQL when moving to Linux, Windows, and even HP-UX.
Full Text Search is the most prominent enhancement to Eloquence in the new 8.20 version. FTS offers new ways of searching the contents of Eloquence databases beyond what key, search and index items allow.
We will discuss FTS concepts, use cases and benefits and show practical examples of setting up full text indexes and using them in your application without the need for extensive code changes. You will be surprised to see the flexibility and speed of FTS searches.
The webinar from the company's HQ in Germany, led by Eloquence creator Michael Marxmeier, begins at 11:30 EDT/8:30PDT today. You can register for the free class at a GoToMeeting page. Marxmeier is using VOIP audio as a default for the meeting, but you can also dial in via telephone. If you change the audio option to use a telephone, the GUI will then display dial-in numbers, an access code and an audio pin for you to use. There's more details on the process for the webinar at the Marxmeier help page for the event. Another webinar is scheduled for two weeks from today, same time on June 25.
May 31, 2012
Roomy HP Cloud considers Unix vs. MPE
We're moving into a world where great-grandma's photo scrapbooks are virtual and HP proprietary servers live in clouds. With a little patience, one of those servers will be an HP 3000 this year. In an odd omission, this month the HP Unix servers don't qualify for cloud status with one supplier — Hewlett-Packard.
The HP Cloud (hpcloud.com) has been open in a public beta this month. It's a spot where Windows and Linux computing services are available using virtualized servers. HP's got ProLiant boxes racked up and sliced up into customer-sized computing pieces in HP Cloud.
No, it's not free — but the cost starts to approach the fabled "too cheap to meter" claims from last century's nuclear-powered electricity rollout. Especially if you compare it to ownership of the iron. A Standard Large Instance costs 32 cents an hour. That gives you a 4-virtual core system with 16GB of RAM and a 240GB disk for um, $230 a month. A server you won't pay to power up, or ever have to move. Add bandwidth charges and you get $300 monthly. So HP will put your 4-core server into its cloud. Just not an HP-UX server.
One well-connected PA-RISC developer explained that HP's clouds are pretty much a non-starter for existing long-time HP customers. You can't host HP-UX apps in HP's cloud, just Windows and Linux. Long-time customers have both proprietary and industry standard apps. HP has a chance to change this, though, so long as it can find a way for HP-UX to live on Intel Xeon chips in the cloud host. Maybe an Itanium emulator is required.
Meanwhile, the users of HP 3000 MPE apps will have a cloud option available to them by the end of this year, so long as Stromasys has its way with the new HPA/3000 Charon technology. The most affordable instance of this emulator is in a non-host configuration, run from a cloud. There's talk about using Amazon's EC2 as the computing host provider. Some 3000 managers are still leery of relying on security over networks so remote. But other companies will be keen to get the high-powered iron out of datacenters, even as they continue to rely on high-powered MPE apps.
The power of such a worldwide web of networks extends all the way to my mom's table in her room at the Franciscan Care Center in Sylvania, Ohio. It's a modest and comfortable place that I'm visiting soon, but there's a limit to how much space she's got for scrapbooks. And with three great-grandchildren all under age 3, there's a torrent of pictures to share. We once mailed her paper photos and handsome albums, but now we send it all to a digital picture frame, one plugged into her phone line. Updates of the latest grandbaby pictures arrive in that frame, one that needs as little infrastructure management as the very best cloud computer. Meaning someone else is doing it, and including the admin in the cost.
No, it doesn't mean the picture frame and the network will take those pictures of Noah, Bree and Paige. Or even that it will load them -- that's our job as grandparents. But it will do the rest, so we can share with less effort. My wife Abby and I can spend our energy creating those picture-worthy moments — like you might spend energy improving an application or extending its reach into wider worlds, up in the clouds.
May 29, 2012
Easier scripting in Windows a migration task
Windows 2008 is a popular platform for 3000 sites making a move off the platform. Less popular? Finding an intuitive way to do job and process scripts for Windows. But existing 3000 tools providers keep cooking up new tools to replace those well-polished MPE scripts, once a customer gets ready for a Windows migration. Or they've expanded old tools into new territory.
Windows scripts might not seem easy. Reports from customers making transitions show that the MPE/iX batch and job-stream functions have been duplicated using a wide array of solutions. It's not unusual to see such job control replacements require some customized coding of scripts. MB Foster's going to show off a tool to simplify this MPE-to-Windows migration challenge, tomorrow (Wednesday, May 30) at 11AM Pacific/2 PM Eastern Time.
The software is UDAXpress, a tool that's grown up from its origins as a system data extractor. Migrations which still haven't been started could easily have advanced MPE scripts to be migrated. The Do It Yourself manager of IT is the kind of person who's got scripts to automate the daily, weekly or monthly processes. Taking a DIY approach to a migration might benefit from a tool to bridge the MPE to Windows gap.
The demo of key features in UDAXpress is being handled by Raymond Bilodeau of MB Foster's Professional Services program as well as the company's CEO Birket Foster. (Sign up online for the demo webinar.) Clever and seasoned system managers have scripts that make the 3000 self-reliant. Our columnist Scott Hirsh believed that anything you'd do often ought to be automated.System admin tasks are naturals for scripts, according to the former chair of the SIGSYSMAN special interest group. "If you can script it or put it in a job, you should," Hirsh said. "And then you should schedule it. You should not be doing this stuff by hand. If you can automate a task you should, however you do that. You should manage by exception to cut your workload down."
MB Foster calls UDAXpress a tool "for power users, system administrators, developers and programmers who want to leverage the power of scripting, and perform both minor and complex tasks. Once you learn the basics, you'll see they’re not all that difficult to operate, and there is practically no limit as to what you can use it for."
May 25, 2012
Paper passes on primers on MPE, and more
Imagine it's your first day managing an HP 3000. You don't have to travel in a time machine to find that kind of event. However, a magic carpet of the past ensures the delivery of time-tested fundamentals. The carpet is paper, where so much MPE lore first unspooled for your community. If not for articles on paper, much of the 3000's wisdom would never have made it to the web.
As for that first day, an IT manager at Disston Tools in South Deerfield, Mass. has had that date arrive just this month. He's a total newbie, taking over for a veteran who's leaving this manufacturer. Everybody's a newbie at something. It's just like publishing news: if it's something you didn't know, then it's news to you.
Not many Interweb resources call themselves publishers, but we do. We started with ink on paper, my partner Abby and I, initially for a cross-platform IT publisher before the NewsWire was first delivered from our own offices. This week we delivered our 155th print issue. The May edition will be available to our community newbie, as well as one veteran that community icon Vladimir Volokh scouted out in Los Angeles. Vladimir hand-delivers print issues on his consulting trips, much to our delight.
With all that print heritage, I took note of a retrenchment in printed news this week. The daily newspaper in New Orleans will be daily no more. The Times-Picayune is going to three times weekly in print and everyday online. This is a newspaper that won two Pulitzers for its Katrina reporting. Sadly, the caliber of content doesn't bulwark many publications anymore. Advertisers, like our fine sponsors, determine how often the presses roll.
In the alternative, of course, there's the Interweb. I use the jokey term for online news because it's completely pervasive and so up to date that the future seems like yesterday if you bury your head in links. Knowing where to look, however, becomes a great mission for printed publications. We always hear that people have found our reports for the first time when they get a print issue of the NewsWire. It's nice to have that outpost, and essential to who we are and how we deliver. But for printed pages long gone, it's great to have host sites that preserve things like George Stachnik's instruction about using files in MPE, and much more. It's one of 21 articles in a series he wrote for the now-departed InterACT magazine. All are preserved for the education of newbies, as well as the rest of us.Chris Bartram at 3K Associates has collected Stachnik's articles, as well as many other papers, at the 3k.com website. (Think about how long that site has been around. It's so fundamental it's got a two-character domain name. Fewer than 1,300 of those in existence.) Our community is lucky to have the riches of several of these kinds of sites. Open source software, at mpe-opensource.org. Tech papers at robelle.com, adager.com, allegro.com.
But most of those papers started out on paper. Because MPE's preserved its roots, even an article like Stachnik's written more than a decade ago will be useful at Disston Tools. The company's covering its MANMAN support needs with service from the Support Group, Inc. Terry Floyd there gave us a heads-up about the new IT guy, and we're glad to send the new member our printed May issue.
Sponsors in your community still believe in the power of paper, even while they buy Adsense keywords from Google and build Twitter feeds and pursue Facebook Likes. We're always mindful that the NewsWire depends on support as well as new readers and faithful followers. We once led off with print reporting and archived it on the Web. But about the time Katrina was hitting New Orleans we switched out our lead horse -- with some exception. Every printed issue carries content that's only available in paper as an exclusive, for awhile. If you'd like your own printed copy in the US, we'd be glad to send it to you. (Click on the icon above to send us a message.) Our non-domestic web-only readers, thousands of them, have access off the page. Like the Times-Picayune, we're working with a blended model of the old and new, even as we link wisdom from the elders to our new readers.
May 16, 2012
Eloquence fast indexes on display Thursday
The Eloquence database and language gets a curtain call tomorrow (May 17) at 11AM PDT (2PM EDT) in a Webinar devoted to the speedy enhancements for the 8.20 version of this drop-in replacement for TurboIMAGE. Creator Michael Marxmeier led a Webinar late in April in conjunction with Birket Foster of MB Foster. That program was so popular it was fully subscribed before it began -- a rare thing in the online training world.
The fast indexing features included in the newest release "is like Google-class searches, but on text databases," said Foster. "If you use COBOL, Fortran, or Powerhouse with it, for example, it allows you to do very graphic text indexing. It allows flexible ways of dealing with data. If you have a description of a part, every word in that description becomes a pointer back to that record."
The work from Marxmeier's team is now in beta status until July's full rollout. This latest Eloquence brings the performance of an IMAGE indexer such as Omnidex to this replacement for IMAGE, a tool for any migrator who needs a database that requires no changes to a 3000 app's database calls. These are changes that carry no extra charge for current customers of the database. Eloquence was at the heart of the Summit Technology Spectrum/3000 credit union customer migration. Its new indexing is power a developer can understand and love easier than any C-level executive -- who will be glad to learn it's very fast.
Registration for the free Webinar of 45 minutes with Marxmeier and Foster is at the MB Foster website. Audio is being offered both as Internet VOIP worldwide, and also as a toll-free call in North America. Attendance at the last webinar included Eloquence users who have never had a 3000 relationship, Foster said. The customers already deploying Eloquence are excited about these changes, too. "You can create new queries that are kind of Google-like," Foster said.
"You can find entries in your database in new ways," Foster says. "For example you can find all customers who had a transaction > $10,000 in a date range (May 1, 2012 - May 15, 2012) without doing a table scan. You can also index each word in a text field or description -- it could be looking for all customers with city = 'Dallas' or with the word 'shipping' in the transaction description."
To get this kind of retrieval very little change needs to be made, and a program or even QUERY/3000 can use this capability. "Little work, new flexibility in retrieval, means lots of new possibilities for our customers," Foster said. DBFINDs, DBGETs, and DBINFOs have extra commands and new modes.
The UDA Central extract, transform and load (ETL) tools at MB Foster are being prepared to employ the new indexing, he added. On July 25-27 a three day, $950 workshop is scheduled for full training on Eloquence, hosted at the MB Foster HQ in Southern Ontario outside of Ottawa. It's designed to help developers do the database architecture based on the kinds of retrievals they'd like to do. Details on registering for that training -- which culminates with Foster's annual BBQ on July 28 -- are available from Foster at 800-ANSWERS.
May 15, 2012
Link-In, to put 3000 over the 500-pro mark
We're now very close, up on LinkedIn. The HP 3000 Community on the business social network counts 497 members as of today, a collective of hundreds of developers, managers, consultants, employers and software suppliers. After four years of connecting, we're just three members short of the magic 500+ mark for this group. You can put this group into the special ranking, by simply joining it. LinkedIn ranks members of 500-plus groups higher when searches are returned. Searches like someone pursuing experience, expertise, or a skill like coding business applications.
The members of the HP 3000 Community have all of that. So many of them come from the ranks of 3000 IT development and management pros. An IT manager leading a group that maintains and develops apps for a hotel chain. A support manager for a vendor who's still got 3000 customers using a document management tool. The inside sales manager at the largest remaining COBOL vendor in the market.
Join us, and become better connected to your colleagues and employers.
LinkedIn is free at its basic level, which is all you need to join the HP 3000 Community. And for a modest upcharge of $20-$30 monthly, LinkedIn will send your mail directly to other members that you'll find in groups like this one. LinkedIn even guarantees a response to its InMail (by providing you with an additional InMail, if your first goes unanswered.)
Another advantage to joining a large group: you have more people to link with elsewhere, because you've got something in common -- group membership. These personal links also boost your profile, according to job recruiter Linda Tuerk.Tuerk told the members of the CAMUS users group that getting to the 500 level is important to making LinkedIn a successful tool.
Link with as many members as you can. Some experts say that you will only show up in search results for your skillset only 3 percent of the time if you are linked to fewer than 200 people. That incidence is supposed to climb to 90 percent if you are linked to "500+." Look for "Open Networkers" and LIONs that will link with everybody. Drop them later if you like.
Add Groups related to your professional field. You are allowed 50. Concentrate on ones that have thousands of members at first, then add local ones that seem relevant and have at least 100. Check them out, and as you near your 50 Group maximum, drop some that are less relevant and add the most relevant for you. Most have jobs tabs. Link to Group members you like or that have 500+ connections. Find jobs on Discussion tabs also.
There's more details on how to use a group membership and LinkedIn to improve a job search at Tuerk's post here in the NewsWire blog. LinkedIn group membership is a great way to stay in touch with a community that can seem smaller, if you believe some reports. Let us hear from you.
May 10, 2012
Intrinsic Advice: Finding HP's 3000 Savvy
While I fine-tuned (okay, corrected) yesterday's report about the current lifespan for MPE date intrinsics, my associate technical editor Vladimir Volokh suggested we include HP's documentation page for HPCALENDAR. That's the intrinsic HP wrote for the 6.0 and 7.x releases of the 3000's OS, a new tool to solve an old problem. Alas, HPCALENDAR is fresher, but it's only callable in the 3000's Native Mode.
But poking into the online resources for MPE Intrinsics, I stumbled on HP's re-shelving of its 3000 docs. No longer available at the easy-to-recall docs.hp.com, these manuals are at HP's Business Support Center. And just about nowhere else within a 10-minute search across Google's search engine. (Bing did no better.) So where are the guidelines to intrinsics for MPE/iX? All docs for the 3000's software are at the BSC 3000 docs page.
The Intrinsics Manual for 7.x is a PDF file at
A lot to remember, but not much is simple while using HP's resources for 3000s these days. It used to be much simpler. In the 1990s the Interex user group ran a collection of well-written white papers by George Stachnik. We're lucky enough to have them with us today, cut loose from ownership and firewalls. One is devoted to the system's intrinsics.By the time The HP 3000--for Complete Novices, Part 17: Using Intrinsics was posted on the 3K Associates website, Stachnik was working in technical training in HP's Network Server Division. He'd first written these papers for Interact, the technical journal devoted to 3000 savvy for more than two decades. Even though Interact is long out of print, Stachnik's savvy is preserved in multiple web outposts.
Stachnik explains why intrinsics tap the inherent advantage of using an HP 3000.
When an application program calls an MPE/iX intrinsic, the intrinsic places itself in MPE/iX's "privileged mode." The concept of privileged mode is one of the key reasons for the HP 3000's legendary reputation for reliability. Experienced IT managers have learned to be very wary of application programs that access system internal data structures directly. They demand that MPE/iX place restrictions on HP 3000 applications, to prevent them from doing anything that could foul up the system. This is what led to the development of the intrinsics. Application programs running in user mode can interact with the operating system only by invoking intrinsics.
Even if your company has a migration in mind, or doesn't have an unlimited lifespan for the 3000, knowing how intrinsics work is an intrinsic part of learning 3000 fine-tuning that might be inside classic applications. Tools can help to hunt down intrinsics, but it helps to know what they do and what they're called. You can fine-tune your 3000 knowledge using Stachnik's papers and HP's Intrinsic documentation.
May 03, 2012
Eloquence assembles more DB advances
MB Foster filled up its room for yesterday's webinar about the advances in the new Eloquence database and language. The drop-in replacement for IMAGE at migrating 3000 sites has been popular -- in part because of its pricing, but also because Eloquence's creator Michael Marxmeier has been persistent about updating the product. One of the highlights will be full text search in the database.
The updates don't cost extra for customers currently on support, which is not always the business model software providers use. Some vendors such as Cognos like to charge for upgrades just between performance tiers of computers. Marxmeier follows the path of the most reliable tool suppliers in the 3000 market: revenue via support.
That doesn't mean there's no good reason to make an initial Eloquence investment. A beta test period is underway for the 8.20 release of the product. Full release will come this summer, and the MB Foster webinar took 45 minutes to walk through new features. The online meeting was popular enough to schedule a second show on May 17. Signup is at the MB Foster site; Marxmeier will be on the call along with Birket Foster."Due to the high volume of attendees trying to get in at the last minute, we have decided to repeat the webinar on May 17 at 2 PM EST," MB Foster's sales director Chris Whitehead reported. "You can register at http://www.mbfoster.com/aboutus/events_detail.cfm?On=78." Once the database is in place, users can deploy the Eloquence language in development. For example, WebDLG is an Eloquence component which enables dialog-based Eloquence programs to use a web browser as a user interface.
Foster said that the 8.20 beta starts in mid-May with a release in July, and "documentation is coming soon. These are the high level items that were discussed:
Database full text search functionality
Major language enhancements
PCL to PDF conversion
Eloquence's Ruth Schurrle said that after the summer break, they will offer a bi-monthly training webinar to explain aspects of Eloquence functionality in depth. The first webinar is scheduled around beginning of June. Keep an eye out here, or at the Marxmeier Software website, for more schedule details and registration on those Marxmeier training webinars.
April 23, 2012
Federal program helps 3000 IT pro re-train
HP 3000 IT pros have a challenge to overcome in their careers: how to add modern skills to the classic tooset they learned managing 3000s. Those between jobs must handle the costs to train, too. Craig Proctor has been spending time to learn the likes of C#, Java and Visual Studio. After a year of study, he hasn't been spending his own money.
"I took a dozen different classes," Proctor said. "The Trade Act paid for it all. It's possible to take one class at TLG Learning, or work with them to design a series of classes."
Proctor worked with a 3000 for more than 20 years at Boeing, as a Configuration Management Analyst and Business Systems Programmer Analyst. He left Boeing in 2010 and began a period he calls Updating IT Skills in his resume at LinkedIn. TLG, based in Seattle, gave him training that he will blend with the business analysis that's so common in 3000 careers. He understands that by drawing on his recent education he'd accept at an entry level IT position. "You get the merger of an experienced analyst, using new tools," he said of his proposal to any new employer."
Last year an extension of the Trade Act was signed into US law by President Obama in one of the few bills that escaped the partisan logjam. A federal website describes it as a way for foreign-trade-affected workers to "obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become re-employed." $975 billion in federal funds have been sent to states like Proctor's in Washington, adminstered by each state. Furloughed workers file a petition for training, job search and relocation allowances. These pros have an average age of 46, which is the younger side of the HP 3000 workforce.Proctor didn't believe that his 3000 experience helped in gaining more modern IT skills -- except for his years as an analyst.
I wouldn't say that the HP 3000 skills helped, but the analytical/programmer skills did. All 22.5 years at Boeing were on the HP 3000 (Fortran) and I had a couple of years on it before. as well as Burroughs (now Unisys) using COBOL. The hardest class for me was C#; COBOL and Fortran were so similar, but C# was nothing like that. The other classes were interesting and fun for me -- challenging, but still fun.
Like anybody well-versed in system management and coding under MPE, he'd like to land a job in a business using a 3000. "With so much HP 3000 experience under my belt, I'd feel a lot more comfortable and ready to dive in with another HP 3000 shop," he said. "I also have all the soft skills -- investigative, detail oriented -- that I need."
Learning what Proctor called "21st century technology" can help 3000 veterans who've seen their positions eliminated. There's a LinkedIn Group devoted to HP 3000 Jobs with more resources and discussion. It's a subgroup of Bill and Dave's Excellent Machine, devoted to the HP experience. Like the HP 3000 Community Group, (now 475 members strong) you request membership -- but a 3000 pro sees nearly-automatic acceptance in these groups.
April 02, 2012
OpenMPE still open for some downloading
April is the time of year when a new OpenMPE board of directors was being seated, at least from 2002 to 2009. The count of volunteers listed as board members stands at three as of today. Birket Foster, Tony Tibbenham and Alan Tibbetts make up the tightest group in the 10 years that OpenMPE has been at work. This month marks the end of the second year of stasis for a volunteer group that's still serving up bits which are relevant to homesteading HP 3000 users.
The chairman Foster told us that there's still work to do on licenses for any software which will operate under the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. "We ran that emulator project in conjunction with HP," he said in February. Hewlett-Packard came up with the only paid-license project for an enterprise OS running on an emulator, sparked by board direction from OpenMPE. With that HPA/3000 now being shown off in sales calls this spring, it's easy to forget the whole concept wouldn't have existed without an OS license for an emulator.
There's still an Invent3K public access development server online, thanks to the volunteer efforts of the group, as well as supporters like the Support Group Inc. There are proceedings available on that server which contain papers that could help train a replacement generation of managers at homestead sites.
On more everyday matters, the OpenMPE website still hosts some code and scripts useful to a 3000 manager. Scripts by the ever-helpful ex-CSY guru Jeff Vance, Donna Hoffmeister, and others are online today. It's part of the Jazz project on OpenMPE, but the open source dreams of the group are being realized in another web outpost.OpenMPE began as a push to get the source code for the operating system deeded to the customers who'd be using the 3000 for an unlimited future. Over a five-year period, OpenMPE began to turn toward sparking an emulator with licensing and policy requests to HP. Hewlett-Packard never got the open source religion for MPE, but over at the MPE-OpenSource.org site, software that can help is available for downloads, too.
Brian Edminster, who stocks and curates that website, sees a connection between the emulator and the needs of a 3000 community which is making a transition. Even 3000 sites which have definite plans to migrate could find an role for the emulator to play.
"For migrations that are really replacements rather than just re-hosting," Edminster said, "it could well be a lot cheaper to keep a emulated instance of the application at time of conversion -- rather than try to mothball a server, and hope it'll come up okay later."
March 29, 2012
Community links in on migration, emulation
A lively discussion of migrating off the HP 3000 is on the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community discussion boards. (We're bearing down on the magic 500+ member count for that group; joining such a group makes your profile on LinkedIn rise up for people seeking IT experts.) Members in the discussion included developers of the MM/3000 MRP application built for MPE/iX -- maintained by HP until it was sold to eXegeSys -- and then revamped as an independent app. Others sharing their experience included consultants from Speedware and MB Foster migration teams, plus some advice about the hardware emulator alternative that might pump more useful years into such an MPE app.
Randy Thon of Cessna Aircraft said that “one of the main reasons we are still on this application and platform is that it is cost effective and solid, and all development and management of the system is within the Maintenance Department. But this year we as a company are looking at moving from the HP 3000 due to supportability, mainly due to hardware.”
Advice below followed a line of study about size of migrations as well as other alternatives.
Randy, why not move to the newer A-class hardware? It supports native fibre for high speed fault tolerant arrays. Plus it would run circles around the KS969.
- Craig Lalley
You could also consider using MB Foster to migrate the same application over to Unix.
- Tony Ray
Tony, the eXegeSys team spent years trying to migrate MM/3000 to Unix and ultimately gave up and sold the intellectual property. 11.7 million lines of COBOL, SPL, and Pascal is a big beast to move.
- Jeffrey Lyon
Ah, the COBOL is not a problem, but re-creating the SPL and Pascal would be the problem. I understand. It is quite unfortunate that the HP 3000 had to stop. There will never be a better machine. I have worked on them since 1976 and know that several are still running. I own two myself.
- Tony Ray
- Scott T. Petersen
Scott, correct me if I'm wrong, but it wasn't its integration with the e3000 the made the MM/3000 port difficult -- it was its integration with MPE. I seem to remember you explaining to me that there were MPE system calls which were provided specifically for MM/3000.
- Jeffrey Lyon
The 11.7 million is not that big. I did a migration at Speedware; think it was about 4 million lines of COBOL and 300,000 Pascal and SPL in about a year. Our team was 14 members and we started not knowing the app. A bigger team, knowing the app, could get the MM/3000 migration done in under two years.
- Brian Stephens
Jeffrey is correct, the integration with MPE and the features of the platform increased the complexity of the problem. And also having special features built into the compilers just for the application did not simplify the issue, either.
- Scott T. Petersen
Technical possibilities aside, what really happened is that eXegeSys management realized that a fully migrated MM/3000 would not compete for new sales in the then current market and de-funded and, thus, terribly hampered the effort late in its cycle in the hope of developing a new technology ERP. I'm pretty sure that Scott et. al could have gotten it done, but the new sales market was uninterested and the existing MM/3000 base was tired of waiting.
We'll be having this same conversation about SAP 20 years from now.
- Jeffrey Lyon
Any thought of trying the Charon-HPA/3000 product from Stromasys? Seems like your 969 license would qualify for for the emulator. Then hardware would no longer be an issue.
- Tracy Johnson
March 16, 2012
IBM's legacy platform grapples with future
IBM has risen on the radar of the companies supplying expertise to legacy tech users. While "legacy" has a distinct sound of a sneer coming from a pop-tech provider, these legacy systems like HP 3000s, AS/400s and mainframes drive a lot of business in our modern day. When you drive even deeper into legacy to consider COBOL, the population using it swells to a majority.
The situation in IBM's legacy world bears a close look, so you can see how a vendor the size of Big Blue is handling less-trendy tech customers. IBM has continued to update the server system that's viewed as a close cousin to the HP 3000. However, a lot of the customers who use what's now called "System i" haven't updated anything since the servers were called AS/400s. As it turns out, the term AS/400 is considered a sneering epithet, according to a report at the System i Network. Trevor Perry, a consultant in that market, explains.
The debate is not about the name, but how we perceive the platform. If we see it as an AS/400, we will use it like it is 20 or 30 years old. If we see it as IBM i on Power, we will use it like it is a modern platform. IBM i can do so much that AS/400 could not, yet much of the community is still using old technology, old techniques, old standards, and writing outdated applications. If the community were more aware of IBM i, and what it could do, our platform would have an improved reputation out in the community and in the industry at large. What a fabulous thing that would be.
The definition of legacy extends to whatever technology can be out-featured by a more popular solution. Unix trumped by Linux. IBM z mainframes trumped by Unix big iron, the kind that HP yearns to sell to find new HP-UX customers. Legacy is stable technology and cost-effective. But even a vendor of legacy tech like IBM wants those customers to advance their abilities by installing newer System i "legacy" releases.
This kind of advocacy is called championing at IBM. The vendor devotes a webpage to System i Champions, culled from the customer and consultant community. HP used to do this for 3000 users with its annual e3000 Contributor of the Year award (2006 winner Chris Koppe of Speedware, shown above), whose final recipient in 2008 was the entire customer community. But every one of those winners mounted the stage past 40 years of age. The System i user group COMMON sees a need to try to connect with younger IT pros -- but there's not much online evidence that it's finding the target.IBM calls its younger turks the Young i Professionals. At a webpage dedicated to this mashup of recent IT graduates and younger-than-usual legacy managers, the youth movement is described.
The Young i Professionals are an international group of technology professionals that represent all “young” entrants into the job market or “young” users of IBM i, iSeries, System i, and AS/400. While already simple due to the nature of the system, we want to help make the process of learning the both basic and advanced topics of IBM i administration, development and management a little more accessible.
The lack of a youth movement in legacy systems is one of the biggest springboards for renovation and replacement of computers like the HP 3000 and the System i. Somehow, at a vendor just as serious as HP about serving the enteprise, IBM is at least paying webpage-service to the concept of grooming a new generation. Reading lips for IBM's System i, however, has become a practice as common as handicapping MPE system improvements during the late '90s and early Oughts -- a period when HP was still awarding prizes for 3000 system advocacy.
March 09, 2012
Some 3000 time services labor to serve
Editor's Note: Daylight Saving Time takes hold this weekend in most of the world. The 2AM changeover can give a 3000 manager a reason to look at how the server manages timekeeping, including the potential for the open source tool ported to the 3000, XNTP. Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper is working on an article to address some of the laborious steps needed to utilize it. His research took him to a few experts in networking and open source over the Web, Chris Bartram (our first webmaster, and creator of the DeskLink and NetMail apps) and Brian Edminster (operator of the MPE-OpenSource.org website.)
Chris: As I recall, ntp services never worked well on the 3000. It won’t work at all as a server for other clients, I believe. And as a client it seemed a waste; my vague memory says it had issues because you couldn’t set the time with the resolution it wanted. It ended up oscillating.
There’s a very simple standalone NTP client, ntpdate, though that you can run from the command line -- that’s what I use on my systems. I simply run it a couple times a day – it pulls the time from whatever NTP server you point it at and sets your local clock. We even shipped a copy with every NetMail tape. Look for ntpdate.sys.threek if you have a NetMail/3000 or DeskLink equipped system available.
Brian: The latest version of XNTP was the 4.1.0 version hosted on Jazz, and ported by Mark Bixby. It includes both ntp client and server functionality. Through the magic of the 'Wayback Machine' there's a link to HP's install instructions and other resources. The bad news is that HP put the actual download link behind a 'freeware agreement' page - and that download link wasn't wasn't saved by the Wayback. Some community members who 'archived' Jazz that might have that download package.
However, there is an earlier v3.5.90 version from October 2008 hosted on Mark Bixby's site -- and although Mark's took site down after his departure from HP, the 'Wayback Machine' comes to the rescue with a downloadable install file.This Bixby website archive has Mark's excellent install instructions, and it well documents the 'time update granularity' issue that the XNTP client has on MPE/iX. In short, it can cause the time to drift if left running continuously -- where it's trying desperately to update the time, but cannot do it to its satisfaction due to the precision it expects to be able to use.
The workaround for xntp is to run it periodically, perhaps daily, for a single update. Mark wrote about this on his xntp page, and even put in a SR with HP to get the underlying MPE/iX internal issue fixed. And no, it didn't get done in time.
Edminster noted two other server time-sync tools (both ntp clients):
nettime -- a program created Brian Abernathy of HP. Source and binaries are included, and can be found on Speedware's Jazz page. Note: this program has the name of the time server 'hard-coded' as 'time-server'. But since source is included, it can be changed and recompiled with HP's C compiler for MPE/iX.
timesync -- a 'client only' solution from the folks from Telamon, Inc. It's a binary-only distribution, but it works quite well, and apparently was designed to work with their network engines too. I have a copy of this and can email it to users and managers as a Store to Disk file. It's the simplest way I've found to get time synchronization for your 3000s. It's literally just a 'restore and run', and has a 'preview but not do' mode to ensure you've got it configured correctly.
March 07, 2012
Windows Tools from HP 3000 Experts
Spooled printing and scheduling are a pair of features tough to duplicate for migrating companies. A pair of software programs floated into our spotlight today, each offered by a developer with decades of HP 3000 experience -- and now serving Windows enterprise users. In expanding their lineups, these companies are making products that create a more productive experience on this platform where migrating 3000 shops are headed.
From the notable spooling and printer developer Rich Corn of Software Devices comes Cloud Print for Windows. Corn's used his expertise at RAC Consulting, attaching print devices to HP business servers, to help create software that helps Windows systems employ the Google Cloud Print virtual printer service. So long as your printer's host can connect to the Web, Cloud Printing can be accessed from other desktops online.
Cloud Print for Windows then monitors these virtual printers and prints jobs submitted to a virtual printer on the corresponding local PC printer. In addition, Cloud Print for Windows supports printing from your PC to Google Cloud Print virtual printers. All without any need for the Chrome browser.
People expect Windows to be a more affordable platform per desktop, but the costs can add up. Employing cloud services can keep things more manageable in a budget. Cloud Print for Windows costs just $19 a seat.
Another 3000 stalwart is demonstrating its new Windows solution for scheduling today. MB Foster is running a 45-minute Webinar starting at 2 PM Eastern Time to show the extensive feature set of its MBF Scheduler. The Webinar is free, and registration is live on the Web.MB Foster created the product, which made its debut in 2011, based on the insights from enterprise customers who needed HP 3000 power in their scheduling. Windows has a Task Manager included. But it's limited in the number of jobs that can be controlled at once.
The MBF Scheduler GUI gives administrators fine-grained control over schedules and automating windows processes such as operator notification. The GUI interface is also an enabler for job submission, monitoring and review. MBF Scheduler will not increase sales or reduce your budget. What it will do, and where you will gain the most, is in maximizing productivity and in efficiencies when processes have been automated.
The company adds that the Scheduler was built to extend legacy  job scheduling ability to Windows. That's still the transition platform being chosen by most 3000 migrators.
March 05, 2012
Telnet opens 3000s with a key cut long ago
Engineering from the past permits us to take the future for granted. In your community the connections between past and present run strong, ties which are now lashed tight by the links of the Web. Programming from long ago stands a chance of tying tomorrow’s computers with the 3000s put into service on a distant yesterday. This technology lay under-appreciated for years — which makes it a lot like the 3000’s design.
Once the executives and sales wizards and marketing mavens grab their tablets and go into your offices, they’ll want to use their iPads to work with information residing in safety on the HP 3000. This year the conduit for the connection is telnet, a protocol given the pshaw in the '90s when nobody could see a tablet anywhere but Star Trek episodes.
I remember telnet gaining traction in feature lists for connectivity software from WRQ and Minisoft. The access method got strongest praise from Wirt Atmar at AICS Research. His engineers were building their own 3000 terminal emulator, QCTerm, and the NS/VT mysteries were not the primary path for data through that free software. (It hasn't been tested on Windows 7, but the software runs on XP -- which is still running 46 percent of the world's Windows PCs.)
Now the world’s networks pulse at a common rate we couldn’t conceive just 15 years ago. No, the block mode interfaces written in the 1980s are not going to transmit data this year to mobile tablets. A more extensive project needs to pass that protocol to the latest of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) computers. But in the meantime the 3000 can prove itself worthy of a spot in the IT future, so long as it can link some of its programs to a tablet. Telnet never got much respect from the developer ranks of your community in the era of the terminal emulator. But now telnet feels like a piece of 3000 engineering which is finally no longer ahead of its time.
Once networking standards swept through the industry, the gamble that HP took to break open 3000 connections became essential. This was catch-up engineering that followed the magic of PA-RISC emulation. There’s other fundamental technology that’s been built or ported to make the 3000 a web-capable database host. The miracle that paves the way into tomorrow is that there is any Perl, or telnet, available for an environment first launched 40 years ago. In a fall when America still hadn’t felt the pulse of disco, a computer took its first steps on a path that would lead to tablets.
February 29, 2012
A Rare Birthday for Eugene Today
He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 44th birthday today, and 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.
Although he's not the youngest community member (that rank goes to The Support Group's president David Floyd, a decade younger) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known outside our humble neighborhood. After he built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft, Eugene earned a law degree as he went on to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- 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. 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. You can also hear him on National Public Radio. When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast in 2010. 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).
In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I first 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 listened to him wax 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. The 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 (Rego and Foster, if you're just coming to this world), was always way ahead of me in 3000 lore and learning.Burn Before Reading is part of a collection of Eugene's Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, published by VEsoft long before indie publishing was so much in vogue. (We've got copies of the 4th Edition of book here at the NewsWire we can share, if you don't have one in your library. Email me.) The book even had the foresight to include advertisements from other members of the 3000 indie software vendor ranks. His father reminded me this month that the Russian tradition of Samizdat was a self-publishing adventure born out of the need to escape USSR censorship. These Russians created an enterprise out of the opportunities America and HP provided in the 1970s, when they emigrated.
Eugene got that early start as a voice for the HP 3000 building software, but his career included a temporary job in Hewlett-Packard's MPE labs at age 14. According to his Wikipedia page
At age 12, he began working as a computer programmer. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA. As a junior at UCLA, he earned $480 a week as a programmer for 20th Century Fox. During this period, his achievements were featured in an episode of OMNI: The New Frontier.
His father Vladimir remains an icon of the 3000 community who's still on the go in the US, traveling to visit some of the 1,700 VEsoft customers to consult on securing and exploiting the powers of MPE. The Volokh gift is for languages -- Vladimir speaks five, and Sasha once gave a paper in two languages at a conference, before and then after lunch. I expect that this entry will be eagerly proofed and then corrected by Vladimir, just as he's provided insight and corrections for the next edition of my new novel Viral Times. It's a sure bet that Thoughts and Discourses will remain a useful tool at least as long as Viral Times stays in print. (I've got copies of Viral Times I can ship, too -- but that's an offer unrelated to the 3000's history.)
At 37,000 words, a single Q&A article from Eugene -- not included in the book -- called Winning at MPE is about half as big as your average novel. The papers in Thoughts and Discourses, as well as Winning, are included on each product tape that VEsoft ships. But if you're not a customer, you can read them on the Adager website. They're great training on the nuances of this computer you're probably relying upon, nearly three decades after they were written. Happy Birthday, young man. Long may your exacting and entertaining words wave.
February 22, 2012
ERP migration advice on tap over lunch
Birket Foster, who's been practicing and preaching on the subject of 3000 system migrations for a decade, is leading a 45-minute talk on the Best Practices for Application Migration today. ERP systems, some of the most complex and most prevalent in the HP 3000 community, serve as the example for sharing these application practices.
Many companies are struggling to support legacy ERP solutions that haven’t kept pace with new ERP technologies. Others may be looking for the right ERP solution to deploy for the very first time. With the cost of maintaining a legacy environment increasing, companies reach out to learn and understand alternatives and possibilities.
The MB Foster webinar starts at 11 AM PDT, 1 PM CDT and 2 PM EDT today. It's free and you can register online at the MB Foster website. Foster likes to use Commercial Off The Shelf as the nameplate for replacement software. COTS has challenges if a company chooses that migration route instead of a migration. But the typical ERP installation has so much customization after a decade or two of service that this kind of migration needs special attention. Maybe even outside help from any service or support provider which has helped migrate a manufacturer.The migration stakes are high for any manufacturer using their HP 3000, as they have done for many years. (There are very few HP 3000 ERP users who are new, although we've heard of just a few who've adopted the platform as part of being acquired.)
Foster says he'll "hone in on common application replacement mistakes," plus tips and advice for "proven, risk mitigation strategies that will help you get started." He also adds that it's stressful to try to sell a new, replacement ERP system to top management. But people are doing it, and a few are even exploring options like the new Kenandy MRP application suite based in the cloud and built off the salesforce.com designs. Foster's webinar covers "a flexible long term enterprise infrastructure that will match the application to the business’ vision, goals and growth expectations."
February 14, 2012
String some perls on a day for love
The HP 3000 has a healthy range of open source tools in its ecosystem. One of the best ways to begin looking at open source software opportunity is to visit the MPE Open Source website operated by Applied Technologies. If you're keeping a 3000 in vital service during the post-HP era, you might find perl a useful tool for interfacing with data via web access.
The 3000 community has chronicled and documented the use of this programming language, with the advice coming from some of the best pedigreed sources. Allegro Consultants has a tar-ball of the compiler available for download from Allegro's website. (You'll find many other useful papers and tools at that Allegro Papers and Books webpage, too.)
Bob Green of Robelle wrote a great primer on the use of perl in the MPE/iX environment. We were fortunate to be the first to publish Bob's paper, run in the 3000 NewsWire when Robelle Tech made a long-running column on our paper pages.
Although you might be dreaming up something to bring to your sweetie tonight, you could grab a little love for your 3000, too. Cast a string of perls starting with the downloads and advice. One of HP's best and brightest -- well, a former HP wizard -- has a detailed slide set on perl, too.The official perl.org website has great instructions on Perl for MPE/iX installation and an update on the last revision to the language for the 3000. First ported by Ken Hirsch in 2000, the language was brought to the 5.9.3 release in 2006.
An extensive PowerPoint presentation on perl by the legendary porter Mark Bixby will deliver detailed insights on how to introduce perl to your programming mix. Bixby, who left HP to work for the 3000 software vendor QSS, brings the spirit of open source advocacy to his advice on how to use this foundational web tool.
As an example, Bixby notes that "it's now possible to write MPE applications that look like web browsers, to perform simple HTTP GET requests, or even complicated HTTP POST requests to fill out remote web forms." It's no box of Godiva, or even the classic blue box from Tiffany's, but perl might be something you love to use, to show that 3000 isn't a tired old minicomputer -- just a great sweetheart of a partner in your mission-critical work.
February 09, 2012
Third Party Futures Revisited, Maintained
Early this morning I went on a search for modules of HP's Maintenance Management/3000 software, known as MM/3000. A new member of the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community posted his user profile on that group (425 members and counting), and Randy Thon identified his shop as an MM/MNT user. The software that's running at his HP 3000 site was first installed in 1988. Thon explained that the program suite is still functional and efficient today.
The HP 3000 is still the core of our application. We're running on a Series 969-420 and rebooted two months ago -- we last rebooted five years ago. So far the application has been very robust, averaging production application changes weekly, allowing us to change at the speed of thought to accomodate changes in the manufacturing workplace and reductions in workforce. One of the main reasons we are still on this application and platform is that it is cost effective, solid and all development and management of the system is within the Maintenance Department.
That's the maintenance department of the Cessna Aircraft Company, the world's largest manufacturer (by aircraft sold) of general aviation airplanes. Not exactly a small enterprise, and there's clearly no software problem in Cessna's maintenance group. (Thon, by the way, is looking for fellow users of MM/3000. You can link in to him via the HP 3000 Community.)
The ease of integration which lets Cessna "change at the speed of thought" is enhanced by a third-party piece of software that improves MM/3000. Products like the eXegeSys eXegete client, a front end for the MM/3000 software, have made using 3000s to drive a big company a safe long-term investment. It's been that way for more than 30 years in your market, but there was a time when any software sold outside of HP was a budding enterprise. I located a link to illuminate this pedigree at the Adager website, where long-term 3000 resources have always had a generous harbor.
On the Adager site you can read "The Future of Third-Party Vendors In the HP3000 User Market." The paper written by Eugene Volokh of VEsoft at the end of 1983 does some in-house forecasting. Third parties are going to do well in the world of 3000 owners, Eugene figured, because the system vendor would always be missing out on improvements, innovation, or competitive pricing on software. This might seem like a no-duh theory now. But in the world of 1983, independent providers of computer solutions were anything but a slam-dunk in the world of enterprise IT.
Volokh, Adager and Robelle are among the group of software solution "Improvers" that Eugene cited in his historic paper. In essence, after 3-4 years of success from these companies the case was pretty well proven that a solid product like MPEX, Adager, Qedit or Suprtool was going to win a lot of business away from the systems makers.
But the point that you might overlook in the paper is that these three companies continue to make long-term investments in 3000s possible and profitable, even after three decades. Eugene was just taking note of a software trend that remains true today: innovation from outside the system creator builds a lifelong community of support.
In a recent talk with Birket Foster, whose MB Foster Associates celebrates 35 years of continued business this year, he reminded me of where the community turned for new ideas in the early 1980s. The third-party vendors such as Foster, Adager, VEsoft and Robelle turned out papers, published books and newsletters, and spoke at in-person user group meetings. "There was no Internet back then, so you had to meet with somebody or talk to them to get solutions," Foster said.
A user community that grew up before the Internet has stronger links to innovation and assistance than groups that grew in the 1990s (Windows) and later (Linux), member for member. I like to think that every member of your Community carries several times more power and prowess than those from younger communities. As we've grown older things have changed a lot for the prospect of independent software and service providers. Yes, HP cleared out of your market. Its departure is even making companies like Cessna revisit how long they'll use the 3000 hardware no longer built by Hewlett-Packard. (There's a virtualization opportunity to replace HP's gear in the Stromasys product.) But HP's exit has also opened up the field for those Innovators and Improvers. Just look at how the world's change reveals itself in Eugene's survey of manager purchasing habits. One retired relic of that market: The Single-Vendor Shop.
Many HP customers have an almost blind loyalty to HP. In my years as an independent vendor, too often have I heard "sorry, we don't buy third-party products." This attitude, although sometimes justified by the desire to have a more easily supportable system, is usually quite incorrect because it deprives the user of the many advantages that can be derived from independent vendor products. However, condemning it won't make it go away, and every third-party vendor must live with the fact that a substantial part of the HP3000 market is forever barred from him.
Forever turned out to last less than 30 years. The change in the third-party vendor picture, whether selling software or services, has delivered a brighter opportunity for anyone who wanted to buy from more than HP. If an application enables your company to "change at the speed of thought," then the exit of the system vendor won't inhibit the useful lifespan of that application. Now there's only two parties in this ecosystem -- you, and anyone who can enhance and support your speed of thought. The third parties have become primary players with HP's exit. Since they created their places with innovation and improvement, I prefer to to call them independents -- or indie vendors, to borrow a term from the movies. The studio system isn't turning out as many great releases 30 years later, in either cinema or computing.