December 05, 2019

Set a Watch for Jobs That Hang Others

Guard tower
Jobstreams deliver on the HP 3000's other promise. When the server was introduced in the early 1970s it promised interactive computing, well beyond the powers of batch processing. Excellent, said the market. But we want the batch power, too. Running jobs delivered on the promise that a 3000 could replace lots of mainframes.

Decades later, job management is still crucial to a 3000's success. Some jobs get hung for one reason or another, and the rest of the system processing is halted until someone discovers the problem job and aborts it. When it happens over a weekend, it's worse. You can come in Monday and see the processing waiting in queue for that hung-up job to finish.

Is there a utility that monitors job run time, so that it can auto-abort such jobs after X number of hours? Nobix sells JobRescue, a commercial product for "automatically detecting errors and exception messages; JobRescue eliminates the need for manual review of $STDLISTs, making batch processing operations more productive."

Then there's Design 3000 Plus. The vendor still has a working webpage that touts JMS/3000, a job management system that was at one time deployed at hundreds of sites. Its powers include "automatic job restart and recovery. Whenever a job fails, a recovery job can be initiated immediately."

The home-grown solutions are just waiting out there, though, considering how few 3000 sites have a budget for such superior software. Mark Ranft of Pro3K shared his job to check on jobs. The system does a self-exam and reports a problem.

Read "Set a Watch for Jobs That Hang Others" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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December 03, 2019

Where MANMAN support goes, post-Infor

Abandoned storefront
Sometimes established structures go vacant without even knowing they've been abandoned. That might be the case for the support service for the MANMAN ERP software. There are at least 35 companies making use of the application suite on HP 3000s.
 
Those users have been served by the Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society. It's not only an operating user group, it's got a surplus in its accounts. That's the opposite of Interex, which stopped operations while owing millions.
 
On a recent conference call, one CAMUS board member said CAMUS is the best source to contact other MANMAN customers. Nobody on the group's call reported using Infor support anymore. Many of the users have an arrangement for help from an independent company like The Support Group.
 
Doesn’t that mean the customers have already made arrangements for their MANMAN support outside of Infor?

Infor had said last year that its cutting out app support because system vendors don’t support the hardware and OS for MANMAN. That wasn't true up to July of this year for VMS MANMAN users. But it’s been true for the MPE people since 2011.
 
It looks like Infor was happy to collect support for MPE systems for years after HP left the 3000. Now it looks like the VMS support migration away from HP Enterprise and into VMS Systems Inc. is the trigger for shutting down all of the MANMAN support at Infor.
 
The systems haven't been turned off, but the vendor has departed. That's a familiar situation for MPE/iX customers.
 
Photo credit: Rafał Malinowski on Unsplash

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2019

HP still keeps MPE data behind a paywall

Payphone
Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash

It can be surprising to see how much value remains in an operating system that's not been altered in almost a decade. Hewlett Packard Enterprise has 3000 documentation on its website that is still behind a paywall of sorts. Users access this info by validating their HP Passport credentials — the ones that indentify the user as being current on a support contract.

The HPE website has plenty of advice and instruction available without a validation. If you ask, for example, "Can the HP 3000 and GSP LAN configuration be on different subnets?" HPE reports

There are two server platforms (A-CLASS [A400/A500] and N-CLASS [N4000]) that can run MPE, which uses the GSP (Guardian Service Processor) console for offline hardware operations like startup and shutdown of the system, access hardware console or system logs, etc.

It is possible for management purposes to place the GSP operation on a different subnet from the MPE server LAN, thus isolating or protecting either environment from one another. One reason for that can be to prevent normal users from telneting or in other ways accessing the GSP console or the other way around.

Or, another morsel that's useful in the era of declining hardware know-how: A-Class IO path memory configuration guidelines. Useful for the manager who's trying to set up memory cards in one of those $5,000 replacement 3000s.

However, if you'd like to read the most current documents, a support contract stands in the way. An updated NMMAINT listing is behind the paywall. HPE created the document in August of 2019. There's no available support to be purchased from HP for MPE/iX.

The documents that survive can be extensively redacted. A HP3000 License Transfer Process document references a web address no longer in service. The address licensing.hp.com no longer answers to requests.

Some information on MPE/iX at HPE's website is among the 4,386 documents at the site. Having the confidence that it will remain in that place is the next step in learning to rely on HPE resources. Independent MPE/iX resources have been more reliable, although the web pages for MM Support went dark this year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:05 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 26, 2019

Xerox HP fight copies 3000's exit saga

Copier user
Xerox has been trying to buy the part of HP left over after the vendor's split up in 2015. The latest $33.5 billion offer, rebuffed by the HP Inc. board, is going to get pushed out to the HP Inc. shareholders. "It's a better deal that you're getting now" is the message to the thousands of HPQ stock managers. Voting shares for or against a merger has a spot in the 3000's legacy.

This is also the outcome that helped cement HP's exit from the 3000 world. In 2002, HP's acquisition of Compaq got pushed out to a proxy battle. Xerox says HP is defying logic by refusing to be acquired. That's the kind of resistance HP loyalists — the HP blue, they were called — tried to muster around Bill Hewlett's son, who was an HP board member.

Without that successful buyout, HP would've had no Digital VMS customer base to court and invest in to feed a business-focused Itanium operating system. HP-UX was a lock for Integrity, to be sure. The 3000 and MPE/iX were there, ready, but just too small for HP's designs on being Number 1 in all of computing. The Compaq PCs were going to make that a reality.

However, about three years after HP rammed through the Compaq merger through a proxy battle, the spark of that deal Carly Fiorina was forced to resign as HP CEO and chairman. PC growth had not contributed to significant HP market dominance. At the same time, the health of its enterprise business began to slip ever so slightly.

Another CEO pumped up HP's sales, even while its ability to sell OpenVMS and HP-UX faltered. Enterprise computing with HP-built operating systems was in decline. HP became an all-Windows enterprise supplier when full business server sales were measured.

The juicy fruit that HP's board dangled in front of uncommitted shareholders was Compaq's roaring PC business. A combined company would be No. 1 in market share almost immediately. That was promised, anyway. The fortunes of OpenVMS seemed secure, heading into the portfolio of a technology giant that had enterprise legacy to match Digital's.

By 2016, OpenVMS was in the chute toward ex-product status at HP. The coup de gras took place this year when VMS support customers were told the future was in the hands of VMS Software, Inc. OpenVMS users, as well as the MPE customers who were the casualty in that 2002 merger, can look at Xerox and watch the conflict knowing it won't change their fates.

Those were set in motion by the last proxy battle. The juicy fruit that HP's board dangled in front of uncommitted shareholders was Compaq's roaring PC business. The fortunes of OpenVMS seemed secure, heading into the portfolio of a technology giant that had enterprise legacy to match Digital's.

MPE customers were sent down the path where Tru64, another Digital creation, sits today. Formal support ended for them. However, MPE/iX was more than a new edition of Unix. It built a community around vendors. There was no other choice once that proxy war was lost.

Mergers are a good way to see where the soul of a company resides — if there's an open fight. Of course, there wouldn't be a shadow of the old HP to fight over — printer-PC HP Inc. — if the Compaq acquisition had failed. HP might be in the position of seeing itself absorbed and erased. A new afterlife seems unlikely for a company founded on something as common as Windows and printers.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:50 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 21, 2019

Values hidden by time get revealed by vets

Brass treasure key
Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Twenty-four years ago we started unlocking Hidden Value for HP 3000s: Commands that only the veterans know, plus the processes that have been plumbed to bypass MPE's blind alleys.

Some of the value is specific to a 3000 process like using EDIT/3000. It's antique, that editor, but it's on every HP 3000.

I use cut and paste with EDIT/3000 to enter data to batch files.  It works well except that I am limited by the size of the scratch file. Can I change the size of this file so I can paste more at a time?

Immediately after entering Editor, enter "set size=######" to give yourself more space.

For other tasks, like finding forgotten passwords, and keeping them fresh and the 3000's data secret, more elaborate answers have surfaced.

A system manager pitched his plight.

"My operator, in his infinite wisdom, decided to change passwords on manager.sys.  Of course he forgot, or fingerchecked... I don’t know.  At any rate I need some help. Any suggestions, other than a blindfold and cigarette?"

Several versions of help involved the use of utilities from security experts VEsoft. "Do you have the GOD program on your system? If so, it has PM capability, and so it can give the user who runs it SM capability. So it will allow you to do a LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS;PASS=

(That's why GOD should be secured, by the way. A randomized lockword will do the job, visible only to users who have SM capability. When VEsoft installs MPEX, for example, it installs a randomized password to MGR.VESOFT, and to GOD.PUB.VESOFT.)

Paul Edwards, ever a source for HP 3000 training, ran through the backstop methods every system manager should practice to avoid such a dilemma.

1. You run BULDACCT prior to each full backup so you can look in BULDJOB1 for the passwords 
2. You have another user on the system with SM capability and a different password as a backup in case this happens  
3. Your operator used LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS;PASS just after changing the password to verify the accuracy as spelled out in the Operations Procedures section in your Systems Manager Notebook   
4. You have a Systems Manager Notebook

  Then Duane Percox of K-12 app vendor QSS opened up a clever back door:

If your operator can log onto operator.sys:
file xt=mytape;dev=disc
file syslist=$stdlist
store command.pub;*xt;directory;show

Using your favorite editor or other utility search for the string: "ALTUSER MANAGER  SYS" You will notice: PAS=

, <passwd> which is your clue

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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