January 14, 2019

How far behind is MPE/iX, really? One look...

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Ten years ago a system admin who used a 3000 explained why emulation seemed to be a bad idea. In the era of 2009 there was no software to emulate PA-RISC processing on an Intel system. The problem really didn't need repairing, said James Byrne of Harte & Lyne, because "The world has moved on considerably, since 2001, while MPE/iX has not."

At the time his firm was still using two 918LX systems, a primary and a hot spare at an off-site location. Many a 3000's life has been extended because one key application was working with no need to invest in it. There were other things to be said about the suitability of MPE/iX now, as well as 10 years ago. There are things to be said in reply, too, because in life and IT, few things are as straightforward as they seem.

One expert who's supported HP 3000s and MPE is Donna Hofmeister. In 2009 as well as now she supports companies at Allegro. Byrne's problems with MPE/iX in 2009 as well as today didn't seem quite as serious when she examined them. Caution is required while using an operating system that was last patched a decade ago. As in traffic signals, caution does not mean stop.

Even in the year 2009, when I pointed out that seven-plus years of no emulator didn't mean "no emulator, ever," Byrne kept to his course. "It does seem to me the prudent way to bet nonetheless," he wrote me. Whether you believe in an emulator's promise or not, MPE/iX is the deal-breaker here in 2019. It doesn't have as many fundamental shortcomings as it seemed a decade ago. I asked Donna about it, saying "Here we are in 2019, still caring about the 3000 and its OS. You could’ve won a good bet about that one."

Nobody is doubting that the world has moved on since the end of 2001, but "there are still plenty of companies running MPE." Hofmeister adds that "MPE is not as up-to-date as other OSes. There are ways, however, of dealing with that."

Read "How far behind is MPE/iX, really? One look..." in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:14 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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January 11, 2019

Fine-tune: how to reinstate config files

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I’m replacing my old Model 10 with a Model 20 on MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. This will of course require a re-INSTALL. What’s the best way to reinstate my network config files? Just restore NMCONFIG and NPCONFIG? Can I use my old CSLT to re-add all my old non-Nike drives and mod the product IDs in Sysgen, or do I have to add them manually after using the Factory SLT?


Gilles Schipper replies:

Do the following steps:
- using your CSLT to install onto LDEV 1
- modify your i/o to reflect new/changed config.
- reboot
- use volutil to add non-LDEV1 volumes appropriately
- restore directory or directories from backup
- preform system reload from full backup - using the keep, create, olddate, partdb,show=offline options in the restore command
- reboot again
No need for separate restores of specific files.

We had another hard drive fail this weekend. It was in an enclosure of old 2GB drives that we really did not need, so I just unplugged them and rebuilt my volumes without them. However, when I boot up I get error messages that path 10/4/0.20-26 can’t be mounted. How do I get rid of these messages?

Gilles Schipper replies:
You can safely ignore the messages, but if you want them not to reappear, simply remove those devices from your IO configuration via SYSGEN, keep the new configuration to config.sys and reboot with a start norecovery. When you’re back up again, you should create a new slt tape.

Paul Edwards adds:
Use SYSGEN with DOIONOW or IOCONFIG to delete them. No reboot is required.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:14 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2019

Wayback: 2009's emulator hopes, proven

PA-RISC-clock

In 2009 in this month we made a case for why the time was ripe for a product to emulate HP's aging hardware for MPE/iX. Time has only reinforced those talking points. It's worthwhile to review them while figuring what your plan is going forward. If you're among the managers in the double-digit futures club -- those planning for 10 years and more of MPE -- consider what was true then, and just as true now.

Early in the transition era the homesteading advocates in the community pumped up the ideal of an emulator, hardware that would make up for the 3000s which HP would be stripping out of its product lineup. The market learned that the final generation of 3000s was better connected and faster, but few in number. HP's late delivery of N-Class and A-Class systems hampered production. If you needed a faster 3000 than the top-end 900 Series, you hunted for N-Class servers that the customers were returning once they migrated.

• Staying with MPE/iX solutions means a customer needs to keep planning for more connectivity and speed. An emulator can leverage the latest Intel chip designs, rather than stay native on the familiar PA-RISC architectures of HP.

• There's nothing built upon PA-RISC that can network and integrate like an Intel-based server. The irony of that reality is not lost on the 3000 customer, who saw the Intel+MPE generation first promised, then denied to the community.

• Emulator vendors need MPE/iX expertise to make a product of any use to the 3000 market. There's exactly one that's got it, and they've had it now for at least eight years. We've seen more hopes become realities since then.

Read "Wayback: 2009's emulator hopes, proven" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2019

Virtualization: only as good as its legacy lore

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(Hat-tip to 3kRanger's website)

Getting rid of HP's hardware will be a more popular choice during this year. For some companies that might mean shedding MPE/iX. The Hewlett-Packard iron worries some 3000 sites. But not enough to drop MPE/iX, for other customers.

So they adopt a virtualization plan and put their 3000 onto Intel hardware. Charon is the way forward for their MPE/iX applications. There's a lot to be said for the magic of an emulator when it made its debut. The greater miracle is running a legacy OS in a world of modern options. Linux as the bedrock, SSD as storage, cloud servers waiting for any MPE/iX customer brave enough to need them. (Using a cloud with Charon? We'd like to hear from you.)

There's always a legacy chord running through the virtualized sonata. It's been important, since 2012, to have someone in the mix who's got a foot planted in both worlds: virtualized datacenter guru as well as the world of running STORE and RESTORE on MPE/iX. A person who's got background in how IMAGE/SQL datasets are accessed by applications, as well as the MPE/iX practices for jobstreams to keep workflows running smoothly.

Doug Smith has been that person with a foot in both worlds for Stromasys. He arrived with MANMAN experience, using ERP know-how to smooth Charon into companies. Before him it was Paul Taffel, taking his experience from Orbit Software and using it to plant the emulator into fresh fields.

By today the exposure to the virtualized 3000 has become more commonplace. Support experts with decades of MPE/iX background are getting used to working on PA-RISC 3000s that no longer use HP's hardware. A virtualized system is no better than the expertise about its legacy, though. It's the lore like the illustration above that companies must preserve to keep using MPE/iX here in its fourth decade.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:07 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2019

Fine-tune: Validating interleaved backups

DLT cartridge

Experts on 3000 practices are advising customers to get away from using tape devices. You may have no other choice while tending to an achival system, though. An interleaved backup requires special handling.

Backup errors on STORE tapes can occur when you try to restore on the exact same drive the backup tape was made on. There's a tape restore issue to manage with interleaved DLT tapes. For example, a DLT7000 must be on a different device adapter if tapes are to be used at the same time when backing up in interleave option. Interleaving provides a higher disk data rate. It is accomplished by reading from several disk drives (files) simultaneously. The file data is blocked together and then stored to the specified devices. The effect is to accelerate the STORE process.

The workarounds are to not use tapes on same device adapter for interleave restores, or put the DLT7000 devices on different device adapters.

It's not recommended to validate any tape after writing a backup onto it. "You always want to validate on a different different tape drive,” says Allegro's Stan Sieler. For example, on Intuit’s HP 3000s, “they happily validated the tapes for months. Then the tape drive was replaced, and no backups would validate on the new drive—or on any other drive.”

Finally, verifying a backup with validation can be done automatically right after the backup overnight, if you put the tape drive back online with the ONLINE utility. You can download ONLINE from Allegro’s website. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 02, 2019

New year gives MPE a ride on a Raspberry

Raspberry Pi
Robert Mills has a plan to put an HP 3000 in his pocket. The UK programmer reported this week that he's got the MPE V version of an HP 3000, the Series III Simulator, running on a Dell Inspiron desktop. The Simulator gives Intel-based servers the ability to mimic HP's Classic 3000 hardware -- in the same style as the Stromasys Charon virtualizing software lets HP's PA-RISC processing be hosted on Intel systems.

Mills says he's working his way backwards in time for 3000 computing. Once his simulated HP disk drives can be replicated, he'll have a 3000 circa 1983 running on his Dell system.

The simulator on my main computer (Dell Inspiron 3668 running Linux Mint 18.3 with Cinnamon Desktop) has two HP7925 (120Mb) disc drives, two HP7970E tape drives, and 1024K words of memory. The simulator reports that it is executing machine instructions approx 95 times faster than a real Series III. With a little bit of work I could increase the number of HP7925s to eight. This would give me a system that equals, except for the processing speed, a system I worked on during 1981-83.

It's fun to note that the simulated Classic 3000 runs 95 times faster than the original HP hardware. This echoes the upgrade potential of a system virtualizer like Charon. Host the emulated 3000 on faster Intel hardware and see performance increase. The size of the 3000 itself is decreasing for Mills in his plans.

"The next thing I plan to do is try and install the simulator on my Raspberry PI 2B, which has a 2Tb Seagate Expansion Drive," Mills said. "If it works, I'll have an HP 3000 that I can carry in my pocket." The Raspberry is the hardware that helped drive the Rover on the surface of Mars. It's a wonderful story of how a community has lifted a processor into such demanding jobs.

Read "New year gives MPE a ride on a Raspberry" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

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