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Carriage wit tracks follow path to open MPE

Homesteading sites in the 3000 community are counting down the days to the end of 2005, not 2006. By the close of this year HP will reveal its plans for sharing the source code — through some sort of limited license — to the HP 3000's operating system. Those plans could be a complete denial, or something much more encouraging for the site still relying on 3000s for several years. Customers are counting on the community to give HP some confidence to release the vendor's intellectual property. Starting next month, HP said it's going to invite a non-HP engineer to look over the 3000's OS build process.

Not long ago one of the board members of OpenMPE, the advocacy group for post-2006 HP 3000 use, offered up what he called "carriage wit" about why HP should trust the customers to take care of MPE/iX after HP leaves the market. It's called carriage wit, according to Matthew Perdue, because it's "thinking of something you wanted to say after the show and you're in your carriage headed home." Purdue, who runs an ISP and software operation in Texas and consults for 3000 sites, was home almost two months after the August OpenMPE meeting at HP. But his message on the OpenMPE mailing list speaks to the spirit we chronicled yesterday on our blog.

Perdue said

My “carriage wit” plea to HP is to take into account that MPE/iX is today what it is because of the participation and contributions of the community that has used the OS over the years — and now that HP will be leaving the marketplace, turn the care and upkeep of MPE/iX over to those that have helped create it in the first place: the customer base.

From the legal standpoint, HP owns the copyright to MPE/iX (with some subset portions licensed from others). But in a larger view, MPE/iX is the intellectual creation of the customer base that has used it over the past 30 years and HP together — and the customer base that remains wishes to continue using the product they developed with HP after HP stops support on 12-31-2006.

HP believes that the full year of 2006 will be enough time to hand over MPE/iX to a third-party lab. HP's Mike Paivinen said that HP will be making its announcement in this quarter, and "there's a lot of speculation out there that thinks its going to be Dec. 31 at 11:59 PM, but that's certainly not our intention."

"Given what our investigations said about the things we would be turning over," he added, "12 months from even the last month of 2005 is very sufficient time to give people [in the third-party labs] a chance to exercise and play with our build processes — if our answer goes in that direction." HP has not said yea or nay to OpenMPE's request for a limited license to the source code.

Paivinen said that "early November is when our review process shows we need to have someone come in [to HP labs] for an external review" of the MPE/iX build processes.

What makes HP confident that 12 months is enough time to transfer the build integration processes to a third party? Paivinen said during that August meeting this was a good question. "My confidence comes from my own personal experiences with the build, test and integration processes, and not from an empirical test. I think it takes way less time that that. I'm pretty intimate with our build and integration processes."

Should the homesteading customer be hopeful that HP has assigned engineers to investigate the turnover of code? "We're doing due dilligence to make sure that we understand all of the factors that are going to be involved in the final decision," he said. "People should be hopeful of the fact that we're treating this as a very serious decision. It wasn't 'no' out of the box. It was never 'no' out of the box. We always intended to invest our time in trying to make a good decision."