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April 2007

Creating PDFs: 3000-ready solution climbs higher

For several years now, the Sanface software group has made PDFs easy to create from HP 3000 report spoolfiles. txt2pdf now has a 9.4 version available. The software runs on a wide array of operating systems, including MPE/iX. The source code is built upon Perl 5.

And oh yes, Perl 5.5 is supported for the HP 3000. Mark Bixby, open source guru for the 3000 community, has a tutorial on why the original spoolfile linespacing is not preserved in the conversion to PDF.

The Great Falls school district in Montana has implemented txt2pdf into its workflow, cutting down on paper costs and improving the distribution of HP 3000 data. A few years back, Scott McGregor  of the school district's IT staff reported on how this solution slipped into his organization's workflow. He's also got an installation primer up on the Sanface site.

Even while the HP 3000 might be on its way out at Great Falls, using PDFs gives the system a longer lifespan. That's the kind of strategy that could give a thoughtful, well-planned migration extra room to get the details right.

Continue reading "Creating PDFs: 3000-ready solution climbs higher" »

Ideas for version control

Whether your 3000 environment is in transition, or you're staying in the familiar fields to homestead, you will have versions. Any large  entity  like an application goes through changes. You'll want to track yours with a Version Control System (VCS).

Several are available today for the 3000 community, including one from HP you might still be able to purchase. (After all, software subsystem sales were supposed to go on through the end of HP's support.)

Walter J. Murray, formerly of HP's labs and now working in the IT group at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, says, "I heartily recommend HP SRC (Software Revision Controller). We have been using it extensively for about three years.  We are a COBOL and PowerHouse 4GL shop, but we use HP SRC for just about every kind of file except TurboIMAGE databases. Contact me if you'd like more information."

Non-HP VCS solutions include the open source CVS (Concurrent Version System) suite, which HP and Interex used as a method of HP's Shared Source project to put parts of MPE/iX source into the user community.

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Less than $10 a training session

Common value for training conferences is $500 a day, according to the Encompass user group president Nina Buik. But the International MPE/iX Conference — sponsored by GHRUG, the last-standing Regional User Group — is working to turn out the pockets of that training value formula.

The world of 3000 users needs both kinds of training. The big show, with HP's highest execs, a Grammy-winning band, thousands of attendees. The specialized session-fest, with details on the world of the 3000. The 3000 community can make budget for both — the June HP Technology Forum, plus the MPE/iX Conference — because the MPE/iX meeting is bargain-priced.

While the International MPE/iX Conference content committee plans out the schedule and confirms its speakers, today I see the agenda holds 14 slots on each of five tracks:

  • Homesteading
  • Migration
  • Other Systems (non-HP)
  • Unix/Linux
  • New Technologies, Best Practices

That's 70 talks in all, plus two keynotes, across two days right on Clear Lake, a waterway that feeds Galveston Bay in Texas. (A Hilton hotel at Nassau Bay, Texas has rooms with waterfront views.) If you could fill up your training with each available session, you could get 16 talks for the Early Bird price of $150.

That's $9.37 per training session. I couldn't get a haircut last month at Houston's classic Avalon Barbershop for that little. And that very good haircut is growing back out. The training lasts throughout a career.

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A maiden voyage, sending out on sendmail

We are thinking about using Sendmail/iX on our 979-400 (running MPE/iX 6.5)

1) Do I only need the SMLHDB9(A) patch for 8.13.1 sendmail, or must I get the SMLGDT8(A) and SMLHD15(A) patches and install 8.12.1 first?

2) I understand that Sendmail requires Syslog/iX. Where do I get it from?

3) Is there an 'Idiots Guide' to installing/configuring Sendmail and Syslog?

Mark Bixby, who helped to port the key Syslog/iX part of this HP 3000 mail solution, replies:

All you need for 6.5 is SMLHDB9(A). All of the 8.13.1 patches are full distributions.

You should already have Syslog/iX in the SYSLOG account that comes with your Fundamental Operating System (FOS). If somebody was a little too aggressive about cleaning up unused FOS files, you can restore the SYSLOG account from the backup of 6.5.

Otherwise, you can locate your FOS tape and manually extract and install the SYSLOG account.

An Idiots Guide to installing/configuring Sendmail and Syslog is on the HP Jazz Web site at

Minimal HP Syslog/iX documentation can be found at HP's documentation site page.

More complete documentation is on the Web page at But ignore the "how-to-install" stuff there, since Syslog is already included in the 3000's FOS.

Encompass goes Golden tomorrow in LUG meet

The Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) is the last RUG standing, but Encompass revs up an alternative tomorrow with its Golden State Local User Group. LUGs are the RUGs of Encompass, and this year's Golden State meeting happens in the home court of the former Interex Bay Area Regional User Group (BARUG). At least a couple of HP 3000 veterans will be at the April 25 meeting.

Duane Percox, one of the co-founders of K-12 education software supplier QSS, has told other 3000 gurus he plans to attend the meeting. Also on hand will be Steve Davidek, the newest board member of Encompass and a former advocacy chair for Interex, the HP user group that went bankrupt in 2005. (Not that the bust had anything to do with Davidek, who was nowhere near a fiscal management post for the group.)

The two-hour LUG meeting will take place on HP's campus starting at 1:30; for those of you in the Bay Area who like to Google Map your directions, and have not visited HP's Building 46 Lower office, the exact address is 19091 Pruneridge Ave, Cupertino, CA 95014. The Encompass LUG page promises

This meeting will focus on the discussion of Blade Servers on Integrity, presented by Markus Berber of HP. Snacks and beverages will be provided. For more information contact Mike Stewart at [email protected].

Davidek, who leads the Encompass board efforts on Advocacy (the annual HP worldwide customer satisfaction survey that Interex used to manage, and other advocacy issues for HP enterprise customers), reports that his employer has one hit and one miss on its migration scorecard. But the City of Sparks, Nevada hasn't given up on getting away from all its 3000 applications.

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HP makes Samba dance longer on 3000

Last month we updated our community on the declining fate of Java, the open source language extraordinaire — unless you wanted to use the MPE/iX version. But HP's lab has been working on another open source mainstay, Samba, the file sharing and printer sharing service that's been on the 3000 since the middle of the 1990s.

HP's Jeff Vance posted a brief announcement about the HP port of some of the Samba 3.0.22 features.

Virtual CSY has ported Samba version 3.0.22 to MPE/iX. Not all features are supported. For more information please see Jazz at and the linked-to Communicator article.

Samba patches are available for 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5, but all are currently in Beta-Test status. If you use Samba, now is the time to try out the latest version.

Thanks to Sagar who did the port!  Sagar is also writing a white paper describing his porting experiences.

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What has changed in two years

All through the course of the HP 3000 Transition, we've been asked for advice on what to do. HP's extended its timeline for its 3000 presence. The market for third party services has grown up immensely. Meanwhile, the critical mass of HP 3000 users has not fallen off as sharply as HP and others predicted.

Those developments might change your decision, or your proposed schedule, about migration. We got a question from one user, reporting on what's gone on at Raytheon in the UK — and asking us what we think might happen.

We had some communications some time ago on HP 3000 MPE/iX platforms. I was trying to make a strong case for our company migrating, despite the uncertainty of what HP were going to do, and be in charge of our own destiny.

Despite this, the project was parked, and obviously HP made their decision to extend to December, 2008. However, this date is fast approaching, and I was wondering what your latest position was as regards this.

Hope you can provide me with an update,

Alex Purves

HP's changes to its timeline for leaving this market reflect the reality of the migration pace. It seems clear to me: the vendor wants to be of service to its 3000 customers as long as possible. The level of service offered has dropped. The cost has not dropped. What's more interesting is that the end of HP support doesn't seem to be as much of a motivator for migrations. Not for the customers, and probably not to HP anymore.

Make no mistake: HP will exit the market, at the end of 2008. Or perhaps later. The question to be answered is, "How much will this exit matter?"

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3000 systems can encrypt, with the right backup

HP 3000s are used in many mission-critical environments. More and more these uses require top-flight security, the kind only advanced encryption of data can ensure. A longtime supplier of backup software is rolling out such advances in the newest release of Backup+/iX.

Orbit Software has clients whose data carries financial weight: banks, assets management firms and the like. These companies demand the best in encryption. Even though this kind of functionality is available from other platforms, the 3000 customer in financial sectors knows about the costs and payback of migration. It's likely to be a longer path to transition for this kind of user, according to Orbit's Keith Wadsworth.

Backup+/iX has offered password-protection, a proprietary encryption method and the 64-bit Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm for many years. The encryption phrase (or keyword) is clear readable text (unencrypted by itself) and identical on store and restore. To be frank, 64-bits can be easily breached by expert hackers.

Now Orbit's new Backup+/iX release is implementing Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption. Wadsworth says the financial customers in the US have until September to beef up their security through encryption. What's more, the technology is so essential, and such a competitive advantage, that few customers want to go on the record about using it.

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MPE/iX Conference offers high-value prices

A more intimate conference for HP 3000 managers takes off this September in the shadows of the NASA space complex, when the Greater Houston Regional Users Group (GHRUG) launches the first International MPE/iX Conference, September 14-15.

Costs have just come online for the two-day show, hosted on the University of Houston Clear Lake campus. The university's halls are draped with tributes and triumphs of the US space program; UH Clear Lake students apply themselves to aeronautics studies, then often proceed to the nearly NASA Johnson Space Center for careers.

The 3000 community is boosting its second conference for customers, managers and vendors to the platform, after a whip-smart rollout last fall. Even though HP has proposed an end to its support of the 3000, December 2008 is still not the final date for HP's operations on the platform. HP's has said, "at least" that long. Customers are carrying migration plans and homesteading practices well into 2009 and beyond.

Meanwhile, GHRUG's MPE/iX Conference announced its costs this week. Attendees who register before June 29 pay only $150. Once the early bird rate runs out, from June 30 until August 3 registration goes up only $50, to $200. From August 4 onward to the conference start date, attendance is $300.

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Tech Forum serves trio on 3000 servers

HP 3000 customers travel these days. They go from the environment of MPE/iX to Unix, or off to the wide world of Windows. Or elsewhere, like IBM's alternatives.

Or perhaps they journey to the land of independent ownership, where HP's only presence in their company's operations is the nameplate on their 3000, or the HP copyright that rolls across their screen at the rare reboot. But one way or another, migrating or homesteading, customers are traveling.

Those who travel have someplace — well, a few places — they can go this year. Encompass is offering one, Las Vegas and the HP Tech Forum. The four-day event costs $1,295 to Encompass members. Hundreds of technical and strategy sessions are online at the Forum's public session Web pages, which went live on Sunday.

The Encompass user group's press relations staff offered up three HP 3000 talks from that Las Vegas trip. Dozens more await on the details of those new worlds, the country of Unix or the continent of Windows, or even the broad peninsula of OpenVMS. This year, though, an HP update on the 3000; another one from OpenMPE advocates; and a roundtable on best practices for a migration make up the Forum's 3000-specific content.

That HP update on the 3000 will not be given by Dave Wilde, the first that he has missed since 2003. Bernard Determe is listed as HP's "proposed speaker." Not all of the 3000 changes have been inside customer shops.

The helpful and approachable Encompass crew gave us the following details of the 3000 sessions in Vegas. The only way to bet on any more 3000 Tech Forum sessions, they say, is to attend and then ask for talks in 2008. But this year, there are three.

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GHRUG posts early word for early birds

Speakers are already signing up to train the HP 3000 community at this fall's International MPE/iX Conference, to be held Sept. 14-15 at the University of Houston Clear Lake Campus. The Greater Houston RUG (GHRUG) is organizing this unique event, working with the help of much of the tight-knit 3000 community.

It's early bird season for HP conferences — Encompass opens up its full HP Tech Forum lineup on Sunday — and the 3000 community is mounting its specialized fall meeting. The community will gather to gain two days full of cross-training for the climb toward platform transition. 3000 customers are staying, or they are going — or staying until going. But maintaining training is key to near-term and long-range success.

Confirmed speakers, just as of this week, for the conference that runs over a full Friday and Saturday:

  • Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, supplier of tools for migration and interface upgrades
  • Michael Marxmeier, creator of the IMAGE workalike Eloquence database
  • Paul Edwards, trainer and operator of
  • Chuck Ciesinski of the OpenMPE board
  • Patricia Hood, offering an update on the IBM migration alternatives

The conference is seeking trainers on HP 3000 skills, cross-platform talks to cover topics of interest to HP managers targeting a new platform, and more. For the moment, send your simple proposal for a talk to organizer Judy Reustle down at NASA.

OpenMPE will be updating the community on HP's aftermarket programs for the HP 3000. To get your early spot and save on the affordable attendance rates, head off to the conference Web page: We'll have more details, like prices and sponsorship opportunities, very soon.

HP explains a service call to you

Cathlene Mc Rae has been an HP 3000 resource from inside HP, helping the community understand the state of IMAGE dataset problems during 2005, among other missions. She has posted a mini-primer on how to report 3000 support issues into the HP system. The 3000 customer who still buys support from HP should take note.

Mc Rae's message rolled out on the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list, but those venues reach a limited segment of the customer base. Helping out the 3000 customer, she said

When opening an HP Response Center case, it is important to have your system handle or contract number available. If you don’t have this information, the call process can be difficult and take lots of time. 

Calling 1-800-633-3600 will put you in the automated system. 

Choose option 2 for new software calls. The reply to this option then asks for the contract number or system handle. If you don’t have these available, you will be routed to a contract person. 

For software calls already opened, select option 3. This will prompt you for the case number.  Once the case number is entered, you will be routed to the engineer that has your case. You have the option to leave a message if the engineer is not available. I recommend leaving a message.

Continue reading "HP explains a service call to you" »

Languages live a productive life

All technology carries the same lifespan: the period of time when it produces results, effectively better than alternatives. COBOL stands as a popular example of language technology that's outlived many of its gravediggers; we may never see a time, at least in our lifetimes, when COBOL code fades into the oblivion or irrelevance predicted for it.

Too often, technology gets written off in an ageist attack. Anything that is older, the tech mavens and marketing princes tell us, must be not as good. Wine is an exception. Perhaps one of the HP 3000's languages other than COBOL will be counted into that older-is-better club, and soon. The 3000 community, migrating or homesteading, can help.

Alan Yeo's ScreenJet Ltd. is polishing up a new technology to give fresh life to the many modules of Transact code in the world. Not so many as COBOL, to be sure, but then Transact was an HP product rather than an industry standard. HP purchased Transact from its creator David Dummer. The new future in TransAction, a product ScreenJet is polishing could save HP 3000 shops a lot of migration money.

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Network advice on sockets, gateways and uptime

Is there a way to scan all the ports on my HP 3000 Series 996: How many are being used, and how many are available?

Mark Bixby of HP replies:

SOCKINFO.NET.SYS can tell you which programs have opened which sockets.

NETTOOL.NET.SYS STATUS,TCPSTAT and STATUS,UDPSTAT can also give you useful information about sockets, particularly STATUS,TCPSTAT and CONNTABLE.

Or you can run any external hacker tool (Nessus, etc) and do a port scan against your 3000.  This is not recommended during production hours, since such ports cans can sometimes confuse network applications.

When I try to configure a  on our MPE/iX 7.5 system, I get the following error when I try to validate my new NMMGR gateway configuration.

Searching for subsystem validation routine VALIDATENETXPOR

There are no other gateways configured so the CONFIGURED GATEWAYS (1) value look okay to me — so how can I increase the IPU MAX GATES value?

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Free, low-cost, and high value training

Several user groups will ask for your HP training dollars this month, from the ultra-specialized Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society (CAMUS), to Encompass, to the Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG). Customers have a wide array of prices to consider for these events. Travel for personal meetings is the glue that holds together the Internet education that most IT pros pursue these days.

Encompass boasts the biggest lineup of classes for HP system managers and customers at its June HP Tech Forum conference. Today Nina Buik of the group said $500 a day for training was a reasonable, average price for good instruction. She added that anything lower than that ought to be examined closely for its educational value.

Buik runs a training company, so hers is an informed opinion. But the two other user groups have events with lower per day costs, if price is the predominant factor to leverage your in-person training.

I liked Buik's comment about the value of personal training. "There is no exchange for this element," she said today. "Even when we find our mates online, we still require the face-to-face meeting." All three groups will make a case over the next 90 days for wooing your travel training dollars and time.

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RUGs rare now, but Houston holds on

The regional users group (RUG) once stood as high outposts of the 3000 community. Many dotted the world's landscape, at least through North America and Europe.

But with the demise of HP's 3000 interest, as well as the 2004-2005 implosion of Interex, the RUG is now rare as a wild buffalo herd. Many of the 3000 RUGs became multi-platform meeting posts, then died out once the Internet grew strong and deep. (Unix users, after all, were out on the Internet long before any other platform in significant numbers).

But one RUG is still strong enough to mount a yearly conference. The Greater Houston RUG is organizing its International MPE/iX Conference for this fall. A recent fall of the Indiana Users group brought discussion about RUG fortunes into the open. (Yeah, on the Internet.)

Steve Davidek, a new member of the Encompass User Group board of directors, reports the user group wants to help struggling Local User Groups (LUGs) of Encompass survive. Encompass has been working to gather in the volunteer resources from Interex — and a lot of 3000 users made up that muscle.

Now that I’ve been elected to the Encompass Board, one of our goals this year is to try and grow the local user group community.  I find it interesting that the many of the Encompass LUGS are struggling just as much as the Interex RUGS did.

If there are any “RUGS” that are looking for help and support, I would be willing to be the first point of contact between the Encompass staff and the Rug leadership. In fact, I’m going to be attending the next Bay Area Local user group meeting this month.They are trying to get that group together again.  HP has been a big supporter of getting LUGS going across the country. 

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Sorting out Sort key strategy

I (we) am loading a lot of data into a detail data set in IMAGE with a sort key.  Do I presort the data by the sort key only? Or do I presort by the Automatic key then the sort key?

As in:

Entry                    Offset

BP-BENEFIT           X10    11  (BP-BENEFIT-A)
COMPONENT          X4     21
RIDER-TITLE           X8     25
YMDEFF                  X8     33
YMDEND                 X8     41
PRIORITY               X2     49

I know this really improves performance.

Ray Shahan replies:

Since your sort key is at the end of the data set, then you need only sort by the sort key value.

Denys Beauchemin adds:

Sort by BP-EXPLODE# as the first key and PRIORITY as the second key within BP-EXPLODE#.

Partners pump Micro Focus to health

COBOL drives most in-house applications on HP 3000s, so the combination of a classic language with a legendary platform now gives software companies opportunities through change. Some vendors like to use the word legacy, but with the 3000's success, legendary seems to fit better.)

Migration means movement, away from HP's COBOL II and onto another compiler. While Acucorp has courted 3000 customers openly, another COBOL vendor also works toward gaining 3000 business — once it's moving.

Micro Focus could be a company several times larger than its COBOL competitor, but the firm was going through a "meltdown" last year, according to an article in Computer Business Review. To help raise the software ship, new CEO Stephen Kelly refocused Micro Focus on legacy captures: the opportunity to replace COBOL on platforms like the 3000, sliding out of the vendor's plans.

A recent press release from Micro Focus announced a Migration and Transformation Consortium (MTC) that includes several HP 3000 migration advisors: MB Foster, Transoft, iMaxsoft and Unicon appear in the Micro Focus matrix. Each of these MTC companies, according to Micro Focus, "focuses on just one or two platforms, with each partner having complete depth of expertise."

The MTC "ecosystem" has performed more than 500 migrations already, so it's not exactly a new alliance. It just might be new to the 3000 customer. What may seem familiar is a software vendor whose business plan is to " ensure the market for legacy modernization software and services is robust." Your move keeps some software companies healthy. But partners with expertise are often needed for your platform. Enter the MTC.

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Vision from Houston for the 3000

Anne Howard took the newest spot on the OpenMPE board of directors a few weeks ago. Now she's a leading member of a team of IT pros with deep HP experience — including more than 100 years of HP 3000 knowledge — who are creating the latest conference out of Houston, the Greater Houston RUG MPE/iX Conference.

We'll have more details on that HP 3000 training opportunity later this week. (The GHRUG board is adjusting the conference name to secure cost-effective training space. But the conference mission remains 3000-related, including basic and crossover IT skills many 3000 managers need to administer other parts of their enterprises.)

Before that conference news, however, Howard has offered the 3000 community a closer look at her positions on the 3000's transition mission. Appointed to the GHRUG board last fall, this project planning and development expert always believed HP would stay in the 3000 market beyond 2006.

It didn’t surprise me that HP extended its commitment of support for MPE/iX from their original December, 2006 deadline. In fact, I predicted it the day the original announcement was made.  (After I picked myself up off the floor.) 

As many HPe3000 shops are finding out, five years isn’t as long as you think when you are migrating mature, stable enterprise applications and trying to maintain on-going operations. HP was wise to extend its support for MPE/iX to give what has been a very loyal client base time to gracefully transition MPE/iX concentric applications to other platforms.

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