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September 2007

Another, third-party way to extend 3000 life

3000 customers are starting to notice something called the Orbit Advantage, a solution to performance futures for MPE/iX which Orbit and its partner Ideal have quietly started to roll out.

I don't think calling the Orbit Advantage an "emulator," as Joe has ably located in the Web address below, accurately describes what is being offered.

Some months ago, Advant started to roll out hardware and software to let MPE/iX operate on PA-RISC servers — all such servers, no matter what HP firmware determined the system's preferred boot-up OS.

The new feature here is VM/iX, software with the ability to relocate the MPE/iX instance, so the MPE/iX OS can perform on any of HP's PA-RISC hardware with a different HP model name.

Continue reading "Another, third-party way to extend 3000 life" »

Is 2010 really HP's end?

HP made a September 26 announcement that it will extend limited support for the HP 3000 through the end of 2010. But I did not see anything in HP's communication that shut the support door — and HP's 3000 business — completely as of Dec. 31, 2010.

HP has no plans to keep supporting 3000 customers beyond that date. But the vendor did not say that it will not, under any circumstances, end its MPE/iX support at that time.

We may be reading tea leaves here, but with two support extensions already behind us, it seemed responsible to ask if there was any chance of another. The last extension through 2008, announced at Christmas of 2005, said the company's 3000 support would run until '08 "or later." Those two words — the "or later" — are absent from the HP announcement of this week.

But there's still some possibility of support offerings, however slim — provided customers need this and can talk HP into it and the vendor can deliver what it considers "high-quality" support.

Continue reading "Is 2010 really HP's end?" »

HP extends 3000 support through 2010

Tell us what you think of the limited support extension

Hewlett-Packard announced today that it is extending its HP 3000 support once again, setting the end date for manufacturer support at December 2010. But the new HP support which begins in January 2009 will include no new patches, and the fate of untested HP patches as of December 31, 2008 remains unclear.

e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou and 3000 community liaison Craig Fairchild briefed the NewsWire about the extension five todays before today's announcement. As they have stated in the past, Hou said the extra two years of HP phone-in, online and fax support doesn't change HP's recommendation to customers: Proceed with migration plans to other HP platforms as quickly as possible.

But the extension will carry on HP's 3000 business, however limited, to a full four years beyond its initial 2006 end of support deadline. Hou said this summer that some migrations, especially the more complex projects, are taking longer than planned. Customers asked for the extra time to count on HP.

"We are going to extend the e3000 support to the end of 2010," Hou said. "What we will be offering will not be at the same level as [the Basic Support] we have been doing in the past. We continue to work with customers, evaluating how they're doing with their migrations, and understanding their current support needs that we're hearing from customers. We've also looked internally at HP in terms of our ability to continue providing the right level of support to our customers."

"The intent of this program is to provide customers who still need support on the 3000 that extra time to complete and finalize their migrations," Fairchild said.

Fairchild said the new support level is being called Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering. This "MPS w/o SE" will end HP's creation of all patches for the HP 3000's MPE/iX operating environment. This mature support offering will also drop any lab work for the 3000 on future security patches. The extended service has new limits, he said, but hardware system support will remain unchanged.

"We're calling this a limited support extension," Fairchild said. "Hardware support will be unaffected. It will be the same level of support we're providing today — with the caveat of potential regional differences, where HP may have to discontinue [some hardware] support earlier than December, 2010."

HP posted its announcement to its e3000 Web site this morning, as well as an FAQ document and a data sheet for the '09-'10 support offering.

The HP patches carry enhancements to the platform, even in this year, the fourth decade of HP 3000 service. More than 80 beta-test patches, some repairing critical bugs, remain available only to HP support customers — without a general release to the 3000 community. Since HP's lab services manage this general release of these patches, the fate of dozens of engineering projects since 2002 remains uncertain. Some patches may remain in beta-test status indefinitely, unless customers can test and report to HP.

Continue reading "HP extends 3000 support through 2010" »

How far away is your tomorrow?

It was late in the evening, Texas time, when my phone in the office rang. I answer if I'm not writing, or near enough to hear the ring. The caller caught me.

"Hello, Ron," said Vladimir Volokh in his inimitable Ukranian accent. The co-creator of VEsoft and its MPEX flagship was on the road as usual. His custom, for more than a decade now, is to visit his thousands of customers in person. He travels in a modest rental car and even more modest hotels, but the road life can leave a warrior alone. Vladimir was reaching out, connecting.

He thanked me for including his name in the "Dropping Names" entry in our latest printed issue. Vladimir had sent us the letter to Yale New Haven Hospital, the correspondence that thanked the hospital for the very first order of any HP 3000, more than 35 years ago.

Years were on Vladimir's mind that night. "Do you know how many more years until the HP 3000 stops running?" It was a good question, and the answer is one that homesteading customers should know by heart.

Continue reading "How far away is your tomorrow?" »

Keeping up with what's dropped

Eoshwpage_2 Every HP 3000 site uses hardware which HP can drop from support. The vendor likes to call this act "obsoleting," but that's a matter of customer strategy. A product from HP, however, can fall from the company price list and still remain eligible for support.

When that support dies, though, the product is no longer in HP's 3000 ecosystem. Then it passes out into the wider landscape of the third parties. Companies need to know when this happens, whether migrating or homesteading.

Migration takes awhile, after all. Some customers are moving to open source solutions now, in preparation for moving off the HP 3000 in a few years.

Happily, HP has a Web page that keeps track of the hardware products it stopped supporting. This information is good to keep up with, especially if a site manager is replacing HP 3000 hardware with something else in the 3000 line. The newly arrived hardware might need a support contract, perhaps from the reseller who's delivering the product.

You will want to bookmark the HP main page for 3000 end of support dates. This Web resource should be a part of regularly scheduled HP 3000 management and strategy.

Continue reading "Keeping up with what's dropped" »

Anniversary advice, and appreciation

In our first podcast in many a moon (7 minutes, 7 MB), I looked for a subject close to my heart. September is a month that calls up anniversaries. One for Hewlett-Packard, one for the 3000 NewsWire, even one for the family which founded the 3000 NewsWire. Me and my partner Abby Lentz are celebrating our wedding anniversary this weekend — 17 years together as friends, lovers and business partners. Just about all of the engagements two people can have, really. My life is richer, believe me, in more ways than I can say since this very day in 1990.

Anniversaries are a good time to look back on the times we loved. Or remember the lessons we learned. But you can rush to review too quickly. Carly Fiorina, the CEO who pared back HP so it could gobble up new business, she probably deserves credit for starting the changes in HP. How well have those changes worked out for you? Different people have different answers this month. Let us hear about yours, after you listen to our September song.

Fall Bayside MPE Meet is a go

The 3000 networking event of the year is officially on the community's schedule, as the San Francisco bayside MPE meeting is set with a location and a growing agenda. Most interesting to us: Nearly an hour-and-a-half of 5-minute slots when any attendee can talk, ask questions or relate their tales of 3000 migration or homesteading.

And while we mean anybody, that will be an intimate group. The group's key organizers — Alan Yeo of ScreenJet and Michael Marxmeier of Eloquence maker Marxmeier AG — are holding the line at 50 attendees. Get your name in soon to earn one of the spots. Speedware, in a key sponsorship move, will be making a signup Web page available next week, we are told.

For the time being, You can e-mail Michael, or Alan, or send an e-mail to us at the NewsWire if you want to ensure your spot at the MPE meeting.

On the agenda already, according to Yeo: members of HP's 3000 crew; Birket Foster with an OpenMPE update; Speedware; Gavin Scott of Allegro/Resource 3000 on homestead and extended support options; Rick Gilligan of banking app provider CASE (a COBOL shop and migration site); contact with the Encompass user group; Micro Focus and its update on the COBOL choices for 3000 sites.

Plus there's more, like a keynoter of community fame (name under wraps, apparently, for now). Oh, and free food, and free admission.

Continue reading "Fall Bayside MPE Meet is a go" »

HP buying SAP?

The scruffy part of journalism repeats rumors, but it's a habit too entrenched for me to break. So here goes. A journalist out of Boston, Barbara Darrow, says she's heard "from a guy tight with HP insiders" that Hewlett-Packard is "talking to SAP about buying the ERP kingpin."

Darrow says in her blog entry that she doesn't know much else about this transaction, but it wouldn't even be the largest acquisition in the history of Enterprise Resource Planning. But SAP as part of HP would sure be good business for the vendor's services operations. Entering the SAP alternate universe usually requires a guide.

The blog report drew my attention because it mentions one reason HP would want to get into the ERP business. Hewlett-Packard has been there before, Darrow notes, with something "called MM3000. Or MM-3000."

Which became eXegeSys (boy am I glad I don't have to spell that one anymore). Which then sold itself to OpenERP Solutions. Which then became part of the Activant solar system. That's the Activant that operates Speedware.

Nobody knows if HP will strike a deal with SAP, or when, or how much it might matter to HP 3000 manufacturing customers. But many of the customers who homestead on the system use ERP. Would they be any more likely to migrate if HP could offer SAP?

Or does this seem like "everything old is new again?" Because I remember a time 20 years ago when only the best enterprise computer makers were able to offer vendor-branded applications. HP had a book full of theirs. Many have been cold in the graveyard a long time.

Continue reading "HP buying SAP?" »

Free facts, right from your chair

Webcasts have become popular tools for technology suppliers. A lot of the reason for their favor is the reach a Webcast offers: anywhere in the world, so long as the audience member has enough bandwidth.

So you can't beat a Webcast for cost, even though it's usually a more sterile encounter than a face-to-face lesson or networking event. Encompass has free Webcasts from HP more than any other vendor. A new one next week, on Sept. 27 at 1PM Eastern US time, offers instruction on HP's new storage products.

D2D and Virtual Tape, Today and Tomorrow is an hour with Mike Peebles, HP America's Enterprise Tape and Virtual Library Manager. The Webcast includes a free slice from this year's HP Technology Forum. Watching it offers the chance to "learn how virtual libraries and disk assisted backup can help with today’s data protection challenges." Encompass adds that the Webcast was one of the Top 10 sessions from the Forum.

Continue reading "Free facts, right from your chair" »

Are you going to San Francisco?

You can get more than flowers in your hair, as the old Scott McKenzie '60s song said, by going to San Francisco on the weekend of Nov. 17 to network with other HP 3000 owners. The meeting by the bay is the only all-3000 confab of 2007, sponsored and instigated by the owners of ScreenJet and Eloquence makers Marxmeier AG.

It must be a worthwhile weekend, consider who's launched the weekend of lunches and talk. ScreenJet's owner Alan Yeo is traveling from the UK and Michael Marxmeier is coming from Germany. Some 3000 owners are lucky enough to be just a hour or less away — in Bay Area traffic, no less — from the Doubletree hotel in Burlingame, set in the shadow of the SFO airport.

If you've got to fly, as do I, type those three letters into an air travel search engine and start on your way. The weekend will include familiar folks like Yeo, Marxmeier, Speedware, MB Foster and some HP e3000 folk from the Hewlett-Packard mothership, plus some surprises, to be sure.

Is it a conference? Not exactly, because it's free. In this case, it's certain to be worth a lot more than you pay to attend. Besides, think of the fun. Maybe more than you'll have the next weekend, supping with your family at that lively Thanksgiving dinner table.

Continue reading "Are you going to San Francisco?" »

Challenges in selling a 3000

Many vendors and experts can make your migration away from an HP 3000 easier than ever these days. The "lack of resources" that HP predicted back in 2002 has never materialized. Most people who wanted to turn off their systems by 2006 have done so. (We'll have a little more to say about how many, and their stories, soon here.)

Selling off the used HP 3000s, or getting some value for them — that turns out to be where the resources are scarce in 2007.

It's not the fault of the brokers and resellers who continue to sell HP 3000s, nearly four years after HP gave that up. With an ample supply of used systems on the marketplace, getting a reasonable price for something like a Series 979 — a workhorse of its day, being near the top of the 2000 food chain — has become one of the hard parts of migration.

The vendors leading the way off the platform can't do much to help, in some cases. One customer in Indiana reports that HP wouldn't even take on a used Series 979, after the customer's successful migration. That's a server with more horsepower than any of the latest-generation HP 3000 A-Class servers.

Continue reading "Challenges in selling a 3000" »

Bandle, Fairchild step out at HP Tech Forum

The new liaisons to OpenMPE and the 3000 community carry news of development

    HP wasted little time moving its new team of 3000 lab liaisons into the community this summer. Just a few weeks after HP’s Jeff Vance and Mike Paivinen retired from lab connection and OpenMPE liaison duties, Jeff Bandle and Craig Fairchild made connections at the HP Technology Forum.

   “Taking on the OpenMPE liaison role will be big shoes for me to fill, with Mike [Pavinen] leaving HP,” Bandle said. “He has such a strong reputation. I’m excited about the assignment, because I enjoy working with customers and coming to events like this Technology Forum. It presents the reality of what goes on with the platform.”

Conference debut checked off Craig's list
    After awarding the latest e3000 Contributor Award to Stan Sieler of Allegro Consultants, HP's 3000 business manager Jennie Hou introduced another new but seasoned element to the 3000 community: Craig Fairchild, selected to begin to fill the "very big shoes," as he said, of retired 3000 engineer Jeff Vance.

   Fairchild, who has been working on the HP 3000 since 1985, introduced the SCSI pass through drivers for MPE/iX, a bit of engineering coming to a 7.5 beta test patch near you.

   Part of Fairchild's duties will be reminding the community about opportunities such as this driver, software which will let HP 3000s utilize storage devices that haven't been officially certified as 3000 peripherals. All support bets are off, but at least the lack of a 4GB drive from HP's parts list won't keep a 3000 offline, thanks to the driver.

   "It's designed to teach SCSI devices new tricks," Fairchild said of the driver to be in beta test during the second half of 2007. The device driver makes use of the Posix IOCTL command to send and receive data from the SCSI device.

    In fact, the engineering is even more clever than that. Fairchild pointed out that the device file actually talks to the physical path of the device, not just the device itself. HP created an external use for an existing diagnostic interface to create the SCSI Pass Through, which it calls SPT for short.

    Fairchild emulated Vance's candor, too. "Using the SPT is not for the timid," he said. "You'll need to know a lot about the device you're talking to."

Continue reading "Bandle, Fairchild step out at HP Tech Forum" »

Making GZIP work on a 3000

I have a copy of GZIP on my HP3000 947 which I put on back in 2000/2001,  now I need a copy for use on my a500 box, but do think I can remember were I got it from or how to install.

I have a client that sends me a file once a month in this format and I am  transferring the application from the 947 to A box. All I can find on HP's Jazz Web site is the GNU tool; is it part of this. How do I get going with GZIP?

Mike Caplin replies,

I had a similar situation with PKZIP. It was a pain to get it installed, and once it was on an A-Class HP 3000 I had to do the same on an N-Class.  The HP SE told me I couldn’t just move the executable, that it had to be installed again. That didn’t make sense, so I FTPd the executable to the other box five years ago and it’s worked fine ever since.

Matthew Purdue of the OpenMPE board adds,

If you have NS3000 on both systems, issue a DSLINE command, then a DSCOPY command.

Continue reading "Making GZIP work on a 3000" »

Finding the will's to enter the future

    On a day when many Americans recall a dark part of the past in the US, we'd invite you to cast your gaze at the future.

    We owe a lot of today’s tech to a writer about tomorrow’s, William Gibson. The creator of cyberspace in his keystone novel Neuromancer, Gibson has made a storied career out of stories about the Internet, something most of us call the Web these days.

   Now Gibson is taking a step back into the present, even the past, for his more recent writing. His newest book, Spook Country, takes place in Gibson’s own Vancouver in our networked, post-9/11 time, “where shadowy and mysterious characters are using New York's smallest crime family, a sort of boutique operation of smugglers and so-called illegal facilitators, to get something into North America,” according to

    Gibson’s prescience put him at the forefront of Web connections, and so he’s exploring a Web community called Second Life, where nothing exists except on a computer screen, but everything can seem so real. In his last novel Pattern Recognition, the present had caught up with Gibson's future. So much of what he imagined has come true. In that way, Amazon’s interviewer said, “it seems like we're all living in science fiction now.”

    The fiction of the HP 3000 ending at Hewlett-Packard keeps trying to turn into fact. But the vendor is once again "visualizing a concept" to keep the company in the support business. Imagination and research are the elements HP's 3000 team and Gibson have in common.

Continue reading "Finding the will's to enter the future" »

The not-so-short evolution of Transact

By Alan Yeo

Second of two parts

    By the time we had our team of developers assembled to take a crack at giving Transact new life, we had a dilemma. WE had to refining our stakes under project deadlines

   The realisation dawned on us just how difficult this all was, and I suspect for some of us walking away would have been the best solution. But by late Spring the following year the design had been refined and we had the prototype working. We were on a roll, and whilst it wasn’t full time for any of us, it kept progressing

   This is where fate, coincidence or luck struck several times in quick succession. HP Germany upped the stakes by announcing that they knew several companies were starting to offer to convert Transact by various means, so they were going to issue a challenge to those companies. The competing companies would then do their conversions and submit them to HP. The company with the best solution would be endorsed by HP Germany and get access to the Transact user base in Europe.

  We now knew we had potential competitors for the Transact market. With true marketing zeal we announced our solution and grab the attention high ground. So we went public with the product, which by now had a name T2C (Transact to COBOL).

   However, reality has a habit of smacking you in the face. We took the HP Sample application, and we were dead in the water. Its not that we couldn’t convert it, we could and 75% of it was good. The unfortunate thing with programs is that even if 75 percent of the code is perfect, if you can’t execute through the bits that aren’t good, and  get to the bits that are, you haven’t got a program. What you have is a pile of code. We didn’t submit the results back to HP.
    But neither did anyone else. Someone had submitted some code, but obviously nearly all hand-written code. Not a migration solution, merely a willingness to undertake re-coding work.

Continue reading "The not-so-short evolution of Transact" »

A Short History of Transact

The 4GL entering decade No. 4 is becoming TransAction

By Alan Yeo

    Actually, there can’t be a short history of Transact. Like the HP 3000, the language is now in its fourth decade of life. Even my exposure to Transact goes back more than 25 years.

    Transact was hot when I first started working on the HP 3000 in the early 1980s. It was being pushed by HP as their Fourth Generation Language (4GL) for the 3000, with tight integration to IMAGE, VPlus and supported by a Data Dictionary — the last of which was also hot technology back then.

    But HP had a habit of taking good software and applications, hyping them for a couple of years, then letting them slowly drown through lack of investment and development as something new came along. This often happened just as there seemed to be enough people using the older product to warrant the exact opposite approach.

   The wonder product that made HP stop pushing the Rapid products was the Allbase database and a 4GL called TODAY. HP may have re-badged Today as Allbase/4GL. The 4GL portion was dead within a couple of years. Transact, already forgotten by HP, carried on in many sites for many years to come.

    We developed some really beautiful applications using those Rapid products. For a couple of years I earned a good living consulting on Transact projects. Having a good understanding of Transact was one of the reasons that I became involved in the evolution.

Continue reading "A Short History of Transact" »

HP tunes up millions in ads

Gwen Tune in tonight (on US television) to see the start of the broadcast commercials which are the backbone of HP's new $300 million ad campaign. Expect to see singer Gwen Stefani, a favorite from the Carly Fiorina flash days of HP's 2005, front and center in the campaign, which HP is using to push "Print 2.0."

The global marketing campaign is all in support the company's printing business. That sector of HP's operations showed no better growth in the third quarter of 2007 than in the same period of 2006. The fall ad campaign is timed to deliver millions more into the company's final 2007 quarter.

The campaign's first TV spots debut tonight.

A new HP Small and Medium Business Wetpaint Wiki shows at least as much creativity as hiring Stefani. The site "is all about you. What you do, where you want your business to go, and how we can help. We hope you'll contribute your ideas, share examples of what helps your business succeed, and ask lots of questions."

And the hosting site which brings that print bounty to HP customers is edgy.

Doobs Wetpaint is a free wiki hosting site with a twisted sense of humor, at least on Tuesdays. Last month one of its "Twisted Tuesdays" wikis was the Dude + Boobs = Doobs Wiki, where Wetpaint proclaimed, “If you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em! This wiki is for those with magnificent man-mamms and those poor souls who don’t know how to handle their he-knockers. Come one, come all!"

Disney TV's Hanna Montana (Miley Cyrus), shown at left, extends the range of American celebrity pop-singer fame beyond Gwen's platinum tresses at Wetpaint.

Continue reading "HP tunes up millions in ads" »

Cognos will Mature its 3000 customers

Cognos updated its product roadmap for PowerHouse yesterday, giving the HP 3000 community a new service name for what's becoming a norm in the community: MPE/iX support extended  into 2009.

The new level of support is extended beyond HP's confirmed 3000 support date of December 31, 2008. HP itself is "conceptualizing" such support for its customers in 2009. Cognos announced today that the users of the Application Development Tool PowerHouse — at least those who cannot migrate by the end of next year — can count on support through the end of 2009.

The Canadian company that offered the 3000 market the first third-party reporting option in Quiz, lo those three decades ago, put up a roadmap document (a three-page PDF file) on its PowerHouse Overview Web page yesterday. The map covers the destiny of every kind of PowerHouse which Cognos still supports. HP 3000 customers will receive "Mature Platform Extended Support."

Cognos would prefer that its HP 3000 customers migrate. In fact, the company says that

As part of our HPe3000 migration strategy, PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web, and Axiant 4GL support Marxmeier AG's Eloquence, which has an IMAGE emulation layer. To assist in migration planning, we published an MPE/iX Migration Planning Guide in March 2005 that was updated in 2007.

The HP 3000 is beyond Vintage Support, by Cognos standards. Your platform qualifies as mature.

Continue reading "Cognos will Mature its 3000 customers" »

Eloquence picks up a 3000 veteran

Marxmeier AG, creators of the IMAGE database replacement Eloquence, has picked up the services of an HP 3000 development legend to help create software that aids migration. Late in August Lars Appel, writing from a [email protected] address, posted a note in his independent consultant role to the Eloquence mailing list about a new patch bundle.

His message said, in part

We have recently released a set of patches for Eloquence B.07.10 that add the database replication functionality which will also be part of the upcoming Eloquence B.08.00 release in the future.

13 other patches are available, including components like the database server and utilities as well as the language core and related libraries.

Appel is another third-party catch, like Jeff Vance, from the HP retiree pool. Appel delivered Samba to the HP 3000 community in 1995, working on his own after his regular shift in HP Support in Germany. Eventually HP gave him travel opportunity to teach customers how to use and install the file-sharing tool, then bundled his work in MPE/iX.

Continue reading "Eloquence picks up a 3000 veteran" »

Two years beyond the storm

Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina swept into American lives. By Labor Day of 2005, it was obvious that HP had to retreat from its New Orleans plans for the first HP Technology Forum.

HP's David Parsons said in that first conference that the 3000 community needs more collaboration than conflict. Labor and management had bitter, bloody battles in the US during the 1930s before a mission of cooperation emerged. The suggestion that HP will continue its support business beyond 2008, in whatever limited concept, shows the vendor has its eye on collaborating in customer futures.

There are many HP 3000 sites who are beyond the labor of their migration, and many others who must complete what they've planned. On this US holiday, we hope that your labors are fruitful, whether they are the work of staying in place on the 3000 — which will still run without a glitch until 2028 — or migrating away.