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OpenMPE: Another opening, another vote

For the sixth springtime in a row, OpenMPE has opened its board of directors call which always precedes the group's annual election. This time around, however, two-thirds of the board of director seats are up for grabs.

In years past that has meant that nearly everybody who wants to volunteer for OpenMPE can win a post doing just that. In the past two elections candidates outnumbered open posts by exactly one. There's not a lot of perks to recommend this work. No pay, no office, not even a free e-mail account. Just hours of work talking to HP and one another about How's It Gonna End, to crib from a fine Tom Waits song.

What's going to end, someday, is HP's explicit involvement with the HP 3000, as well as sending out updates to the 3000's operating system. Not this year, no. But maybe next year, or in 2010, the vendor will be putting its source of MPE/iX away for good. OpenMPE has really always been about that moment. One of the three people in OpenMPE whose seat isn't up for grabs, Birket Foster, has long said the group only wants to make sure the operating environment is tucked away in HP's hibernation caverns so the community can wake it up way out there in the future.

If these two things seem in opposition — the need to dig up from the archives a product whichh HP wants to put to rest forever — then that explains why so many OpenMPE requests and demands have gotten the "we will see" answer your parents gave you when they didn't want to tell you no as a kid. HP never saw the need for OpenMPE, but the vendor has expressed gratitude for what the advocates have wrenched from HP's endgame machinery.

But you could see all that for yourself on the board, which is looking for candidates right now. Send an e-mail to board secretary Donna Garverick-Hofmeister to toss a hat into this year's ring. The voting begins Feb. 11 and runs through Feb. 29. You need to be a member to vote, but that's free, by joining at OpenMPE's Web page for membership.

I can't be expected to be objective about this election this spring. I care enough about the future of OpenMPE to have been a "neutral observer" for the last three votes. I don't think OpenMPE should be abolished or broken up like some Ma Bell monopoly, a sentiment I actually heard during 2007. The group has got its board to bird-dog questions like "who's taking care of HPSUSAN numbers in 2011?"

Frankly, if OpenMPE didn't exist, plenty of support-paying HP customers would be asking questions like those — and not under confidential disclosure restrictions, like the OpenMPE board members have to endure. One of my good friends in this community, John Burke, joined the board for a few years just after protesting the CDA handcuffs. Then he wore them for two years, while he watched the give and take between HP and 3000 advocates.

So that's already been done, the "protest and then join up" dance around this nine-member board leading perhaps 125 registered voters. Numbers don't mean what they used to in this marketplace, a spot where having a few thousand customers means you're one of the biggest players. You don't even have to admire the way OpenMPE operates to get a chance to volunteer.

Six spots are up for election this year, since five posts were scheduled to be voted upon and director Paul Edwards retired as well. One of the few genuine benefits of being on this board is the chance to hear from HP directly on the platform's future, with perhaps just a little more candor than a reporter like me will get. That's what confidentiality will earn you, along with the information about the 3000's remaining days at HP. There's always the chance that a board director's actions can influence HP's, too. That outcome would be the best you could hope for in serving on this board.