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To-do list for documentation

Document your homesteading

In a world where the wealth of digital information now outnumbers that on paper, printed documentation can still be important to homesteaders. Actually, all documentation is important for homesteaders. An experienced storage and networking guru made a comment about this on yesterday's HP 3000 newsgroup.

While I want to ensure I don't quote Denys Beauchemin out of context, he noted that securing documentation on older hardware — the sort you might use to replace devices like external tape drive libraries — can be "a fun issue."

Another fun issue for those who are considering homesteading; make sure you have all the documentation available for all your hardware.

Nobody here is talking genuine fun. A 3000 user was striking out while searching for documentation for his SureStore DLT Autoloader, apparently purchased used. I suggested that documentation is an issue, but it pales before some others — and plenty of issues also loom large for the migrating customer. I said, "Really, manuals as a reason to migrate?"

That was too much for Denys, and we had misunderstood one another. Manuals are important for a homesteader, no less so than the migrating customer. It's just that the documentation for older hardware can be harder to locate. That's an issue for any IT manager, experienced or otherwise, no matter what HP platform they're using. It's hard to imagine that every HP-UX system manager has all the manuals to all of the hardware in their shop.

The autoloader user got a 3000 community member to dig up the needed manual, online at a university in Ireland, since those docs have been pulled from HP's Web sites. HP has plenty of manuals online. So does the rest of the world — and sometimes more than HP can provide, online or otherwise.

You might find HP's manuals at docs.hp.com, as well as other places around the world. The autoloader is an eight-year-old device, so it's aging fast as a storage unit. But since HP has chosen to cut off its peripheral extension development for HP 3000s, you might have no other choice when you need to replace something like the C1745-8000. The customer was just swapping in another autoloader for a device that was working until recently.

Denys makes good points, but you can supply your own context and filter.

To me it sounds more like an excellent suggestion: “If you’re in for the long run, make sure you have all your documentation now.”

I do not believe that over time we will have more documents dealing with old pre-2000 hardware/software. I kind of think that whatever is available right now as documentation for that will probably diminish over time.

I looked at the HP Web site for DLT documentation for this device and it was not to be found there. This device is about 8-10 years old and HP no longer offers the documentation. It was found at a university in Ireland. That’s very reassuring, I’m sure it will be there next year and three years.

Just in case you were not reading closely, Denys was kidding on his last point, about finding the documentation at the Irish university in 2011. "Actually, this is one of the big issues with the Internet," he added, "a lot of older information disappears."

I might be confused here. But it looks like HP, which built this product and sold it to customers for the long haul, has let this information disappear. (There's ancient MPE/iX documentation online at HP, more than 12 years old.) Meanwhile the Irish university hung onto the information — and also made the docs available to the rest of the world. So who's taking care of the community better?

When an IT manger at the Phoenix Police Department can dredge up a manual off an Irish server better than HP, it says a lot about what to expect from HP as a homesteader. As Denys said, "A lot of older information disappears." The Phoenix Police tracked down the manual Monday morning; the user put a call out on Friday. I'm not sure HP even sells that level of 3000 response time, or if it does, you won't be able to buy it after December.

OpenMPE director Donna Hofmeister, now at support provider Allegro, agreed with Denys. "Manuals are important!" she said.

I strongly recommend getting local electronic copies of the manuals you feel are important to what you do. And having a second electronic copy on another machine is a good idea, since one of the fundamental laws of computing is when you really, really need <that file> the server it’s on will be unaccessible.