Open source opens homestead options
June 5, 2008
First of two parts
And yes, Virginia, even some migration tasks are made easier by the bounty of open source software for the HP 3000.
HP and its engineers, and especially the 3000 community's volunteers, worked hard to bring open source solutions to MPE/iX. Brian Edminster showed off the glories and tricks of using open source software during a speech at this spring’s GHRUG International Technology Conference. And if ever there was a technology with international scope, it’s open source. These programs and subsystems have already helped 3000 owners expand networking, establish Web servers and share files. Edminster, who heads up Applied Technologies, noted other advantages of open source — like a broader set of experts who understand it.
“If you want to install and integrate an open source application on your 3000, it’s a whole lot easier to find someone who has open source experience, instead of 3000 experience,” he said.
When HP carried the 3000’s OS from MPE/XL to MPE/iX in the middle 1990s, the vendor added a Unix interface to 3000 intrinsics, as well as key Unix tools. The 3000’s Posix environment is “Unix-like enough that a standard Unix guy will have no problems getting around,” Edminster said.
Finding open source applications is also a no-brainer. The top three places to find pre-compiled binaries of open source tools are the HP Jazz Web server’s software section (jazz.external.hp.com); former HP engineer and QSS developer Mark Bixby’s site, bixby.org/mark; and former HP support engineer Lars Appel’s Web space at editcorp.com/Personal/Lars_Appel.
The HP 3000 engineers Bixby and Appel created these “load and go” versions of popular open source apps for the 3000, along with other Hewlett-Packard engineers. But Edminster told attendees about other open source repositories for apps that can be used after they’re ported. Bixby’s and Appel’s pages also offer white papers on how to do such porting for the 3000 manager who wants to do the work themselves. Bixby’s paper identifies the open source apps that could be ported more easily, as well as those that provide more complex challenges.
“Most open source software is designed to be easy to port, so you don’t need to be a Unix or C guru to do these,” Edminster said. Using outside-the-3000 expertise on open source can improve the efficiency of a port to the 3000, he added. Mark Klein, who ported the first Gnu C++ tools to start the 3000’s open source era, is available to help on a port at www.dis.com. Managers should also scan the archives of the 3000 newsgroup for any notes on apps that have already been ported.
Since the 3000 community has been built on do-it-yourself skill sets of its most seasoned users, HP created an open source porting paper this year, also available on the HP Web site. Edminster pointed out The “Samba 3.0.22 Porting Whitepaper” by Vidya Sagar (jazz.external.hp.com/src/samba/samba-pw.pdf) “a white paper that explains how to do a port, starting from scratch including the tools needed. He also describes the limitations and peculiarities of the Posix environment on the 3000,” Edminster said.
Different flavors of Unix have different levels of completeness as well as their own peculiarities, he added, so the 3000’s nuances are not an anomaly. Software written for the Posix environment is a better prospect for a port.
Open source applications without load-and-go implementations are posted on Web sites such as gnu.org, sourceforge.net and freshmeat.net. SourceForge is not only a searchable library of applications, but a home for hosting open source projects. “It can provide a footprint for people who want to do a porting project,” Edminster said. The framework provides forums, categorization tools, bug reporting and training.
Freshmeat.net is primarily an announcement site. “Prepare to be astounded at the volume of software that’s announced daily on freshmeat.net,” Edminster said.