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August 2008

Link-In to your 3000 Community to discuss

Linkedinlogo Starting today, the professional social network LinkedIn adds new features to make it easy for HP 3000 customers to discuss problems, solutions and issues about the Transition Era. LinkedIn has an "HP 3000 Community" group with more than 30 members, one that's been growing slowly but steadily since we kicked it off last month. These numbers are very comparable to the myCommunity members at Connect who have posted an HP 3000 profile — and Connect has reached out to encourage LinkedIn members to join the Connect group.

Linked In also has a "HP3000 - Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine" group to join. Before today, these groups were a portal to other Linked In members, professionals whose background you needed to survey to find an answer to a question in a one-on-one message. But the new features promise much more collaboration.

Linked In is a free membership, and building a network of connections is easy and fun. Sign up at, or log in if you're already a member, then type "HP 3000 Community" in the Groups Search box at the top right. I'll do the routing to ensure you get into the group. LinkedIn reports that "Together you have made Groups one of the top features on LinkedIn." The social network explains the upgrades:

This Friday, we will be adding several much-requested features to your group:

  • Discussion forums: Simple discussion spaces for you and your members. (You can turn discussions off in your management control panel if you like.)
  • Enhanced roster: Searchable list of group members.
  • Digest emails: Daily or weekly digests of new discussion topics which your members may choose to receive. (We will be turning digests on for all current group members soon, and prompting them to set to their own preference.)
  • Group home page: A private space for your members on LinkedIn.

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HP advises against replacing what you built

Vice President Lynn Anderson spread HP's message of change at the recent HP Technology Forum. I sat down with her to discuss HP's approach to replacement of 3000 applications during a migration versus the task of rewriting. HP prefers the latter to getting an off the shelf app in Unix or Windows to duplicate the years of architecture and development under MPE/iX.

We also talked about how nearly half of you will be retired from in three years, according to an HP study. Start planning your future accordingly if you're staying on board, she advises, by keeping your "fresh until" date well into the years beyond, with new skills. At the HP Technology Forum, I asked her about the replacement versus Linux or Unix rewrites.

3000 customers tend to fall into one of two categories: those who know more about their business than computing, and those who built their IT installations, doing it themselves, from the bit-level upward. What do you think about the prospect of Linux suiting the migration needs of that latter group? Or should they look to match up with a replacement app?

    Matching can disappoint. We say don’t look at what you want your application to do today, but what do you want it to do tomorrow. [For the DIY customer], do you have the personnel?

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HP says staying fresh maintains influence

Lynn Anderson came to the HP Technology Forum to spread influence, but she did it using utensils forged in early HP 3000 work. She’s an HP Vice President, but started her career working on an HP 3000 in the mill town where she grew up. A Series II system displayed her first MPE colon prompt.

Later on in programming and system engineering for HP, She was a network specialist for MPE, a job that included a high point of bringing up the first HP 1000-HP 3000 local area network: Two platforms HP no longer sells. Anderson laughed at the wonder of such a connection everyone felt then. “Real time meets all-the-time,” she said

With that kind of in-the-tech-trenches background, HP sends Anderson to briefings like the ones at the Technology Forum to make contact with influencers whose roots are like hers: at the byte level from years ago. Apparently I was such an influencer, even if the byte level is removed from my skill set. HP offered up Anderson for me to interview at the Forum, and we spent a half-hour talking about what has been in the 3000 customer’s community, and what HP hopes it will include in the future.

Your title says that you’re a VP whose job is Influencer Marketing. What does that mean in the HP of 2008?

   My team is responsible for media relations across the Technical Support Group, executive communications both internal and external. We bring pieces of our portfolio to deliver a solution to market, and we do some strategy and planning. That’s my team. We focus on those groups of individuals who ultimately influence end-user customers.

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STORE options you may not know

STORE is the default backup tool for every HP 3000, but this bedrock of backup has options which might exceed expectations for a subsystem utility. Gilles Schipper, the support guru of more than two decades on the 3000, told us about a few STORE sweet spots this year at the GHRUG conference.

To start, using the :MAXTAPEBUF option can cut a four-hour backup to three hours or less. Schipper says that increasing the buffer size default to 32K, from the usual 16K, speeds up the backup when STORE sees MAXTAPEBUF. "That's a pretty good payback for one option."

Backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete. "People should really be using the forward slash," he says, "because it's easy to accidentally omit the Posix file structure if you're not careful constructing your fileset backup." The slash is so much better that a backup specified by HP's TurboStore will replace any @.@.@ operation with "./" Combining @.@.@ with exclusions can lead to omitting files which should have been in a backup.

Schipper says that including a directory on a backup is smart, but private volumes in use on a 3000 need more than :directory as an option.

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Keeping up links to 3000 info

Freshair The Web is well-known for dead links, those Web addresses which return nothing but a "404 Not Found" message, or something more clever from some providers. The HP 3000 has been the subject of Web information for so long that its Web links bear some scrutiny these days, when parts of your ecosystem can go dormant. Some of the older information is on HP's Jazz Web server, where one dated page shows us how much has changed since the start of the century. (We'd like to see more "Not Found" pages like the comic one at left, an effort to spark vacating the chair in front of the keyboard.)

At a Web page titled "How to get HPe3000 information online, there's a good top half of the page with instructions on how to subscribe to the HP 3000 newsgroup/mailing list. But once you read beyond the link to 3k Associates' e3000 FAQ, the links get spotty. It begins with a reference to the HP e3000 Answer Line, an experiment hosted by the now-defunct user group Interex.

Another casualty that lingers in HP reference page is the 3kworld site, a venture started by Client Systems in the months before Y2K. 3kworld didn't outlive HP's first announced end of support date — but a major portion of its material was supplied by the NewsWire, so much of what was online is still available.

Perhaps a greater loss, still listed on the HP page, is the pair of e3000 vendor lists, and the HP 3000 vendor directory maintained by Triolet Systems' founder Brian Duncombe. Of the former we know too much; SolutionStore was a NewsWire venture of the 1990s, until a Web provider went dark with all data. Duncombe checked in with a similar outcome for his labors, but his information survives at OpenMPE.

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OpenMPE keeps knocking on HP's door

Once a month, or sometimes twice, the OpenMPE advocacy group holds a meeting by teleconference. The group's directors discuss the big questions about 3000 life after HP leaves the market. They sometimes discuss these issues with Jeff Bandle of HP, where the details then fall under the confidential code of executive session.

This week the group posted meeting minutes from May and June discussions, where progress on a 3000 community resource was revealed. HP expressed a little interest in getting the programs and applications transferred from the Invent3k public development server — hosted at HP — onto OpenMPE's HP 3000s. From the minutes:

June 12: While there's been interest expressed, there's been little follow-up. [Director] Anne Howard is aware of a company that's retiring many MPE systems. Perhaps a system would come available that way. Another possibility is to formally ask for HP's Invent3k [server].

June 26: HP seems agreeable to giving OpenMPE a backup tape of Invent3k. There is an issue with third-party software that needs addressing.

While Invent3k and its assets are not yet outside of HP, this is a small victory of some note. HP will at least begin to transfer one 3000-related asset out of the company. And so, the vendor must create a process to do this, one that might pave the way for other transfers.

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App supplier advances, holds line for 3000 sites

Software suppliers have made decisions during the past year or two on the future of their HP 3000 solutions. Even the most ardent do-it-yourselfers will be using such third party solutions on a 3000, ranging from utilities like Adager to languages like Speedware to helper apps to manage communication between servers. STR Software, which sells software in that last category, has been helping hundreds to migrate — but its founder says the company will never give up on a 3000 installation.

Ben Bruno of STR updated us on the company's migration efforts, which began in 1992 when a customer asked for a Unix version of FAX/3000 (as it was called at the time.) Over the years the 3000 software evolved into AventX MPE, which earned a spot on 581 HP 3000 servers. More than 100 still send support fees to STR, Bruno reports.

He also says that the company's single largest customer of all time, First American Home Buyers, recently completed their replacement of HP 3000s with Windows servers, and "they moved with our product, too." Combining a mix of migration targets to STR's companion products on Linux, Windows and Unix, along with unflagging support of 3000 customers, mixed revenues arrive for sales and support and "the entire company wins," Bruno says.

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Investing in IT, and ITIL

[Editor's Note: Migration as well as homesteading sites need to accommodate changes, a task which e3000 Platinum Migration Partner Birket Foster addresses in today's article. One key tool to keep pace with these changes — the loss of a vendor's support team, a fresh sustainability plan to replace departing 3000 experts — is ITIL, Version 3, an information library that outlines best practices for IT managers.

Even the smallest of HP 3000 customers should be getting familiar with ITIL. "If you get acquired by a company that knows and practices ITIL processes, you'll get run over," Foster says. He shared other ideas about managing IT as an investment in his article. You can leave comments at the article's end or share them directly with Foster at [email protected].]

By Birket Foster

The world has certainly changed since 2001 especially for HP e3000 users — it is not just the HP-supplied parts, services and support, it is the whole ecosystem. Folks who were the captains of industry, managing robust growing companies for their organization have retired. For some of you this will ring a bell. There are very few HP 3000-savvy folks under 40, and probably none under 30. That means as more members of the community retire the replacements just won’t be there.

Probably 75 percent of the companies we visit don’t have the HP 3000 resources to make major changes of their application or the operating environment any longer. This puts companies at risk. The risk that if something goes bump in the night, the team will not know how to recover. Is your 3000 in a tested disaster recovery plan? (It ought to be – it is always easier to catch something in test then during the real thing). Developing and implementing a plan is a significant IT investment goal for your community.

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Overseas biz, PCs spark HP quarter

Earning a profit is the first item in the vaunted HP Way list of goals. Hewlett-Packard met the goal in its most recent quarter — $2 billion worth — by relying on the surge in business outside the US.

A fiscal 2008 Q3 report shows the company increased its profits by 14 percent over last year's Q3, and Hewlett Packard increased its sales by 10 percent to more than $28 billion in the quarter. But analysts took note not of large servers or building blade business, but the 20 increase in unit shipments of PCs. Printers, meanwhile, have seen their growth in earnings and sales slow.

The report's details off the HP Investor Relations Web site show a company earning in every sector, by varying degrees. The Business Critical Servers group, home of some replacement solutions HP offers to migrating 3000 sites, posted another quarter of growth, still trailing the Industry Standard Server business that doesn't rely on the HP's Integrity servers running Itanium chips.

HP told analysts in today's call that BCS revenue was up just 2 percent year over year; Integrity revenue rose 18 percent from last year's Q3 and now makes up 78 percent of BCS revenue. HP-UX sites are making transitions away from PA-RISC servers to aid in this Integrity growth. Existing HP enterprise customers, such as the HP 3000 migrators, are a big part of why Integrity sales are increasing.

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Don't fear the IPv6 reaper

Many technologies will emerge which don't have HP's MPE/iX blessing. That is, the vendor will not provide lab resources to support new tech on your 3000. As of the end of this year, HP won't even have a lab on call for its remaining support customers.

One technology which gets mentioned as a reason to migrate is the new Internet Protocol, IPv6. There's no support in MPE/iX networking for this new protocol, which is designed to expand the world's IP addresses much like the phone companies went to 10-digit numbers during the 1990s. By some estimates, more than 85 percent of the available IP addresses are already used up.

What will HP 3000 users do — some say by the end of 2010 — when these addresses run out? Is this the kind of "dead-air deadline" which US television customers face by early 2009, when no more analog broadcasts are allowed?

Not at all. Just like those TV viewers can buy a cheap converter to receive the new technology signals, HP 3000 sites won't have to change a thing about their existing networks and IP addresses. HP says that IPv6 is not a show stopper, but a new set of suburbs around the almost built-out city of networking.

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Migration by steering faster

This week we reported on the migration of e-commerce companies from HP 3000 application Ecometry to an Open System Ecometry. Many are migrating to another HP platform or using the Windows version of the app. But some Ecometry sites are leaving HP solutions behind for a new app — the third option we mentioned, after homesteading on a soon-to-be-unsupported Ecometry 3000, or migrating to HP-UX or Windows.

Musican's Friend, a leading supplier of instruments and all things musical across a number of Web brands, chose to leave the Ecometry path some time ago — long before Escalate, the new brand and company for Ecometry, issued its 3000 End of Life edict this summer. (Ecometry on the 3000 goes unsupported Jan. 1, 2010.) Musicians Friend sometimes calls itself MF for short, we learned from its Application Development Manager Ray Sparks. MF is steering a new platform into the future, because the company's CEO needs the speed for this market leader.

MF considered a move to the open version of Ecometry, but then a once-in-a-lifetime chance arrived: to purchase a major competitor, The Woodwind and Brass Wind. "We had to jump on it," Sparks explained, right in the middle of replacing MF's Warehouse Management System. That's when things got complicated, and Ecometry dropped off the horizon, replaced by a Windows-based app called Dynamics AX.

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Measuring the 3000's Posix empire

These past few days have seen me working on a project to process files in the HP 3000's HFS Posix directory. My Series 917LX is running under 6.5 PowerPatch 3. What is the maximum size a 3000's Posix structure can be?

HP's community liaison to the 3000 world Craig Fairchild replies:

There are no system enforced limits on directory depth or absolute system path name. Most interfaces won’t gracefully handle pathnames longer than PATH_MAX which is 1024 characters. So pick a number (say 1024) and return an error if you ever see a path longer than that.

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Two more ways to Connect with HP users

HP user group Connect has opened up two more avenues toward becoming part of the new HP enterprise user community. Connect promotes "community voice" rather than advocacy. The group also has only migration advice to offer HP 3000 users, as well as good training in HP's 3000 alternatives, plus a brand-new, just emerging social network application to connect with Unix, Linux or Windows HP users.

When you add all that up, it's not a bad deal for the HP 3000 community member who has chosen to move on to another environment. The first avenue Connect is opening up is the November Community Connect Europe 2008 conference. Connect has now opened up online registration for the event. The meeting on November 10-12 in Mannheim, Germany is the first of its kind for the European members of Connect. The group has announced:

Be a part of history and register today to join hundreds of other HP users, exhibitors, and HP associates on 10-12 November 2008 in Mannheim, Germany for the first-ever Community Connect Europe 2008 — the first European event presented by Connect, Your Independent HP Business Technology Community.

The Connect Europe meeting has announced an "early-bird" discount deadline (Sept. 22 to save 200 Euro) and keynote speaker Martin Fink, HP's Senior Vice President and General Manager of Business Critical Systems (BCS). BCS is the group which has control of the roadmap for HP's Unix and Linux solutions.

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News from e-commerce customers

Earlier this summer the HP 3000's leading e-commerce community held its first-ever roundtable. MB Foster, one of HP's two North American Platinum Migration Partners, sat on the 2008 Ecometry Customer Round Table — and have posted a brief report with highlights from the event.

You can download this PDF report from the MB Foster Web site; as of today the link is on the main page of the site. A direct link will download the three-page file to your desktop.

Of note in the report, written by MB Foster's Karmin McKay, is the news that a little less than half of the Ecometry customers still do business from an HP 3000 server. At one point in 2002, Ecometry said it had 350 companies running its e-commerce suite. In raw numbers, perhaps, the still-on-MPE installations may number 150 companies. (The officials from Escalate, a company formed in 2006 by the merger of Ecometry with GERS Retail Systems, said 46 percent of Ecometry sites run HP 3000s.)

The number is notable because Escalate said the deadline for running supported versions of Ecometry on the HP 3000 is December 31, 2009. That is much closer than it seems when you know a little about how an average Ecometry customer looks at the calendar.

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Blade = Enterprise Server?

HP reported at this summer's HP Technology Forum that the company leads the world in market share of blade servers. IDC numbers at mid-year show Hewlett-Packard is selling almost every other blade server in a growing marketplace. HP said its blade business is up 68 percent from last year.

To be sure, the message from the vendor's marketing is wrapped around blades. Michelle Weiss, VP of marketing for the Business Critical Systems, said the compact servers show the way on the HP map to the future.

"In the next generation datacenter, the whole idea is much more modular, much more efficient," she said. The only press release HP handed out at the conference touted the arrival of bladed — yes, another noun become a verb — NonStop servers. The 24x7 mission critical environment which HP retained, after departing the 3000 community, was held up as an example of how HP could blade any IT need.

But is it true for the HP 3000 customer, the one who's moving a typical big box server onto one of HP's other environments? Riding the HP blade wave will mean following a brand new roadmap.

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Users chat on license intentions

Up on the 3000 newsgroup, a gathering of customers and vendors is debating the merits and restrictions of MPE/iX licenses. The licenses to run MPE/iX are supposed to stay with the hardware forever, but somehow HP has managed to orphan some HP 3000s with no license at all anymore. A few of these top-line servers have been offered for sale by Brett Forsyth of CTS, a reseller based in Arizona.

There's no foul play going by trying to sell these servers. But it's notable that the MPE/iX license, stripped from the system by HP, can be replaced by HP — for a hefty sum by purchasing a Right to Use (RTU) license. As EchoTech's Craig Lalley said,

As with the Catholic church, if you pay a lot of money HP will do just about any thing you ask. One of them being give you an RTU.

Rumor has it they still support the HP 3000. And in fact you can ask for and get a quote for support. However, without an RTU, HP is not allowed to add it to a support contract.

But is there unfair intent in HP insisting on tens of thousands of dollars for reviving the life of an HP 3000? As Forsyth said, "the issue here is 'dead' 3000 systems  — what is their status, what is their purpose, and are they actually unusable just because HP says they are (this week)?"

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What will the RTU do for you?

At this year's HP Technology Forum, HP's Alvina Nishimoto said the company is thinking about revising its Right to Use licenses for the HP 3000. The RTU was first introduced in the spring of 2007, when HP said it didn't really believe it would generate much revenue for the vendor.

Flash-forward to this summer. We hear reports now that some HP 3000s are for sale on the open market, but these servers don't have an official, HP-sanctioned license for the MPE/iX operating system on the server. Such 3000s have seen their licenses removed, transferred to HP-UX systems by HP, leaving the 3000 hardware without any licensed version of the OS.

In this case, there's a way to return this hardware to the ranks of a licensed HP 3000 server. Simply purchase an RTU for the hardware, available from former North American HP 3000 distributor Client Systems. Customers and resellers report that an RTU has been quoted at between $80,000 and $100,000 for N-Class HP 3000s. This is a price in addition to the cost of acquiring the hardware from the broker, reseller or owner who doesn't have a license to go along with the box.

The RTU has another use in a case such as this, according to brokers, customers and owners. For a product which HP didn't expect to sell many of, it's bringing a windfall to HP and anybody who has permission sell the license. No license transfer document to satisfy HP? Buy an RTU, simply for the right to return an HP 3000 to the ranks of working systems.

But what the RTU's extra $80,000 expense will do to many plans to buy used 3000s is create a new market: "Good people going under the table," unable to afford anything but running a 3000 without a license. With HP leaving the support business by 2010, and closing its 3000 labs in a matter of months, this kind of ownership really won't have any operational or technical disadvantages. What is the RTU doing? Creating a new kind of 3000 user: customers going underground to stay within budget in a very tough economy. They can't afford to maintain any more contact, or contract, with HP.

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Make choices to sustain ERP, with reservations

Camus_logor The ERP user group CAMUS is holding its annual conference once again, a two-day meeting in Kansas City next month. The group focuses on manufacturing application issues, with a majority of its members running ERP on HP 3000s, or working on a migration away from that platform.

The theme for the 2008 meeting is Sustain Your Chain. Highlights for the September 17-18 meeting include

  • Going Green — Environmentally Conscious Practices Save Money
  • Inventory Reduction  — Dollars & Sense
  • Systems Management Best Practices
  • Regulatory Compliance - SOX, FDA, RoHS, Europe & China
  • Migration Paths
  • Workshops for testing new ideas

The user group has extended its hotel reservation deadline by one week, so you can register for the conference and get a special rate by Aug. 16. A CAMUS meeting is an intimate affair; you won't confuse it with the throngs at the HP Technology Forum. But percentage-wise, this conference carries a much higher number of users and vendors with HP 3000 experience and advice. Plus, the group's current president is Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group, inc., a mainstay of HP 3000 resources and services.

You can download a PDF document with details on this year's conference, or look up specific session abstracts at the CAMUS Web site.

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Leaving languages behind

Like the lumpy sofa you might have left in that apartment you moved out of, languages can lose their charms after years of use. Some HP 3000 shops moving apps to another platform would be good candidates to consider what language will be spoken in their new world.

A lot of the answer depends on who will be doing the speaking. When 3000 apps move to new environments, the software can end up being administered and developed by IT pros who don't speak a lick of COBOL, for example, or even know how to pronounce PowerHouse.

Unlike PowerHouse, COBOL isn't so costly that it sparks migration off of an HP 3000, but moving away from this business staple is sometimes seen as a nod toward the modern. A third-party compiler and debugging suite hopes to help COBOL programs become Java applications. Java is not a new promise to the 3000 community, but some ideas need years to pinpoint their promise. This latest concept means to do more than just make COBOL's appearances look more modern.

It has taken the better part of a decade, but Java is looking more ready to help HP 3000 users, so long as they're heading away from the platform. When a company says, "Web 2.0 applications can be developed entirely in COBOL,” it recharges the concept of Java. Veryant says its newest release is a COBOL compiler written in Java.

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History in the re-making, even today

Once or twice up here I've noted that I'm researching a history of the HP 3000 which I will write. This weekend I spent time catching up with a few of the better sources for 3000 histories — all while I was muddling through audio notes of my visit to the HP 3000 Software SIG meeting, held this summer at the Computer History Museum.

I'll have more to report on that CHM SIG meet, the first of which I hope will be many more. But for today, I'd like to point out a few bits of history the devoted 3000 user and devout HP Way worshiper might not know. For example, in Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company, Michael S. Malone includes a handful of pages about the HP 3000 saga. Malone has written a great HP book with just a dash of 3000 specifics. He notes that your system was the first product which ever embarrassed Hewlett and Packard in public — because it flopped so badly. The first 3000

...only supported two users, not the 64 it had promised. The computer sent was a pile of junk. It wasn't even finished, missing some key components. [Hewlett and Packard] heard about the dead-on-arrival 3000 from an article in Computerworld. It was the first piece of truly bad press Hewlett-Packard had experienced in 33 years of business, and the two founders... reacted ferociously.

It's good to recall history while trying to make some, like the efforts of the OpenMPE group to get a license to fix MPE/iX once HP has given up that business. Bill and Dave took measures in 1972 with the 3000 to ensure HP's reputation would survive intact. Some in HP will stand firm today to ensure no history can be written of a 3000 living and working beyond HP's involvement.

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Support tied up with BIND

Computer vendors worked hard and fast last month to fix a glaring hole in Domain Name Services. The exposure allowed hackers to exploit computer systems with DNS services which use BIND, BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), the popular open-source DNS software maintained by the Internet Software Consortium. A consortium of vendors worked together. Apple dragged its feet, releasing something yesterday which doesn't fix the problem.

It could be worse. The MPE/iX repair for this security problem is still being engineered into the operating system. HP's lab experts are doing the work now, and the project has high priority. But what kind of priority will fixing 3000 security holes have at HP on January 1, 2009?

These repairs will not be the kind of work typical of HP Response Center support engineering. After all, HP has said that 2009-2010 will be the era "without sustaining engineering." Which is exactly why the time has now arrived for Hewlett-Packard — and specifically R&D manager Ross McDonald — to finally start to un-BIND the system source code from those HP labs which close in about 20 weeks.

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