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November 2008

HP to curtail Software Update Services

As part of its November advisory to the community, Hewlett-Packard announced that it's ending its Software Update Services program for MPE/iX core software and subsystems. Starting January 1, 2009, these materials will only be available through HP Support resources.

Patches will still be available to the 3000 community via the IT Response Center mechanism working today. HP says the General Release patches will be available through Dec. 31, 2015.

The HP 3000 group at Hewlett-Packard had been supplying engineering for PowerPatch updates, the 3000 operating system tapes and other software materials to HP's support customers. Next year that work shifts entirely to the company's support operations. HP warned customers that delivery times may be extended as a result of the shift.

"People who have a support contract with us today should be contacting HP now to get updated media, versus later," said e3000 business manager Jennie Hou. "In 2009 there will be a different process to do that. It will be easier to use the existing process if they need to get additional software media."

We are saying to the supported customers that if you want to order your updated media (7.5, PowerPatches, etc.) to which you are entitled through the Software Update Services (SUS), we recommend you place the order now.  You can still get them post-2008, it's just that the delivery time will vary, as the Software Update Manager (SUM) will no longer be available on the ITRC. For the other customers not signed up for SUM entitlement, the ordering process will remain the same

Give thanks for each other

In a year that is marked by the loss of HP's labs, the 3000 community can give thanks for the resources which remain. Community members can be thankful for one another, the ability to connect with experts, and the continued efforts of OpenMPE and advisors trusted to empower transitions.

HP's announcement of a licensing program for read-only source code might spark some gratitude as well. The level of thanks at the moment hovers around hope, since no deals have been struck yet or code distributed. The vendor is opening up its intellectual property to possible license. The magnitude of the offer will be determined next year, but it's a start.

The generosity that you can count on today, this week, and this year flows from your community. This collective of wise, patient and seasoned individuals and companies supplies real value to your 3000 experience. An independent support team, or the honed skills of a migration services provider, or the resolute business plan of a software vendor which still offers maintenance contracts: This is what you can give thanks for today, this day when the US celebrates Thanksgiving.

You can ensure there's just as much to be thankful for next year, too. As of today, there's one under-thanked organization which has earned more respect. HP told its customers that OpenMPE played a vital part in the plan to release MPE/iX source code as reference material. HP's e3000 lab director Ross McDonald said that "We also want to take this opportunity to again recognize the OpenMPE Board for their continued advocacy on behalf of the HP e3000 customers who are continuing to use their systems through this end-of-life period."

OpenMPE is built of volunteers, but the organization will need to make ends meet soon if it's to continue to do the work it has accomplished up to now, plus shoulder the loss of HP assets like Invent3k and Jazz.

Continue reading "Give thanks for each other" »

HP's Jazz lab server plays final notes

Launched in an era when the Internet was new, HP's Jazz lab server for HP 3000 training, technique and tools will go dark on December 31. Third party resources are rising up to replace the hosting point, but HP's has ended its contributed software efforts, the MPE/iX programs which will not find a new home inside HP.

Jazz Jazz was named after Jeri Ann Smith, an HP engineer whose contributions and enthusiasm for network tools supplied a spark to the 3000's nascent offerings. By the late 1990s, "It will be up on Jazz" had become a common refrain from HP software engineers when they reported on the location of new tools and technical papers. HP reported yesterday that the documents will be re-hosted on other HP support systems. But the downloadable programs — more than 80 projects created by HP as supported software, or by community members in volunteer efforts — must find a new home by year's end.

HP said that Jazz is going dark because its 3000 labs will end operations on Dec. 31. Since the server is maintained by HP's lab staff, halting the lab's engineering means unplugging the Series 900 HP 3000 which has been running for 12 years. Bootstrap development fundamentals such as the GNU Tools, the open source gcc compiler and utilities ported by independent developer Mark Klein, have had a home on Jazz for a decade. More than 80 other programs are hosted on the server, some with HP support and others ported and created by HP but unsupported.

Fortunately for the 3000 community, OpenMPE is already working on a new home for the treasures on Jazz.

Continue reading "HP's Jazz lab server plays final notes" »

HP creates first MPE/iX source license

Tomorrow: More, on the closing of HP's Jazz lab server

Hewlett-Packard has reached into its recent past to develop a future tool for the 3000, a document to work after the company's end-game in 2010. The vendor still calls this period "end-of-life," but it is devising a means to assist 3000 survival after the vendor leaves the market. Many details of HP’s first third party license of MPE/iX remain under the wraps of what HP calls simple business ethics and commonplace confidentiality.

HP has turned to a resource which left the company, the retired HP engineer Mike Paivinen who heard OpenMPE requests from 2002 to 2007, to help shape this long-sought MPE code license. The license will cover "most of the core operating system, most of networking, and TurboIMAGE," according to Paivinen.

HP hired Paivinen at the end of this summer to work on the licensing project, bringing him back to the company as a contractor. What the vendor is creating will not give anyone enough license to build new versions of MPE/iX. Instead, a license for a read-only reference copy of the source will be available to some companies supporting 3000 users, as well as software suppliers. HP has not capped the number of licenses.

"There is no predefined number of licenses," said Jennie Hou, the e3000 business manager at HP. "We're trying to balance the need for HP e3000 customers to get technical support with the potential downside of having a large number of patch developers." HP didn't say why a large number of developers would be a downside. The company is licensing the use of the source as-is, with no support.

The source code is aimed at companies offering support or products related to the 3000. "The source code is going to be available as reference material for third parties whose business is providing technical support to HP customers," Paivinen said in a briefing. "The way we define technical support is investigating problems, developing workarounds and creating instruction-level binary patches that modify the object code."

A 3000 customer's status as an HP support customer has no bearing on anyone's suitability for a license, HP said.

Continue reading "HP creates first MPE/iX source license" »

HP touts Q4 figures in report

HP considered the last two months of its fourth quarter as a tough stretch of road. But today the vendor put a bright face on strong financials from that period, toting up record sales for Q4 as well as for for fiscal 2008. CEO Mark Hurd stressed ongoing cost cutting and confidence in the future. But HP's leader said the vendor had to do its work to make sure that Q4 would deliver extra profits as well as the sales increases buoyed by new acquistion EDS.

"These results demonstrate our ability to execute in a challenging market," Hurd said in a conference call and financials presentation with investment analysts. "Great companies excel in tough times, and in tough times customers turn to great companies. "I'm confident in HP's ability to gain share, expand earnings and emerge from the current environment as a stronger force in the marketplace."

While the HP services and support sector is expected to withstand the downturn in the economy, analysts show concern over the hardware-based parts of HP's business such as business servers. Figures from the report show Enterprise Storage and Servers, which delivers HP's 3000 alternatives such as Industry Standard Windows systems and the HP Unix Business Critical Server, saw revenues down 1 percent year to year. The Business Critical Servers revenue dropped 10 percent overall, while Integrity systems sales rose 6 percent.

Integrity now represents 83 percent of BCS revenues. HP blade server revenues, which includes some Integrity systems, rose 33 percent from the same period last year.

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Now playing, our November print issue

Last night we posted the pages for our November printed NewsWire issue online. It's a 20MB PDF file, so it may take a little while to download. But the issue contains five articles which we have not yet posted to the blog, so you can read them in advance. We will have them up here over the next week or two.

And if you'd like your own mailed copy of the November issue, send an e-mail with a postal address.

Don't forget to check back here early tomorrow for breaking news about the HP advisory,  concerning the vendor's end-game issues around its 3000 operations post-2010. It's the second of three communiques on how HP means to resolve what it likes to call "end of life" issues.

We also expect to have a brief report later today -- within a few hours after the markets close -- on the full release of HP's Q4 financials.

OpenMPE approaches Invent3k services

As Hewlett-Packard prunes back its HP 3000 operations, opportunities are blooming. OpenMPE will be re-planting the Invent3k public access server, a resource that HP will turn off by month's end. The project will represent the first benefit the advocacy group offers which all 3000 owners can enjoy.

Donna Hoffmeister, an OpenMPE director and part of the technical support team at Allegro Consultants, explained that the organization will do more than HP was doing with Invent3k, a 3000 where programmers and developers have been creating software for any use, public or private, since the summer of 2001.

OpenMPE has additional plans for the Invent3k that include hosting Telamon’s freeware collection as well as the [free] Contributed Software Library software [formerly hosted at Interex]. We will be working with HP to retain both the gnu and perl development environments that exist on the current Invent3k system. The third-party software vendors are invited to have accounts on the new Invent3k server just as before.

Third parties hosted copies of their software, to support development projects, on the public server while it lived its life as a Series 989 3000 at HP. Mark Bixby, who was managing the server while he worked at HP, said interest was strong when the resource went online in 2001. "A lot of the long-time porters have signed up," he said then, "because it’s a lot bigger machine than we’ve had access to in the past. It helps experienced porters do their work faster. There’s also been quite a lot of sign-ups of people who just lurk on 3000-L. It’s nice to know that lurking community is eager to get involved."

OpenMPE is answering questions via e-mail about the new life for this community Web resource.

Continue reading "OpenMPE approaches Invent3k services" »

HP sets work, reports schedule into 2009

HP has confirmed that its second advisory to the 3000 community will be posted next week. These reports will address issues about the vendor's end-game for active 3000 operations. Support continues through 2010, but the 3000 labs, as well as nearly all operations unrelated to support or migration advice, go dark next month.

What's more, the dimming of lights will begin early in December, pretty much on the Winter Solstice. By the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, HP will be off for the year-end holidays, not to return until the week of Jan. 5. The company notified employees last week it would extend its normal week-long shutdown for the holiday to two weeks, to "achieve significant operational savings." Employees can either use vacation time or take the days unpaid, but the company will shut down for the back half of December.

The shutdown may be playing a role in the timetable for what HP's e3000 business manager Jennie Hou has called the final communique on 3000 matters other than support. Hou targeted January as the date for the third of three advisories about HP's disposition of post-2010 issues. MPE/iX source code licensing remains un-addressed.

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HP predicts stable '09 business

HP's stock rose more than $4 a share yesterday on a company report that Hewlett-Packard total revenues in 2009's Q1 will remain unchanged from the current quarter's numbers. HP floated a preliminary report, one week ahead of its full Q4 and fiscal 2008 statement, which said the company's revenues were $33.6 billion for the period ended Oct. 31. Net revenue rose 19 percent, but that figure included sales from newly-acquired EDS.

HP's business other than the EDS services revenues grew, too. "Excluding the impact of the EDS acquisition, HP revenue grew 5 percent year over year, or 2 percent when adjusted for the effects of currency," said HP's release on the early figures. Fourth quarter net revenues in total rose $5.3 billion from a year earlier. The company finished 2008's fiscal year with record sales of $118.4 billion in net revenue, up $14.1 billion from fiscal 2007.

Earnings rose slightly in HP's preliminary report on the quarter, up 4 percent. HP's CEO said the company increased market share in some businesses. He added that Hewlett-Packard will get to the other side of the current economic downturn in better shape.

“HP delivered another solid quarter as it continues to benefit from its global reach, diverse customer base, broad portfolio and numerous cost initiatives,” said Mark Hurd, HP chairman and chief executive officer. “Our ability to execute in a challenging marketplace differentiates HP, enabling it to increase share, expand earnings and emerge from the current economic environment as a stronger force.”

But analysts said that it was HP's fiscal 2009 outlook that triggered the shot of investor confidence.

Continue reading "HP predicts stable '09 business" »

HP pulls Polymorphic Computing out of garage

By Birket Foster
Special to the NewsWire

The CommunityConnect 2008 conference in Europe last week featured Martin Fink, the Senior VP and GM for the HP Business Critical Server group. Fink gave a talk on Polymorphic Computing. What is that, you say? Well, Fink used an analogy from the car industry, one where you have different cars with steering wheels, engine, chassis and tires that can be changed on demand. Think of the object-oriented programming concept of late binding, he suggested.

Here’s how it sounded to me, a software vendor sitting in an audience full of software vendors. Your polymorphic car would assemble itself in your garage for the purpose you need – so you could have a sports car one evening for what Fink called “a hot date with the wife,” then the next day you could order up a minivan to go shopping, and in the afternoon the polymorphic assembly garage would deliver a pickup truck so you could pick up some lumber for a do it yourself project.

The current world of virtualization will allow computing resources to be configured for different tasks. The workload will be profiled so that the CPU, memory, disc space, and network IO matches the requirement. Once you get to that stage, you could be buying your computing in a metered environment. Utility computing will finally become a reality just in time for a change of name – the current moniker is “Cloud Computing,” where your computing services get provided by a large company like HP, or Amazon or Google. In the cloud, the applications as well as the whole environment are built around the concept of a flexible billing system.

The issue that I have with all of this is the billing system.

Continue reading "HP pulls Polymorphic Computing out of garage" »

Moving Remembrances, Moving On


ScreenJet commissioned editorial cartoons in 2003 about HP's migration push

The HP 3000 community is moving onward this week, the latest one to follow the annual Nov. 14 celebration of HP's exit announcement about its e3000 business. But the news that changed the community's world first broke on November 5, 2001, when the vendor community talked openly about the rumors it heard during October of that year. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shared his story of what receiving the news felt like.

I heard on Monday the 5th of November 2001. Interesting date, since in the UK it's Guy Fawkes Night, "Gunpowder Treason and Plot" as the rhyme goes. It is the day we English celebrate the attempt to blow up our Parliament. To be honest I'm never sure if historically the people celebrated "the attempt," or that it failed.

I started ploughing through email that day when I opened one from Wirt Atmar [of AICS Research]. It was an "open" letter to [HP's e3000 General Manager] Winston Prather (so I'm sure he won't mind me quoting an extract).

Dear Winston,

I have heard on Friday and Saturday through the grapevine the same basic story a sufficient number of times now that I believe it to be true:

“HP will announce on November 14 that the HP 3000 line is dead. Last sales of the system will announced to be November 2003, with support through November 2007, with some migration assistance to HP-UX being offered.” I can say that I am deeply shocked, saddened, and angry, but I’m not surprised.

Yeo answered in a reply on that Monday, "We have until the 14th to prepare for the Tidal Wave that will hit us from customers. And I know of several customer sites where just this hint will be all it takes to undermine people that have fought long and hard to keep their HP 3000s." He added this:

Representing a relatively small organisation, one of the questions that potential customers always ask is “How do I know you will stay in business to support us?” My answer is “You don’t, but as a small company we need to keep your business, and unlike large organisations we are very unlikely to arbitrarily drop a product because something else looks more promising.” I believe very good vendor support is one of the reasons that the HP 3000 has survived so long and has developed such a reputation for robustness. Little did I suspect that this would happen with HP itself.

So where to from here?

Continue reading "Moving Remembrances, Moving On" »

Anniversary week winds down, goes onward

This has been a remarkable week for anniversaries. First HP's Unix — replacement target for Hewlett-Packard's favored path for 3000 migrations — celebrates its 25th anniversary. Two days later, Microsoft toasts the 25th year of Windows, the less-favored but more-often-chosen target from the 3000. Today your community commemorates the 7th anniversary of the pullout that changed our working worlds, HP's notice it would quit the 3000 business.

As we've noted in years 2005 through 2007, the exit date for HP isn't certain, although this year's lab closing makes it inevitable. Hewlett-Packard will never re-open its development center for MPE/iX, so for the few of you who've been holding out hope, the SS Return to Business will never make port again. You're porting your systems and apps, or steering a course away from HP — or at least its support business.

We asked around the community yesterday, looking for a few remembrances of that chilly November Wednesday when HP froze out its futures in your market. The stories had an air of acceptance in them. On the Kubler-Ross Steps of Grieving, Acceptance is the last. It gives the survivor the permission to move onward. You've moved, even if many of your companies still rely on the HP 3000.

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Measure HP's relative value of 3000 models

Confchartpic There's nothing to be bought in the 3000 marketplace now but used systems. HP has not built or delivered a new HP 3000 since early in 2004, which makes every computer sale a transaction that can be negotiated and calculated. HP has a tool to help with the calculation, an official measure of the relative performance of every HP 3000 system ever made. It's a four-year old PDF file, but it reveals a lot more than any Web-based calculator.

The figures in HP's 2004 e3000 Business Servers Configuration Guide reveal some surprising comparisons in horsepower. HP has laid out the speed ratings in a matrix, a choice which simplifies judging the horsepower of the 9x9 Series against the newer and allegedly faster A-Class and N-Class servers. The figures show why the Series 9x9s are such a great value these days. There are many more of these available 9x9s in the marketplace than used N-Class servers, since HP only built the N-Class for a couple of years at most.

As for the A-Class, almost all of it is outstripped in performance by a wide range of 9x9s. Not to slag the A-Class 3000s, but buying one of these will be influenced in large part by the age of the hardware and its ability to take on newer disc.

For example, I didn't know that the N-Class single-processor 220MHz systems run at just about the speed of a Series 959. Finding that N-4000-220-100 might be the challenge, since it was the lowest end of the N-Class line. But laying your hands on a Series 959 is easy pickings. And HP's chart shows lots of blank spots where the 9x9 servers run faster than an N-Class. Even a three-processor, 440Mhz N-Class can be matched by a Series 989-650. You will get fewer options on peripherals and greater power consumption with the 9x9s, but availability and price are swell trade-offs.

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CORE Webcast offers PowerHouse, Transact options

One week from today, CORE Migration is hosting a 30-minute Webcast on legacy migration from the HP 3000 to Windows. The company is offering a speedy migration plan: It will demonstrate how CORE migrates a PowerHouse application during the span of the Webcast. The Microsoft .NET platform is CORE's target.

CORE also has its sights set on the HP 3000 sites using Transact. This Hewlett-Packard language continues to run in some surprising places, although most of the surprise is that Transact is installed at all. The language introduced in the 1980s is a great example of a software solution that HP abandoned years ago, while its customers did not.

Whether the 3000 site is moving PowerHouse or Transact apps, CORE says that "lift and shift" is too low a goal to set for a migration. "The migrated solution must fulfill user expectations, address real needs and do more than just replace the existing solution," said the invitation to the Webcast set for 11 AM EST on Nov. 19. You can sign up for the WebEx presentation at the CORE site.

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HP toasts its Unix quarter-century

By Birket Foster

Special to the NewsWire

Mannheim, Germany — Yesterday at the Connect Europe user conference, the 25th anniversary of the HP-UX operating system was celebrated in a special session hosted by HP's Juergen Probst. It marked a milestone, not as many years of service as the HP 3000, but over a million copies of HP's Unix have shipped across the four processors that provided the operating system's path – an impressive history in the world of computing.

Guests who dropped in on the anniversary party included Brian Cox, Director of Software Marketing for Business Critical Systems, and Martin Whittaker, director of engineering for BCS. Connect's conference included a separate track on HP-UX. HP gave a good review of the history of HP-UX, then shifted into detailing gains that customers were getting in moving from HP-UX 11v2 to HP-UX 11v3.

Since HP-UX futures are limited to operating on the Itanium processor, the Itanium roadmap was rolled out, and a roadmap for versions 4 and 5 of the OS was outlined. It seems HP has done quite a bit of work on virtualization, and a discussion of the guest operating systems showed off the flexibility of the new HP-UX environment.

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3000 goes in an open direction

More than 11 years ago, HP was teaching HP 3000 skills to the world. George Stachnik, an HP employee who communicated 3000 advantages to customers, wrote a series of articles for HP 3000 newbies. In an early part of his series that started in 1997, he summed up HP's view of the system's future (Where's the HP 3000 Going?) as the company saw it back then.

The evolution of the HP 3000 has been driven by the open systems revolution that swept across the IS industry beginning in the 1990s. By 1990, most new computer applications and technologies were being developed on (and for) Unix computers. This trend threatened to leave proprietary architectures like the HP 3000 out in the cold.

In response, HP began bringing industry standard interfaces from the HP 9000 to the HP 3000, focusing first on functions that were standardized by IEEE’s Posix committees. Version 4.0 of MPE XL was renamed to“MPE/iX” (the iX stands for “Integrated PosiX”). The Posix functionality made it easier than it had been to port software from Unix to the HP 3000. Other industry standards (BSD Sockets, SQL, ODBC, Java) have been brought to the 3000 by HP in subsequent OS releases. All this open systems functionality has continued to be enhanced on subsequent releases.

Of course, that Posix functionality remains in MPE after seven successive releases. HP has not eliminated much from the 3000's feature set after more than 30 years of development. Posix makes the HP 3000 behave like Unix systems. HP was betting in 1997 that this similarity could preserve the system. Even though HP shifted its bets four years later about the 3000, using the Posix shell is a way to get an IT staffer introduced to the 3000 from a Unix perspective.

Consider that this weekend starts the eighth year of 3000 survival after HP changed its bet. Adding Posix may not have had the effect HP intended for the vendor's 3000 business. But it edged the system into open source, which could be a key to surviving another seven years.

Continue reading "3000 goes in an open direction" »

Keep the CALENDAR up to date

The year 2027 has been notable for customers who don't plan to leave the HP 3000. That's the year when timestamps stop being accurate, because the CALENDAR intrinsic in MPE/iX only uses 7 bits to store year information.

If your HP 3000 apps are using CALENDAR, HP advises that you use the newer HPCALENDAR. The newer intrinsic extends the 3000's date accuracy for more than 30 years beyond 2008. Yes, that's right; 2038 will be the last year to accurately store timestamps.

HP's advisory, which got referenced by its support and patch tracker today, explains the differences. At least in part:

The original MPE timestamp format was that used by the CALENDAR intrinsic, a 16 bit quantity allowing 9 bits for the day of the year and 7 bits for the year, added to 1900. Since the largest number represented by 7 bits is 127, this format is limited to accurately storing years up to 2027.

The newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic uses a 32 bit quantity, allowing 23 bits for the year, since 1900 and the same 9 bits for the day of the year. This format provides a significantly longer period of timestamp accuracy.

When HP began to talk about a Posix timestamp function that works on the 3000, the advice needed a bit of explanation from HP's 3000 lab engineer Bill Cadier.

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OT = Outta There

The 3000 community has been knit together over the past 13 years through the threads of the Internet. I mean threads in a literal-technical sense, because a mailing list and newsgroup — 3000-L, or comp.sys.hp.mpe — has spanned those years and served thousands in your world with news and views.

There's too much of the latter of late. Much of the time, this communication channel has been overturned like a box of apples and used as a bully pulpit for half its traffic. If you've ever tried to find out something about the 3000 using this group, you'll be stepping around steaming piles of opinion and "facts" and unfettered banter about killing a newly elected President. (I kid you not.)

See, the Internet has no filters for such fetid stuff. But to see it rife in a reasonable community's channels is reason enough to set your own filters beyond stun. As in "Erase without reading," now that the US had an election and there's reason to complain. Generous community members who share skills also spare us no foam from rabid opinions. The lone bit of civility is to slap "OT" for Off Topic on their subject lines. Perhaps it's just me, but asking "So no comments about the price of fuel?" seems a waste of someone's time, unless this passes for social discourse.

Good and helpful and seasoned 3000 people have sworn off this channel over the years, some leaving the 3000, others leaving the rough trade of epithets, slurs and puffery. Few of these doing the posting would say the same things in your community at, say, a user group meeting, face to face. The Internet makes rebels of us all, hidden behind the safety of that screen.

The help from the 3000-L, in providing a communications channel, was a big factor in starting our newsletter in 1995 that expanded to this blog. I started getting these messages by e-mail, and 544 other people take in this chatter the same way. There's nothing harmful in any message without an OT, and much to be learned. But this week I'm setting my filter differently for the OT. On my system I already store more than 14,000 OT messages from 2001 onward, all of which are never backed up. Every one, for good or ill from the past and into the future, is getting flushed today. Unless your skin is thick, your time ample, your social network thin, or your sense of humor brooding and prone to insult, I'd advise that you shift all the OT to Outta There.

Continue reading "OT = Outta There" »

The people have spoken

And in 3000 country, your community, they have been speaking about this all year: Yes, you can count on using your 3000 until your migration is finished, even if HP will be finished with the 3000 business much sooner. In our post-election podcast (7 Minutes, 7 MB) we listen to the voices of those who chronicle 3000 changes, establish new resources, and work for the hope of more development tomorrows.

No matter what your values for your 3000, either migrating or homesteading, anyone who still has a 3000 running is in this together — and we have at least that much in common. Working together with new ideas and resources is the key to a can-do future. There's plenty of help to hear about in our changing world.

The Security of the No. 2 Pencil

Fraudpolls By now, all of us are are voting for President today in the US, a process that has many different methods. For our choice within The Big Choice, we have Diebold touchscreen voting machines, e-Slate thumbwheel systems, mail-in balloting, even the ageless paper and Number 2 pencil. While there has been a lot of talk about this election being gamed or somehow manipulated through less-secure, more advanced technologies, the majority of Americans will be using paper today to elect their politicians.

This is the way it should be: The most reliable and toughest-to-crack technology should be the standard for anything so important. The pencil, the paper, these are the tools that humans have been using for hundreds of years. It's been hundreds of years, in computer-industry-time, that companies have used the HP 3000 and MPE. When the stakes are high, like in mission-critical computing where you can't afford outages or incorrect results, simple is a good choice.

Bunchopencils What your 3000 community has been campaigning for this year is the right to make their choice. Today, the voters in my country can't choose which tool to vote with; state by state, it's been made for them by politicos who didn't put the choice of tools up for a vote. Nobody wants to deal with hanging chads, just like nobody wants an HP 3000 to be ghettoed off to an isolated node of a network. But there are compromises that can be made while retaining the most fraud-proof tool.

And after all, if the HP 3000 was as broken as Hewlett-Packard told us nearly seven years ago, then the constituency of 3000 Country would be much smaller than it is today. The years have not added to the populace, but they have not been unkind to those who must remain for awhile, or for as long as they possibly can stay.

(And if you have read this far and live in the US and haven't voted, go vote. We'll wait right here until you can come back and read something far less important than what US citizens need to be doing today.)

Continue reading "The Security of the No. 2 Pencil" »

Connect delivers 21st Century handouts

Blades_in_sim The collection of this year's HP Technology Forum slide sets arrived in our mailbox this week. Connect, the HP user group, calls the DVD the Conference Proceedings. Back in the days when paper ruled and presentations came out one foil at a time onto overhead projectors, speakers at meetings like the HPTF called these "handouts," a literal term since they handed them to attendees in the room. They were very tough to acquire after the conference.

HP 3000 veterans remember returning from conferences with pounds of paper in their bags, or picking up handsome bound collections of papers of technical talks. It was a disappointment to get a talk which only had a set of slides, but now that's the standard. Without personal notes taken on paper, of course, the value of these presentation slide sets waned with every passing week.

Hewlett-Packard and the user groups who ran these shows had an interim period between paper and electronic files, a conference or two early in the decade when you could print a presentation on demand at the conference. Now these bullets arrive by mail, five months after the conference in this year's case. They're sent on DVD to every Connect user, regardless of attendance at the conference. It's a bonus of a Connect membership that can be had for only $50 yearly.

But the slides arrived in PDF format, rather than the genuine PowerPoint which attendees can download from the Tech Forum site. Sending PDF files via DVD seems pretty 20th Century, considering how many such discs (albeit CDs) the user group Interex mailed after its conferences. Or at some shows, had available for pickup before you left. Time matters here; the five-month gap can be a barrier while trying to make sense of all this PowerPointing from the past.

ServiceshiftsThere is some value in the disc, especially if you're a migrating community member who didn't travel to the Las Vegas show. New concepts such as integrated Lights Out (iLO) management for Integrity servers, environment choices for x86-based HP blades, and ITIL management are among the slide sets. For example, ITIL uses Services as its fundamental coin of the realm, so a good slide (above) helps get the new concept across.

But across 24 years, I've used most technologies to take notes at conferences, and PDF-only slides arriving five months post-conference carry less value to me than taking notes on printed handout slides, old-style. Most 2008 Tech Forum presentations got displayed on a screen, with a promise to make the slide sets available after the show.

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