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February 2009

Voters keeping OpenMPE flame alive

Today marks the final day of 2009 voting for OpenMPE board directors. The election began more than two weeks ago, with almost 60 ballots cast as of this morning. If that doesn't seem like a wide swath of participation, consider the range of candidates versus open seats. The ratio this year is 1:1.

Despite the lack of drama, 3000 owners are voting for the four candidates listed for the four board seats. The advocacy group is running the election to stay true to its bylaws: one annual election for volunteer positions is required. Depending on the turnout today, the election could keep pace with contested balloting from years past. OpenMPE has been working for the community since 2002.

If you act by the end of today, Feb. 27, you could add your vote to the total and help represent the 3000 homesteading community. Like OpenMPE, it's a group which will continue beyond HP's efforts for the HP 3000 owner. "Don't forget," says secretary Donna Hofmeister, who's managing the election, "your vote still matters and continues to demonstrate your support for OpenMPE's mission."

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Lufthansa flies off to SAP replacement

Many HP 3000 customers who migrate do so onto lower-priced alternatives. User reports are rife with stories of Eloquence replacing TurboIMAGE, or programs which are emulated with few rewrites onto Windows systems, using a tool like AMXW (deployed at financials giant ING) or Ordina's MPUX. But some 3000 sites have succeeded at making the SAP behemoth work in place of MPE/iX in-house-written apps.

That's the report from Lufthansa Technik Airmotive Ireland, where IT manager Joe Farrell has managed the last of the transitions away from the HP 3000. SAP has been the target platform for the aircraft manufacturing firm ever since HP announced it would exit the 3000 community. Now the last 3000 app is being transferred to work on Intel-based servers. Lufthansa uses servers from Hewlett-Packard, no less.

"Incidentally, we host SAP on an entirely Intel-based platform (originally NetServers, but more recently Proliants)," Farrell reported. "There’s HP loyalty for you!"

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IMAGE logging: the poor man's shadow

Tracy Johnson, a business analyst at Measurement Specialties and an OpenMPE board member, suggested recently that the logging feature of the 3000's database IMAGE has powerful potential.

IMAGE logging is a wonderful tool for audit purposes, presuming you have the programs to read them. Ergo, we bought a tool to read our IMAGE logs from MANMAN/HP, and it has proven a remarkable means to establish blame and do finger-pointing.

Johnson's finger is aided by a third-party tool. The HP 3000 environment grew rich and powerful over the past three decades as a result of third-party engineering such as the software from Summit Systems.

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Migration splits duties of dropping, testing

    In what’s becoming a proven strategy for large migrations, Speedware and ING Australia split the work between revising applications, known as “code drops,” and creating and managing the test suites and testing of the re-hosted software. The large-scale project was completed in 2008.

    “It was a pretty substantive project,” said Andrea McCarley, the deployment manager for the migration project ING called Chrysalis. “We had six streams going at one point, with 20-30 in-house staff and other third party vendors involved as well.” Even at that size of staffing, the project was occupying only about 10-15 percent of ING’s IT staff, which at the time was more than 300 professionals.

    Speedware’s marketing director Chris Koppe said another motivation for ING was to reduce the number of third party applications needed for a production system. While some new vendors have been introduced to make Chrysalis a reality, the third-party elements were reduced from more than 40 to less than 20, he said.

    ING counted on some Unix expertise among its IT staff at the time of choosing HP-UX, but not a lot. McCarley said Speedware employed its AMXW migration tool, “but HP-UX was definitely a new environment to us, and particularly AMXW, which is proprietary to Speedware. But it provides a lot of functionality for us — it’s kind of the grease between the operating system and the application code, so we didn’t have to rewrite specific utilities.”

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Financial site shifts apps to new host

    Following a mandate from its computer vendor, assets and insurance management firm ING Australia Ltd. completed a “lift and shift” migration away from HP 3000 systems during 2008. The company said it chose to re-host rather than rewrite to reduce risk and cut the cost of the migration.

   Speedware’s professional services group worked for months on the ING project, deploying resources on the behalf of the financial firm such as onsite consulting and application code revisions. CIO Greg Booker said the project, which spanned more than 19 months including breaks, gave ING a large return from its large project. But the company had first begun to rewrite its applications before it changed strategy.

   “In the end, the project turned out to be very cost-effective,” Booker said. “We calculated that the cost of the re-hosting project, combined with the resulting maintenance costs over the next 10 years, would be four to five times less expensive than if we had continued with our rewriting project. That translates into a lot more money that can be invested into innovative projects focused on helping to grow our business.”

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HP to cut paychecks by May

Less than a day after HP reported a double-digit slide in nearly all of its businesses' profits, the company told employees in a memo that a wide range of employees will see 5 percent pay cuts by May 1. The cuts came on the heels of a surprising turnabout in HP's 2009 forecasts. HP expects its sales to drop by as much as 5 percent this year, even though the company acquired $22 billion in revenue by buying EDS last year.

CEO Mark Hurd is taking a 20 percent cut on his own base salary effective immediately. But Hurd's compensation last year was $34 million — and less than $2 million of that was base salary. Much of the CEO's compensation came in performance bonuses for 2007 and 2008.

That kind of pay perk seems unlikely if HP's trends continue through fiscal 2009. In November HP said it expected revenues to rise for fiscal 2009. On Feb. 18 the company told analysts that a "tough economic environment" has pushed down sales in every business line except services. Server sales took one of the steepest drops, and the segment contributed one of biggest declines in profits.

The ink was scarcely dry on reports of the quarterly results when employees read about HP's first "variable pay" implementation. HP said that the steepest cuts are directed at upper-level managers — some will see a 10-15 percent decrease — and that the company will be asking top-level staffers to support the variation in their pay.

Wider-sweeping cuts come in the form of pruning benefits for every employee, from retirement benefits to stock plans.

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HP server business slides in Q1

Q1RevChart One quarter ago, Hewlett-Packard said it was poised to improve its standings during a tough economy. HP's services and ink business fared better over the last 90 days, but customers have stalled out their purchases of company servers, PCs, and even printers. After its Q1 report of 2009, HP said it remains poised.

The numbers in hardware and enterprise products fell sharply. HP reported sales declines in BCS servers (including Integrity systems) of 17 percent and 22 percent in Industry Standard Servers (including Proliants). Integrity now represents more than four of every five server dollars spent on Business Critical Servers. Customers are buying smaller: Amid downward reports on most server lines, blade server revenues rose 4 percent year over year. HP cobbled together an overall 1 percent rise in revenues, ekeing out a virtually flat quarter despite adding services business from the $22 billion-yearly EDS operations.

Services led HP's report of good news for the company. But that segment's contribution of an extra $4 billion in revenues since last year's Q1 had to offset a drop off of nearly $1 billion in Enterprise Storage and Servers. "Our results reflect the current market environment," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "and in particular the slowing we saw in January, as customers re-evaluated their spending and  delayed purchases of equipment." The company even had to report that its printer business growth was finally halted after a seemingly-endless string of quarterly increases.

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Tibbenham joins OpenMPE advocacy

TonyFace2 Tony Tibbenham, an IT manager based in the UK, is joining the OpenMPE board of directors. The freshest face on the seven-year-old organization's team, Tibbenham has already migrated from the HP 3000, making him one of the most unique members of the group. Nearly all other members either were active 3000 users or represented companies serving the 3000 customer community.

Tibbenham believes the 3000 world deserves a representative from Europe. "I remain keen to see MPE remain available and provide a European voice on the Open MPE board," he says in his OpenMPE candidate biography. Plus he's got a new perspective in being a former user. He's an advocate for the server that his company was forced to shuffle to the low-profile duty of historical lookups. "We have no plans to drop the power to the server for several years," he says.

He also shared testimony on the 3000's durability. When he first arrive, the hardware at his company was spinning along in a room where the temperature was beyond 90 degrees. "A couple of weeks later I joined the company, got the air conditioning in the computer room repaired, and dropped the temperature to a more reasonable 19C (66F). The little box just kept spinning."

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Circuit City connects to 3000s to the end

Few companies are weathering a demise as public as Circuit City's. The consumer electronics retail outlet is closing its doors this spring, doors which have seen millions of people pass through looking for closeout deals. Also on the shutdown list are four HP 3000s which have run at the retailer since the 1980s, operating in-house applications.

The apps continue to operate, perhaps right up to the end of the company's computing. Bill Cooksey, who once worked with the 3000s and now has duties elsewhere in the firm's IT ops, said "the 3000s play a key role in transaction logging for our stores, and other sales functions, so as long as log records are generated we'll need to keep them up. Once they're down, nothing will replace them because everything will be shut down in time."

These systems are going offline the same way many computers go dark: the company folds its tent. The bankruptcy of Circuit City will accomplish what the company tried to do at least four times in the past: put another computer in place of the 3000s which was just as reliable.

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Presidential pay gets HP stimulus

HurdMug Today is Presidents' Day in the US, a holiday celebrated to mark the success of two of America's founders, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. This year is just another year for HP's board directors to celebrate another mark, president and CEO Mark Hurd, who collected compensation far in excess of $30 million in 2008.

The US economic stimulus package will be signed into law tomorrow, but one of its buried subsections limits pay for top execs like presidents whose companies accept stimulus money. Expect HP to not need such help, since it's got ample cash reserves and healthy profits, even while the firm lays off almost 25,000 people. Hurd has been relentless about cutting back expenses at HP, much to the approval of shareholders and analysts. Even with HP's ax a-swinging, investor analysts still believe HP is vulnerable to declines using its current management strategy.

Although paychecks are frozen at HP, presidential pay cuts are not part of HP's plans. A recent story in the Associated Press about Hurd's $34 million pay package got a slight correction last week. The AP noted that HP mis-reported stock figures in the package, so Hurd only received a 30 percent increase in '08 from his 2007 pay, not 31 percent. Companies who want to lead their markets do need to pay top dollars to keep talent, although how much of the 30 percent boost is essential could be debated. What other company in the computer business — the only business segment Hurd has worked in — might even be able to match the $24 million Hurd was getting in 2007?

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Migration launching advice grows wiser

UnixOwl Even now, in 2009, 3000 users are just starting migrations. Set aside for a moment the fact that HP miscalculated the migration span so badly for the 3000. Companies are learning Unix in a new era than in 2003. The good fortune of starting this year is there's a richer range of materials to study, some online, some on paper.

Texas Iron Works (TIW), a 90-year-old company supporting oil and gas exploration, "is in the beginning stages of migrating from MPE to HP-UX," said system admin Bobby Brogdon. He was looking for a cross reference guide between the two environments. HP just pulled down one of the best such resources when it shut off the Jazz server. While the community awaits the resurrection of the HP guide at places like Speedware and OpenMPE, there's other guidance.

Roy Brown pointed to the Robelle white paper on the Web that covers the subject. And in an example of the everlasting gift of the Web, a posting from the late Wirt Atmar still recommends a book about Linux.

The reference that I've found most helpful is O'Reilly's Linux in a Nutshell book. There are only two rules associated with computers: The first is that all computers are alike. The second is that all computers are different.

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3000 Jazz content transfer a big task

Hewlett-Packard released the contents of the Jazz Web server to the 3000 community last month, but it may be a few more before the software HP copyrighted can be downloaded for free. Along with Client Systems, Speedware negotiated a re-hosting license to distribute the materials, but one time-consuming task for any re-hosting licensee could be erasing HP's footprints from the field of programs and papers.

For example, OpenMPE Web coordinator Matt Perdue, who maintains the servers where Jazz programs are also in the process of finding a home, said that HP's logos and HP internal links have to scrubbed out of any Jazz paper or presentation, with the exception of not-easily-edited PDF files. The HP materials represent the cream of the milk of Jazz kindnesses. One re-hosting resource will clean up and send out HP's work first.

Speedware's Nicolas Fortin said his company will be hosting some, but perhaps not all of Jazz. "Our plan is to use a phase-based approach," he said, "where the first phase will be to make available the HP content we are allowed to host as soon as possible."

Significant parts of the Jazz contents were created by individuals, however. Re-hosting those programs means getting agreements from each of the creators.

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HP, Jazz programs earning new home

Speedware has announced that it's hard at work creating an independent resource for the software that HP used to offer the 3000 community via the HP Jazz Web server. Speedware became a licensee of the HP content from Jazz — programs, papers, documentation and freeware which HP had copyrighted — last month.

Speedware also signed licenses with HP to re-host the HP 3000 documentation and HP's migration training materials. The agreements give Speedware the rights to re-host those documents as well as the MPE/iX programs. The new resource holds the promise of becoming a centralized point for 3000 materials of all kinds, much like a Jazz resource located outside HP, Once Speedware finishes the transfer for the hosting, the third party supplier of migration services and 3000 software said it will maintain the same price point for the resources: free.

The software will be located in the HP e3000 Resources section of the Speedware Web site, said product marketing manager Nicolas Fortin. The vendor posted a notice on the 3000 newsgroup, outlining its intentions and calling out a few sample programs which will be available for downloading.

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$500 license to exit market in months

HP conceived the concept of an MPE/iX emulator license in 2003, dreaming up a $500 offer for customers who want to install the 3000's OS on non-3000 hardware emulators. More than five years later it appears the $500 plan won't even last into next fall.

By October, 2010, customers will not be able to order media for MPE/iX copies which they have already licensed. HP calls these "additional emulator licenses" in an FAQ on its go/e3000 Web page. Without the ability to order media next fall, the schedule will effectively close the door on HP's $500 emulation licenses, leaving users only the software license transfer (SLT) method to carry 3000 computing onto any emulator which emerge.

HP's e3000 business Manager Jennie Hou explained that the $500 license will include a copy of MPE/iX. But HP won't allow any customers to purchase the $500 license until an emulator is tested and released by a third party. Even if an emulator were somehow to emerge by the end of this summer, this timeline would curtail that $500 license to little more than one year of sales.

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Keep up with the 3000 community in social nets

Social networks are embracing the 3000 community this year. The popular sites Facebook and Linked In both have 3000-dedicated groups now. Out on Linked In, I've just now been joined by the 100th other Linked In member in the 3000 Community Group. It's good to get to triple digits. OpenMPE has triple-digit membership too, as does the bellwether of 3000 groups, the 3000-L mailing list/newsgroup.

There is also an HP 3000 Appeciation Society group on Facebook, launched by Steve Hobday. It has 36 members this morning, and some are not on the Linked In 3000 Community Group.

Joining these groups is free and very non-invasive. It is also one of the best ways to stay current with people who know your area of expertise and can recall the history of your great platform.

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Community pioneer Wirt Atmar dies

KickButt Wirt Atmar, founder of 3000 software firm AICS Research and an inventive leader of the 3000 community since the computer's inception, died yesterday at age 63. He leaves behind his wife and business partner Valerie, a son Mark, millions of lines of programs and Internet postings, and a legacy of creation — one that flowed from a clear-eyed view of a world where he helped computer science emerge and flourish.

Atmar died of a heart attack in his hometown in Las Cruces, NM early on Feb. 5. It was a place where he invited everyone to enjoy a free enchilada dinner when they visited him. He quipped once that it was interesting to live in a state where the omnipresent question was about enchildala sauce: "Green or red?" He gravitated to new ideas and concepts and products quickly. Less than a month after Apple introduced the iPhone, he bought and tested one, praising its promise even as he exposed its failures, from the unripened state of its software to the signal unavailability.

It will work well if you go stand in the street, however. If I go outside and stand under one specific tree, I can talk to anyone I want. In only one week, I have felt on multiple occasions just heaving the phone as far as I could throw it -- if it weren’t so damnably expensive. The iPhone currently resembles the most beautiful cruise liner you’ve ever seen. It’s only that they haven’t yet installed the bed or the toilet in your stateroom, and you have to go outside to use the “facilities,” and that’s irritating even if the rest of the ship is beautiful. But can you certainly see the promise of what it could become.

The postings were classic Wirt: Funny and insightful, cut precise with honesty, and complete in needed details. A cruise through his postings on the 3000 newsgroup stands as an extraordinary epitaph of his passions, from space exploration to environmental science to politics to evolution and so much more. He was a mensch and a brilliant polymath, an extraordinary combination in any human.

Less than 24 hours before he died, Wirt posted an lively report on migration performance gains he recorded after moving an MPE/iX program to faster hardware running Linux. It was an factual observation only Atmar could have presented, an example of the scientific practice the community loses with his passing.

One of the 3000 founders who was best known by his first name, Wirt was respected in the community for his honest and pragmatic vision of the 3000's history and potential, expressed in his countless e-mails and postings to the 3000 newsgroup. But alongside that calculating drive he carried an ardor for the platform. His was essential in sparking HP's inclusion of SQL support in IMAGE, a feature so integrated that HP renamed the database IMAGE/SQL. In 1996 Wirt led an inspired publicity effort that brimmed with a passion for possibility, conceiving and executing The World's Largest Poster Project (shown above) with the help of hundreds of volunteers on a Southern California football field. He quipped that after printing the hundreds of four-foot rolls of paper needed for the poster, loading them into a van for the trip to California represented "the summer corporate fitness program for AICS Research."

Wirtatmar Wirt's software company survives and perseveres, reports his widow Valerie, who's been AICS general manager since the company's inception, a start in a trailer with New Mexico State graduate students doing the coding in the early 1970s. AICS has evolved across more than three decades, its success and invention maturing and expanding around the HP 3000 user, ones both homesteading and migrating. Evolution has been essential to the company as well as its founder. Wirt lived a life that sprang from his career as an evolutionary biologist and research associate at the Center for Evolutionary and Environmental Biology at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.

Wirt was no stranger to the realities of death, having worked for a time as a scientist calculating the fatalities from various throw weights of nuclear attacks. He saw the 3000's treatment by HP in 2001 as a death of the system, a step he was the first to publicize before HP had released the news, one he abhorred but accepted with an outsized effort to evolve onto a new platform for his company's software. In the process of that evolution AICS gave away one of the most substantial gifts the 3000 community has ever received in QCTerm, terminal emulation software which is still free to anyone who downloads the program.

As news of Wirt's death spread through the community over the past day, tributes and condolences poured in through message on the 3000 newsgroup he enriched with his writing. Words connected Wirt to the life of the community, since he seldom traveled to 3000 user events. His travels were reserved for his pursuits in science. The tone of the online tributes showed that he touched the members with a certainty of opinion white-hot in its passion.

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Online classroom doors close for 3000s

Keeping the brain drain to a minimum is more of a challenge for a computer community of more than three decades. Unless the system gains fresh users over such a period, its knowledge base will age, retire or move on to other, more lucrative projects.

Losing any education opportunity for the HP 3000 sets limits on how long it can thrive. But Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith didn't have much choice when they decided to close up It was to be a Web-based 3000 classroom, running on a proven, online teaching app. The two seasoned training pros worked hard at getting HP 3000 instruction materials out of HP's hands, once the vendor ended its 3000 classes. The HP Development Corporation has made the turnover of such HP intellectual property a serious task for third parties like Edwards and Smith.

But even when independents like that duo step up, customers need to follow in their footsteps. The 3000 community is full of entrepreneurs, not organizations running off endowments. Business has to materialize to promote an idea into an enterprise. It didn't happen for mpe-education, despite interest from 3000 customers including HP's Bangalore operations. Nobody could seem to find their checkbook.

Due to several major factors, we can no longer offer MPE/iX virtual classroom training. The lack of any company to commit funds for training, the high cost and time commitment for the virtual classroom and toll-free phone services, and the cost of our Web site are the main issues in our decision.

Edwards and Smith have not abandoned education altogether. But to learn anything about IMAGE, Suprtool, MPE/iX administration, networking or other computing arts, you will have to contract with them to appear at your site. The venture was established to let you learn online.

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Security issue surrounds IPv6

HP's Unix endures much of the same onslaught of hacker vulnerabilities as other Unixes. A Security Bulletin from this week, one of the steady string of reports which keeps up with needed patches for HP-UX, illustrates how new Internet features expose new breeches in the OS that HP prefers for replacing migrating HP 3000s.

The latest bulletin warns users of HP-UX v11 that the IPv6 capabilities of the OS can provide a back door to Denial of Service attacks. HP devised a patch to close the DoS vulnerability before it warned customers about the exploit. In contrast, last week HP simply advised HP 3000 sites to stop using a compromised part of MPE/iX, the seldom-employed BIND/iX DNS module.

BIND/iX seemed like a good idea at the time, to give the 3000 a full complement of Internet tool and enable intranets. It never caught on. "I never did understand why it was released," said 3000 consultant Joe Horrigan. "A cheap white box [PC] can do the same function using Linux or Windows. Not a good use for a 3000 system costing $100,000."

For customers who have access to the HP IT Response Center Knowledge Base, the IPv6 bulletin can be read online at the HP site. HP never put IPv6 into MPE/iX, so the 3000's OS already has its usual patch: security through differences with the rest of the world's Unix users. In this case, the security has been provided by HP's lack of protocol support. Call it Security Through Omission, if you want.

If you're keeping score over the past week on Security Bulletins, the resolutions are tied: HP-UX 1, MPE/iX 1.

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Advocates recruit fresh directors

Rhett OpenMPE has invited the 3000 community to continue advocacy on behalf of system owners. HP's lab is closed. Only a few items remain on HP's price list related to the server: support contracts, licenses, subsystem products that are going to be slow sellers at best. But just because there's no HP 3000 division to tangle with doesn't mean the war is over yet. OpenMPE is seeking candidates for its board of directors. The voting begins Monday.

It's easy enough to stand for election to the board; sending an e-mail to secretary Donna Hofmeister will do the trick. Things have been lost in your community. Advocacy is not yet lost, and asking questions remains good work in a good cause.

Joining 3000 leadership now might feel like Rhett Butler joining the Confederates near the end of the Civil War. ("But they're running away," says Scarlett. "Oh no, they'll make a last stand, if I know anything about them," Rhett replies, "and when they do, I'll be with them.") Rhett says he's always had a weakness for lost causes, "once they're really lost." During 2008 the community lost the vendor's lab, and perhaps a few hundred companies who migrated.

But OpenMPE's director Birket Foster believes that 2009 still holds advocacy goals the group's nine directors can attain.

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OpenMPE extends 3000's broadcast day

Indian_head  OpenMPE has announced another board election, which makes us consider if the end of the 3000's broadcast day will ever arrive — or if that signing-off concept is just too creaky to carry forward. In our podcast for today (5 minutes, 5MB) we talk about the election and broadcast endings. Back when television was the only mass media and the HP 3000 was new, TV stations would end a broadcast day. In the US they’d play the national anthem and the screen would switch over into a test pattern.

50 years ago tomorrow marks "The day the music died," deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, an event commemorated in the song American Pie. By coincidence, American Pie was a No. 1 hit the same year HP introduced the 3000. People wonder if any day anytime soon will be the day the 3000 dies. OpenMPE gets its vote in to proclaim it won't be this year.

The group's election kicks off one week from today, your chance to choose volunteers to advocate for your needs as a 3000 owner who will operate the system beyond 2010. Why care? There are items and issues that still need to be resolved and addressed. And OpenMPE recently scored an important concession to keep 3000s in service. Hear about it on the podcast.