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User group keeps 3000s in the game

HP 3000 user groups have grown uncommon and small over the past seven years. The demise of regional groups, as well as national organizations like Interex, has almost eliminated face-to-face networking opportunities. The 3000 community is learning to rely on virtual gatherings, but it does miss the chance to break bread and share stories and tips.

But OpenMPE, and to a lesser extent the Greater Houston RUG, remain on the scene. Nobody will mistake their efforts for the 1990s volunteering offered by the 3000 community. HP listened and got to work on requests back then, attending public meetings and speaking up. During 2006-08 HP was in the room among fewer users and saying even less. Doing more with less HP attention, OpenMPE remains a player for the 3000's future.

Users with broad-brush attention still say OpenMPE delivers next to nothing and keeps what it knows to itself. The meeting minutes of the group haven't been updated since November. But the groups' directors have spoken up about their tug of war with HP since last fall. Nobody else stepped up to host the Invent3k public access server when HP shut it down last year. As for what else OpenMPE has accomplished, you need only look at what the group asked HP to take on five years ago. It's a batting average an All Star might envy.

An OpenMPE board with a very different roster proposed a "Gang of Six" essentials to keeping 3000s viable at homesteading companies. (These kinds of 3000s are also in production at migration-bound sites, the ones with a shut-down date beyond 2010.) The list of the six essentials — none of which were in HP's early migration strategy — shows four outright successes, one that's in the hands of third parties, and another that HP's promised for 2011.

That's four hits, one walk and maybe another sacrifice fly (a base plus an out) in baseball terms. Batting .600 is never done on the ball field. The trouble with the stats is that HP gets all the credit, while it's been OpenMPE that's been going to the plate for you.

For the record books, the Gang of Six were

  1. Remove or publish passwords for MPE-unique system utilities no later than end of 2006.
  2. Enable MPE license transfers, upgrades and hardware re-configuration (add/upgrade processors) to continue after 2006; for emulator usage, changing user license levels, acquiring used e3000 systems.
  3. Allow non-HP access to and escrow of MPE source code
  4. Allow third-party creation of an MPE emulator
  5. Enable third-party HP e3000 software support after 2006
  6. Enable availability of all public documentation after 2006

You can tell how long OpenMPE had to work on HP by the "2006" dates in these. HP extended its exit date twice over the long years of conference calls. Number 1, passwords for diagnostics, will be removed sometime after HP exits the 3000 support business. One hit. Number 2 is still in question, but there's been no specifics on how you'll change things like HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME once HP support quits. Call it an out.

Number 4 is underway, once the market ever produces an emulator for the 3000 hardware. Two companies have announced projects. A walk, in baseball terms, an effort that gets the goal on base but doesn't bring it home yet.

Numbers 5 and 6 are clean hits; HP's agreed to release what's needed (with notable exceptions of HP's internal knowledge base and 3000 hardware config docs). That leaves us with Number 3, the 3000's source code, which was the first OpenMPE goal announced in 2002. HP will license read-only copies of the source, or at least as much as HP owns the rights to. Nobody got code to modify or extend or escrow anything. This is the sacrifice fly, to complete the baseball analogy: an out that moves along baserunners. Read-only MPE/iX source is much more than HP intended to share in 2002.

Some community members believe that HP would have done all this without OpenMPE's conference calls. That's as misguided as thinking a pitcher can throw a ball over the wall for a home run. You needed a batter, and for seven years more than 20 volunteers asked hard questions and kept their temper while the answers arrived slowly. Reading the tea leaves of OpenMPE meeting minutes is one way to try to measure what OpenMPE has done for 3000 users over the last seven years. But that measure is like thinking the Farmer's Almanac schedule of sunrises is what lights the eastern sky each morning. The proof is the new light you saw from HP, the prospects for the future that languished in the darkness.