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Make copies of crucial 3000 tapes

HP provided a utility in MPE/iX for copying HP's factory-generated System Load Tapes (SLTs), but that utility is falling into neglect. In an era when the 3000 lab at HP has been closed, the tool has fallen even farther away from reliability. This essential program to copy a 3000 boot tape isn't likely to get any more HP attention.

Since copying SLTs is a significant maintenance requirement for 3000 administrators, a long-term solution for the copying is essential to homesteaders. Allegro Consultants offers X-OVER to do the job. What's more, if a homesteading site has a single-reel SLT, Allegro's got a free tool to accomplish that kind of copy.

"Our X-OVER product can handle multi-reel SLT input tapes," Allegro VP Stan Sieler reported online, "although it looks like it doesn’t handle multi-reel SLT output tapes. By 'multi-reel' I mean an SLT where the SLT section -- not the optional STORE section -- crosses a reel boundary. This would normally be seen only on 9-track tapes. X-Over handles multi-reel STORE tapes, or STORE sections of SLT/STORE combo tapes."

The free Allegro tool is TAPECOPY, which when run with the "TT" option will copy an SLT that fits on a single reel. This tool will warns if it sees any records that might be too large for it to handle.

SLTCOPY was designed by HP in a different storage era. SLTCOPY doesn't have reel-switch logic, for input or output. SLTCOPY is also missing large record support, too, though it's a rare SLT which uses large records.

But the SLT is a significant element in maintaining a legitimate HP 3000. HP supplied these System Load Tapes as one of the two minimum requirements for complete system software -- at least when the system software was shipped on tape media and not pre-loaded. The SLT contains the OS base to perform basic functions, including booting the 3000, configuring its disks, and restoring files.

How important is the SLT? Essential enough to have multiple copies onsite, so a midnight search for the SLT is a short one. 3000 experts such as Paul Edwards who spoke at user group conferences, and Mike Hornsby of Beechglen, have preached the details of recovery management. Hornsby said "It is very common for SLTs to play hide and seek. It is not at all amusing to play this game at 2:30 am. It is a good idea to have multiple SLT copies -- one stored in a safe place and another physically attached to the system in a folder/envelope that also contains a SYSGEN, or better yet a SYSINFO configuration listing."

X-Over does a lot more than copy SLTs. It can convert tape sets from one format to another, make duplicate copies of backups, even tape a multi-tape backup on older media and copy it to a single DDS tape. It's good to know that the fundamentals of 3000 management will be maintained in the third party community even after HP ends its 3000 support.