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October 30, 2009

3000 tools lose one, gain another UK entry

Birth and death are both parts of the 3000's ecosystem, even on the sixth anniversary of the system's World Wide Wake. The Wake was concocted by Alan Yeo of the UK-based company ScreenJet in 2003, a worldwide celebration in October of that year to mark the end of the 3000's manufacture. A half-dozen years after dozens of meetings lifted a glass to the 3000's HP lifespan, Yeo has introduced a new product for 3000 sites, while another UK company has closed its book on its programmer's environment.

First, the obituary. Whisper Technologies ended its 18-year run as a supplier of programmer tools, according to the company's founder Graham Wooley. (Tip of the hat to Duane Percox of QSS, whose development labs used Whisper's products.) The UK's Whisper built and promoted the Programmer Studio PC-based toolset, selling it as a development environment which understood exchanges with the 3000 but could be used to create programs under Windows. Robelle responded promptly with a Windows version of Qedit, and the 3000 ecosystem had a lively competition for programming tools for more than five years.

The birth was first announced at this fall's e3000 Community Meet. Yeo introduced EZ View, a tool for migrating the 3000's VPlus forms to industry-standard XML forms. As Yeo suggests in the video above, EZ View promotes a no-changes transformation of 3000 app hosting. Whatever the behavior of your 3000 apps today for the user base, EZ View will copy it faithfully to another environment so no retraining is required. At the same time, the door to .NET Windows or anything which XML supports can be opened.

At QSS, where the ghostscript/ghostpdl porting project is underway, Percox passed on this report from Wooley, who founded Whisper back in the era when the 3000's OS was called MPE XL. Wooley told Percox:

Unfortunately Whisper Technology is no more.  As the developer, Greg Sharp had looked after Whisper and Programmer Studio by himself for the last three years, but he has now moved on to other things and the company has now closed.

Meanwhile, EZ View is opening possibilities for companies who want to leave VPlus behind. While it was a good screen development tool for 3000 integration, VPlus was long ago passed by Visual Basic, and then Microsoft's Visual Studio in flexibility and industry support.

But the key to ScreenJet's new product lies in its ability to copy what the 3000 did. Users operate an app that's been through the EZ View transfer in the same way they've been using a 3000 app. The devotion to the old look and feel is important to minimize retraining. It also lets a 3000 shop test a migration step while the app remains on the 3000.

“We have the only VPlus migration product that runs on the 3000 as well," Yeo said. "You can switch to our API and the XML forms files.”

09:26 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2009

Links to 3000 via Unix, Linux stay free

Freevt3k Companies which continue to rely on the HP 3000 connect to the system using other servers. In this case, other means non-3000 computers, especially running Linux and various flavors of Unix. A free program was once available to install on the Unix or Linux host, but freevt3k has been found recently and rehosted for public use. It works with block mode well enough to drive the NMMGR tool shown above.

Mark West of Car Hop, an auto sales and finance firm, needed to perform this kind of link, but discovered that the known links to freevt3k through telemon.com have gone dead. West dug up the source code for the utility, rehosted it in a forge on SourceForge.net, then told the community about its lost-then-found resource.

I've been trying to find a suitable terminal to access the HP3000 servers we use at work. I made a couple of small corrections and set up a sourceforge project to store the freevt3k code on. While I’m sure this isn’t the most recent copy, at least it’s been saved from the lost and found. I’ll be happy to accept any patches sent to me.

Freevt3k made its debut in the late 1990s. HP discontinued its NS VT3K product, which allowed HP 9000s to log into the HP 3000. HP-UX 11.0 and later versions no longer support a pathway from outside systems into HP 3000s. But freevt3k a means to let users onto the systems if you don't want to use telnet. (Some companies have restrictions on telnet services into HP 3000s, but no limits on proprietary, internal access.) A freeware project created this shareware version of VT3K.

The version of the software that West has provided has Linux binaries and a Unix source tarball for download. Notes in the README file deliver instructions on how to use it.

09:56 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2009

Sites turn 3000 clocks back, and back on

This is the week in the world when the loss of an hour must be weathered in IT, as Daylight Savings time ends. (The UK lost its hour last weekend; the US does so Saturday night.) The HP 3000 does time shifting of its system clock automatically, thanks to patches HP built during 2007. But what about the internal clock of a computer that might be 15 years old? Components fail after awhile.

The 3000's internal time is preserved using a small battery, according to the experts out on the 3000 newsgroup. This came to light in a discussion about fixing a clock gone slow. A few MPE/iX commands and a trip to Radio Shack maintains a 3000's sense of time.

"I thought the internal clock could not be altered," said Paul English. "Our server was powered off for many months, and maybe the CMOS battery went flat." The result was that English's 3000 showed Greenwich Mean Time as being four years off reality. CTIME reported for his server:

*  Greenwich Mean Time : THU, JUN 17, 2004, 11:30 AM   *

* GMT/MPE offset      : +-19670:30:00                 *

* MPE System Time     : THU, SEP 10, 2009,  2:00 PM   *

Yup, that's a bad battery, said Pro 3k consultant Mark Ranft. "It is cheap at a specialty battery store," he said, "and can be replaced easily, if you have some hardware skills and a grounding strap." Radio Shack offers the battery.

But you can also alter the 3000's clock which tracks GMT, he added.

"The internal clock can be set or reset at bootup (the method varies depending on the hardware), or by using the MPE SETCLOCK date=xx/xx/xx;time;NOW command, in conjuction with SETCLOCK ;CANCEL.  Follow these by the SHOWCLKS command. It usually takes me a couple of attempts to get it, but you should be able to straighten this out without even having to reboot."

A few customers warned that utility software will sometimes fail to start up if a bad battery has pulled the internal clock too far off the system clock. Tracy Johnson of OpenMPE explained:

Collateral damage may include some third party software going non-operational. I have at least one software package whose license goes bad when the offset gets too large (think years).  When I fix the offset to a reasonable number (within a day or two), then the software works again.

07:29 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2009

Fortune 500 beds down for 3000 use

Leggett-Platt Large scale IT operations are already migrated away from the HP 3000, right? Well, maybe not as many as you'd think. Imagine a company that makes "a broad variety of engineered components and products that can be found in virtually every home, office, retail store, and automobile." Better than $4 billion in annual sales. Got to be off the 3000 by 2009, you might think.

In this case you would be wrong. Leggett & Platt is managing its health plan using an HP 3000 and the EnCore claims system. Migration is probably not going to happen before sometime in 2012.

"We do plan on migrating to another platform, but not for another 3-5 years," said Douglas Grimes in IT. Our longtime subscriber added, "I am not sure which one we will go to. We will probably wait to see what EnCore does and follow them."

Leggett & Platt, New York Stock Exchange-listed and 125 years old, makes bedding and furniture assemblies. For example, its Mira-Coil continuous coil innerspring unit "grew in popularity in the 1980s and was patented in 23 countries."

Leggett & Platt doesn't show up on the extensive HP 3000 customer list at the OpenMPE Web site. When a company uses a solution that's not in the Top 20 MPE applications, tracking its business becomes tougher. A Fortune 500 site shouldn't be tough to locate, so we'll just assume someone in the 3000 migration community has Leggett & Platt on a tickle file.

How can a company this size maintain its 3000 use? Independent outsourced support along with experienced in-house application expertise. (Customers of some size do get special HP support deals that could well go beyond 2010, but HP isn't advertising that for Leggett & Platt or any other customer.) That app expertise  might not be any harder to locate than the best selection of Windows IT pros. While Windows has a vast user base among IT staffers, there's so many Windows tools and solutions that matching experience to a specific solution can make for a non-trivial hire.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, founder of the company that has helped 3000 sites move and enhance VPlus screens for more than a dozen years, said he figures there's 50 to 100 development solutions for Windows programmers. Entire IDEs, no less. Choosing a tool in the Top 10 of popularity might make Windows experts easy to recruit and retain. But then that kind of selection winnows so much possibility out of the rich world of Windows solutions.

EnCore is supported on other platforms, including an implementation that uses the Eloquence database to mirror its IMAGE capabilities. When the time is right for a Fortune 500 site to migrate, it will. The end of the 3000s life is being determined by customers, not by HP's support calendar.

10:22 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2009

COBOL offers you can't refuse

Dale Vecchio For a 50-year-old language, COBOL seems to have a lot of new options and energies lately. Especially for 3000 customers who are making migrations, the ones looking around for their next platform and language. For millions of companies around the world, COBOL is an offer they cannot refuse.

We've recently heard from Chuck Townsend, a COBOL and modernization consultant who helped launch the software vendor LegacyJ. He recalls that LegacyJ "implemented the HP COBOL syntax, the HP Intrinsics (excluding IMAGE), the HP Macro capability and you might remember the VPlus capability as well." So LegacyJ offers a COBOL for use on platforms other than the 3000. One that claims to know something about the 3000.

Then there's ACUCOBOL-GT. It was easy to believe that ACUCOBOL would decline in favor of Micro Focus COBOL, when MF bought Acucorp in 2007. But Alan Yeo of ScreenJet reminds us that:

The ACUCOBOL product is still available, and we have migrations that are still in progress with our ACUCOBOL GUI conversion for VPlus products. In fact, Micro Focus are adapting that technology as the Thin Client GUI for the Micro Focus COBOL products. Like the 3000, rumours of ACUCOBOL's death appear premature.

Now that Micro Focus owns the product, it may not be as easy to ask for ACUCOBOL by name, but the GT suite still appears for sale on the Micro Focus Web site. What's even more interesting at that MF site is a pep talk by analyst Dale Vecchio of Gartner, above. The research VP comes across as a consigliere (mob elder statesman) in a six-minute sermon about why retirements are good for IT's future. He seems to invoke that image with his comparison of IT practices and the methods of The Sopranos.

Let's be clear about why Vecchio is speaking in the 6-minute video at the Micro Focus site. (Registration required.) He's advising IT managers and directors to get busy. Gartner people like to incite. Make changes, he says, or you'll believe the same thing Albert Einstein said. "Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal," Vecchio quotes Einstein. It appears Einstein actually said something like this, but then Vecchio adds to the quote, "no good can come of it." 

(Web resources agree that Einstein said technological progress, not change. This distinction has always been the undoing of change cheerleaders like Vecchio. Progress is something the IT pros must accomplish. The analysts and vendors will only supply the change, unless you hire them for it. We'll leave it as an exercise for our readers to determine the context of the quote from Einstein, who's invoked for everything from IT to baby development videos.)

The good news, Vecchio says, is that the people in IT are retiring who believe change is no good. It's a bit naive for Vecchio to think that stubborn IT managers and CIOs are standing in the way of improvements, unless they own their companies. Change -- whether it's adopting Micro Focus COBOL instead of the ACUCOBOL solution, or embracing even wider like cloud computing or the .NET distinction -- needs to show proof of success, or it's just an experiment.

The need for proof is what keeps 50-ish IT professionals on the job when they'd rather be retired. What you know remains an asset to your company. Proven success keeps COBOL running much of the world's business computing, 50 years after the language was invented. It's hard to refuse something that's worked for this long -- if its community keeps reinventing it. If your IT efforts include care for languages and programs, like so many do, then caring about your next COBOL should be an issue to investigate.

01:29 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2009

HP 3000 Becomes a Copy Cat

Sometimes, the HP 3000 can surprise you with its capabilities. Not long ago, the system revealed another life, this one as a minicomputer which controls a copier.

RicohM4000 Both of those technologies, mini and copier, are considered old-school. Everybody understands what a copier does, but few people under 50 know what the term mini represents. For anybody reading who's only just arrived in IT during this decade, computers were known as mainframes, microcomputers, and minicomputers. People who know what mini means helped connect a Ricoh copier to a 3000. Over a network, no less.

Of course this Ricoh CP M4000 is not a copier of the '80s, not any more than the HP 3000 is a minicomputer of that era. The Ricoh prints for PCs (microcomputers) at Victor S. Barnes Company. It also stacks and staples, a feature set that IT manager Tom Hula wanted to extend to its 3000. The system became a copy cat by telling the copier to stop looking for some of its configuration information. A third party tool helped provide another way to claim this new life for the 3000.

Routing application output to print and copy devices often becomes the task of a print server. The 3000 has a good heritage of working with such a PC print clearinghouse. There's also the NBSPOOL software from Quest Software. The latter is still for sale, still supported. Quest is one of those suppliers who's going to be supporting 3000 sites a long time after HP leaves the field.

Another fine 3000 product, NetPrint from Minisoft, specializes in connecting HP 3000s with output devices HP doesn't support under MPE/iX. Hula found a workaround on his own, once he talked to the Ricoh support. The answer he discovered within 24 hours was to disable the NPCONFIG information on the output job

The problem had to do with restrictions that were set on printing color. On each workstation, I had had to specify black and white printing as the preference so that people could print to the copier. Using color then required an authorization code if the user had one assigned.

As far as I know, the HP 3000 has no way of communicating printing preferences to this copier. As soon as I removed the restriction from the copier, printing using the NPCONFIG entry I originally used worked. 

One of the community's networking gurus added some more information to suggest another workaround. Jeff Kell, who manages the 3000 newsgroup where this catty advice appeared, said the 3000's tool set might include enough connection to talk to Ricoh's software drivers.

We have an “outsourced” copy center that uses Ricoh printers. Their printers normally require an authorization code to print anything. The only way to print to them from the 3000 was to have them disable the authorization check on the particular printer.  Once that is done, it does accept a normal PCL-stream on tcp/9100 (with SNMP disabled).

Ricoh has drivers for Windows, and there are Unix “cups” configurations for them including authorization codes. But of course there is no MPE variant, unless you can front-end one with some esoteric “lpr” type options, using one of the 3000's external network printing packages (ESPUL?).

ESPUL was created by RAC Software's Rich Corn. The product is resold by Minisoft as NetPrint. The advice gives 3000 customers more than one way to skin this cat. Nothing that gruesome is needed to extend a 3000's reach today. You need only ask those who remember that the word mini can represent a large array of solutions.

04:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2009

HP's history becomes a phenomenon

HouseMemoir The company which created the HP 3000 is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Perhaps it's the coincidence of a zero-numbered commemoration, but history that relates to the 3000 seems to be in the air this week. Most of it represents snapshots of an era we'll never return to, and some community members are thankful for the departure. But what's been left behind could be much more valuable than histories and manuals.

Today Forbes has an early review of the first book by a retired HP executive, Chuck House, who knew and worked with the HP 3000 business. The HP Phenomenon earned praise from a reviewer who's written his own HP book, George Anders. But the reviewer of Phenomenon wrote a more upbeat take on HP's changes than House's clear-eyed memories. Anders wrote the Carly Fiorina saga Perfect Enough, a kinder view of the changes that CEO inflicted on the HP which House remembers.

MPEPocket House still reveres the HP of the Sixties through the 1980s, just like the 3000 community venerates the MPE Software Pocket Guides of the 1970s and '80s. A current thread on the 3000 newsgroup has floated into memory lane about that era of the 3000. Like the guide itself -- and the HP computer management which House admires in his book -- the world has changed enough to make its best days appear to be behind it.

There's no doubt that the pocket guides are a token of the past. I was lucky to receive one that had been in the trenches, obviously well used and well-loved. Alfredo Rego passed on his MPE III guide once the OS started to move out of MPE V territory. But like the community members who now recall how vital a tool the book once was, Alfredo wrote a note in his guide's cover in 1987.

This little MPE III pocket guide is as valid today as it was in 1978. As a matter of fact, I used this guide today to change THE bit that made Adager run on the HP3000 Series 930.

As that summer of 1987 wrapped up, the Series 930 was the test-pilot aircraft of the overdue PA-RISC fleet. Only a handful were ever shipped, and HP replaced every one for free with the more capable Series 950.

By the time my MPE III guide was in heavy use, the community had another wizard, this one a wunderkind revered by veterans and novices alike. Eugene Volokh co-created the MPEX utility along with his dad Vladimir. House was on the scene at HP in those times. House was also part of the HP 3000 history seminar from last summer. Steve Cooper, who founded Allegro Consultants with Stan Sieler in that era, chronicled the Eugene legend in this video from the meeting.

The story includes a note from Sieler about the novelty of the concept of a super-MPE with wildcarding capability. One engineer in the 3000 group, Walt McCullough, engineered a similar concept. But HP wasn't focused in 1980 on incremental technology that could become so vital as MPEX, Sieler explains

House was working on his book during the summer of that seminar; the book is only available today through Stanford University Press, and the Amazon UK Web site. But there are excerpts from the book available through House's blog. In one blog entry, he takes a break from his memoirs of the Bill & Dave HP era to note how much change has occurred in the boardroom of the modern HP.

In an entry titled Whither HP Now? House explains why he believes HP has made a habit of under-investing in creating technology.

HP, after spending 9% of revenues for 60 years, almost like clockwork, cut that to 6% under [CEO] Lew Platt's regime, and from the midpoint of Carly's time until now, it has been reduced by a cool 0.5% per year, until now it is only 3% of revenues, one-half of IBM's investments in its future. To cut R&D by two-thirds, to rework HP Labs to the point of only pursuing work that the divisions will market or that universities will support (huh, say that again?), is to sell out the future. Period.

One might confidently predict that the constant wellspring of "renewal" -- so long the hallmark of HP -- is running dry. The acquisitions had better work.

There is an HP which still lives at many HP 3000-using companies: the vendor who will supply replacement systems and environments as migration targets. Two paths can be followed: one toward technology in which HP continues to invest, HP-UX. The other path is away from software innovation and toward standards, following Windows or Linux advances. An HP which couldn't imagine why they'd need a Pocket Guide for any product will exist in the future. But looking to the past won't clear the crystal ball to reveal when that "day of the dry well" arrives for HP. A customer who invests in HP's future needs to see smaller, more nimble tech companies continue to join and create the Hewlett-Packard phenomenon.

For the customer who's always wondered what the inside of the HP Garage looks like, the workplace of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard is on display over the Web. A video tour, led by HP archivist Anna Mancini, is online -- so you can see the head of that wellspring. At what the industry calls the Birthplace of Silicon valley, the garage restored by HP shows the era of HP's phenomenon when R&D was all the company could offer.

05:07 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2009

E-forms integration worth discounted price

Minisoft announced this morning that its eFORMz document management software is being discounted by 35 percent through the end of January, 2010. The software creates PDF documents for e-mailing and secure exchange. It runs with multiple platforms, including the HP 3000. Customers using products such as Optio, CreatForm and Jetform qualify, as well as others.

In addition to smart forms, deeper barcode features and a secure numeric font for check printing, eFORMz brings something even more significant to a paperless drive toward PDF forms and e-document management: ongoing support and continued updates. Those are benefits that are worth paying a vendor for, rather than working with open source solutions.

Enterprise IT in the 3000 world can have pretty low budgets these days, but free solutions cost something. The price is the integration expertise, usually measured in hours or days spent plugging in an open source tool. You rely on the open source community to keep your free solution updated, too, unless you've studied the source code enough to create "diffs" for MPE/iX versions. That's what QSS developer Mark Bixby is doing this month. He has also advised the 3000 community to learn such porting skills.

Minisoft reports that it will include updates to the new eFORMz for one year as part of its discount. While you cannot be certain that open source software will need more work in its first year, there's no guarantee of such updates being created.

Bixby gave sage advice to the community in the years after HP announced its exit from the 3000. While still working at HP, but after he moved away from 3000 duties, he said anyone staying on the system in a homestead mode would be well served to learn how to port open source solutions like Samba or perl. A vendor with a paid solution lets a homestead site leave the driving to vendor developers, like Neal Kazmi at Minisoft.

01:18 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2009

COBOL migration options: More advice

Last week we examined a COBOL to Java path for 3000 applications which are migrating to other platforms. The story called out two suppliers, Veryant and LegacyJ, who have promoted the Java path to 3000 customers. Those companies were reading that article and offer even more detail on getting to Java, the "write once, run anywhere" language that's still got fairy dust on its collar 12 years after it went global.

Alfredo Iglesias of Veryant tells us that " the majority of our customers find the idea of leveraging their COBOL and application expertise while deploying pure Java applications is very attractive." You can move away from COBOL completely, too.

If someone who knows the COBOL application takes the time to study the Java libraries that isCOBOL provides for the runtime environment, it is possible to take our generated Java code, clean it from the COBOL ‘accent’ and continue development in the Java programming language.

Then there's Daniel Meyers of LegacyJ, the company named after its mission of getting legacy applications into Java. He says the company "has had HP-compatible COBOL and COBOL II solutions -- among 16 others -- for years." I think we'd all like to know more about another COBOL that, like AcuCOBOL, has had COBOL II intrinsics designed into it. Excising 3000 intrinsics from COBOL II can be detailed work, although UNICON reports it's got an automation tool to do this to 3000 apps.

Meyers told us in a scrappy e-mail that not only does his company's solution offer the same kind of cross-language COBOL-to-Java utility, he asserts that Veryant copied some LegacyJ concepts. (It's nice to know that the COBOL to Java jump is so established that two products can make similar claims.) We'll leave the two vendors to slug that copy issue out, but Meyers said this about LegacyJ.

12 years ago we solved the COBOL transition problem by providing a cross-compiler / translator to allow re-hosting without re-engineering, moving your applications over to the Java Virtual Machine environment. If you’re on an HP 3000, you can modernize more rapidly than other approaches.

Our high-speed COBOL compiler is written in C and generates an intermediate Cobol/Java code that can be maintained in COBOL or Java, works in any Java Virtual Machine-compatible environment, and is primarily used in Windows and Linux server situations. We generate Java bytecode, which operates with a runtime module to facilitate the operation on the more modern, affordable platforms that lend themselves to further modernization steps.

Veryant’s approach is much like ours, having been copied without permission from our original, patented technology -- though they decided to write their compiler in Java, trading speed for some notion of portability.

Veryant stresses that portability in its offer. Its isCOBOL points the way out of rejuvenating COBOL leadership on a development team, even while giving COBOL experts a role to play in the transition. Iglesias likes to refer prospects to a case study of Donato's Pizza, which "is leaving COBOL behind and rewriting its core business applications in Java."

Although many of Veryant’s customers use isCOBOL as the perfect bridge to leave COBOL programming in favor of Java programming, the toolset is currently designed for those customers that would like to continue to develop, maintain, debug in the COBOL language and deploy in the Java Runtime Environment.

Veryant customers... do not have to learn the Java programming language, Java scripting, Ajax, Web programming, etc. They are able to play in the Java sandbox using the COBOL programming language (including Object-Oriented COBOL), a standards based-COBOL compiler, a graphical, portable debugger with remote debugging capabilities, and a COBOL-friendly IDE based on the Eclipse platform.

Iglesias goes into more detail in his comment underneath the original article. Of note: isCOBOL will need some cleaning of its COBOL "accent" to make the code genuine Java. The isCOBOL Java is suited for the Java Runtime Environment, something quite different from Java programming language itself.

05:07 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Service alert: Use our alternate address Thursday

We're having routine maintenance on our 3000newswire.com Web server on Thursday. Between the hours 7AM EDT and 5 PM we expect a gap of about two hours of downtime, as our Web host 3k Associates has new electrical service installed.

Despite the downtime on the archive/original Web site, you can still read the NewsWire's blog Thursday at anytime. Please use the alternate address:


to keep up with our news and features. Like any HP 3000 site, planned downtime is a part of our lives. We're happy to have an alternative to go along with our high-uptime main Web service on 3000newswire.com. Next year we renew that Web address for our 15th year. Along the way we're been lucky to have the savvy and experience of Chris Bartram, our original Webmaster, at 3k.

12:06 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2009

Open source port project in play for print

QSS, the K-12 app software company with clients in both HP 3000 and Unix/Linux markets, has kicked off a porting project for MPE/iX software. Founding partner Duane Percox reports that his company is rewriting open source software to aid in printing documents for 3000 systems.

Mark Bixby of QSS is at work on the porting project. Bixby ported the Apache Web server as well as Internet connectivity software to the 3000's OS late in the last decade, then joined the HP 3000 lab technical staff in the Internet & Interoperability unit. He left HP to join QSS in 2008.

Percox said the project will bring Ghostpdl and Ghostscript to the 3000. The former software can be used as a file format converter, such as printer language-to-PDF converter, the latter can be combined with a printer driver in "virtual printer" PDF creators. The QSS work will focus on including the 3000's common printer language, PCL, in the conversion options.

Ghostscript has been ported to Windows, HP-UX, Linux, OpenVMS and Mac operating systems. The QSS project will be shared with the 3000 community as open source when the work is complete, Percox said.

Many HP 3000 applications use the PCL printer language to send output to print devices. PDF is not supported widely in the 3000 application world, but the standard is omnipresent in the computer industry at large. Ghostscript will give 3000 sites a means to create PDF documents from 3000 reports. The open source solution would have to be integrated with an MPE/iX app, but at least the port project will make it available.

Percox said the work might put pressure on some suppliers of output and print products for the 3000. It gives the sites with a tight budget another option for printing, however.

“This might negatively impact vendors with expensive PDF generation products for the HP 3000,” Percox said. “But Ghostscript is a great feature for the financially-challenged customer who wants full PCL-to-PDF capability.”

11:37 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 16, 2009

Unwrapping the Myths of Security

What the Computer Security Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

Review by Steve Hardwick, CISSP

I have worked in the information security business for more than 10 years, and I’ve learned there is one constant throughout – change. Keeping up with the ever-present cat and mouse battle between the hackers and security industry is a full time job. The Myths of Security by John Viega (O'Reilly Media, $29.95) provides a good view of what the security industry faces and why they sometimes fall short in the eyes of many people. So the next time you are hitting your computer with your keyboard in utter frustration, put it down, pick up this book and take a look at why computer security is so hard. You can also learn what doesn’t work to secure computers – and by extension, good security practices. Some of the biggest security weaknesses will surprise you.
Security MythsThis book begins by outlining how easy it is to have a security problem. Early chapters cover the methods of attacking computer systems and how they have evolved. These include simple viruses focused on specific operating systems up to more sophisticated Web-based attacks and social engineering exploits. New attacks are independent on the operating system; rather, they exploit the lack of knowledge of the user. (Despite their sanguine outlook, even Apple users are wide open to these types of attacks.) Chapter 15 has an excellent example of a phishing attack that demonstrates how the bad guy can get key information without ever touching the operating system. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, June of 2009 was the second-highest month for number of new phishing sites detected.

The author makes two very crucial points: First, it is no longer just a battle of viruses anymore – any computer user is vulnerable. Second, users will want an antivirus application that can deal with all manner of information security threats — viruses, malware, adware, phishing, cross site scripting and more.

This book provides an excellent view of many basic security elements, then steps into an overview of the good, the bad and the ugly of the tools that are out there. The author is critical of products that look great on the vendor’s Web site, but would bring a network to its knees if used, for example, intrusion prevention systems.

Viega dedicates several chapters to explain in plain language why some of these tools are not suited for personal use or for small companies. Many solid recommendations throughout inform individual users how to better protect themselves from a wide range of security threats. There is deeper detail on some of the more important security tools, but you'll need a good technical understanding for these sections. Chapter 29 “Application Security on a Budget” highlights the type of issues that are important – emphasizing training and simple free solutions vs. multiple expensive high tech solutions such as those intrusion prevention systems and virtualization.
As a former solutions developer, Viega is in an ideal position to give an informative peek over the fence at the challenges the security vendors face. In Chapters 8, 9 and 10, he breaks down the difficulty of vetting the thousands of pieces of data that daily go into our computers. He also explains why product vendors have some difficult choices in meeting end-users’ security as well satisfying the needs of vendor shareholders. This results in some odd methodologies that do not always have the end user’s interest as the highest priority – Chapter 7, “Google is Evil.” Or at worst, as outlined in Chapter 18, even plain old snake oil in a digital wrapper.

Many users do not realize the high cost of development and sheer manpower it takes to combat the threats that are out there. There are many detailed examples throughout the book showing how the business world shapes security products as much as the hackers.
The author does lend his industry experience to give suggestions on how the industry can better attack the problems. However, they may be somewhat controversial – Chapter 39, “What Antivirus Companies should be doing” is a good example. The chapter proposes that the
antivirus vendors act as a “safe application” clearinghouse and restrict programs that have not been classified. But this goes against the open culture of the user community, even though Apple is trying this approach with its iPhone applications, with mixed reviews.
On the flip side, some attention is paid to understanding why there are hackers. Hacking has moved from the era of bravado and bragging rights into organized crime, as well as offering people in disadvantaged countries a way to make easy money. (In one recent example, a Russian consortium offered a malware affiliate bounty: infect a Mac, earn 43 cents.) However, the issue of outdated legal infrastructure in many developing countries which enables this, was not highlighted in the book. Those policies are a major hole in the global response to computer crime.

Similarly, it would have been a good balance to include a discussion on what the various governments are trying to do with new laws and regulations to help combat the problem. Conversely, the book did cover some newer threats such as data hostaging – which is becoming more of a threat to industries at large. For example, consider the salesman who will not return his laptop with all the customer information on it until his last commission check is in the bank.
If you are looking for a quick-fix to stop your computer from grinding to a halt every couple of days after your kids have unwittingly loaded the latest and greatest malware, then this is not the book for you. If you want a more in-depth understanding of today's threats, what you can do -- and what, if anything, anyone is trying to do to fix them -- then I would recommend this book.

Steve Hardwick has over 10 years of information security experience. He has worked with different environments from military customers, financial institutions, healthcare organizations and Fortune 1000 companies, as well as conducting security assessments for large and small corporations. He is currently Partner Manager at Mobile Armor Inc. providing cost effective solutions for securing and protecting mobile data.

06:17 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2009

Developers work to preserve power to port

Several developers in the 3000 community are working to preserve a key tool for porting software to the computer's MPE/iX operating system. The magic wand is the GNU C++ compiler suite, bootstrap software needed to move open source utilities onto the 3000, or keep them updated for security and functionality.

Mark Klein of DIS International did the port of C++ back in the middle '90s, a crucial step to porting Java, Internet networking tools, Samba file sharing, perl, Web services and more onto the 3000. Klein hosted the suite on an account at Invent3k, the public access development 3000 HP closed down in November of last year. Invent went dark and the programs, accounts and tools went offline. For a short while, even Klein couldn't be sure he had the bootstrap software on a server in his own lab.

HP's 2009 policies on Invent3k and Jazz content aimed to share such resources with the community. But a 40-page HP End User License Agreement (EULA) inserted restrictions, terms and fees to control where such freeware and open source software can be hosted. The vendor did not simply pass along code and utilities written by third parties. New hosting outlets must arrange their own agreements to host the independent tools, now that HP has closed up these resources.

Much of it was built on the back of Klein's work, volunteer nights and weekends for the equivalent of a year of full-time coding. The new language opened the door for the HP 3000’s interoperability. He reported today, "I may just host the GNU stuff here in my lab, and at OpenMPE." A third outlet for open source is getting ready to open, too.

Brian Edminster is polishing up his open source repository for the community, a project born of his company Applied Technologies' use of open source in consulting, 3000 migration and management assignments.

In the meantime, OpenMPE promised in September to have its invent.openmpe.org server up by now, a mirror of the software HP hosted until late last year. Meanwhile, the HP re-hosting agreements for its Jazz shareware have erected a licensing requirement around what was once a genuine shareware resource. Some of the HP-modified utilities were built upon code that carried open source GNU licenses. The new EULA through the HP Jazz agreement might run roughshod over GNU shareware terms, said Edminster.

Klein doesn't approve of the new restrictions, either. "I'm not happy about the HP licensing decison," he said. In the meantime, one well-known porting expert in the 3000 community needed the CCC tool recently. Klein sent him the code he created and holds the rights to, e-mailed direct.

For now, that's the only outlet for CCC. Speedware and Client Systems opened re-hosted Jazz content servers this year, but the independent tools like Klein's aren't a part of those servers yet. OpenMPE remains the only organization committed to bringing Invent3k back online.

05:32 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2009

Leaving COBOL? isCOBOL offers Java path

Migrations away from the HP 3000 mean leaving a fine-tuned COBOL behind. HP shaped COBOL II to include intrinsics which plug directly into the IMAGE database and the 3000's OS. Customers who move to another platform need to rewrite those intrinsic calls for a new COBOL. AcuCOBOL needs far less revision that other COBOLs, because it was designed in 2001-02 to incorporate most of those same 3000 specialties.

But if you're going to be doing any rewriting at all, why not aim for more than a new COBOL that acts like the old one? If a transfer to Java from COBOL is your desire, a software company called Veryant has a language that claims to speak both languages.

Java got a jolt of news this week while its bridegroom, Oracle, gathered the Oracle faithful at its annual Oracle World. James Gosling, considered the father of Java, reported that Java's NetBeans development environment and Glassfish, an open source application server, are more popular than ever. Gosling said this week that Glassfish, as free as any Linux distro, has been downloaded at the rate of a million copies a month.

Except that Oracle already has its own development environment. Plus an application server that it loves. There may be some overlap in that acquisition. But a million copies a month carries a lot of clout. It's things like Glassfish that make Java look attractive during a move away from COBOL. That's where Veryant's isCOBOL could take a role in the move away from COBOL. It all depends on what caliber of Java you get out of it.

Remember, we're talking about migrations that will require revisions of COBOL here. These sites are already committed to rewrites, somewhat automated but which require testing. When you've got the hood up, can you get all the way to Java? isCOBOL compiles COBOL code into Java. In the late 1990s, a time of great optimism for Java, the 3000 community not only had an interest in the language, but third party did its best to make the technology transfer a reality. Chuck Townsend of Synkronix pushed the Java stone up the 3000 hill, but not even his IBM experience could give PERCobol a place to rest in 3000 shops. And that product understood COBOL II's extensions, according to Townsend.

Alfredo Iglesias of Veryant would love to work with a 3000 site on that kind of adoption. Veryant's isCOBOL came to our attention when Speedware's Nick Fortin pointed it out after our article about the two migration COBOL choices. With isCOBOL there may be three, and Transoft has certified its Transoft U/SQL Adapters for use with the isCOBOL Application Platform Suite.

You'd be among the very first to choose this isCOBOL for a 3000 project. "We do not have any customers yet that have used isCOBOL to replace HP COBOL II," Iglesias said. "We would be glad to work with any interested in the future." Migration can offer such groundbreaking opportunity. Java may be worth the experimentation, considering those millions of adopters out there.

Iglesias admits that the COBOL II specialties will demand some replacement. "I must bring to your attention that isCOBOL does not offer any compatibility to the HP 3000 extensions to the COBOL standard found in HP COBOL II. That means that they will have to be removed by the customer or a migration company in order for the code to compile and execute with isCOBOL."

isCOBOL was also on the radar screen of our author of the "Deciding Between COBOLs for Migration" article. Mike Howard mentioned it in passing at first, calling it no major player. It seems the adoption rate to date in the 3000 world confirms his view. Howard has his own assessment of isCOBOL's utility as well.

It is a COBOL that has no COBOL compiler. And yet the development process is to

1. Write the COBOL source code
2. Compile it to produce an object
3. Run the compiled object

And this is what the developer sees when he programs in isCOBOL. But in fact, the compile step actually has two steps in it. 1. Convert the COBOL source to Java source; 2. Compile the Java source.

So the actual process is

1. Code the program in COBOL
2. Convert the COBOL source to Java source
3. Compile the Java source
4. Run the Java object code

This process clearly demonstrates one additional item: how accurately COBOL can be converted to Java. For this process to work, the converter must be 100 percent at all times.

You can actually stop the "compiler" after the COBOL to Java conversion step and get the converted Java code. Unfortunately, it isn't much use, because the conversion was simply done for the Java compilation to take place — and the actual Java code is horrible. A better application code converter would be written to convert the COBOL to Java to produce code so that is good, maintainable Java.

05:58 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

A word on how to catch our words quickly

Twitter Permit us to pause a moment to show readers how to get immediate notice of our reports. We'd also like to highlight a new reason to return to our front page during the day to see mini-updates.

Twitter makes both of these features possible. The moment a blog article is posted, Twitter notifies you if you're following @3000newswire on the service. Even if you don't participate in Twitter, the note appears in our Twitter section of this page -- right-hand column, just under the Transoft ad.

That's also the spot where our mini-updates appear, as well as in your Twitter feed if you follow us. (Do you see a pattern here? We like Twitter because tweet have to be short: 140 characters or less. For an old print headline writer like me, it's a fun challenge.) We're working on one or two Twitter extras during the workdays, sometimes with a link. We'll do Outtakes, since most stories have more material than we can use. We don't want to wear out our welcome. Readers have things to do in addition to keeping up with what's new or helpful.

You can also get our reports sent to you via other services. Twitter is hot now. But there's other technology to keep our news on your plate.

Some of our audience uses newsreader software to take our daily feeds. This is powered by the RSS standard. Bruce Hobbs, a veteran 3000 developer, swears by Google Reader. There are others, some tied to mail services like Yahoo, others standalone programs. Newsreaders give you a timeline of articles, just like our blog does. You control what you see, although the helpful Twitter links won't be on a newsreader feed.

How to newsread? Right-hand column again, just above the Community Comments. "Subscribe to this blog's feed." One click and you're on the way to having the 3000 NewsWire appear in your reader.

Several years ago, we invited readers to send a request to have us e-mail a "Blog Me" update when articles appeared. Twitter gives us a foolproof way to avoid the spam boxes with your requests. Weekly or so, we will remind you of the articles, via e-mail. But the best way to stay up to the minute, and keep up with updated tweets, is through Twitter or on this page.

We return you now to our regular coverage, in this main column, on individual category or article pages -- or over on the Twitter feed at right. Follow us.

01:21 PM in Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2009

Managing Applications Instead of Migrations

Commerce in the 3000 community has been dominated by migration tools and services. While many utility and some app vendors are selling support contracts, new business has been hard to acquire. It's been close to eight years since HP announced its exit from the community. And after two postponements, the closing of HP's support doors is less than 15 months away.

But that timeline hasn't dislodged applications from many 3000 customer workflows. So some of the same companies who offer migration engagements will also manage your 3000 apps. Speedware is discounting those services for customers who sign on until the end of 2009. Its marketing manager Chris Koppe said that HP's "end of life" label for 2010 doesn't match up to everything he sees.

2010 = End of Life is valid at some larger sites, but smaller ones will rely on 3000 apps for awhile. End of life "has a different meaning for different people," he said. "While the smaller shops have applications on the side, like mail servers, their core businesses are running on the HP 3000."

And so, Speedware (like a few other providers) sees 3000 app management as an important service to the customer. For a limited time it's waiving fees for "application support set-up and knowledge transfer" services to attract this homesteading business, designed to match the lifespan that a customer sees for its 3000s.

Koppe said that Speedware has started to push application support for 3000s, extra effort to win customers with a service Speedware has offered for more than a year. Customers who asked the vendor got app support up to this summer, but Speedware wants to connect with more of these sites.

He believes his company has the largest number of 3000 software programmers employed or on contract "that know 3000s inside and out and can handle any kind of environment."  Koppe mentioned MB Foster as another source; the Support Group inc specializes in ERP application support, especially MANMAN.

Koppe reasons that because his company's programmers have been busy with migration details, moving applications had made them experts in the 3000's languages. "For those customers that are not going to be migrating right away, a lot of them may need to deal with issues like lack of programming staff -- human resource backup options."

These kinds of potential customers for app support have no 3000 programmers anymore, or can't answer questions about how much 3000 code they have. "How are they maintaining this code," he wonders. "It just runs in the background." MB Foster's Birket Foster agreed about the focus on apps for the community. "It's all about the applications," he said at the recent e3000 Community Meet. Both men invoked the "what about winning the lottery" question, where a 3000 customer's only expert hits the jackpot and curtails an IT career, suddenly.

Speedware will let you pay their experts to maintain application code, batch processing, enhancements, help desk, vendor management, online processing. "It's not hardware support, and it's not operating system support," he explained. Speedware can refer this administration support for hardware and OS to another supplier, and then offer a full package for a company that wants to keep its 3000 apps without any 3000 staff.

Co-location, or offsite system hosting, gets referred by Speedware to the Support Group if a customer needs that level of support. The talent and resources are out there in the community, Koppe said. The app support offers the same benefits as you'd seek from any homestead support provider -- safeguarding IT systems and possibly reducing costs.

03:51 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2009

HMS host makes do with 3000 hosts for now

HMSHost Last week we reported on a pair of 3000s running the duty free shop at two US airports. They're not alone. Brian Edminster, who manages the duty-free application and the 3000s, called to report on two more airports running the server as well as a HQ system. HMS Host, the customer, once consolidated retail services for 20 airports' duty free shops on the HQ's 3000.

HMS Host was listed as a 3000 customer on the OpenMPE online roster, compiled several years ago. The company is exiting the 3000 user community as quickly as it can, but customized applications like the duty-free app keep HMS in the fold for now, probably into 2010.

"There's still value in the business logic," said Edminster, who's studied the application with its creator since the middle '90s. He thinks the retail app is so sound that it could be used in a small chain of department stores.

Whatever the future value of the duty-free app at the HMS-run airport shops, the program is getting the job done there. HP continues to service this customer with support, but Edminster is the key link to keeping the shops online. This relationship defines one share of the 3000 community: stable apps maintained by third parties with no products or support to track for anybody who's counting the 3000 populace.

Do these stable-to-static apps, whose days are numbered, count as 3000 customers? Perhaps, if your business is selling application support for static systems. Certainly, if you're ready to provide front-line support for the OS and apps, like Edminster's Applied Technologies does. Not so much, if you want to sell a migration tool or a professional engagement.

A customer in this category -- which I would call an interim homesteader -- often has a project in play to make its exit, even if the timeline is fuzzy. At HMS the company has moved much of its operations onto SAP, Edminster reports. In-house resources do this migration work. What's more, at HMS the company has a fall-back plan if the 3000 apps cannot be folded in the massive SAP solution suite.

These four HP 3000s -- three 9x8s and one A-Class server -- could be taken offline and out of HMS if 1. The company gets out of the duty-free shop business altogether, or 2. HMS hands off its duty-free to the Portugal-based sister company that manages other duty-free with a PC-based server configuration.

Remote apps that serve US airports starts to creep into cloud computing, with a resource attached via networks and tapped by users via PCs in the shops. The sticking point is the networking into and out of major US airports, those built before the 1990s. "It's flaky at best," Edminster says of the airport network service. 

05:27 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 09, 2009

HP 3000 work still surfaces, on contract

Even in a marketplace for a computer the vendor stopped building six years ago, jobs emerge to manage HP 3000s. I put out a Google Watch on the HP 3000 (and HP3000) years ago, and the daily results have delivered some surprising gems. Today's catch includes an opening in the Orlando area for six months of administering HP 3000 systems.

Don't all of you go applying at once now. Even though we're told the pool of 3000 IT pros is shrinking, we hear of many 3000 veterans who are at liberty, too.

What's in Orlando? The job listing is pretty detailed. It reports that ARGI, a subscription management and fulfillment application/outsourced service, leads the list:

This position will administer all aspects of HP 3000 minicomputers including the hardware and operating system. Applications include: ARGI subscription fulfillment, Maestro, 3000 Security, and Omnidex. Must be experienced in COBOL programming. Additional skills in Microsoft server, IIS and PC setup / support. Duties include developing and maintaining COBOL programs, develop and maintain visual basic programs, installing software patches & upgrades, maintaining nightly backups, and supporting PCs.

That's right, you read correctly: This job includes development in COBOL on a 3000, in the year 2009.

We'll have more to share about this kind of 3000 next week, but the label for this installation is often "Longtime Success Needs New Steward." Without getting too speculative, Time-Warner once operated its subscription and premium fulfillment services for its publications in the Central Florida area. That's precisely the level of company that's got intentions to leave the platform, but cannot find a replacement solution that fits as well as its 20-year-tested business logic in COBOL.

These kinds of sites and customers represent opportunity for the marketplace in general. If you cannot find a qualified person who can take a 6-month contract to administer, you might move the app to an outsourced hosting provider. If the app looks creaky but runs fast, you could modernize without leaving MPE/iX. As we heard today from a consultant and app support expert, "there many miles to go before all these 3000s go to sleep." In the meantime, some need a watchful eye.

In Orlando they need "excellent COBOL programming skills and above average Visual Basic programming skills." If you've acquired both those skills and have a yen to live near Disney World, get in touch.

05:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2009

Itanium: Failing HP-UX futures, or more?

ItaniumRising We take it on faith today that Intel produces most of the world's popular processors. Even Apple, once a Motorola and IBM POWER stronghold, now uses Intel chips in Macs. But the HP 3000 never got a real chance at having Intel Inside. Now that 3000 emulators are in the works and testing soon, it looks like skipping over Intel's Itanium might be a good thing for MPE/iX users.

This might come as heresy to the 3000 advocates who lobbied HP long and hard for a shot at 64-bit processing, the Valhalla of the journey via Itanium. But look at what HP-UX customers got for their waiting -- including the 3000 sites that migrated sooner than later -- and you can wonder if the delays were worth it. The 3000, and MPE/iX apps, are now more likely to find a future on an mainstream Intel chip.

This matters now, in the gray time of HP's Unix system migration. PA-RISC is old tech, but it's running a large share of the migrated 3000 sites. The Itanium failure to dominate relegated HP-UX to a niche market, a place HP couldn't imagine setting up shop. The 3000 was supposed to be the small market, even if HP didn't say so while Itanium was so new it was called Merced.

Since Hewlett-Packard plowed its engineering into Itanium, HP's Unix customers cannot host their applications on a standard computer, something HP sells very well (think ProLiants, and Linux or Windows). These Industry Standard Servers, as HP calls them, are so strong that HP is thinking of folding its printer business into a combined PC-printer organization. This would offer little help to HP-UX customers. The merger is supposed to jump-start HP's printer sales.

Back in the 90s, HP trumpeted vast plans for the chip that now represents the Only Home for HP's Unix. Then the market had its say. One PC columnist, whose last name is the same as a failed keyboard layout, asserts that Itanium hobbled more than HP-UX options, since it failed to live up to its promise. John Dvorak says the chip killed the computer industry.

Now Dvorak has been a splashy computer writer for a long time, which can boost a fella's readership nicely. (It helps to be published by PC Magazine, which recently dropped printing altogether to retreat to the Web.) Dvorak told his version of Itanium history this year as a cautionary tale. He reminded us that promises of world domination by any technology should be viewed as fables until the future arrives.

His column does a good job of summarizing the hubris of Itanium, nee-Merced-nee-Tahoe, a flight plan HP cooked up in its top-notch Labs but had to take on Intel as a co-pilot in order to fly. The flight of Itanium was as anticipated as any Spruce Goose test run. HP told all of its customers to expect all other chip architectures to evaporate. Who could take on the industry clout of Intel and the brainpower of HP's Very Long Instruction Word designs? And so by degrees we lost the Alpha, the SPARC, and more. Computers made by Dell, IBM and Sun would be powered with chips created by HP and Intel.

I've covered Itanium since these two companies were calling their joint project Tahoe in 1994, then naming the chip architecture Merced in '95. By '96, the 3000 community was eager to learn what Hewlett-Packard would decide about including the HP 3000 in the world domination party. Early in '97, the 3000 customers were told, in a special TV teleconference, that they weren't invited to the 64-bit party.

PA-RISC, said HP in 1997, provided plenty of processor for the 3000s future. As it turned out, HP sold PA-RISC to all of its MPE and Unix customers for another 6-11 years. We wrote in 1997:

[HP] indicates a long lifespan for the 64-bit processor that now powers the 3000. Remember, Merced still isn't a tested solution anywhere, and few expect it to be available before 1999 in HP's processors. What's more, HP still hasn't shipped PA-8200 chips in either HP 9000 or HP 3000 systems. There's a lot of PA-RISC lifetime still left to live.

Only in 2007 did the number of HP-UX servers sold for Itanium/Integrity pass the sales of PA-RISC computers. HP stopped selling PA-RISC last year, 14 years after it crowed about Itanium ruling the marketplace.

Dvorak says that the high-water mark of the computer industry was 2000, and he adds that Itanium pulled the business into the basement in the years since then. It doesn't look like he's accounting for the Y2K swell that put your community at its crest. But he's right about one thing: The chip that hosts the future of HP-UX, the one that will give those users processor headroom for years to come, never came close to the $38 billion it was supposed to earn way back in 2001.

HP and Intel were late, over and over, in delivering something to beat PA-RISC. Hewlett-Packard was hoping for a repeat of the miracle of MPE. HP rolled out PA-RISC in 1987 and the 3000 apps written for 16-bit CISC processors ran in Emulation Mode on the new chips. That's why an emulator for the 3000 hardware will have traction and generate sales for a company that makes it available. Emulators have a good track record with 3000 enterprise customers.

What better not happen: A series of big promises and Itanium-like delays for these hardware emulators. That's why nobody, not Stromasys or Strobe Data or anybody, is promising when the emulator solution will be ready. It's worse to miss a milestone than to release no schedule. People budget for products months and years in advance. Changing your mind is often expensive, and IT expenses remain on many chopping blocks.

Itanium has carved a niche for some apps, so it's not an utter failure. It provides the fastest engine for HP-UX, although there's no chip even racing in second place. No amount of cheery industry measurements can pull the only current HP-UX processor into the mainstream market. Such a market is important to a future without costly changes. HP 3000 owners have learned that business practice from Hewlett-Packard. Sales and market share make at difference at HP. Perhaps any project to emulate PA-RISC on industry standard Intel chips will have an even bigger set of customers: HP-UX sites looking for a longer future for their PA-RISC investments.

08:11 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2009

3000s continue to fly free: but how many?

Pelican At last month's e3000 Community Meet, Speedware's Chris Koppe shared an estimate. The company surveyed its customer base, then called or contacted other sites from lists of known 3000 locations. At most, Koppe said, Speedware believes there are 1,000 HP 3000 customers still running systems.

The size of the known 3000 universe is as tough to track as any other kind of expanding entity. By expanding, I mean accelerating away from HP. Everyone who's remaining on the system is moving away from the vendor in relationship to their 3000 use. These customers have been in free flight, out of formation and out of contact for many years now. HP never knew for sure how many 3000s were running, by its own admission. The vendor's estimates drifter further afield with every year that it relied on resellers, then didn't close the loop on support contract renewals. About the only thing HP can report on these days is the relative silence compared to years ago.

So when we heard today from Dave Wiseman, who helped bring ScreenJet into the 3000 world late in the 1990s, about a few 3000s he encountered in-flight, we wondered: Are a pair of US airports, both using 3000 systems in duty-free shops, on anyone's radar who's tracking the size of the universe?

Wiseman, who's working these days for computer fraud prevention company iovation.com, checked in after he checked out of the duty-free shops in the airports.

I was in Minneapolis Airport on Sunday and went to the duty free. When I checked out they were using an HP 3000 green screen system! Apparently it’s still in use in Minneapolis and [Seattle's] Sea-Tac.

In this era of transition, the size of the known universe becomes important for both owners and vendors in the community. The former, they want to know how many people are left manning the oars. Too few (by whatever measure) could mean a loss of knowledge and hardware resources that could jeopardize the system's reliability.

For the vendors, the numbers are more crucial. They help determine how much resource to supply to the market. If the amount of water in the pond can't float the development and support boats, a vendor has to launch a smaller vessel, or put their 3000 business into dry dock. So people ask about this number, just as they have ever since the NewsWire first went into print 14 years ago.

The 1,000 Customers number is the lowest we've heard shared with the 3000 community, but every universe needs to have boundaries both low and high. We'd love to hear from a vendor or supplier who knew about the 3000s in those airports' Duty Free shops. The fact that these systems are tallying sales sparks two thoughts. First, how many more might be out of the main flight path? Second, we wonder who might compile a continuing list of customers -- other than ours. Let us hear from you about any free flying systems you encounter.

10:56 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2009

OpenMPE searches for source money

The OpenMPE advocacy group is looking for investors. This all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization has passed HP's examination for a source code license. Now it needs money to pay for this license, along with some administration funding to make the knowledge available to its members and its virtual lab.

Above, the group's director Matt Perdue explains the situation in a video of two minutes, recorded at last month's e3000 Community Meet. He's assisted at one point by OpenMPE chair Birket Foster (pan to the right), who explains some circumstances under which HP could terminate these licenses.

A terminated MPE/iX license hasn't ever happened to customers, because they weren't using source code. But the read-only MPE/iX source is for development of patches to the 3000. This is new territory here. No third party has ever asked a constituency in public for funding to open a lab. This is the new turf of volunteer, advocate-based development. OpenMPE at least wants to assemble an independent organization more extensive than a Web-based code forge, the vehicle most open source communities use.

But because HP's license prevents anyone from discussing the terms in public, the source license doesn't have the ironclad, tangible rules and policies you'd expect for an investment in a product.

Neither Perdue or Foster was permitted to state all the reasons that HP could terminate the source license. (It's part of the license terms that none of this gets broadcasted.) Why would a license termination matter? It appears to be part of a guarantee of future support -- something not many software companies will ever offer. The group intends to establish a development lab for patches, then support its work, for a membership fee. If HP revokes the source code license, then using that source for patch support violates the contract terms. We think. Nobody could say for sure.

HP did put an extra requirement into the OpenMPE source license, Foster said. "Certain board members are key to allowing this [licensing] to flow," he said. "They want us to do our own succession planning, so [HP] is good with whoever's there." He added that HP didn't restrict OpenMPE as a licensee in the event the group's board all retired from service. "The next group would be able to take [the license] over." We didn't hear details about HP's permissions to review OpenMPE board changes. Since the licenses are a confidential matter, there's no way to compare terms of any other licensees. So far, no one else has announced they hold an MPE/iX source license.

Perdue said that "there would have to be a specific reason for HP to change its mind" about revoking OpenMPE's license. One reason Perdue did say out loud: A departure of "key people" from the volunteer board.

There's already $1,000 in the license fund as a result of the community meeting. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, which is preparing an open source MPE/iX Web site, chipped in the startup money right after the Community Meet of Sept. 23. If your company (or you as an individual) want to invest in the OpenMPE license, the group offers the following deposit point to send your checks (made out to OpenMPE):

OpenMPE, Inc.
c/o Matt Perdue, Treasurer
PO Box 460091
San Antonio, TX 78246-0091

03:13 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2009

3000s still under Boeing's wings

Large customers have been among the earliest and most active migration sites, but some companies with high-flying profiles, like Boeing, will use the 3000 beyond 2010.

The aircraft manufacturer is making efforts to leave the platform as soon as possible, but the timing of its migration isn't tied to any HP support schedule. Long-time NewsWire reader Ray Legault from Boeing checked in last week and reports that some key applications may take awhile to move. Third party support and outsourced services are in place to let Boeing's application owners work at their own migration schedule.

"There are just some Finance, QA and Manufacturing apps that are left," said the Boeing systems integrator. "They want the platform to disappear ASAP. It may take a while to migrate."

If finance, quality assurance and manufacturing sound like mission-critical apps, that might be mitigated by the app's reach into the Boeing operations. The company generated $60 billion in sales last year. It's long-anticipated Dreamliner 787 is scheduled to arrive in the market just as HP ends its 3000 support.

In Boeing IT, the group which owns the application establishes its migration plan. The plans which are in place vary in approach and schedule.

"They let each business system owner and a architecture board decide where each app will migrate to," Legault said. "An off-the-shelf [replacement] is the main thought, even if it has reduced functionality. One app does not have any off-the-shelf options, so they are re-writing it into Oracle/Unix, slowly."

Legault says Boeing plans to use Halifax and Beechglen for 3000 support when HP drops its 3000 support services at the end of 2010.

09:18 AM in Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2009

Just A Minute: Eloquence Update at the Meet

Eloquence database creator Michael Marxmeier gives a presentation at the recent e3000 Community Meet in this video, shot handheld from the front row of the SF Airport Hyatt hotel meeting room. Presenters had to limit talks to 15 minutes or less; most were even briefer. We grabbed a minute of his talk for the camera.

Marxmeier's slides are not yet part of the Meet's archive page we reported on earlier today. In this video he has a slide up which describes the following overall technology enhancements for the latest release of Eloquence 8:

  • Implements new thread model for Eloquence database server (improving on the default HP-UX threading)
  • Provides base for future enhancements
  • Aligns Eloquence technology to newer hardware and OS capabilities including multiple CPU cores, CPU core speed increases made more moderate, and larger memory sizes.

Functional enhancements for the latest release include

  • Scalability
  • Database replication
  • Point-in-time recovery / incremental recovery
  • Monitoring improvements
  • Programmatic access to achived database transactions
  • query3k and utility program improvements

06:21 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Community Meet slides go online

Speedware's Chris Koppe, president-elect of the HP Connect user group, announced this morning that the presentations from last week's e3000 Community Meet are available online.

The six sets of PowerPoint slides can be downloaded from www.hpmigrations.com/sfevent

The slide sets include Koppe's own, which detail the efforts the user group is making for the 3000 community, as well as a Speedware update on migration and homesteading issues. Speedware offers a service to manage 3000 applications for customers who are homesteading, as well as its migration tools and services.

Other slide sets online today are from Transoft, presenting migration and application upgrade information; an update from ScreenJet's Alan Yeo about its modernization tools; David Floyd of the Support Group, explaining sustainability options and services; and OpenMPE secretary Donna Hofmeister, presenting details on the group's campaign to fund an MPE/iX source license (as well as services coming online soon.)

We have video and audio from these talks we're working to edit and post here in the days to come.

08:51 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2009

Our 3000 reports move into a 15th year


The 3000 NewsWire celebrates its birthday today, tying a bow on 14 years of publishing which began in 1995. In the fall of that year my partner Abby and I began our delicious journey through your community, one that remains without an end in sight. While we move into our 15th year, I remember some in the community wondered how we'd find anything to publish in Issue 2.

The NewsWire's pages, both printed and those we flung onto the fledgling World Wide Web, had to prove the concept of a 3000-only publication. We promoted the platform by highlighting the changes to its solutions. HP was already calling the HP 3000 a "legacy" system during 1995, even while people in the 3000 division worked to bring the platform up to date.

In October of 1995, HP was just starting to embrace the idea of serving small customers with the 3000's fastest technology. We called the Series 9x9 servers Kittyhawks in our Page One article, using HP's code name. (Click on the image above to read that front page.) System configurations were a major part of a 3000 customer's duty in that day, so we reported HP was finally adding an 8-user MPE/iX license to the entry model of the 9x9 line. HP said you could get the latest generation 3000 at under $50,000, we reported with an asterisk,"before disks, console and networking cards are added." Most customers needed to add one or more of these elements, but HP was still trying to improve the image of the 3000's value.

Another kind of image was important in that first issue, the 3000 database of the same name. We launched our first at-deadline issue of the FlashPaper with a report on the new leader of the IMAGE/SQL lab, Tien-You Chen. The vendor community was pleased with the move, since it looked like the database group was getting a leader devoted to results rather than policy.

Chen has a can-do style. In a meeting with several partners over TurboStore integration, someone in the meeting suggested that “an HP file system engineer would really help us here.” Chen excused himself, got up and came back with the engineer.

Of course, much of what seemed novel and important 14 years ago has aged into history. We looked over the first issue's story lineup to see that top HP executives (like CEO Lew Platt) were still praising the platform in public, when pressed. HP could show a wrinkled side of its image to the 3000 faithful, too: 3000 division executives made a show of taking off their jackets en masse at an Interex conference roundtable. Although roundtables and HP executive comments on the 3000 have evaporated, our first issue carried news that resonates in today's community. A powerful object-oriented compiler was being launched, C++, "which promised better products sooner" for the 3000. It remains a key tool to keep the 3000's future smooth, no matter how long you've decided to remain on the computer's path.

HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. But when HP closed down Invent3k almost a year ago, the compiler had to find a public home. OpenMPE will include the compiler on its invent3k.openmpe.org resource, opening later this month.

This open source tool will be needed to keep the more modern ports to the 3000 up to date in years to come. It's so essential, said our columnist John Burke, that

Without Mark Klein’s initial porting of and continued attention to the GNU C++ compiler and utilities on the HP 3000, there would be no Apache/iX, syslog/iX, sendmail/iX, bind/iX, etc. from Mark Bixby, and no Samba/iX from Lars Appel. And the HP 3000 would still be trying to hang on for dear life, rather than being a player in the new e-commerce arena.

And our first issue covered a new HP initiative to spark integration in the manufacturing sector, carried out by six North American partners.

The integrators will offer customers one of three strategies to assist them in examining their information infrastructure, with the goal of implementing Customer Oriented Manufacturing Management (COMMS systems):
    1. To retain systems while expanding use of software features and increasing processing power using strategies such as COMMS;
    2. To supplement systems such as MRP II with more comprehensive software on current computer platforms or additional environments; or
    3. To migrate manufacturing systems to newer “Choices Approved” software solutions such as Ross Systems' Renaissance CS or  Spectrum's PointMan.

So even while the first NewsWire was hitting the mailboxes of October, 1995, this newsletter was acknowledging that migration was one choice in moving ahead. Something else hasn't changed since that month. One of those six partners remains vital in the 3000 community: the Support Group, inc.

Like a lot of your world, tSGi is concerned with continuity. Today the company's president David Floyd, son of the founder Terry Floyd, celebrates his birthday while tSGi leads customers into both homestead and migration futures. We're happy to share a birthday with him, while we work toward "many happy returns of the day." Thank you for reading us for 14 years, and for the support of our partners and sponsors into another generation, starting with today.

04:05 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)