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Reaching Out for Help to Touch a 3000

Last week we posted an article that proposed managers could touch 3000 administration far away from their console keyboards. Even though the system has had remote console capability for many years (the Web Console feature), touching a keyboard was a must.

Now some users want to know how they can dispense with their keys, using Apple's iPod Touch or even the nascent iPads. The marriage of 20th Century tech to last month's breakthough tablet is possible, but not well documented yet. Bob Schnelle of United McGill Corporation wants to know more. He owns a Touch and wants to reach his 3000s for remote management.

I received the latest 3000 NewsWire email and the article An iPad as a 3000 remote terminal? caught my eye.  After reading the article, it was never clear on whether or not this can be done. If it can be done, is there someplace that details the steps necessary to accomplish this?

It's possible and has been done, but the details are as nascent as the iPad. We'll take a moment to plug that email that summarizes our stories; about once a week or so it does this. Send your email address to me to give it a try, with easy, automatic opt-outs via Constant Contact.

Apple's success at placing the Touch and iPad (35 million of the former sold, and a million of the latter after just 30 days) may be a spark for more detail on how this Touching has been done. A few 3000 experts are already helping to fill in the gaps.

Just a few days ago, our friend and colleague Duane Percox at K-12 app provider QSS suggested more details:

If you have one of the flavors of Windows that supports RDP,  then you can use the built-in VPN of the iPad along with an inexpensive RDP client and establish a remote connection to a system in your network. All you need is a Windows system on your network (say your desktop) you can RDP to. Then you can run anything from that desktop system to connect to any server in your network. Better than worrying about a native iPad app that can connect to the HP 3000.

At the moment there's one site that has reported accomplishing this using the iPod Touch. Craig Lalley of EchoTech chimed in back in the fall, when Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties asked if Touch-ing a 3000 was possible. "It works for me," Lalley said. "With computers there are always several ways to accomplish the same thing, right? The terminal works okay (through Telnet). The free RDP works great, so it is possible to get to the desktop."

Last fall there was the Touch to consider for this task, but its virtual keyboard is just 3 inches wide. "The iPod Touch is a nice little tool, but its keyboard leaves a whole lot to be desired in terms of speed," Lalley added. Firewall configuration skills were essential to bring in VPN via a Cisco device. "I have even got the Cisco VPN client working," he said, "but it is very sensitive to the configuration of a Cisco firewall."

For Schnelle, a primer on those skills would be essential. He says his networking experience will require a guide to get Touching. He'd be grateful for the larger keyboard that's on the screen of the iPad, almost eight inches across in landscape mode. Standard physical keyboards run about 10.5 inches. There's even an app for the iPad to train you in touch typing on those virtual keys.

"I have an iPod Touch, though I’d like an iPad," Schnelle wrote us. "I’d like to use it as a management tool. If it is possible, which it sounds like it is, then I was hoping for a step-by-step document showing how to do it, as my networking skills are medium-level at best. Also, cost is an issue, so I’d like to get away with spending as little as possible."

There's some sensible, efficient strategy in his last comment, but it would appear the cost of Touch-ing the 3000's admin, even with a tablet, is limited to the cost of Apple's remote device. The Touch is as little as $270 and useful for tasks including Skype telephony; the iPad and its more spacious keyboard sells for $499; it's become an essential part of our information gathering practices.

Cisco's VPN client is included with ownership of the router; a guide to installation and configuring it initially is online at several Web sites. There's one to cover Windows 7, as well as advice on installing it on Vista. We assume that XP installation is possible, but that's Windows tech that's begun to look elderly, even if XP is still everywhere.

Before you dismiss these queries as attempts to remain on the 3000 indefinitely, you'll want to take note of the United McGill IT strategy. The 3000 is doing mission-critical work at the 59-year-old firm that engineers, manufactures and installs air flow products for the construction industry. But the privately-held company in its second generation of top management named McGill -- which has operations in 21 states -- is migrating.

"We are in the process of migrating off our HP 3000," Schnelle reported, "although it will be a year or more before we are able to transition off of it completely." In the meantime this 3000 manager is looking, researching ways to make his management more flexible through WiFi capabilities of Apple's mobile products. Such interim homesteaders make the most of their servers, until they must move away from them.