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Ending its 18-month quest to restore a 3000 resource, OpenMPE re-opened an invent3k developer server on Friday afternoon. The new system, stocked with HP's 3000 software and patched with the latest MPE/iX, went online because the advocacy group set up invent3k2, a disaster recovery server in California.

The original HP 3000 server donated to the group for invent3k isn't online yet, but the arrival of the first tangible OpenMPE resource will render that disaster meaningless. HP first launched invent3k as a test of the power of open development tools in 2001, just six months before the vendor announced it would exit the 3000 community. The server's aim has always been to provide developer tools and account space to aid in 3000 porting and program design. Even in the years after HP pulled its 3000 plug, programmers tapped the free resource.

Tracy Johnson, secretary of the group, has marshaled an available HP 3000 at his employer Specialized Measurement for invent3k2. The server is a collaboration of volunteers' efforts, some still in progress. Johnson added that he can use help in configuring HP WebWise, the Web server that runs native on MPE/iX.

Johnson said members of OpenMPE (membership is free) can access the 3000 through a terminal window at the address, once they receive a user account and password from him via email. Requests for log-on information can go to any board member, he added. Accounts and passwords were being distributed before the weekend began.

HP's 3000 compilers such as BASIC, C, COBOL, FORTRAN, and PASCAL are available for MPE/iX users, as well as "Java from the MPE/iX 7.5 install manual and Perl," Johnson reports. "Use of invent3k2 will be free until December 31, after which time OpenMPE will start charging a fee."

That this group can offer any service other than advocacy and elections is a milestone in a year when HP is ending 3000 operations -- including a halt to distribution of MPE/iX FOS tapes and the software such as those compilers. The original system, a 3000 donated by Client Systems and hosted at Hill Country Technologies, never broke free of that host's firewalls, despite assurances provided to then-secretary Donna Hofmeister by Hill Country's Matt Perdue, another board member. The new 3000 resource arrives almost a year after original invent3k was reported to Hofmeister as ready at the 2009 e3000 Community Meet.

Johnson said he's tapped an extra IT resource of his employer, a manufacturer with 3000-managed operations across the world. He also reports late-night work to open the server to the community.

HP sent the group a tape of the developer's software package (DSPP) to load onto a DR version of invent3k. "It took a week’s work with DSPP tapes," Johnson said. "Then there was getting our facilities guy to lay a cable to a router outside the firewall, then configuring the router on Thursday night."

When HP closed its MPE/iX development lab late in 2008, invent3k was a casualty pulled offline on Nov. 30. Programmers and open source developers had established accounts on the server where they worked on projects such as the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) support for Perl/iX, or a port of text2pdf, a simple, small C program that reads text from 3000 standard input and creates a PDF stream as output. Such open source ports were high on HP's list of hopes when invent3k made its debut.

The computer was to provide an HP 3000 resource for developers and customers who want to create software and test programs. HP engineer Mark Bixby managed the original resource at the 3000 lab, and said Invent3K provides a place "to port new open-source applications, develop new closed-source applications, or just test-drive the HP software.

But when HP transferred the licensed software from invent3k, it purged all user accounts. "Users were supposed to get all their stuff before they closed it down," Johnson said. HP announced no plan to transfer the resource to the community when it announced its shutdown; OpenMPE had to win the software from HP. "Once the HP machine had already been cut off from the outside world, I don't recall an expectation of any type of transfer to OpenMPE until we talked them out of it," Johnson said.

His employer "always had a spare machine 'hot' but in non-use. It was a leap of inspiration to offer that to OpenMPE for use. It was only a matter of getting an official HP DSPP SLT tape and doing a RE-INSTALL, then putting it outside the firewall."