HP hugs Oracle with Unix v3 Update 7
Independent support plumbs 3000 internals

Indie resets of 3000 system IDs still available

AClassIRS Independent support providers can still provide a reset of HP 3000 CPUNAME and HPSUSAN ID numbers, according to an online message posted for the 3000 community. The parameters are crucial to continued use of HP 3000s after upgrades or CPU and board failures. HP is not the only avenue to pursue for these specialized services.

Immediate Recovery Solutions offers this Processor Dependent Code (PDC) change for PA-RISC servers, reiterated in a message from a technical expert who's called himself Captain Greb for more than four years by now. GREBs are the IRS products known as Generic REplacement Boxes, PA-RISC hardware built by HP which can be assigned a 3000's CPU ID as well as the HPSUSAN string. Software vendors check the HPSUSAN to verify legal licenses for applications and utilities.

The "Captain" told the NewsWire that the company will not sell its SSEDIT software, the program which it uses to set identities for the PA-RISC systems. "SSEDIT is our proprietary service tool and is not for sale," he said. "Why would we sell a program that could be easily copied or hacked by unscrupulous types?"

But now IRS has announced hardware for sale for the first time, PA-RISC systems like the one pictured above, which looks much like an A-Class server from the 3000 line. The two-processor box has been listed for sale, although there's no mention of MPE/iX being installed in a message to 3000 users.

While IRS was allied with system and service provider Advant, Steve Pirie of Advant said that HP has had ample opportunity to examine SSEDIT. HP didn't find anything in the code that could spark any legal action to block its use, Pirie claimed back in 2006.

"SSEDIT's been around since 1995," Pirie said, "and HP has had a good look at it. Listen, why don't they go after the people who do MPEX? Anybody that writes their own program and runs it on an HP system — what does HP have to say about it?"

What HP has said is that third party resellers aren't allowed to reset model strings on HP 3000s. HP enforces this with a statement that its support engineers will not repair problems with 3000s that fail to because of errors induced by third-party changes. But the approach of the Dec. 31 end of HP's 3000 support will pull a lot of teeth out of that threat. Only HP's Time & Materials support calls would be withheld for a GREB system.

HP declined to make its SS_CONFIG and SS_EDIT software available to the third party independent support community after HP's support of the 3000 ends. The technology in those HP-written tools also works on HP 9000 servers, computer the company continues to support even after sales ended. Solutions like the IRS version of SSEDIT make those crucial board reset and recovery services available outside HP.

The power of such tools goes beyond recovery, however. With the correct strings supplied to SSEDIT (the IRS version), an A-Class or N-Class server can run at its full processor power -- not the crippled speed of HP's configuration.

IRS says, "We have agreements with select third party software support companies for system board initialization, and will work with self-supporting end users. We still offer custom solutions. We now offer machines for sale."

IRS only leased GREB boxes in the past, a business model that could assure customers about the license issues. But this week it posted a notice for a $5,000 system that it's selling, one with the same processors as an N-Class 3000. The system will report that it's an A-Class, however. From the Captain's email, and the IRS website:

2 x 750mhz processors
8GB memory
NO disk (includes 1 tray)
NO power cable
NO console cable
NO front trim

This is a great little machine for hobby use, development, archiving, etc. Relative performance should be in the 40 to 50 range, or about that of a 989KS650.

MPE model string: RP2470/A500-200-75
Software capability: 0x10000001
Software ID: 891900600

If you were to install MPE on this machine, this is what you might expect to see:

HPSUSAN = 891900600
HPCPUNAME = SERIES RP2470/A500-200-75

So IRS has chosen to wave its flag higher for the 3000 customer who wants an upgrade but isn't worried about CPUNAME and HPSUSAN ID issues. 3000 budgets for homesteaders being what they are in a down economy (lean, for many), upgrade licensing fees from some software companies (like Cognos) would kill an upgrade. The movement to enable third parties do the hardware-level upgrading, outside of HP's 2011 time and materials contracts and software fees, shows how some customers are dealing with homesteading in the post-HP era.

While GREB users do exist, they have been shy about testifying to the goodness of their solution for us at the NewsWire. We'd love to hear from you if you're using GREB.