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February 2011

Start getting ready for IPv6

IPv6, the Internet address protocol for the future, is among the technologies that MPE/iX will not support this year. This Version 6 of software that routes Web traffic was among those that OpenMPE was considering when it applied for its license for the MPE/iX source. It was suggested back in 2008 that a contract project might have revised the 3000's networking to accomodate the new protocol.

But native support for IPv6 networking won't matter as much as some 3000 managers expected. Although the 3000 was prepared to do DNS service, the vendor didn't build a patch in 2009 to eliminate a security hole in DNS for MPE/iX. That's bedrock technology for Internet protocols, so it would have to be made secure. Much of this kind of routing for 3000 shops takes place on external PC systems today. You can even make an older Windows XP box do IPv6, according to Paul Edwards, a former OpenMPE volunteer who's a training resource for the 3000 community.

The new networking will become much more essential to an IT operation this year. Earlier this month the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority issued the last block of IPv4 addresses. Another organization, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), advised that companies that do business over the Internet should support IPv6 on public-facing Web serversor  Web services by Jan. 1, 2012 or risk losing potential customers.

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Little things expend OpenMPE's efforts

Update: We've located a "Contribute" button on the OpenMPE website that connects with the group's PayPal account. Benefactors can type in any amount at the PayPal site to make a donation. Subscription invoices for Invent3K are another matter.

Favicon-OpenMPE OpenMPE's curator for its website Tracy Johnson sent a note that defines the level of detail the volunteers work on this month. A favicon -- the little graphic that appears in a browser bar next to a site's address -- has been added for The graphic is a picture of the owl that the 3000 homesteaders used back in the middle of the previous decade for the "Who Knew?" campaign to celebrate the 3000. Senior Software Specialist Rick Gilligan at CASE created a handsome shirt with the logo for an effort back in the early years that followed HP's exit announcement.

That tiny favicon pops up in the bar now, but there's no evidence yet on the website of the PayPal account that will accept contributions, or $99 membership fees for Invent3K accounts. We'd hope that an automated method to accept micro-contributions -- those of under $99, for example -- would become more prominent for a group that's trying to raise $50,000 to survive.

As of today, there's no deadline for raising that money, because aside from legal expenses and a fee to prepare its taxes, a modest director insurance premium, and electricity for hosting 3000s, the group has few other regular costs to meet. It owes its director Keith Wadsworth $5,000 for a loan. Conference call expenses have been donated by MB Foster for years, and now Abtech has started to pick up that tab. The servers dishing up Invent3K, classic tech papers, CSL programs and the like have been donated by Client Systems; there were costs to ship these, of course. But all of the above is now in place. From an outsider's perspective, it looks like there are no ongoing expenses that will go unpaid if a lot less than $50,000 gets raised.

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COBOL-IT returns choice to migrating sites

In 2007 Micro Focus bought up its biggest rival in the COBOL and development tool market, Acucorp. Acu, as its fans call it, had a bright technical future and a raft of fans who didn't like the pricing Micro Focus was accustomed to charging for runtime users. For a 3000 customer who was paying nothing at all for runtime licenses, thanks to HP and COBOL II, Micro Focus was a big leap in pricing. The $40.7 million purchase gave Micro Focus license to set pricing as well as the future of AcuCOBOL.

So it's easy to imagine how migration for a 3000 site looked more expensive in 2007, once Micro Focus eliminated the Acu choice for COBOL. More than 80 percent of the 3000 community uses some kind of COBOL. The compiler on a target platform is important to the homegrown app customers who do their own development. About 10 days ago, Speedware announced a fresh choice for COBOL on migration platforms, COBOL-IT.

Although that product name is unfamiliar to 3000 sites, the technology leadership is pretty well known. COBOL-IT is run by former Acucorp managers. They've taken the OpenCOBOL source code, which is controlled by the General Public License like most open source tools, and applied some nifty extensions to the compiler. GPL terms mean that the COBOL-IT work has to be made available to OpenCOBOL users. COBOL-IT, which has been integrated into Speedware's AMXW solution, is a commercial open source solution. That means that it's the support and the ongoing improvements you license, not the software. COBOL-IT is a free download, according to Speedware's marketing director Chris Koppe.

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HP reports services, BCS revenues flat

HP Q1 2011 ESS HP briefed analysts and the media on its first quarter of 2011 last night, and the numbers fell short of market mavens' expectations. The cash cow of services looks to be stalled, even while PC sales are up and the Business Critical Systems unit is no longer falling off prior quarters' revenues.

HP recorded a 16 percent increase in profits overall and booked more than $32 billion in sales throughout the company for Q1, which ended Jan. 31. But sales dropped by $183 million versus the same period of 2010, a ripple that worried the analysts and clipped HP's stock price by more than 10 percent overnight. The concerns run toward questions about the durability of acquiring companies to grow HP's business.

HP's enterprise businesses, which include replacements for the HP 3000, grew sales by 6 percent over Q1 of 2010. Nearly all of the rise came from the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking segment, which includes the Business Critical Systems unit that sells HP-UX Integrity solutions. Alas, the HP breakout reports that BCS sales were flat. Most of the increase comes from the Industry Standard Servers (ProLiants) and Windows software -- still the most popular migration target for 3000 sites making a move. HP did say that it was "continuing to make good progress in displacing competitive Unix products." The overall BCS numbers, however, show there's an exit underway in the company's Unix business.

CEO Leo Apotheker wanted to point to other segments of HP's latest quarter. "Most importantly, I am very pleased with our Feb. 9 webOS announcement," he said. "We are excited about... the opportunity that webOS provides. The enthusiasm and anticipation for webOS exceeded even our most optimistic expectations." Results from these products will appear in the PC Systems group, which saw its sales dip 1 percent but its operating profits rise by $142 million for the quarter.

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How to Procure Connections for 3000s

Even in the most crucial of IT operations, an HP 3000 can remain a keystone. Last week we got a call from a 3000 manager whose clients provide a very crucial military service, run off a 3000. The system design at the shop includes a tool advanced for its time, the ADBC database middleware that uses Adager's Java-based tool designs. ADBC was implemented and sold by David Thatcher.

This 3000 helps ensure that military operations can keep rolling, literally. It provides logistics for all the US Army's tires, as one example. It's custom software that does the routing and tracking of addresses, where the materials are going and where orders came from. The manager described it as a mini-ERP with a lot of hooks into different providers.

This 3000 is going to remain on a roll for awhile. "We're trying to rewrite it, but it's not that easy to do away with it," the manager added. "The HP 3000 just keeps chugging along very reliably." Our NewsWire reviewer John Burke once said of ADBC that since it provides "the prospect of being able to program in a language whose compiled output can run on virtually any platform without modification, and natively access TurboIMAGE databases, MPE files and XL routines on an HP 3000, it made even an old curmudgeon like myself sit up and take notice."

This manager called to locate the ADBC developers; an error code had just popped up on his software. We reached out to Thatcher to connect him with his former customer, one who had let support for the software lapse awhile ago. Thatcher, working at a New York bank now, provided his help for free. But there's an online resource of 3000 experts where he's listed that might be a first stop on this kind of former-supplier search: LinkedIn. You'd have to find a spot to connect Thatcher to ADBC first, but we've got that covered, too.

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One Source of the OpenMPE Disputes

HP sent a copy of MPE/iX source code to OpenMPE in 2010, but that asset has returned to the HP offices. Once the volunteers voted Matt Perdue off the OpenMPE island, the former treasurer eventually sent the source back to HP because he believed it wasn't safe in his own shop.

Perdue doesn't put it that way exactly. The unsafe situation he refers to was efforts to get the source code into non-exclusive hands, a goal that vice-chairman Keith Wadsworth persued for several months before Perdue's removal. (As a reminder, the volunteers had allowed check-writing, source storage, hosting duties and domain ownership to reside with Perdue. If that sounds like a single point of failure, community members might recall their IT skills in how to resolve such a flaw: redundant resources.)

But why should OpenMPE even be granted a source license? About this time last year, we sent a podcast out that advocated source for these volunteers. We even donated $500 against the $10,000 the volunteers needed. There was talk of creating patches, of having a repository to share with contractors who'd be building bridge technologies for MPE/iX. For Perdue, however, the source was in his hands -- as the OpenMPE trustee who signed for it -- to do one thing: create an emulator.

"The reason OpenMPE was granted a license to use was largely due to the plans of OpenMPE to produce an emulator," Perdue told us last month. When he emailed us in mid-January he said he'd returned the code to HP via registered mail. Board members say it's now back with Jennie Hou, the last person to hold a Business Manager title for 3000 operations; there's some dispute about when it was actually sent. Why ship it away? Perdue says, "I discussed with HP that if at any point I did not feel that HP's proprietary materials could not be adequately protected as the license agreement required, they would be returned to HP."

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Reading for Programmers of All Persuasions

Sometime in the 1970s I made the choice to write, then decided my language would be English instead of COBOL or Pascal. "Bigger audience," I told myself, though I was not necessarily thinking of millions of personal computers or even more applications. But writing is writing, and a couple of links from 3000 developers help make that point.

Brian Edminster contacted us with a pointer to Stack Exchange and the sub-site "It's a blog entry about writing and programming," said Edminster, who's an expert on open source tools suited to 3000-architected shops. "It strikes me as a site you could contribute to, and perhaps even benefit from as well. We all have room to grow -- even us 'experts'. " Jeff Atwood pumps out Stack Overflow, a subcategory of his blog Coding Horror, at Stack Exchange. How to Write Without Writing starts like this:

I have a confession to make: in a way, I founded Stack Overflow to trick my fellow programmers. Before you trot out the pitchforks and torches, let me explain.

Over the last six years, I've come to believe deeply in the idea that that becoming a great programmer has very little to do with programming. Yes, it takes a modicum of technical skill and dogged persistence, absolutely. But even more than that, it takes serious communication skills. How do I get my fellow programmers to blog without blogging, to write without writing? By cheating like hell, that's how.

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Linux COBOL solution joins Speedware set

Linux might well be the solution that's the best fit for the remaining 3000 sites needing to migrate, but without enough budget. While Micro Focus has got the greatest mind-share, and Fujitsu also runs on the open source environment, a fresh offering through Speedware presents another target for COBOL II code.

"COBOL-IT is to COBOL what Red Hat is to Linux," said Speedware's president Andy Kulatowski. "By offering our legacy customers the option of moving to open source COBOL, we give them the opportunity to substantially save on licensing costs while still benefiting from enterprise grade support and services."

The compiler and development suite comes with a raft of modules: a Compiler Suite, Developer Studio and pre-compilers for MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQL Server. Speedware's agreement with COBOL-IT lets it distribute "an enterprise-class open source COBOL in the North American market and to provide North American based support to COBOL-IT users." Speedware will provide 24/7 technical support, re-hosting and system integration services, and training.

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Who sent away OpenMPE's source, and why

After our report yesterday from OpenMPE's Jack Connor, he checked in this morning to make one point clear about the location of the MPE/iX source code. The code was licensed to the volunteers in 2010. By 2011, it's back inside HP. But that was not the volunteers' wish, the chairman says.

"OpenMPE did not return the source to HP, as implied in yesterday’s NewsWire article," Connor said in an email. "It was originally sent to [removed treasurer Matt] Perdue by HP."

Perdue did not respond to two certified letters from the board of directors requesting its return. After several weeks of waiting for compliance, a letter was sent to HP notifying them of our loss of control of the source. We received notification from [former 3000 business manager] Jennie Hou on January 27 that HP had received the source, directly from Perdue.  

We are currently working with HP for its return.

Get schooled on data migrations today

MB Foster offers a 45-minute Webinar at 1 PM Eastern today, leading a slide talk on extracting data from 3000s and application databases. "The topic has become very important as hardware and databases implemented 3-5 years ago are nearing the end of their life-cycle," the company reports. "One-time data migrations and cross-platform integrations have become the norm and resolve common challenges."

It's not all about mothballing 3000s, either. Implementing a new application, migrating from one app to another, upgrading to a new app version, or merger-sparked integration migrations are times to move data, too. Some sites are even keeping 3000s alive but providing a means to grab data as archives.

MB Foster leverages its own UDA Central tool for some of this work. The software recently gained the ability to transfer data to and from MySQL, Ingres, Sybase and CACHE databases, added to its Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, Image and Eloquence interfaces.

Data Extraction, Reporting and Migration Made Easy starts around the lunch hour. Registration is at the MB Foster website.

OpenMPE chair appraises a future in play

Yesterday's letter to the community from OpenMPE, soliciting another round of funds, was crafted to spark contributions. The state of the volunteers' effort has been assessed more completely by its current chairman Jack Connor.

Connor, who joined the volunteers last spring, has had a handful to consider and organize in his first month as chairman. He's shared his view of where this group is going, if anywhere, when it ever gains the funding it needs to expand and become a company. Shutting down a group that's returned its source code to HP, as well as hosting servers in locations not tied to the group, wouldn't be a complex matter once a suit against it by a former member has been settled. Connor believes a shutdown is not warranted yet.

"I think a major disconnect in our discussions has been the 'shut down OpenMPE' thread," he said. "What I believe the board desires is to see OpenMPE become an asset to the community. Our intent is to offer services and products which are needed by the community that are not present otherwise in the marketplace." His experience sounds dramatic, though.

When I was elected to the board, I was not aware of the morass I was stepping into.  This first year has been much like enlisting in the service; initially, it’s all bright eyes and for God and Country, but then you step off a bus in the middle of the night and into total chaos.

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Opening Up with Needs for Funds

OpenMPE surfaced with a fresh request for contributions today, a letter forwarded to the 3000 newsgroup and the openmpe-l mailing list. The volunteers want to attract $50,000 in operating expenses from the community, pointing to a half-dozen projects and proposals for 2011.

At the top of the group's needs: money to help defend against a lawsuit brought by Matthew Perdue, the former treasurer who was voted off its board in November. Perdue has sued directors Keith Wadsworth and Jack Connor individually and the board as a whole.

The group's letter proposes that contributions will help fund initiatives to resell MPE subsystem software via Client Systems (at 50 percent off list price), plus advocacy in the form of "helping to shape HP policy and process on upgrades to HP 3000s... a murky area at the moment."

The letter also offers a brief mention of distributing software that will let owners and support vendors make HPSUSAN/HPCPUNAME changes.

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3000's Digital rival bids its founder farewell

Ken Olsen died this week at age 84. A certain generation of 3000 expert needs no introduction for Olsen, the man who founded Digital Equipment Corp. He was the last of the generation of business computer titan founders, preceded in death by IBM's Thomas Watson Jr., Dr. An Wang, Bill Hewlett and David Packard. Olsen's company took Hewlett-Packard and the 3000 to the mat in the 1980s, but eventually showed that even a brilliant leader of engineers can have blind spots fatal to a company.

PDP8 HP 3000 vets were sharing some stories this week on the news that Olsen died, returning to the era when a minicomputer was still a known commodity in the IT enterprise -- what we called Data Processing back in those days. In the middle 1980s DEC had stolen the march on HP and its nascent PA-RISC designs, simply by having shipped VAX systems that already had the coveted 32 bits worth of chip bandwidth. Digital had trumped its beloved PDP systems (above) with a revamp that powered the VAXen. "Digital Has It Now," the ads boasted in tabloid newsweeklies, some printed on a silver ink background.

But Olsen's myopia matched his company's visions about clustering (still better than most competitors) and chip architecture (Alpha never deserved to be put down by HP once it acquired DEC). Olsen never said computers didn't belong in the home, but didn't figure them to be dictatorial controllers of the house needs like HAL in 2001 or worse. There are other comments to burden his legacy, like labeling Unix as "snake oil," to defend DEC's crown jewel of an OS, VMS. As it turned out, VMS earned its current day slot in the HP lineup -- Enterprise Business OS That's Not Snake Oil -- at the expense of the 3000. But the DEC lineup also yielded a product that funds the development of new 3000 hardware, even today, in an indirect way.

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HP's TouchPad says game-on for OS leaps

TouchPad HP tossed its hat into the booming tablet computer market yesterday with the HP TouchPad. But the entry is more of a throwback to the Hewlett-Packard that made the HP 3000 a success. There are challenges to overcome for this worthy competitor to Apple's iPad, barriers that will sound familiar to owners of MPE/iX systems.

The 3000 is stamped with its OS brand, an indelible marker of what kind of apps could make it productive. The new TouchPad, whose name includes parts of two door-busting products from Apple, will try to cross the gap of the same kind of different brand. The TouchPad's heart beats with webOS, just as the 3000 lives and dies on MPE/iX and IMAGE. HP will have to succeed in the app business to make the TouchPad more than another technology that sparkled until the market ignored it into a niche.

As a user of the iPad since Day One, I can report the best aspect of this tablet is its array of apps. There are 60,000 available today, about one year since Apple first shipped a Software Developer's Kit for that tablet's iOS. The apps are vetted and controlled by Apple, although there are outland apps you can use if you're willing to "root" reconfigure your iPad.

This kind of success (14 million iPads sold in less than a year) with a different product requires two elements: A control of hardware and OS by a single maker. (There's no PC in the world that can sing that duet.) Plus, shining technology that makes design dreams for the product take precedence over engineering conveniences. HP's got engineers as good as Apple's, just as it could out-develop Digital or IBM for enterprise servers.

But even that advantage wasn't enough to extend the life of the 3000 in HP's product lineup. The product needed HP's vision, amplified in marketing, to lure and retain apps. What's left today are the customers' talents to maintain their own programs, plus the tricks needed to integrate modern tech.  That amounts to an ability to reconfigure the 3000 -- to "root" it -- to keep the server in service around the world. The 3000 needs tech expertise just like steering the Android tablets will demand to make them production workhorses. That's whenever we see a true non-iPad tablet go on sale, of course. HP's gone public with its push of an innovative OS, but the TouchPad goes on sale many months from now, in summer. That gap could be fatal, just like an HP delay killed off hope for its 3000 business.

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Proven logistics arrive for Ecometry e-tailers

MB Foster's founder Birket Foster attends the top retail technology conference each year to investigate new solutions. (His 2011 NRF report is online at the company website.) Retail, focused on catalog and Web sales, has been good to the HP 3000. But about 70 companies using the 3000 still remain on the customer rolls for Ecometry, a part of the Escalate group that RedPrairie bought this month.

Foster says that RedPrairie's strengths are in the logistical middle of the retail tech sandwich. Back-end systems and the customer-facing tech have been included in the new Ecometry software. In particular, the Blue Martini solution brings web interfaces to sales. Web was handled by third parties for years until Ecometry became Escalate, then bought Blue Martini.

What's worth watching, for those 3000 sites still not migrated as well as the hundreds who've made the move, is what RedPrairie will do with its purchase, Foster says. "The question is, what's RedPrairie doing with this acquisition? Did they buy this just to get the Ecometry customer base? You need to have some kind of logistics to bring goods into the store -- sofas, plates, wine, all the different things Ecometry customers sell. Even if you don't have a store, you need logistics for your goods. RedPrairie knows how to do logistics pretty well, both inbound and outbound."

One key technologist to watch: Michael Julson, Ecometry's CTO. Foster said that where Julson lands in the RedPrairie executive team, after being a VP at Ecometry, will determine how much change Ecometry's sites can expect. The customers still using the 3000 have been marking time for more than five years now, stable with features of the previous decade. Foster said changing software is no casual matter for retailers, especially smaller brands.

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Ecometry/Escalate moves onto RedPrairie

Logo-RedPrairie The leading solution on HP 3000s for retail and ecommerce is getting a new owner. RedPrairie, a company serving inventory, workforce and transport solutions to manufacturers, distributors and retailers, finalized its purchase Escalate Retail last week. Escalate has served users of Ecometry's ecommerce and POS software since buying that company in 2006. Price for the acquisition was not announced; both RedPrairie and Escalate are privately-held.

RedPrairie's CEO Mike Mayoras said the acquisition is going to help the company sell its workforce and inventory products to retailers. "We have enhanced our ability to leverage our Workforce and Inventory Management solutions to help retailers optimize inventory and fulfillment processes," he said, "regardless of where the order is in the supply chain."

From the Ecometry customer's perspective, "The consumer has evolved," said Stewart Bloom, CEO of Escalate Retail. "More than ever, consumers are using a number of different channels to interact with retailers outside of the store from online and mobile devices, to call centers and social media among others. Our merging with RedPrairie results in unparalleled capabilities to optimize the customer experience, from search to sale to delivery."

Scores of companies are still using HP 3000 versions of Ecometry, even in 2011, while many other customers have moved to the HP-UX and Windows revisions of the app. These customers deploy all-channel commerce solutions (web, catalog and retail) for shopping at more than 400 brands in the retail vertical, including St. John Knits, The Buckle, Hot Topic, Coldwater Creek, Eileen Fisher, and The Louvre.

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Need a little 3000 disk? Go to the web

Bos2_cover_sm HP 3000s have a storage legacy to endure: SCSI, the IO interface that HP did not advance for the servers in the prior decade. Finding SCSI replacements for 3000s was supposed to be harder by now. But like any prediction about the death of technology, the reports fall short of reality. You can find what you need on the Web.

Disk drives are the most likely parts of an HP 3000 to fail, being just about the only moving part in the system. (Tape is the other.) Disks from HP are available from independent resellers, but are still more costly than more recent vintages of storage peripheral. When you browse the Web and see a 1 TB disk for $150, you might wonder if there's a chance to use that kind of device in your HP 3000.

By many experts' testimony, there's a good chance that an under-$100 drive will boot up your HP 3000 just fine. These older 3000s use pretty small disks, so the costs of replacement are small, if you go outside HP's inventory. HP stopped selling and making SCSI-2 drives long ago.

If a little drive is all you need, how can you be sure you're buying something that works with the 3000? Years back, John Burke wrote an article for the NewsWire explaining how to do it. HP replied at the time with its set of sensible reasons why the HP-firmwared devices are worth the extra cost. These Low Voltage Device units, long in the tooth, are making homesteading customers look at replacing their 3000 disks that are eight, 10, even 15 years old.

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Consultants' costs falling in 3000 world

A pair of consultants in the 3000 marketplace are offering their services for as low as $30 an hour, one of the most inexpensive rates we've ever seen quoted. This ripple in pricing -- there's many other experts who charge two to three times as much per billed hour -- says several things about the 3000's Transition Era.

When consultants like Olav Kappert ($35 hourly) or Michael Serafin ($30) tell 3000 newsgroup readers about their lower rates, these experts kick sand in the face of HP and some of its partners. The accepted wisdom from 2002 onward was that such expertise would get eaten up by the market's demand; you'd struggle to get on someone's client list, especially in the world of migration. Or in another scenario, few consultants would maintain 3000 practices, since there wouldn't be enough demand.

The pricing from these 3000 vets (34 years for Kappert, 27 for Serafin) seems to show that the first scenario didn't play out as predicted. These are individuals, of course, and a migration or app maintenance company might have less bandwidth. But it looks clear that supply is outpacing demand, at least from these fellows' viewpoints. Any sensible business needs to lower rates when they have time available to sell, as a part of marketing themselves.

On the other hand, there's that sense of declining need that could ripple from these offers. Do companies need less help on a platform that's stable and whose OS is frozen? One counter-argument is that such independent providers fill a gap created when on-staff 3000 experts get let go, or retire.

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Directions cleared for OpenMPE's website

Although the its board of directors is deciding where the group ought to go this year, hits on the OpenMPE website are now arriving at the intended destination -- by heading to the more straightforward Starting just before Christmas, a user who typed in a browser landed on the main web page.

While you still don't arrive at the group's site (including board meeting minutes) via -- a GoDaddy temporary page now pops up -- at least the mis-direction has stopped. Former treasurer and domain manager Matt Perdue was quizzed about the events that cut off the group's website. "I don't know that it is a problem," Perdue said in mid-January. "Perhaps someone from OpenMPE should contact me to discuss the issue and we'll see what comes of the contact."

No one from OpenMPE has asked me to look into the matter and I'll not spend time on it until they do. How many people are on the OpenMPE Board? Wouldn't it seem like one, even just one, could contact me and ask me to look into this issue? Well, they haven't. So no, I've not looked into it and will not spend any time on it until asked -- by someone from OpenMPE.

Perdue added in mid-January that "the [] domain name for OpenMPE is not in my account with -- it is in a separate account, and I've not been the only one with the password in the past. I know who it is, at least that person had it in the past. That's one of the things I'll have to check."

Regardless of how the mis-direction got repaired, the group has a new homepage address even easier to remember. Thanks to work with Allegro Consultants, is the new home of the group. Allegro owns that domain and will manage it, according to OpenMPE volunteers. The Invent3K service is now at

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HP creeps to brink of enterprise innovations

Deep in the heart of Texas we're chilling this week, (sub-freezing temps until Saturday) but out in California the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard is heating up a push toward innovations. One week from today the company will introduce strategy for webOS, the operating system purchased along with Palm last year. HP's been selling its Slate tablet as an enterprise solution, but that hardware and software looks far behind the promise of the HP's Topaz tablet.

Meanwhile, between webOS strategy and CEO Leo Apotheker's keynote at this June's HP Discover event, HP's chief will host a media event March 14. The subject of HP's presser, called a "March summit meeting," is unknown. But analysts and editors believe that Apotheker's SAP background, and HP's lag in software for business intelligence, will trigger some software announcements.

Driving OpenEnterpriseHP used to host this kind of press meeting in the richer days of 3000 business. We brought the NewsWire into HP's view at such an event, where we finagled an invitation to the Driving the Open Enterprise briefings. Back in 1995, that $25 billion HP used to quote revenue per employee. That's a metric that is much improved by software offerings your vendor creates, versus device sales or acquired products. The company spent almost 8 percent of its revenues on R&D, compared to the 3 percent of today.

HP's software record is uneven, to the point of having nowhere to go but up in some estimates. The company put its NeoView business intelligence appliance out to pasture recently. "Our customers are demanding options for addressing an emerging set of requirements around the explosive growth of data, new types of information, new classes of analytics and new delivery models," an HP statement explained. This was the other shoe dropping once HP and Microsoft announced new SQL Server data warehousing appliances in January.

What's helped HP gain its focus? The march of most competitors toward BI profits and beating HP at this business. HP sold only 100 or so NeoView installs, while newcomers have four times as many wins. Oracle turned up the heat with Exadata offerings, something former HP CEO Mark Hurd is now pushing against his old employer. Yes, the same company that provided icy sales of BI under Hurd's own tenure.

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Rules of The Garage vs. International Rule

RulesoftheGarage Just last month IBM celebrated its centennial, paying for a 30-minute movie scored by an Oscar-winner that you can watch on YouTube, even in high definition. It's not the first film ever commissioned by a leading IT vendor. HP was so moved upon its 2007 completion of renovating The Garage that it made a movie, too. The differences in the tone of these two titles is striking. One's a throwback to a history that seems too gentle for our times. The other supposes that what made a company great is still working.

The fact that HP wrapped its film around The Garage -- that shed behind Bill Hewlett's Addison Avenue house in Palo Alto -- should show which movie looks backward rather than ahead. The Garage is still much revered by some who make decisions about HP's future in computers. Paul Edwards ran across the t-shirt (above) that celebrated a company "founded by two friends."

What does this matter in 2011? Companies like HP and International Business Machines keep their business (and get migration dollars) on the promise they're always going to stick to their business premises. IBM celebrates innovation in its movie, although it overreaches on its stories about PC innovation (that's Apple's march as much as IBM's) and RISC computing (IBM had to follow HP's innovations there, the technology that still drives HP 3000s of today). You might watch both movies, look at the Rules of the Garage (below, listed), and check to see how the vendors seem to behave compared to their Hollywood selves.

HP's screenplay is based on the old rules. IBM's motivated to put a 1080 HD version of its movie, and four others, onto YouTube to celebrate its rule over international innovations. At last measure, IBM had filed for four times as many patents as HP did in 2010. Maybe not the best measure of tech rule today, but a least as good as documentaries. But the Rules, they could still work today, if HP celebrated them again. Of the 11 rules, the last one is Invent. That's something HP's new CEO might rededicate the company toward.

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