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February 28, 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.

Edwards sent us a note this month that outlines a simple process to enable IPv6 on Windows XP -- which despite being as discontinued at Microsoft as MPE is at HP, continues to drive the majority of PCs worldwide.

You may have heard the news: the world officially runs out of IPv4 addresses this month. But never fear. IPv6 is here... well, sort of.

Many companies are converting their networks to IPv6 now,  and Windows 7 comes with built in support, but what about those who are still using Windows XP? Luckily, it’s easy to install the IPv6 protocol on your XP machine. Here’s how:

1. Click Start | Run
2. Type cmd to open the command prompt window. 
3. At the prompt, type netsh and press ENTER 
4. Type interface and press ENTER
5. Type ipv6 and press ENTER
6. Type install and press ENTER
This installs IPv6. You can confirm that’s been installed by typing, at the command prompt, ipconfig /all.

You should see an entry under your Local Area Connection that says “Link-local IPv6 Address”  and shows a hexadecimal number, separated by colons. That’s your IPv6 address.

There's a lengthy technical article about building a Linux-based lab PC to do IPv6 testing up on the InfoWorld site. That process involves installing Vyatta Core, a distro of Linux which supports IPv6 by using "a wide variety of routing protocols, including OSPF and BGP."

Edwards said he's enabled IPv6 on his XP systems, and hasn't encountered any conflicts with websites using the new protocol on XP.

01:52 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2011

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 openmpe.com. 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.

This group has said it wants to be a corporation, but the most tangible evidence of its work post-2008 is up on those servers and other Web locations. It's a virtual collective of efforts today. A more current list of MPE/3000 consultants is up at the OpenMPE News blog, hosted for free at wordpress.com. We'd like to see more consultants up on that list, and there's a simple comments section underneath to submit particulars and get onto the list. Chuck Trites nudged us to be sure he was included (the NewsWire is donating a bit of time to help on that blog and catalog the list, but the group's Johnson also has his hands on those reins.) Trites reported on his 3000 engagements of late.

We have been working on writing FORTRAN programs to extract data from MANMAN databases and load them into SQL databases and ORACLE databases, to either use them to migrate to another relational database package or simply to archive the data. This allows people to unplug their 3000s -- if all they are keeping them for is a lookup of historical data after a migration to something else. It’s also easier to load data to a relational database from the one we load MANMAN onto.

This group of volunteers has posted significant success in getting HP to do more for homesteaders, back when HP was listening. Now there's been a long period of searching for something to do that might help here in 2011. At least as of this month, the useful work can be handled on a minimal budget. The bigger dreams, like coordinating patches and contracting for integration, is what will demand donations.

Johnson has told the community that he's still working on the getting out invoices for Invent3K subscriptions "We had a moratorium on billing," he said. "Some of it had to do with our legal woes. I'm trying to get a PayPal 'Subscription' button on our website to make it easy. To pay for subscriptions, don't use the 'Contribute' button. I'd like to keep the accounting for Subscriptions separate from Contributions, if I can.

04:10 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2011

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.

Even though Speedware's president Andy Kulatowski has said "COBOL-IT is to COBOL what Red Hat is to Linux," Koppe explained that means that the compiler-development suite is crafted like Red Hat: open with its own code, but sold as a distro already compiled and with a support network in place. Speedware is part of that network in North America as of this month.

Koppe added that COBOL-IT "makes it nice that are now choices again" for COBOLs. Fujitsu's NetCOBOL also shuns runtime fees, just like COBOL II did. But in Speedware's view, Fujitsu isn't investing in future developments with the language. Enhance COBOL for what reason? Integration with newer technologies is high among the answers, such as "interoperability with more mainstream features like automating testing and test coverage," as well as XML interfaces.

Back when the HP exit announcement was still ringing in customer ears, Acucorp was selling its AcuCOBOL with a promise to understand the MPE/iX intrinsics better than anything but COBOL II. That issue is not as important by now, close to 10 years since HP's exit decree. Speedware's AMXW, a common tool partnered with COBOL-IT, "takes care of the intrinsics, to make your COBOL code that you're moving ANSI-compatible."

The HP 3000 is not the only market where Speedware will offer COBOL-IT; there's opportunity in the mainframe space, IBM's AS400 (Series i) and even Windows and HP-UX. All of those choices are proprietary tech solutions with vendor lock-in -- something Koppe said lots of customers never want to endure again. COBOL-IT, he added, is also built to make it easy to move from another COBOL compiler.

Micro Focus understands how important factors like price and common architectures have become. While Fujitsu's product was priced lower than the Micro Focus software on the stock price list, Koppe said discounting has become common for Micro Focus to win customers. What's more, the development environment at Micro Focus is now based on the Eclipse toolset -- something that COBOL-IT has used from the ground up.

06:37 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 23, 2011

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.

But Wall Street is a harsh mistress in the day following a quarterly announcement. Even improved numbers in profits won't sell an analyst whose estimates haven't been met. HP released a forecast for its total 2011 sales of $131.5 billion, which will be a record. The estimates were $132.9 billion, and so HP's stock slipped from $48.23 to below $43 for the first time since Jan. 1. The 11 percent fall in share price was the steepest since former HP CEO Mark Hurd was ousted in August of last year.

09:35 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2011

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.

Thatcher is one of more than 260 members of the HP 3000 Community on LinkedIn. Now in its third year, the moderated online group includes a resume from every member, the ability to send messages directly if you're a member (it's free) as well as a current news feed that includes NewsWire articles. People are joining every week.

Calling our offices can be a fun way to try to track down a provider, kind of a mini-ERP of information operated with old-school technology. But knowing who's in charge of an older tool like ADBC? That info comes from a search of our archives. There's the last article we provided, back in 2002 in the printed 3000 NewsWire, about ANSI-Web, derived from a simple search of "ADBC" off our Search link at the left of this blog.

Not every search of our community yields this kind of happy ending. But within 90 minutes of this fellow's call, he was up and running again with software that hasn't been sold for more than five years. The sticky connectivity of your community makes it possible to keep the wheels of IT rolling, even when some people think of the 3000 as a retread. For a customer like this one, they might figure, "Why reinvent the wheel?"

11:50 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2011

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."

That emulator is well beyond the resources of OpenMPE's leadership to produce. A similar product has taken years to move along at Stromsys, which has been creating emulators since the late 1990s. Perdue charges that the project was one which the group's chairman "unilaterally cancelled without any previous discussion with the board. He simply announced that OpenMPE would not be pursuing emulator development, no discussion. Therefore, the primary reason OpenMPE had been granted a license to use the source code materials no longer exists, and OpenMPE’s license should be revoked."

Setting aside the return of the long-awaited source code, Perdue's suit against the volunteers has the potential to end the useful lifespan of OpenMPE -- it's asking for donations, in part, to pay for a defense. Suits are filed, but many settled. Perdue said a “window of negotiation has always been and remains open. Right up until the time a jury renders a verdict."

Perdue has also shared his communications with the board from the summer of 2010, including the sharpest point of his dispute with Wadsworth. The volunteers, faced with seeing their HP 3000 server locked away in a battle between Perdue and his hosting vendor CCNBI, discussed walking away from the server rather than paying legal fees to recover the 3000 -- and help Perdue win his case. One letter he shared asked

What's wrong with preserving the right to pursue the return of property belonging to OpenMPE? Have you made an undisclosed, behind the scenes deal with [CCNBI] and their attorney in the mistaken belief that the MPE/iX source code is on that machine and that's how you'll get your hands on it?

Perdue goes on to accuse Wadsworth of working to close down the group. Wadsworth offers his reply as a series of questions which need good answers -- which the volunteers still have not supplied in enough detail to sketch out a business plan.

What has been done since 2008? Why the need for a corporation if there is no business plan and no revenue stream? The only reason it stays "open" is that it has no real costs. Come on, it operates on less than $5,000 a year. This is not a viable business model. Short of a total re-org and new mission, it is time to close it.

Wadsworth explains that he proposed an outline for developing a business plan, a document that led to creating committees of volunteers. "Last year as a road map to the business plan I proposed a well-written document for sub-committees and work groups. This proposal was adopted unanimously -- but nothing came of it. The groups did not do their work. And I have not seen another such plan from anyone else."

He added that the volunteers should look at how much time was given to develop a functional contributing asset. "This is why other board members left and called for the shut down," he said. Since late in 2009, the group has taken the resignations of its vice-chair John Wolff, secretary Donna Hofmeister and Paul Edwards. (In a matter that she reports is unrelated to the debates, Connie Selitto left in mid-year, citing a time crunch.) With Perdue's dismissal, that leaves the head count of volunteers at six: Connor and Wadsworth, Birket Foster, secretary and Invent3K re-booter Tracy Johnson, former Interex chair Alan Tibbetts, and Tony Tibbenham. At this time last year, nine members were on hand.

As one of the group's newest members, Wadsworth sounds dismayed at what he saw when he arrived among the volunteers.

When I joined the board I immediately saw what former board members had previously tried to address -- there is no semblance of a business plan. OpenMPE has no operating budget -- as defined by the by-laws.  Additionally the board saw no financial statements in 2010. These hard facts lead to the simple conclusion, there is no viable business here. No staff. No office. No assets. No inventory.

OpenMPE has never operated with offices, an element that's not exactly crucial to a business entity today. It's never said that it had staff; the closest it ever came was hiring Martin Gorfinkel to negotiate with HP during 2006, but the 3000 veteran didn't get many weeks to pursue that task. The servers, and that source code, were its most tangible assets last spring. One thing that's well stocked in its inventory is debate over its existence, something that the latest plea for contributions might settle.

04:28 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 18, 2011

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 writers.stackexchange.com. "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.

If you have an interest in becoming a better communicator, Atwood proposes you blog a few times a week. It's like heading to the gym to improve your fitness.

I would have the same trepidation about writing COBOL now as some of you may have starting a blog. But with the wide audience for English, you can get response about your efforts from a broader readership.

As another warmup, you could answer questions or post to the 3000-L mailing list, or chip in some help at the LinkedIn group HP 3000 Community. Out on Stack Overflow, one fan responded with a plan to strike out in the same territory as Coding Horror.

I know that you said that writing your Coding Horror blog helped you greatly in refining your writing over the years. Stack Overflow has been doing the same for me and I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity. I’ve decided to setup a coding blog in your footsteps and I just registered a domain today.

The web resource lets you "write an answer, get immediate feedback on its quality (particularly when writing quality trumps technical correctness, such as subjective questions) and see other people's attempts as well and how they compare."

In a more traditional vein of reading for programming, Craig Lalley of EchoTech drew a pointer for me to the seminal In the Beginning... Was the Command Line. (A free PDF version.)

Years ago I went to visit Alfredo Rego in Sun Valley. Alfredo gave me this excellent gift. This book written by Neal Stephenson is an excellent book, small (150 pages), and written in 1999. But it has some useful insight. In particular are its perspectives on Apple, Microsoft and the reason for Linux's rise.

Stephenson will be familiar to the science fiction fan as the author of Cryptonomicon. (I can recommend his Snow Crash as a wild ride through a near future full of ironic humor.)

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line may feel a little out of date in places; it was updated in 2004 with Stephenson's permission, by Garrett Birkel. But in one segment I sampled out of the original, Linux is compared to getting a cab in Egypt, while Microsoft and Apple cabs feel more like the Manhattan system of transportation. The Linux "distros" are like guides who meet you at the airport, Stephenson adds. This year Egypt has become a fresh story, even though it's very old at its core. Come to think of it, that's a bit like the HP 3000 transition issues of today.

08:43 AM in Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2011

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.

The Speedware-COBOL-IT joint release notes the enduring legacy of COBOL, which many companies do not consider legacy technology for their business apps. "According to various estimates, COBOL remains the language of over 60 percent of the programs used daily by enterprises around the world," it states. "Mainframe sites in particular have the highest cost structures and the largest collections of COBOL programs. These sites can benefit the most from the professional tools that will allow them to access the cost savings available to users of open systems and open source products."

Speedware has entered the IBM legacy modernization market, so mainframes are in its sights. But HP 3000s have the highest percentage of servers running COBOL, by our estimate. Open source solutions with professional support are scoring higher as replacements. Like the OpenBravo ERP solutions piloted by The Support Group, COBOL-IT runs a subscription program for support plans.

More and more organizations are opting for non-proprietary but professionally supported open source technologies such as Linux and MySQL. Open source has proven itself as a viable strategy to reduce and contain operational costs, and to avoid being locked in to one vendor. An open source solution for COBOL workloads allows sites to take advantage of the open systems world without having to pay premium prices for proprietary COBOL compilers.

Calling Speedware the compiler's "newest technical hub," COBOL-IT Regional Director Don Estes said the company is a natural partner. "With their modernization expertise, SCP-certified support organization, and impressive history of successful projects, Speedware and COBOL-IT together can secure the bottom line advantages of open systems and open source for our North American customers."


04:25 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 16, 2011

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.

01:37 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

08:48 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2011

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.

"To establish and continue to offer services/products, we need to have revenue streams to support business operations," Connor adds. "I believe, by definition, this would make OpenMPE a for-profit corporation." Procuring that source code looks to him like the only purpose the volunteers have pursued for the last three years.

With no extra funding, he says the offerings OpenMPE can sustain are Invent3K, the resale of HP subsystem software, and "perhaps sale of tools such as a HPSUSAN/HPCPUNAME bypass for system board replacements I’ve developed," Connor said. "The last is still waiting for approval from HP to offer it."

Since the elections, we have managed to implement two Invent3K boxes and load the CSL and parts of Jazz -- I might add, all without the originally-contributed equipment. We’ve implemented standard business “best practices” such as two signers on checks, monthly review of the books, and forging ahead to create a viable corporate structure. We still have much to do. 
The response to the open letter we released will allow the community to determine whether we can regain their confidence and serve their needs, or if our tangible contributions have been too few and far between.

02:41 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2011

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.

The software, developed by Connor, would be need an HP approval to emerge. "If approved by HP, a tool/patch to load on existing HP 3000s which can be activated when a system board is changed to allow the system to return to production and set up a scheduled HPCE visit to properly set the stable storage.

The letter signed by chairman Connor said "OpenMPE considers $50,000 as a reasonable goal to secure a viable future. These monies will cover insurance, operating costs for our servers, and funds to provide legal services to answer the lawsuit. The community can already enjoy some services, and others are on track now."

1)  We are Hosting INVENT3K accounts.  Contact us to get your account on this public access development server stocked with HP’s subsystem software.

2)  We are hosting the classic Interex conference proceedings online, the first time these tech papers have been available since Interex closed down.

In the future, we’ll be hosting former Jazz services. We’ll also providing MPE support vendor referrals -- and, as mentioned earlier, in a new venture with Client Systems, we will be selling HP subsystem programs at a 50 percent discount.

Some of you may remember we announced we’d charge $99 US for exclusive subscriptions to our Invent3K machine, but were asked to hold off on payment.

With the removal of the former Treasurer, we had to restart our bank account, but we are again able to receive funds.

From our website, you can send a PayPal payment for those accounts you’ve signed up for; we’ll be sending invoices shortly for those of you who require them for business purposes.

For the rest of our community, we need your help in contributions of any kind. You may send checks to:

OpenMPE, Inc.
P.O. Box 3524
Hampton, VA  23663-0524

09:48 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 11, 2011

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.

HP looked at several factors when it decided to drop the 3000 from its future back in 2001. But not least among them was purchasing almost a half-million customers using VMS, which was in direct competition to MPE/iX and the 3000. Right as the [DEC-owner] Compaq announced it would be acquired by HP, analysts tool note of the overlap in the two business product lines. Olsen had led a company that built a worthy competitor to the 3000, sparked by customer zeal to match an MPE advocate's. In 1986, Fortune magazine named Olsen "America's most successful entrepreneur." DEC was 20 years younger than HP and established as a computer dynamo. It had climbed into leadership as the IBM alternative by embracing the downsized business computer: A kind of king of the mini, with HP bidding to overtake that throne.

During that year among those silver-papered days, DEC went straight to the carotid artery of the 3000 in a battle. The computer of the 3000's future was late -- MPE/XL was still crashing and slow, and everyone could see HP wasn't going to meet a 1986 ship date for the 900 Series. HP users went to that fall's Interex conference in Detroit with the hope that Hewlett-Packard could put their fears to rest. The Series 70 systems built upon CISC were not meeting top hardware demands.

HP didn't make many delivery specifics available at that show, while DEC invited users one and all to a special suite across from Cobo Hall. Up on the 11th floor, a handful of VAX systems were running what amounted to an IMAGE lookalike. DEC had even gone to the trouble of naming some datasets with strings like "rego," a nod to how important the Adager creator Alfredo had become to 3000 databases.

The Digital panache probably didn't sell many conversions -- that's what we called such a move in the '80s. But the ploy did spark a rapid response from the HP sales force attending the conference. Digital had called its conversion offer the Systems Attract Program. The day after the suite opened up, HP's salespeople were on the floor of Cobol Hall with badges: "Don't be a SAP for DEC."

It took five years or more, but eventually the RISC 3000s started to lop off some of the DEC business for enterprises. Up to the point of that face-off at Detroit, it was easy to say that the default for computing at a company was IBM or DEC, both larger than HP's efforts or any of the BUNCH companies (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data and Honeywell.). Further off the mainstream were Wang and Data General. All were alive and kicking in that fall when the 3000's future for the '90s was stalled.

DEC never tapped the PC windfall the way IBM did, missing opportunity even more badly than HP did with its TouchScreen PCs. It added a Unix solution late in that derby, so didn't have that nouveau technology ready to tout as "open." When the company had skidded on bloated product cycles it got itself bought up by Compaq, a tiger of an owner which devoured the Olsen's DEC culture as completely as Compaq overwhelmed the HP Way in the subsequent merger.

But the DEC heartland, VAX and PDP and VMS, have survived so thoroughly that one HP 3000 player has made enough money to fund an emulator project off DEC revenues. The European Migration Center for Digital bought itself out when Compaq purchased DEC, becoming Stromasys after a name change. Superior designs don't go out of style in IT shops where value trumps popularity. Even the PDP systems, which are in the background of many HP 3000 leader's resumes, are emulated today. Olsen can take complete credit for leading a company whose product was so popular it could spin a fresh future for a rival system: your HP 3000.

01:40 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2011

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.

HP could never spark the application fire it needed to keep selling the 3000 into the largest of enterprises. And that's the only kind of sale HP was interested in winning during the last 10 years it sold the server. After teases with SAP and Oracle's apps, the app makers settled on operating systems not invented at HP. Unix at first, Windows to follow for HP, none of it under HP's control. When it innovated, it made Unix more different, which didn't appeal to Unix software developers. HP's turn away from its OS genius to Windows meant MPE/iX could never rise above the niche HP carved for the solution. HP-UX moves more in that direction each day; witness the failure of the OS to keep Ecometry selling HP's servers. Windows rules that retail solution.

webOS looks as supple and advanced as MPE/iX appeared in those turbulent 1990s. The OS is the first HP has crafted since HP-UX, which after all was released in the years beyond MPE's introduction. Hewlett-Packard used to be in the whole-solution business. Even after it stopped selling apps -- just as HP is providing bedrock apps for the TouchPad -- the company was in charge of both hardware and software. Unlike the Android competition for the TouchPad, there's only one place you'll need to go for an update to the OS. HP is the single source for advances, just as it was for MPE when the company was improving its value and flexibility.

The trouble ahead for the TouchPad will sound familiar to the 3000 owner who's been searching for apps to replace MPE programs, either to improve homesteading (before we called that stability "homesteading") or to migrate. The momentum of the app developers follows the Apple and Android tablet markets today. Apple defined the market and will never drop below a 35 percent share, with very high profits. Android will take a similar share in devices, but it's going to suffer under the same Windows morass: multiple versions, where the owner must take responsibility for updates and viral protection.

The hardware on the TouchPad looks like all the right choices to compete with the elegant and efficient iPad. HP's built high-horsepower, slick display, ample RAM and strong peripherals into the unit. In some of those categories, for now, the TouchPad outshines the iPad. There's even a dazzling detail where you can take a webOS phone (Palm's Pre) and tap it onto the TouchPad to continue reading a web page on the tablet.

By the time HP ships its hardware, however, Apple will have stolen the march on nearly all of those advantages. Like Apple, HP won't have a 3G tablet at first release. In this situation, the HP 3000 owner will hear the echo of 1999-2001, when the PCI-based N-Class and A-Class servers couldn't enter the market, because HP's prime focus was on Y2K fixes. For a division stripped down off its MPE/XL development heights, there were not enough bodies and budget on hand to ship off PCI servers plus stay even with OS innovations.

Hewlett-Packard is one of the few companies in the world that can step into the tablet market with the total package of superior hardware and innovative software. But you can look to the app count to determine the relevance of the TouchPad, just as HP defined its 3000 fate by its failure to spark MPE apps. This time around, webOS will have a budget that would have created 10 HP 3000 divisions. It enters a market with 10 times as many high-grade apps as webOS can claim, however, even by a summer release. Following the software is the best trail to track toward a relevant future of an HP computer. Here's a place where the new CEO, coming from SAP, could change HP's history.

12:59 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 09, 2011

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.

Few companies, he added, ever act on an acquisition sooner than six months beyond finalizing a purchase. Ecometry sites have been paying support on their software all through a locked-down features period. But the company has issued no ultimatum about end of life, as HP likes to call it. Foster estimated 68 retail brands, many small to midsize but including a retailer like Hickory Farms, continue to use the 3000.

Even if just a part of a retailer's business flows through Ecometry, once the economy slowed "it's a big investment to make a move [off the 3000] like this," Foster said. "There are new pieces and parts that are an advantage in the new version of Ecometry." After a handful of sales of a Unix version of the 3000 app, Ecometry has made its living in the Windows environment.

"What RedPrairie bought was the middle," Foster adds. "That's the stores, the warehouses, the people driving sales through websites." As an example of buying the middle, Systemax purchased the intellectual property for Circuit City (a former 3000 shop.) The retail stores are gone, but the re-launched circuitcity.comsells the same kinds of products.

The RedPrairie deal means "that if you're on the HP 3000, you've moved another generation farther away from Smith-Gardner," which invented Ecometry's predecessor MACS, "the third generation of ownership."

"While they'll recognize that the origin of all this was the HP 3000, I think you'll find further de-emphasis of the platform by RedPrairie," Foster said. "You've only got 60 or so on that and over 300 on the Escalate Retail versions of what used to be Ecometry's package. Already, you need to buy your own Veritax services if you run a 3000. Ecometry no longer keeps an account open for local and state sales taxes. So the price probably goes up to stay where you are."

The six months of assessment means "there won't be any announcement at the Ecometry show [in April], but I think they'll be an announcement at the RedPrairie RedShift user conference [May 11-16]." RedPrairie announced the finalization of the Ecometry deal this month; the acquisition was first unveiled in 2010.

Ecometry's last user conference may be this year, he added. Ecometry users have been more ardent in attending shows than other Escalate customers. In 2008, a combined conference couldn't draw "big-ticket" brands, due to the economy's downturn. Escalate sessions got canceled, Foster said, and Ecometry advice remained. Now the Ecometry users have their own meeting, once again. Whether the 3000 sites will continue to have their own version on support remains to be seen.



02:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2011

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.

RedPrairie is headquartered in Atlanta, so the Ecometry mothership will do another cross-country transition. The transformation of Ecometry to Escalate moved the HQ from Florida to San Diego. RedPrairie has more than 20 global offices; its software is installed at more than 34,000 customer sites in over 40 countries. Escalate had three offices including its San Diego HQ, spread across North America and Europe.

Escalate was formed out of the merger of Ecometry and GERS Retail systems in 2006; Ecometry's then-CEO John Marrah took a leading post in the executive ranks of the combined company. More than four years ago Escalate's combined customer lists numbered more than 650 companies. The new group mentioned Home Depot, Brooks Brothers, Hilo Hattie, Ice.com, Sony Style Stores, Gallery Furniture, Hot Topic and Z Gallerie.

Escalate has moved Ecometry's solutions squarely into the mobile, self-serve environments retailers are adopting. This year at the 100th Annual National Retail Federation (NRF) meeting, Escalate announced Project Arke, a mobile in-store solution developed for the Windows mobile platform by Escalate, Microsoft and IndentityMine. The app lets in-store shoppers access and buy merchandise online from a store's website, while visiting their favorite brick-and-mortar retail stores.

02:06 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2011

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.

3000 storage experts like Denys Beauchemin have years of evidence that HP's disk standards have not been essential for reliable 3000 service.

I have been using non-HP firmwared disk drives in my HP 3000 for over 10 years now. "SCSI is SCSI," and as long as you can get your hands on a 50 pin SE or LVD disk drive, or if you can get a converter from 68 PIN to 50 pin you should be good to go.

Or if you would rather have something with a newer manufacture date than 1997 (that's so last millennium,) pick up any current (or at least 21st century) LVD-SCSI drive and get a 68-pin to 50 pin converter and have at it.

The converter can be had at granitedigital.com, where Granite Digital Part 6980, 80 SCA to 50m IDC (no termination) runs about $40.

Research on SCSI requirements is best started at the SCSI FAQ. Adaptec's website has good information, too. Allegro's Stan Sieler once posted a comprehensive list of Seagate's disk ackronyms for their drive interfaces. "Seagate drives indicate their interface via the one or two letters at the end of the model number."

LC  Low Voltage Differential, 80-pin SCA
LCV Same as LC, but with an increased cache size
LW  Low Voltage Differential, 68-pin Wide SCSI Connector
LWV Same as LW, but with an increased cache size
N   SCSI, 50-pin Narrow SCSI Connector
DC  Differential, 80-pin Single Connector Attachment (SCA)
ND  Differential, 50-pin Narrow SCSI Connector 

Then, the high-voltage differentials, (HVDs) which can't be used with a simple adapter:
W   SCSI, 68-pin Wide SCSI Connector
WC  SCSI, 80-pin SCA (Hot Swapable)
WD  Differential, 68-pin Wide SCSI Connector

So as an example, a Seagate ST318404LC (Cheetah 18GB 10,000 RPM) has a low-voltage (LV) 80-pin interface. Coupled with the converter, it can work with a Series 918 to replace original drives, if you use the original drive cable in the 3000.

Even today, it's simple enough to find a Seagate ST318404LC. Amazon lists the drives new at $74.99

Beauchemin has offered an interesting history of these interfaces:

SE-SCSI is very old (20-plus years) and was almost the original SCSI. It stands for Single-Ended SCSI. Speed is 5 MB/second and the cable can’t be very long, 6 feet or less.

Then came UltraSCSI or HVD-SCSI. The speed was up to 20 MB/second (or even 40, but I’m not sure.) The good thing with HVD is that you could go long distances, 25+ meters with it. It uses the difference in voltages between pins, whereas SE SCSI uses absolute voltages that are very low to begin with. If you remember RS-232 and RS-422, it’s the same principle here. RS-232 was based on signals having a (low) voltage and no voltage and RS-422 was based on the differences in voltage between signal pairs. Which is why RS-232 was certified for 50 feet and RS-422 could go thousands of feet.  It’s all a question of resistance and signal attenuation.

However, it seems that HVD had a speed limit associated with it, perhaps that speed of light thing. Also, as devices became (much) smaller, the need for long distances went down or was better addressed with fiber optics which is insensitive to stray electrical signals.

So, SE came back in vogue, but this time as LVD or Low Voltage Differential. When you plug a single-ended device in an LVD string, all devices, including the host bus adapter, drop down to SE signaling and to the speed of SE-SCSI. So, as long as you can account for the 50 pin to 68 pin thing, either with a cable or an adapter, LVD and SE devices can co-exist, at SE speeds.

LVD hasn't disappeared. Back when Jazz was online at HP, the vendor recommended in a white paper the supplier Rancho SysTech -- which today is still selling adapters to bridge this gap from the 900 Series 3000s that use HVD drives to the more-available LVD drives.

10:47 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2011

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.

Kappert, who's been on the 3000 community mailing lists and even the OpenMPE consultant roster, chalks up his discounting to hard times all around.

I know business is tough and money is tight," Kappert posted. "So, I am willing to work for a company at a rate of $ 35 per hour (unless you want to offer more). The work must be able to be performed in a remote environment (dial-up, VPN or Internet accessible). Since this offer can expire at any time and without notice; you need to get in touch with me as soon as possible."

Serafin adds another element to his discount -- development for the far-newer iPhone/iPad OS, plus Android apps, as well as MPE/iX work from his company.

"Also in keeping with the times, I am offering custom iPhone/iPad/Android app development," Serafin said this week. If you are interested in developing an app for your business, give me a call [at (603) 485-3700]."

With that offer Serafin joins a number of 3000 developers and consultants who are entering or working in the iOS business. Michael Casteel, who developed the Maestro job management system, has written iOS game apps for many years. Neal Kazmi of Minisoft was on track to develop an iPad version of the company's Javelin connectivity software (we'll have to check up on that project, announced last spring.) John Vandegrift is a 3000 veteran who reports "I'm a registered iPhone developer who hasn't made the time to develop anything yet, which would make me a beginning iOS 4 developer."

Their work for the iOS apps probably doesn't fall into the $30-35 range. But perhaps that makes the 3000 look like even more of a value -- so long as you don't need mobile phone or tablet access to its operations or apps.

02:59 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2011

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 openmpe.com. Starting just before Christmas, a user who typed openmpe.org in a browser landed on the hp.com main web page.

While you still don't arrive at the group's site (including board meeting minutes) via openmpe.org -- a GoDaddy temporary page now pops up -- at least the mis-direction has stopped. Former treasurer and openmpe.org 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 [openmpe.org] domain name for OpenMPE is not in my account with godaddy.com -- 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, openmpe.com 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 invent3k.openmpe.com.

OpenMPE is reaching out for more of this kind of alliance it's formed with Allegro. What it would do with such support is still emerging. There's a debate going on about the group's lifespan. Perdue said, after being voted off the board, that he believes "there is a place and a purpose for OpenMPE to exist for the community I've been a part of for more than 35 years."

Another former board member, who's now advising the board, believes differently. Paul Edwards, who volunteered for OpenMPE for five years before retiring in 2009, posted a call for disbanding the group late last summer on the OpenMPE News blog. At that time there was no Invent3K server online, or hosting of the CSL software and Jazz materials.

Several major tasks undertaken by the group include acquiring the source code for the MPE/iX operating system, as well as providing an HP3000 server to host the Invent3K environment, the Contributed Software Library, and the Interex Conference Proceedings. A donated server hasn’t hosted the items listed above as promised by Matt Perdue several years ago.

Unless there is a radical change in the way the group is organized and managed, there is no hope of success. It must be remade into a full blown corporation with a realistic business plan, focus on proper organization and management, profit producing products, employees, and proper legal status. There seems to be a total lack of leadership by the Board of Directors.

Edwards added in his August 25 post, "I feel that the OpenMPE organization should be dissolved by the end of the year 2010. All assets acquired from Hewlett Packard and Client Systems should be returned to them. Any money left should be given back to the persons who made loans to the group. It is time to close the doors."

06:45 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 02, 2011

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.

HP's partners and allies are hoping that a new look from the new CEO will change the fortunes of soft products paired with HP's hardware -- the elements of an appliance. HP can toss in the HP Enterprise Cloud Services-Compute service to adjust the hardware costs of such BI. The cloud solution will span parts of HP's complementary product lines, including servers and prices based on on MIPS. Yes, Millions of Instructions Per Second. A return to older models has been profitable for HP's rival IBM.

Widespread belief in older solutions is still a core creed among IBM leaders, as well as some of the HP 3000 customer base using an OS that was last updated in any way during 2007. IBM's centennial cinema offering, They Were There, includes one quote about the System 360 OS revolution that reverberates today in airline reservation websites. Shep Nachbar, retired programmer for the SABRE System project, remains proud of how long these software designs have served IBM.

"You can't beat this old dog that was designed 50 years ago, even with the modern tools we have today," says an IBM Alliance Partner in the film. Run by New York's 911 service, the Chicago Board of Trade and Amtrak, the software -- reworked but still running on a mainframe platform -- counts five decades of service. The enterprise solution "was so resilient that we can't do any better today," the partner says. Software designed for 84,000 phone calls per day now handles 30,000 transactions per second, working as the front end for Expedia and Travelocity websites.

An older and familiar face from the 3000 and Unix ops at HP might rise up as a result of this software heat wave. Ann Livermore, who's led HP's Enterprise Business unit as a VP, may join the HP board as a director. She was a serious candidate for CEO back when the board picked Carly Fiorina. It's hard to say what might have happened to HP's software efforts, enterprise success or profits per employee if Livermore had won that board seat by becoming CEO more than a decade ago. Maybe the HP moves will take its enteprise innovations off the ice.


06:28 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2011

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.

HP brought on a celebrated IBM scientist to create the most significant business computer line in its history. "The thing that I fell in love with," says Joel Birnbaum in Origins, "is there was an immense pressure to make a contribution. You didn't just bring out a product because you thought you could make money on it. You brought it out because there was some dimension in which it was significantly better."

The HP that bought up Birnbaum's contract still had Bill and Dave on the scene, and many others who appear in Origins. Have a look at the rules and see how many of them match up with Birnbaum's love.

  1. Believe you can change the world.
  2. Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
  3. Know when to work alone and know when to work together.
  4. Share - tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  5. No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  6. The customer defines a job well done.
  7. Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  8. Invent different ways of working.
  9. Make a contribution every day. If it doesn't contribute, it doesn't leave the garage.
  10. Believe that together we can do anything.
  11. Invent.

Birnbaum pressed HP and its MPE engineers into delivering on that kind of promise, way back in 1986 when MPE XL was very late and very slow to arrive on RISC systems. "This problem will yield to engineering discipline," he vowed to the press at that year's Detroit Interex conference.

IBM's movie They Were There roils with that kind of fire, describing the bet the company made on moving to computers in the 50s, or creating the UPC system, or its work with Mandelbrot fractals. If you have been a part of computing since the 1970s onward, you may feel prouder of your career choice after watching the IBM film. It sends another message by unspooling over YouTube, instead of the modest Flash player that you watch Origins upon. Time will tell which of these companies can repeat its former glories of innovation -- and which one believes that glory is as essential as oxygen.

HP sums up Origins by tying the past to its currency of today:

Origins focuses on Bill and Dave’s philosophy of business — one centered on a deep respect for people and an acknowledgement of their built-in desire to do a good job. This "golden rule" approach evolved into informal, decentralized management and relaxed, collegial communication styles that became known as “management by walking around” (MBWA).

Emmy-award-winning documentary filmmaker Robby Kenner was chosen from a diverse field to direct Origins. Known for his passionate, engaging and accurate work, Kenner ’s previous films include episodes of the PBS highly acclaimed American Experience series.

IBM still makes and sells the Series i, descended from the AS/400s. And in spite of lagging sales and worries from its community, that computer has had yearly improvements to its hardware and OS. It's been very interesting to see that the system that competed with the HP 3000 didn't disappear like HP's CSY managers predicted -- not yet.

I watched the IBM film and was captivated. I came away with a feeling that IBM has not lost its way, even while many in HP had to jettison that company's Way.

And to add to this contrast: the now re-opened finale of the last HP CEO, complete with reality romance actress nee Playboy model. Prior to that, the pretexting scandal from the Patricia Dunn-Hurd board for which HP paid a $14.5 million fine. These are the sorts of things I cannot recall being a part of IBM's history -- although there was the legendary US Justice ruling of the 1970s opening the market to third parties. The IBM film gives a great feeling about why its history of late is a more camera-worthy moment.

One thing's certain, I believe. No matter where you stand on HP v. IBM v. Apple, you will feel prouder of your time working in data processing in the '60s, '70s and '80s after you watch the 30 minutes directed by Errol Morris, who did Thin Blue Line and those white-background Apple ads. And if IBM's centennial tale moves you to hold your vendor of today to a higher standard -- well, the world of IT customers will thank you for the outcome of that.

04:54 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)