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Where to Go for the Manuals You Know

LaserROM Hewlett-Packard was proud of putting out information digitally in 1988. By 2011, it takes some hunting and revising of browser bookmarks to keep track of HP 3000 documentation. The docs.hp.com website, well-known by the community, became www.hp.com/go/e3000-docs at HP two summers ago. (And that address redirects to an even longer URL today.)

Two years ago, HP licensed the 3000's documentation to Client Systems and Speedware for re-hosting. But Speedware's director Chris Koppe said during the 2009 Community Meet that HP won't permit these partners to host the manuals for public access until HP clears the materials from embargo. HP said at that meeting it will host the documentation through 2015. That is, if you can find it; HP's support website has been in a "pardon our dust" state since June.

MPE Docs While it negotiated for an "open" future of MPE, the community was adamant about the HP 3000 documentation flowing into third-party hands. The two companies above have a full set of manuals ready to host, and it's a good thing -- because the 3000 server manuals appear to have vanished from HP's web archives. Search for "HP 3000" at the above address and you'll get a long list of 3000 server links. Every link reports "There are no technical support documents for this product relating to manuals, guides, supplements, addendums, etc." (Tip of the hat to Donna Hoffmeister, former OpenMPE director, for the heads-up about disappearing 3000 documents.)

While those browser interfaces (above) still link up fine for MPE/iX 6.x and 7.x software, the elusive hardware manuals almost make you wish for the days of CDs -- when Hewlett-Packard boasted of "Delivering Information at the Speed of Light" with HP LaserROM. Those faster-than-ever deliveries couldn't disappear so easily. Today it takes ManualShark.com and the parisc-linux.org to shed light on the hardware docs.

In 1999, HP was making its next step toward the manuals you couldn't touch in paper format or some kind of CD plastic. Over the past few years these paper manuals have been offered for free by managers who're leaving 3000 administration. The stacks of HP-blue binders used space inefficiently, but their physical format made them hard to lose. In '99, customers who received documentation updates on HP LaserROM for MPE/iX began to receive HP’s then-new Instant Information automatically.

Andreas Schmidt, the system manager for a CSC 3000 shop in Europe, reported in 1999 that the MPE/iX 5.5 and 6.0 set of docs were the first available under Instant Information. He added that sharing these documents using Samba/iX made them even more valuable.

Using HP Instant Information, you can look at a book’s table of contents or index and, with a mouse click, jump to a specific topic. You can search multiple manuals and documents quickly for matching keywords. Users no longer have to rely on paper manuals, although some still prefer paper in their hands!

With the new browser, you can view both document text and the table of contents in the same window. You will find an improved collection structure, now based on specific products (such as NS3000/iX) rather than on hardware platforms, the base used by HP LaserROM bookshelves.

Managers and support experts who complain today about documentation may seem like manual wonks, fixated on knowledge that's more arcane with each day. However, the business world still includes companies where a 15-year-old server is working in production, while others are being prepared to take its place. (Or not, for the most ardent of homesteaders.)

1988LaserROM LaserROM seemed like magic in the late 1980s when I first saw it demonstrated. It didn't come cheaply; HP was charging $1,800 per year for the same information anyone can receive for free via PDF and browser today. Of course, 1988 was a year without an Internet, when HP DeskManager, Compuserve, or elm Unix mail were the prominent business server mail methods. HP LaserROM made you install a CD-ROM reader (more magic!) into a PC, load Windows software and then slip the nouveau discs into the reader, one subject at a time. The full set of HP-UX discs numbered more than 70.

HP called the information "available online" at the time. 11 years later, Instant Information took LaserROM away from the proprietary HP Tag format to an industry standard at that time, SMGL. This move gave the information a way to live beyond HP's stewardship. By 1999 it was obvious that the easiest place for customers to find manuals was on what we were calling the World Wide Web.

The release of HP Instant Information represents the critical first step of converting all necessary documents. With 6.0 many documents will also be available on the world wide web: http:/www.docs.hp.com. These new delivery media will dramatically change the way our learning community accesses technical information.

What's changed today is the ability to locate hardware references for HP's MPE/iX hardware systems. Manualshark.com is doing a fair job of finding hardware manuals, and the parisc-linux.org site has an FTP service that still knows how to deliver the Series 9x9 manuals. Docs for the N-Class systems that first shipped in 2001 have been more elusive than A400 and A500 servers, also known as HP9000 rp2400s at HP. Those ultimate-generation A-Class HP3000 servers have a listing at manualshark.com.