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October 2011

After one strike away, to return another day

One Strike AwayHere in Texas we're learning that there's no crying in baseball, except for in the World Series. Our Texas Rangers were only one strike away from winning the world championship -- not once but twice -- but we saw our heroes of 50 years' efforts fall out of the trophy column. A final effort at that strike (above) let the St. Louis Cardinals bang out a hit to erase a "Roy Hobbs homer" from Josh Hamilton that might have won that Series. It was a Series so epic that it sparked TV ratings unmatched since the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years. The penultimate loss in that Game 6 took 11 innings to complete. A 7 PM game ended nearly at midnight.

It builds character to continue to love something that falls short of ultimate success often. In the computer markets this kind of product gets shuttled to the museum instead of trotted out for another sales cycle. Success gets determined by business managers who can always go about building a new team of products. In baseball, the losing players lace up cleats and swing the bats again after a requeim for the death of this year's dream. Heartrates at my house got worn out Thursday night, the game nearly won when those two almost-champion moments came, and then went. This is the second straight year Texas has lost the Series. It's been nearly 20 years since a baseball team lost consequetive World Series. We will see what becomes of the Rangers in about 22 weeks, when a fresh season dawns. They're already calling this Series historic.

EpicenterIn your community of 3000 users, today is an important day in your history. Eight years ago this afternoon, the last official sale of a new HP 3000 was accepted by Hewlett-Packard. In memory of that milestone, thousands of community members, industry icons and gurus, and HP engineers and managers threw local parties to mourn and remember the glory of a great HP product. The computer continued to be a product for years afterward, but not a product which HP built new any longer.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo organized, through inspiration and outreach, what was called the World Wide Wake. As a celebration of a passing, the day was a success that might rouse the dead. As a predictor of the obituary of the HP 3000, the images of glasses hoisted and gallows pictures, the event was something else. It served as another marker of the slower timeframe that a computer known as a mainframe can employ for a lifespan.

We've created a Flickr photostream from the Wake pictures that were sent to Yeo's website back in 2003. He was kind enough to leave these memories in our keeping. They represent that one last strike that the computer failed to get on HP. But like those Rangers, there's always next year to buy new HP 3000 hardware. An emulator has given the HP 3000 a set of new seasons for many years to come.

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Emulator query sparks private volume tip

In an example of the newest HP 3000 technology linking to one of the server's oldest, one question about a 2012 product unearthed advice about a feature introducted in 1978. Next year's HPA/3000 emulator received some upgrades to its SCSI periperals support this week, according to the product's vendor Stromasys. These improvements will make it possible to better answer a question about private MPE/iX volumes, and how well HPA/3000 can handle them.

BuiltToLastCraig Lalley, working with Stromasys on the MPE/iX aspects of HPA/3000, said he hasn't tested private volumes yet, "due to an issue with the SCSI interface. But I intend to." At the same time, a question about private volumes' use in the current era prompted some advice from Applied Technologies' Brian Edminster -- who had to miss the Reunion briefing on HPA/3000 due to pressing work to open up the new MPE open source website, (You can track updates to the project through its RSS feed, which can be viewed in Google's RSS Reader, among others.)

The first package Edminster added to site was SFTP quick-start, a bundle "which aims to make installing SFTP easier on MPE/iX systems. It is a std file which includes all the components necessary to install and configure sftp, scp, and keygen under MPE/iX, with links to instructions for the installation process."

Edminster is well-versed in the non-open-source tools for the HP 3000 as well. When Dave Powell of MMFab asked during a HPA/3000 discussion if anyone was even using private volumes on an A400 Class of server, Edminster advised that the 3000 sites where he administers or consults are employing this bedrock MPE tool -- one first introduced 34 years ago in MPE III, on the Series III.

I've always considered it a best practice to divide your disk storage up into several Private Volumes. Why?  When a non-mirrored spindle in a PV dies, it only takes that PV out with it -- allowing the rest of the machine to keep running (unless the PV is the mpe_system_volume_set, in which case you're going to be doing a system install).  If it's only one of the data volumes that goes down, the 'system' is still up, greatly facilitating recovery.

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Jobs respected HP. HP respects its PCs.

JobsMugBookcoverWalter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs remains atop the bestseller lists this week. It's a remarkable thing to have more than 600 pages of a bio, written by a man who chronicled the lives of Einstein, Ben Franklin and Henry Kissinger, on the streets within three weeks of a tech titan's death.

In an interview with Issacson, he reveals that although Jobs never wanted to work at HP, he admired the company's intentions right up to the end. By the time Jobs stepped down as CEO in August, Hewlett-Packard had already told the world it was thinking about getting rid of its $40 billion PC business. Isaacson said in an interview with CNET that Hewlett-Packard was no joke to Jobs.

When he resigned as CEO, he's in the board room talking to some of its members, and someone mentions that Hewlett-Packard is getting out of the PC market, and people sort of start laughing about it. And he got very serious, and later said it's a real shame, because "Bill Hewlett and David Packard left a really great company that should be destined to survive generations, and that's what I'm trying to do at Apple."

Today brings news that the newest leadership values the biggest part of its survival system. There have been rumors afloat that the spinoff of HP's PCs could turn out to be nothing more than an idea floated for effect. HP announced today that "it has completed its evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) and has decided the unit will remain part of the company."

HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger."

Whitman said at a quickly-called briefing that she doesn't want HP to spread itself too thin. "HP tries to do a lot of things. And I’m a big believer in doing a small set of things really, really well." At the same time, Apple reported that it will double its capital investments to $8 billion in 2012, according to SEC documents filed today. Of that, almost 15 percent will be aimed at Apple's retail stores. Apple is creating its own retail PC space, since HP inhabits so many shelves elsewhere.

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HP, Connect to thump Unix drum soon, later

HP's Unix customers, or prospects for the HP-UX and enterprise solutions, are getting a couple of educational opportunities this week and next. The first makes a case for Unix retaining a lead spot in IT choices. The second introduces HP experts on power, cooling, and what you should know before moving to the cloud.

The settings couldn't be more different, a testament to the reach HP's enterprise arm is stretching. Tomorrow is a webinar "showing results from Gabriel Consulting Group's Unix preference study. Dan Olds from Gabriel will join," plus a HP speaker to present HP-UX specific results and commentary. "Come hear why users think Unix is still highly relevant and strategic for mission-critical workloads." You'll be coming to your browser, but you can sign up online for tomorrow's event.

In a couple of weeks HP takes its cloud-enterprise show into downtown Austin, at Sullivan's Steakhouse for a luncheon and talk about big-system product opportunities. Nov. 9 is lunchtime for HP's David Chetham-Strode, HP's product Manager for Data Center Power Solutions, and "cloud expert Clyde Poole, Chief Security Officer and Director of Professional Services with TDi Technologies. You can sign up for a lunch spot with Connect, which is sponsoring the HP event.

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Emulator field trial adds virtual disk ability

Supporting multiple virtual disks is just one of several enhancements Stromasys announced this week for its HPA/3000 field test emulator. The technical note sent to the field testers said that SCSI controller emulation in the product requires the use of specific disk drivers.

The 3000 gurus and vets who looked over this product at the recent HP3000 Reunion have asked about performance headroom: how much faster can this emulator get than existing 3000 hardware? It's a matter of software refinement, according to Robert Boers, the Stromasys CTO. But the field notes show there's already tuning-up going on.

We experimentally added the ability to set the emulated HP3000 to a larger six (max 8) as described in the configuration file. For this to work correctly, you need to install on the [emulator's] host [PC] at least 4GB more than the configured HP3000 memory. This is for the field trial only; the larger configuration will be issued as a separate e3000-A500 product.

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Jobs jumped over HP's Garage to 2.0 life

Jobsin70sLast night's 60 Minutes story about Steve Jobs included a report that working for HP was the fate which Jobs strived hard to escape. Walter Issacson, his biographer whose book is both Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's #1 today, said Jobs toiled on the night shift at Atari, and then summertime work at HP loomed. Issacson said Jobs wanted to run his own company and avoid the 1.0 tech career.

There was within him this sort of conflict between being hippy-ish and anti-materialistic, and wanting to sell things like Wozniak's [blue box] board and create a business. I think that's exactly what Silicon Valley was all about in [the '70s]. Let's do a start-up in our parents' garage and try to create a business. [Leans in to camera] And Steve Jobs wasn't all that eager to be an employee at Hewlett-Packard.

There's a package online at The Atlantic magazine's website that includes some snippets from the biography, as well as the 15-minute segment of the 60 Minutes show.

Rare MPE admin gem glitters to lift careers

AdminBookThere's not much HP 3000 instruction and education that's still available in published book status. The IMAGE Handbook appeared in the 1980s; there was even a TurboIMAGE Handbook printed by Beechglen's Mike Hornsby, about the same time the market started to see printed anthologies of technical papers from VEsoft's engineers and alllies. Beyond PA-RISC offered a groundbreaking look at the 3000's architecture in 1987. HP engineer Mike Yawn led the publishing of The Legacy Continues, a 1997 book about developing with the 3000 alongside Windows NT and HP-UX. But six months before the end of HP's futures for the server, the first and only specialized and comprehensive book emerged about managing MPE/iX. Jon Diercks wrote the MPE/iX System Administration Handbook and it was published by Prentice Hall in 2001. It's nearly out of print by now; new copies are running at $200 at and used ones at $80.

But this book is still for sale in one way or another. Diercks even brought a few copies to the recent HP3000 Reunion. Author copies, as the publishers call them, and a signed one was given away as a door prize for attendees. Diercks said he sold a couple more to users on both ends of the MPE experience spectrum.

I was pleased that the buyers were at opposite ends of the spectrum. One was an HP veteran who was  responsible for the care and feeding of the MPE spooler for many years. I pre-emptively apologized for any inaccuracies, especially in the spooler chapter. He graciously assured me that he was confident I must have been faithful in my rendering of the material, and he was looking forward to reading the whole thing.

The other copy was picked up by a bona fide newbie, a young guy who had shared a table with me during the dinner and is picking up HP 3000 skills for the first time as part of a job that he just started. I was delighted to know that even 10 years later, the book still has new readers who want it not for nostalgia, but precisely for its original purpose. The price was personally negotiated for each sale. I believe the book has great value, but I didn't want price to be a barrier, not at that event, and not among this close-knit community.

There's another way to read the book: subscribe to Safari, the online reader service that gives you access to technical books for $27 monthly for 10 titles you can stock onto a virtual shelf. It's even got a free trial offer to let the technical pro see if the service is right for them.

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3000 gets HP security alert. What the heck?

3000 users who still employ HP's support services got a bit of a jolt this week. The vendor that's still selling MPE support sent an email bulletin about an MPE/iX Security Alert. Even while HP was supporting 3000 customers without caveats, these notices were as rare as rain in a July Texas.

But how can security become an issue with an OS that HP hasn't touched in more than three years? Plainly put, the alert is a mistake. It's got to be, because a drill down into the details doesn't mention the OS by name. Instead, it's a problem with something called HP Data Protector, built for HP's laptops and desktops.

The corrected version of the alert still reads "Content Type: MPE/iX, PRIORITY: Critical." HP's new Support Center website has spewed out problems all summer, but this is the first mess-up marked critical. If you're paying HP to oversee your 3000, even during a migration project, you might take this as a sign that the level of support has fallen fall below classic standards.

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Emulator license issues boot up discussion

By Alan Yeo
ScreenJet Ltd.

[Editor's Note: Migration and 3000 renovation software and services supplier Alan Yeo led the way to organize this year's HP3000 Reunion, where the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 was first demonstrated and dissected. Here's his views on software licensing matters surrounding the emulator HP has licensed to use existing MPE/iX installations.]

Having been at the Stromasys demonstration at the Reunion, I'm very impressed where they have got. In fact I would go so far as to say that it's a done deal -- at some point in the not-too-distant future there will be a deployable emulator.

YeoAtReunionAs Craig Lalley has described, the model is very clean. One processor runs MPE (not an MPE clone or emulator, but real MPE), whilst another processor emulates the PA-RISC hardware, aka the HP 3000. So the fact that they have MPE booted means that virtually any software or compilers that run under MPE will also run under MPE on the emulated platform (they just won't know they are). It's in the underlying PA-RISC emulation that work is still required to emulate SCSI, network interfaces and other peripheral hardware. But that, as they say, is a simple matter of coding.

As I understand, it the emulator license agreement with HP specifies an PA-RISC 2.0 chip set. So we are talking A- and N-Class hardware emulation and supported peripherals. A and N Classes only support MPE/iX 7.5. This means that whilst the emulator theoretically could be modified to support 7.0, one would have to ask if there was any benefit in the work to do so. 7.5 would be a far more desirable place to be than 7.0. I don't think 2.0 PA-RISC hardware, and therefore an emulation, can run anything less than MPE 7.0.

However as far as moving from an HP 3000 running earlier versions of MPE than 7.0 to an emulated platform, I don't think there is a licensing problem. If you have a licensed copy of MPE you have a license for MPE, not a specific version of MPE. Therefore, HP should allow you to transfer your MPE license. The fact that on the emulator you require version 7.5 should be irrelevant to that process.

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Frequently Asked Questions on the Emulator

LalleyatDemoOne rousing surprise from the HP3000 Reunion was a demonstration of the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator by Craig Lalley, a veteran MPE/iX and consulting expert called in to smooth the emulator onto the 3000's OS. Lalley ran the emulator off his laptop. In the weeks since that late-September demo, Lalley has been answering customer-posed questions. Here's an in-progress FAQ on what CHARON will offer by the start of next year.

(ScreenJet's Alan Yeo has also answered questions based on his study of the demonstration; one reply is included below. A longer discourse from Yeo examines prospects for license interpretations.) Lalley began with an overview.

The emulator recreates PA-RISC architecture in software. What this means is that I take a raw disk image (bit by bit copy) of a working HP 3000 system. I then transfer that file to my laptop. If the disk is 9GB it will be a 9GB image. If it is an 18GB disk, the end result is an 18GB file. Currently the system needs to be running MPE 7.5. The version of 7.5 we've used is current on patches.

The emulator starts at an ISL> prompt. It takes approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds for MPE to boot to a colon prompt. From that point on the system is solid. I can compile, run FSCHECK, stream jobs, and block mode works. I have worked on every model of HP 3000 from the Series 3 to an N-Class 750 8-CPU system. Now, I can boot MPE on my laptop. I find that amazing.

Does the emulator support HPSUSAN numbers?

It does indeed support the HPSUSAN number. It is the number that exists on each Stromasys USB license key. The vendors I have talked to have been very excited about the emulator. Several have offered demo copies, so I can test them in the new environment.

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Fresh CEO carries HP rebound hopes again

WhitmanMeg Whitman took the HP CEO job last month with one similar bit of baggage as HP's last three ousted CEOs. Users hope she can rescue some part of HP's enterprise business that's in jeopardy. Her alternative is to unleash HP to spend R&D money to build a brighter future for Unix and VMS operating systems.

Carly Fiorina wasn't any help to the HP 3000 enterprise business, leading a "it grows or it goes" death march that felled several enterprise product lines. But HP had hired her to rescue a PC business falling further behind Dell by every quarter. Fiorina arranged to have HP swallow Compaq whole, at a cost of $25 billion.

Mark Hurd arrived in 2005 bearing the faint hopes that he'd see fresh opportunity in the exit-announced 3000 business. During that spring some customers dreamed HP would roll back its decision about MPE. Nothing got rolled back except HP's R&D, while the commas of multi-billion-dollar acquisitions rolled ever further to the left.

Just-fired CEO Leo Apotheker arrived with hopes that HP might become relevant in software, adding a dimension to the world's No. 1 computer company to match Oracle or IBM. Apotheker seemed to inflame Oracle by taking the job after leading SAP, a chief rival. Buying Autonomy for $10 billion will be Apotheker's legacy to serve up HP's Software as a Service hopes.

That brings us to Whitman, whose ascent from boardroom seat to CEO's hot seat sparked some hot hopes at this fall's OpenVMS Boot Camp. Those enterprise acolytes who use HP's other Itanium operating system hope Whitman can get Oracle to recant its stance to kill Itanium development of Oracle's database and apps. Intel insists Itanium has a roadmap to the end of this decade, but Oracle hoots at this forecast. This would be the first time that a new CEO at HP -- the fourth in 12 years -- needed to change an outside vendor's view of HP's enterprise future. She could do that, or give HP-UX and VMS a breath of life on Intel's other architecture, the one which Oracle supports gladly.

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Ritchie's rich legacy: Unix both vital, hated

Dennis-Ritchie-CompositeOne week exactly after the death of Steve Jobs, Unix co-creator Dennis Ritchie died Oct. 12 of prostate cancer at age 70. In addition to creating Unix at Bell Labs along with Ken Thompson (above), Ritchie is credited with creating the first C programming language. The most technical of community members think Ritchie deserved the same outpouring of grief and praise Jobs received. Some writers compared Ritchie to Tesla, who invented AC current versus Edison's Direct Current. Edison died rich. Ritchie died alone.

Ritchie's inventions deserve praise, and he got much of it during his lifetime from his technical peers. But the invention of C and Unix had as checkered a past as anything Jobs and Apple sold, and a more caustic effect on better-designed inventions. The HP 3000 community in particular suffered from the snake oil of Unix. A better friend to the 3000 has been Ritchie's C -- and not coincidentally, it's that language that's still making magic that 3000s can use.

You can smell that snake oil burning when you read this week's post from Google's Rob Pike, a colleague of Ritchie's and the first man to report Ritchie's death.

Unix was the great equalizer, the driving force of the Nerd Spring that liberated programming from the grip of hardware manufacturers. The hardware didn't matter any more, since it all ran Unix. And since it didn't matter, hardware fought with other hardware for dominance; the software was a given.

Haters HandbookBell Labs was the industry tower that Pike patrolled in the late 1980s, and that certainly wasn't any province close to an HP lab or a 3000 development cubicle or a company's IT director office. Unix was no more of a given than "spoken language" means "something everyone can understand." Unix remains full of byzantine differences that made the hardware more important than ever, because every vendor sold theirs as the One True Unix. Especially HP, which fed 3000 customers into the Unix ovens while it cooked up a larger installed base for HP-UX. The only thing that was a given was that HP was giving away its customers to Unix, while the world was climbing the shaky rope ladder into Windows. Ritchie was writing an "anti-forward" to a notable book exposing fatal flaws in his creation.

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3000 developer job requires no migration

Job openings for development work on HP 3000s have become elusive in 2011, some might say rare. But the job listed today on is even more rare: a 3000 IT position with no mention of migration.

CybercodersA Pleasanton, Calif. company reports that it sees unprecedented growth and needs a COBOL 3000 developer to expand its ERP systems. Pleasanton is just seven miles down Stanley Blvd. from Livermore, home to Topcon Positioning Systems, a manufacturer of positioning devices for construction and other industries. The firm is large enough and old enough to show growth through acquisitions, as well as faith in MPE ERP systems such as MANMAN.

Whether this is a MANMAN post or just one that serves a home-grown manufacturing app, the job requires MPE/iX, IMAGE/SQL, Quiz and Suprtool experience, plus COBOL coding. Whoever wins the job first listed on Oct. 13 up on designs, codes, tests, debugs, documents and maintains ERP systems using those technologies unique to the 3000.

Even more rare is a pay scale listed for the position: $90K to $105K. In a market where 30-year veterans are consulting for as little as $30 an hour, that's a healthy HP 3000 salary. You don't want to make too much of a single job opening, but this one might say a little about the health of homesteading.

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What’s It All About, Posix?

By Brian Edminster

Editor's Note: The origins of HP 3000 Posix go back to 1992, when it arrived as part of MPE. Posix was HP’s first effort at making MPE more standards-friendly. The engineering led to the potential for open source programs such as Samba, Apache and more to make it across the porting divide — and give the systems their first genuine cross-platform tools. The Posix work in MPE made GNU C for the 3000 a possibility, back in the nascent era of the open source movement. Brian Edminster, who's establishing a repository for open source HP 3000 tools, explains what Posix means to the 3000 administrator and owner nearly 20 years later.

It’s really pretty simple. Posix is an attempt to create common ground – to facilitate creating portable software. It consists of file-system, shell, and programmatic interface specifications to the underlying system (Un*x or not!).

Posix standards came about because it was getting more and more difficult to write software portable across the various Un*x flavors – as each vendor created more and more proprietary ‘features’ into their Un*x OS variant. And invariably, the features – usually added in order to give that particular version of Un*x a competitive advantage, made the systems just a little bit more incompatible. This might be by making certain functionality easier to implement on their platform, or to make administration easier, or just to improve performance.

The downside of all this, is that the various Un*x variants were slowly diverging – even though they might well conform the the ‘Unix’ system standard. It was also recognized that it was becoming more and more difficult to create software that is portable accross systems. Something needed to be done, and IEEE came to the rescue.

Rather than enforce complete uniformity accross various Un*x variants, the Posix working group defined a series of what are essentially ‘lowest common denominator’ standards for various parts of a system (file-system, shell, api’s, and so forth) that wished to be labeled Posix Compliant. By using these constructs, it became much easier to write software that is out-of-the-box portable. That is, the software will compile with little or no changes when moved between platforms that have the requisite Posix environment and compilers.

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Webinar examines 3000 sites' plans for 2012

MB Foster is putting together a 45-minute briefing, including time to pose questions, for planning 2012 IT projects. The "Planning for 2012" training session is scheduled for 2PM Eastern US time Wednesday (October 12). Signup is at the MB Foster website. Participants will be able to ask questions and discuss data management strategies and plans.

The company's CEO Birket Foster says the webinar is based upon the "big plans" his company has discussed with some customers.

Some of them are related to the synchronization of data between applications, Business Intelligence (BI) and dashboarding. In fact, we have even seen some substantial RFP requests for solutions that match this requirement.

In other areas, clients are looking to unplug legacy systems through decommissioning -- but quickly realized that there are processes that need to be followed for compliance, and where data needs to be available for warranty tracking, or sales tax audits.

The scope of the webinar series this year from MB Foster has been broad. The latest seminar looks at dashboarding as well as putting HP 3000s to rest. These are topics that can be related, since dashboarding is a concept built around improving data reporting for an entire enterprise, regardless of platform.

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Emulator stays on target, adds networking

The release schedule for the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator remains on track for a first shipment in January, news we're able to release since the vendor is sharing its fielding testing updates with us.

X11 emulator Sept24 The current plan is to process requests for CHARON-HPA/3000 field tests until the end of October. We are still on schedule for a first product shipment in January. The virtual PA-RISC CPU performance at first product shipment will comparable to MPE running on a single CPU hardware e3000-A400, for commercial applications with light Floating Point use.

(I happen to enjoy that Stromasys is using the classic HP 3000 slash-naming for the product. In the days of bedrock 3000 development, the database was called IMAGE/3000.)

Only two weeks after showing a deep dive of the product at the HP 3000 Reunion, the vendor has polished up Ethernet networking enough to include it as part of the latest field test release. Three more weeks remain to sign up for the bedrock time of the virtualized 3000 server era. 3000 owners and managers can do so with an email to CTO Robert Boers. The greater the number of dedicated testers who sign up, the better this solution into the future will be, and sooner. The HP 3000 would have had more HP lab work at the end if testers of beta patches had emerged.

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Emulation key to any platform's survival

About halfway through the recent HP3000 Reunion, Roger Sinasohn came to me to describe his users group. It has been devoted to Atari game consoles and was once large enough to dominate a meeting space at Fort Mason, down at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sinasohn, a 3000 veteran, now meets in users' homes, but these users are still devoted. In this element, as well as another, the Atari user is a kindred spirit with HP 3000 managers. Emulators have been essential in extending the Atari experience, such as Stella, which runs on top of Windows, Mac and Linux.

Given enough time, all computer environments arrive at emulator futures. Sometimes the operating systems themselves emulate older functions. One of the miracles of the Apple renaissance was the introduction of OS X software, which somehow managed to run Motorola 68000 software atop the Unix core of the new OS. The HP 3000 had its own such miracle in 1987, when the CISC Classic MPE V applications were executed in Emulated Mode on the new PA-RISC hardware.

The rap on emulator choices from the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the CHARON HP 3000 emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like the Intel Xeon chips will. A $600 gaming machine already runs the fledgling CHARON as fast as an A400 HP 3000. That's in field beta test. Stromasys promises a 4x performance improvement in less than four months.

HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts believe in CHARON's emulation future. This year there were a lot more of them than could fit in any single home when the first HP 3000 Reunion took place. It's even possible that the Reunion could grow in size. After all, MPE is running businesses, not eradicating aliens like Atari did.

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Why Your Life's Work Deserves Praise

The news wires are full of praise and remembrances of Steve Jobs today, the first working morning since he passed away. Billions of people never used Apple products, however. Some swear they never will, just because they don't want to get sucked into Apple's sparkly universe.

Bicycle for minds,jpg But as a computer professional, you might consider how admired and revered your skills were by Jobs and his company. A 90-second video on YouTube shows an interview of a boyish Steve Jobs who is explaining why the computer is the greatest tool ever created by mankind. Because, he says, it's the bicycle for our minds. That's a sentiment that goes a long way in the NewsWire offices, considering how much time we're in the saddle to stay fit, or to help fundraise for surivors of cancer, or AIDS.

JobsWhiteboard Jobs was also plainspoken about stealing to create great products. The HP 3000's MPE bedrock was mined out of the Burroughs operating system, something that Allegro's Stan Sieler likes to remind us. Windows, of course, came straight off the Mac and now represents the most popular migration platform for 3000 owners. 

In another YouTube interview Jobs admits how theft propelled Apple. But he also reminds us that it's thievery with a heritage of beauty. "It comes down to exposing yourself to the best things that humans have done -- and then trying to bring those things into what you're doing," he said. If you ever felt like your developments for this "bicycle of the mind" should be considered as art, the "Good artists copy" 30-second interview is worth a look, too.

This morning, here in the offices where we're peeking into our 17th year of publication of the NewsWire, we're teary eyed. We've lost a genius on the level of Edison or Disney -- the latter especially so, considering that Steve Jobs died as the largest shareholder of Disney. But honor the memory of one who always allowed that death was the greatest change agent of all, because it sweeps away and clears room for something newer. His passing is a day of mourning for us, because from the earliest days of our publishing careers, Apple products have been our greatest tools. Thanks to people like yourselves, they are our swift and stylish bicycles of the mind.

Apple founder, HP alum Steve Jobs dies

Screen shot 2011-10-05 at 8.30.54 PM The man who brought more innovation to 21st Century computing than any other has died at age 56. Steve Jobs passed away with his family Wednesday, falling victim to the pancreatic cancer he'd been battling for more than seven years. His passing marks the end of one era in business computing: The period when a CEO and company leader could use vision and desire to lift a massive, sinking ship into leadership, powered by his control and drive and passion for tomorrows.

He has an HP 3000 connnection, since he worked for Hewlett-Packard just before starting Apple in the 1970s. Over at Wired, Steven Levy writes that HP was an essential part of making Apple a Jobs dream come true:

From at least the time he was a teenager, Jobs had a freakish chutzpah. At age 13, he called up the head of HP, David Packard, and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. After his call to Packard, Jobs worked at HP as a teenager. He later had a job at Atari, when the video-game company was just getting started. Yet he did not see the field as something that would satisfy his artistic urges. "Electronics was something I could always fall back on when I needed food on the table," he once told me. Later, he told [a friend] about the prices he was getting for parts, and they were favorable to the prices HP was paying.

One other thing Jobs did was convince Wozniak to quit his job at HP and work full time for Apple. When Woz originally demurred, Jobs called all of Woz’s friends and relatives, putting so much pressure on that the gentle engineer capitulated. Once again, Jobs had gotten what he wanted.

That David Packard-era HP had too much talent and not enough focus to entice such a man, who with his partner Woz, believed in computers for people, instead of computing for companies who employed computer people. The two men first met at HP when Jobs held a summer job there.

I had a brush up against his darkest era while I was a journalist nearly two decades ago. He'd been exiled from the company he created and so went out to found Object-Oriented pioneer NeXT and then Oscar-snatching Pixar. I had a near-miss in getting to interview him while he was toiling away at NeXT. At PCI, where we published and I edited the HP Chronicle, we were starting up NeXT World, and he was to be the interview for our inaugural issue. I left the company, ultimately to start the 3000 NewsWire, and NeXT withdrew the interview access. It was a matter of timing, but now it's a time for some personal regret. I feel like I've lost a bigger brother today. He was maddening and a lightning rod for criticism and never somebody you wanted to ride in an elevator with -- unless you had a great answer to "what are you working on today?"

Nobody ever missed NeXT World, or even NeXT the company. But for the computer world, a big disturbance in the force opened up Oct. 5. He never took more than $1 a year as a salary, instead compensated in stock, shares whose value rose from below $15 each to form the largest capitalized company in the world this summer. A CEO who takes that compensation, and then leaves in a golden parachute that's drifting as high as his ideals and ideas, may not grace our industry for a long time to come.

Continue reading "Apple founder, HP alum Steve Jobs dies" »

Did HP return to emulator to save servers?

Stromasys has always believed in a sizable HP 3000 marketplace, but its beliefs haven't aligned with the size of some people's reality. In the summer of 2010 the company said they thought 20,000 servers will still at work around the world. But what Stromasys CTO Robert Loers said at last month's Reunion was more about the size of the remaining customer than the numbers. HP reconnected with the emulator makers because large sites had headed away from HP's enterprises.

"I think HP just counted systems as if they were all systems, but we know that the large configurations are still there," Boers said. After the company's success at creating a VAX and Alpha emulator -- one that HP will support VMS upon -- "HP had the idea in 2009 that we would take six months to finalize the [3000 emulator], and that they could offer something similar."

Boers-Abramov But the engineering took longer than six months to complete. Part of the delay came from discovery of portions of MPE whose documentation "was really just folklore," said developer Igor Abramov in a Skyped-in from Moscow Q&A session (above) with Boers (at right). When January of this year arrived, no new licenses could be issued for 3000. HP probably waited too long to return to assisting Stromasys. Boers said HP's liaison to Stromasys would frequently report that one segment after another of MPE/iX code "had never been used."

The company still believes there are many thousands of servers running around the world, but the specific number falls into that same category of folklore. Just this week we were asked by a software migration supplier how many 3000s were still "in the fleet." There may have been more, if companies could have bought fresh licenses for an emulator.

Continue reading "Did HP return to emulator to save servers?" »

Cloud ERP replacement looks for lift off

"Just imagine that all we do is get rid of all your hardware and IT costs. Do we need to talk about anything else?"

Kenandy_logo_208x73 Rod Butters is talking up his company's cloud-based ERP replacement for the 3000-based MANMAN app suite. He's standing amid more than 40 IT managers and market experts at the CAMUS user group social, chatting it up in their stretch of the recent HP3000 Reunion. So far what he's got to say to get his share of attention is the stock promise of cloud-sourcing a system.

What's unusual is that Kenandy, Inc. is promising those things for manufacturing sites. Which are the hardest sorts of sites to lift onto the cloud, a strategy that comes down to massive bandwidth, endless storage, rock-solid servers and services from an attentive IT staff. That's your staff that Butters means to replace with Kenandy Manufacturing Management, "built for the Cloud." The software in the Kenandy Manufacturing Cloud app is built on,'s enterprise cloud computing platform.

Terry Floyd -- one of the CAMUS user group officers who's spent a full 40-year-career advising, developing and supporting MANMAN to found The Support Group -- is high on the Kenandy promise. After seeing a 30-minute presentation at the CAMUS meeting, Floyd noted one big advantage to Kenandy: its design and development came from Sandra Kurztig, who's crept just a bit out of retirement after building the first generation of MANMAN.

Continue reading "Cloud ERP replacement looks for lift off" »

Emulator's field test program steps onstage

Key procedure Stromasys is conducting a wide-open field test program for its new CHARON HPA/3000, starting with a note shared by the company's CTO Robert Boers late last week. The note -- one of a series to be shared with any prospect or vendor who's interested in using PC-gaming hardware to emulate a 3000 server -- is especially interesting when it describes HPSUSAN IDs (see instructions above from the process document. Click for details). These IDs are the keystones to the walls which comprise the MPE/iX software castle.

USB dongles will carry these IDs in the virtualized hardware configuration. (That's the emulator, if you're using the old nomenclature). The USB keys are in the total control of Stromsys for manufacture, although they are metered by the MPE/iX license attached to a 3000. HP's not creating new licenses, so every CHARON HPA/3000 needs to descend from a licensed 3000. Boers said HP expressed no interest in managing the HPSUSAN process for these USB keys. For field testers, "We will provide the ability to set, upon request, a specific HPSUSAN number in the license key," he said.

Several vendors have already said they're willing to participate in the CHARON HPA/3000 market with their software -- at least on the basis of what's been demonstrated at the recent HP3000 Reunion. "Since Robelle still adds enhancements and continues to develop on the HP 3000 we are of course interested in supporting this environment and ensuring that our products can work on the emulator," said Robelle's Neil Armstrong.

Boers said the field test program will cost nothing, will pay testers nothing, but will earn them a discount on a licensed version next year. Testers can contact developer Igor Abramov to get FTP access for a download of the executable code for the emulator.

Continue reading "Emulator's field test program steps onstage" »

Heartfelt plea for cancer survivor's bike/run

RonLivestrong2009 I have never done this here on the NewsWire's blog, but I am reaching out to our readers to help support a good cause this month: The LiveStrong Foundation's running-cycling Livestrong Challenge. I'm raising money to support this group that spreads millions of dollars among programs like a series to assist caregivers of cancer patients. I have less than two weeks to make my goal. We run on Saturday Oct. 15, and then ride the next day through the scorched Texas Hill Country.

I've ridden a bike thousands of miles to support charity causes since 2003, and some of my friends in the 3000 community have been generous donors to events supporting AIDS, MS, and now cancer survivors. But this cancer thing touches closest to my home and life -- perhaps to yours, too. I'm raising money after my bride Abby is pushing through her third year with skin cancer, getting screened, scraped, and burned, and having micro-surgery to remove sites that can be much bigger problems without these treatments. My friend Candace is surviving breast cancer after chemo and surgery, and my biking friend Ron is still clearing margins on prostate cancer.

Please help me help LiveStrong, so it help those we all care about. Every contribution counts, so we can ease the lives of people we love. Donate at my webpage, secure with your credit card:

Thanks for your support. My miles on the bike, and those in my first-ever 5K run, will fly faster with your donations!