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February 29, 2012

A Rare Birthday for Eugene Today

He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 44th birthday today, and the co-creator of MPEX must wait every four years to celebrate on his real day of birth: He was born on Feb. 29 in the Ukraine.

150px-Eugene_VolokhAlthough he's not the youngest community member (that rank goes to The Support Group's president David Floyd, a decade younger) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known outside our humble neighborhood. After he built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft, Eugene earned a law degree as he went on to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- en route to his current place in the public eye as go-to man for all questions concerning intellectual property on the Web and Internet, as well as First and Second Amendment issues across all media. He's appeared on TV, been quoted in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, plus penned columns for that publication, the New York Times, as well as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law reviews. You can also hear him on National Public Radio. When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast in 2010. He's a professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, and the father of two sons of his own by now. Online, he makes appearances on The Volokh Conspiracy blog he founded with brother Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University).

In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I first met him in Orlando at the annual Interex conference in 1988, when he held court at a dinner at the tender age of 20. I was a lad of 31 and listened to him wax on subjects surrounding security -- a natural topic for someone who presented the paper Burn Before Reading, which remains a vital text even more 25 years after it was written. The paper's inception matches with mine in the community -- we both entered in 1984. But Eugene, one of those first-name-only 3000 personalities like Alfredo or Birket (Rego and Foster, if you're just coming to this world), was always way ahead of me in 3000 lore and learning.

ThoughtsAndDiscoursesBurn Before Reading is part of a collection of Eugene's Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, published by VEsoft long before indie publishing was so much in vogue. (We've got copies of the 4th Edition of book here at the NewsWire we can share, if you don't have one in your library. Email me.) The book even had the foresight to include advertisements from other members of the 3000 indie software vendor ranks. His father reminded me this month that the Russian tradition of Samizdat was a self-publishing adventure born out of the need to escape USSR censorship. These Russians created an enterprise out of the opportunities America and HP provided in the 1970s, when they emigrated.

Eugene got that early start as a voice for the HP 3000 building software, but his career included a temporary job in Hewlett-Packard's MPE labs at age 14. According to his Wikipedia page

At age 12, he began working as a computer programmer. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA. As a junior at UCLA, he earned $480 a week as a programmer for 20th Century Fox. During this period, his achievements were featured in an episode of OMNI: The New Frontier.

His father Vladimir remains an icon of the 3000 community who's still on the go in the US, traveling to visit some of the 1,700 VEsoft customers to consult on securing and exploiting the powers of MPE. The Volokh gift is for languages -- Vladimir speaks five, and Sasha once gave a paper in two languages at a conference, before and then after lunch. I expect that this entry will be eagerly proofed and then corrected by Vladimir, just as he's provided insight and corrections for the next edition of my new novel Viral Times. It's a sure bet that Thoughts and Discourses will remain a useful tool at least as long as Viral Times stays in print. (I've got copies of Viral Times I can ship, too -- but that's an offer unrelated to the 3000's history.)

At 37,000 words, a single Q&A article from Eugene -- not included in the book -- called Winning at MPE is about half as big as your average novel. The papers in Thoughts and Discourses, as well as Winning, are included on each product tape that VEsoft ships. But if you're not a customer, you can read them on the Adager website. They're great training on the nuances of this computer you're probably relying upon, nearly three decades after they were written. Happy Birthday, young man. Long may your exacting and entertaining words wave.

02:46 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2012

Some 3000 peripherals still connected at HP

Hewlett-Packard continues to operate a webpage to help 3000 customers learn about compatibile HP peripherals. The information at this webpage doesn't change any compatibility which a 3000 already enjoys with the XP line of disks (48, 512 and more). Since there's been no change in the 3000's OS or hardware since 2007, whatever's working will continue to perform.

But the devices listed on the HP page are much more recent in their vintage. HP still sells them. The XP10000 and XP12000 arrays are on display at HP e3000 Storage Products. For a company that's claimed to be out of the 3000 market, HP's after-market products have become persistent. Support contracts might be available for these devices from HP, too. But a support contract from an independent company is even more likely to include HP's XP and VA devices. A link called Fibre Channel Switches on HP's webpage leads to a gateway page crowded with Storage Networking products. Networking, by the way, was the only part of HP's Enterprise group which posted sales gains for Q1.

5814A FabricDiagramAlso listed on the Storage Products page, along with a raft of StorageWorks devices, is the essential SCSI-Fibre Channel Router A5814A, available in two models. This device in its -003 flavor is used to attach the 3000 -- using a Brocade 2400 or 2800 switch for Fibre -- with the XP storage units and HP's Virtual Arrays, like the VA7410 used at Hostess Brands. (Click on the graphic above for more detail.) Those HP StorageWorks and XP devices sport links that arrive at active HP product pages. The A5814A does not, a signal that the used marketplace is now the only spot to find a replacement unit. There's also the parts depot of your support provider, sp long as that indie firm actually operates its own depot.

Connecting an older 3000 like the Series 969 at Hostess with a more modern array is a proven method to extend the power and utility of an HP 3000. Each of these Fibre routers is attached to its own Host Bus Adapter in the 3000 as shown in HP's diagram. HP 3000s of the Series 900 vintage were not built to connect directly with Fibre Channel.

When a customer needs to connect the HP e3000 to a native Fibre Channel mass storage disk array, the SCSI-FC Fabric Router (A5814A-003) is used. Only one SCSI-FC Router is required between the host server and the mass storage device. The SCSI-FC Router converts from SCSI-2 at the host to Fibre Channel Arbitrated-loop for connection to Fibre Channel mass storage devices.

The magic of the -003 version of the HP router can't be applied after the fact to the more commonplace model of the device, HP says.

5814A SCSI-Fibre Channel extender uses microcode revision 7.60 or later. A5814A-003 SCSI-Fibre Channel Fabric Router configuration uses microcode revision 8.01.0A or later. The A5814A SCSI-Fibre Channel Extender is not field upgradeable to the A5814A-003.

We've stashed away a PDF copy of this HP field guide to Fibre Channel-SCSI routing here at our blog, in case it becomes tough to find it in the HP web empire. But we're surprised to see these references to HP StorageWorks products still allied with the 3000 -- a server HP hasn't sold for more than eight years by now.

11:22 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2012

3000 support demands spare inventory

Independent service providers have signed up most of the 3000 homesteaders by now, according to Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci. The CEO still runs across the occassional shop served by HP out of habit. A big share of the available service contracts have already been passed to independent companies, however, according to an article in our in-the-mail February NewsWire print issue.

HP5418ABut using an independent firm for support is a smart deal only if the provider has ample spare parts allocated to your site, Suraci said. A system administrator who manages the Series 969 at Hostess Brands (how's that for a large homesteading company -- Twinkies anyone?) needed an HP A5418A fiber router (at left) to replace a blown device. The indie support company serving Hostess didn't have one, so Joe Barnett went looking on the 3000-L mailing list himself. He needed to maintain connectivity to his VA7410 array, or face rebuilding the array from backup tapes.

Solutions and suggestions trickled in -- including the purchase of one 5814A for sale on eBay "that might not rewritable," because it wasn't the MPE -003 model. What's more, that vanilla unit ships on 4-14 days delivery time, according to the eBay listing. Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed at a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP router.

How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? The provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.

The easy questions to answer for a client are "Can you supply me support 24x7?" or "What references will you give me from your customers?" Harder questions are "Where do you get your answers from for MPE questions?" Or even, "Do you have support experts in the 3000 who can be at my site in less than a day?"

But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions. "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware doesn't break down much in the 3000 world. But a fiber router is not a 3000-specific HP part. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of reasons, but one constant reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in the HP supply chain.

The economy has recovered a bit, Suraci said, so he suggested now's the time to ask these hard questions. "It might be time for everyone to review their support provider, and maybe look a little deeper than what they charge for service," he said. "In many cases, you get what you pay for. Response time, parts availability, and legitimate HPSUSAN updates all need to be addressed in advance of signing on the dotted line. It's one thing to be budget conscious, and a whole other to be blinded by it."

Even when a last-minute email could solve a parts problem -- and it looked like Barnett might have gotten lucky on locating a spare router -- that's not a reliable support plan. One suggestion was a Crossroads SA-40 switch, but Craig Lalley notes that you can't boot a 3000 via the Crossroads device. He had to hook up a Mod 20 storage unit for boot-ups only.

Jack Connor, who does 3000 support work for Abtech, seconded Suraci's advice. "I couldn't agree more. Costing out the spares and having them available should be part of the contract."

06:24 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2012

Alternative Takes on HP Q1: Hope's on Tap

Whitman-2012Yes, HP has reported Q1 results with sales down and profits eroded. It's true, the CEO has said the company has a long way to go to fix what's broken in the business. And oh yeah, the stock market stripped off about 5-10 percent of the HPQ share price after Meg Whitman spoke up.

But not all of that is spooking everybody about HP's futures for the next several years. It seems that the next few years will cover the period when migrations wind down, although I'm always surprised when a large corporation shows up on the homesteader roster. (Pfizer has been the latest homesteader, at least through 2010.)

Over in Good Morning Silicon Valley (siliconvalley.com), a Q1 reaction story notes that some analysts think HP's got a comeback saga that's being overlooked. If nothing else, Whitman said yesterday that she'll be at HP long enough to see that comeback through. If the board doesn't tire of her, we suppose. The GSVM story on the stock and comeback says

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, in a note to clients Thursday morning, said that the key element in HP's earnings report was the victory in EPS, "showing the company is making progress. The company is an underappreciated turnaround story (which could improve) as investors get more comfortable with the company's improved focus and execution."

There's no ignoring the numbers that show Itanium BCS sales are tanking (watch out, Unix migrators). But the HP overall forecast may be a five-year renovation, one that finds enough cost savings to stock up the R&D armory once more. R&D used to be one of HP's most potent weapons. And since the company wants to build a hardened Linux for HP-UX migrators, better R&D spending can only help provide that future.

02:21 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 23, 2012

HP starts 2012 with a sinking quarter

ESSN Q1-12 resultsHewlett-Packard reported falling results in most of its computer areas yesterday, even though the company beat the estimates of analysts. Not even those modest suprises could prevent the markets from beating HP stock back into the $27 range after the Q1 2012 quarterly report. It's possible that the markets were looking at the darkest news out of HP's sales: the business that it's stopped winning in enterprise computing.

If HP's escaped your IT orbit, then the trevails of the Business Critical Systems (BCS) unit -- where the news is darkest -- won't matter at all. Except maybe to confirm that HP's an IT partner which belongs in your rear-view mirror. But if your migration plans include HP's more favored platforms like Unix, Linux or even Windows, the Q1 notes are worth considering. (Click on the above chart for more detail.) This doesn't seem to be a "everybody in the market is down" kind of report. Q1 is the second straight period where HP had to talk about sales sinking in nearly all of its businesses.

Just to recap, BCS is the unit where HP's Itanium servers and software products are sold. Just not so much anymore. BCS is a part of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit (ESSN). The bigger brother of BCS is Industry Standard Servers. Whether Proprietary like Itanium, or Standard like Xeon/x86, none of this stuff at HP is selling like it did just one year ago. Below is the summary straight from HP.

ESSN revenue declined 10 percent year over year, with an 11.2 percent operating margin. Networking revenue was flat, Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 11 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 27 percent, and Storage revenue was down 6 percent year over year.

What is selling as well as it did in ESSN? Networking. Outside this enterprise group, software revenues were up, since HP added the sales of Autonomy, its $10.2 billion acquisition. Services stayed even. Oh, and HP Finance posted gains, too. At least the debt business is on the upswing. It all flows down to a bottom line that took a 44 percent hit in profits in Q1. New CEO Meg Whitman isn't happy, kind of an odd response to results at an HP where she's been a director for more than a year. And for the first time, HP described its regular dividend in terms of what it costs the vendor in cash: $244 million to pay out for Q1. Apple's never paid a dividend. Now it looks like HP's legendary dividend might be rising beyond its new economic realities.

Whitman said in remarks to analysts yesterday that Hewlett-Packard has underinvested in its business and become "too complex and too slow." It's not obvious how an HP is going to simplify a company that's clogged up with 100,000 EDS (Services) consultants, software that it cannot build and so must acquire along with headcount, plus a business lineup of industry-standard and in-house platforms. And her "slow" is not an encouraging review to make HP future seem secure.

It is possible to have a wide range of enterprise choices, both in software and servers. IBM does it, including the Series i systems you know as the AS/400. If you're wondering whether the AS/400 is still relevant, have a look at the retail screens at Costco the next time you're shopping for paper towels or party quiches. Yup, the screens are running the "Series i" at one of the best-performing retailers in the US.

The rest of the picture at HP included some finger-pointing at the economic miasma and cheery resolve to fix things up in the business strategy. Those hard-to-get disk drives hurt the company too, Whitman said. But the PC problems with suppliers are not the most essential woes to address, she explained.

HP's got to fix execution, she said. In PCs at least, it'll be cutting unnecessary models to make developing, selling and supporting products less complex. Whitman referred to "ongoing problems" with each of its business units. She wants to be investing in technology for the future and streamline processes and support services.

That's going to be hard to do while HP tries to keep its profits from disappearing. A 44 percent dive in a single quarter follows the 92 percent pratfall of Q4 in 2011. Whitman talked about "saving to invest," since the company's credit ratings have eroded and its debt is approaching some very interesting levels. How do you save to invest when your sales are dropping? You cut costs, we suppose. Whitman might be faced with the same plan that ousted ladies-man CEO Mark Hurd tried. And failed at, if you ask Whitman, since he spent five years dumping R&D investments to keep share prices and profits healthy.

A healthy vendor is essential to a secure and safe IT future. If a migrating company is keeping company with HP, these company quarterly results do add up.

07:57 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2012

ERP migration advice on tap over lunch

Birket Foster, who's been practicing and preaching on the subject of 3000 system migrations for a decade, is leading a 45-minute talk on the Best Practices for Application Migration today. ERP systems, some of the most complex and most prevalent in the HP 3000 community, serve as the example for sharing these application practices.

Many companies are struggling to support legacy ERP solutions that haven’t kept pace with new ERP technologies. Others may be looking for the right ERP solution to deploy for the very first time. With the cost of maintaining a legacy environment increasing, companies reach out to learn and understand alternatives and possibilities.

The MB Foster webinar starts at 11 AM PDT, 1 PM CDT and 2 PM EDT today. It's free and you can register online at the MB Foster website. Foster likes to use Commercial Off The Shelf as the nameplate for replacement software. COTS has challenges if a company chooses that migration route instead of a migration. But the typical ERP installation has so much customization after a decade or two of service that this kind of migration needs special attention. Maybe even outside help from any service or support provider which has helped migrate a manufacturer.

The migration stakes are high for any manufacturer using their HP 3000, as they have done for many years. (There are very few HP 3000 ERP users who are new, although we've heard of just a few who've adopted the platform as part of being acquired.)

Kenandy CloudFoster says he'll "hone in on common application replacement mistakes," plus tips and advice for "proven, risk mitigation strategies that will help you get started." He also adds that it's stressful to try to sell a new, replacement ERP system to top management. But people are doing it, and a few are even exploring options like the new Kenandy MRP application suite based in the cloud and built off the salesforce.com designs. Foster's webinar covers "a flexible long term enterprise infrastructure that will match the application to the business’ vision, goals and growth expectations."

08:53 AM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2012

Respect MPE spooler, even as you replace it

PrintspoolerMigration transitions have an unexpected byproduct: They make managers appreciate the goodness that HP bundled into MPE/iX and the 3000. The included spooler is a great example of functionality which has a extra cost to replace in a new environment. No, not even Unix can supply the same abilities -- and that's the word from one of the HP community's leading Unix gurus.

Bill Hassell spread the word about HP-UX treasures for years from his own consultancy. Now he's working for SourceDirect as a Senior Sysadmin expert and posting to the LinkedIn HP-UX group. A migration project just finishing up drew Hassell's notice, when the project's manager noted Unix tools weren't performing at enterprise levels. Hassell said HP-UX doesn't filter many print jobs.

MPE has an enterprise level print spooler, while HP-UX has very primitive printing subsystem. hpnp (HP Network Printing) is nothing but a network card (JetDirect) configuration program. The ability to control print queues is very basic, and there is almost nothing to monitor or log print activities similar to MPE. HP-UX does not have any print job filters except for some basic PCL escape sequences such as changing the ASCII character size.

While a migrating shop might now be appreciating the MPE spooler more, some of them need a solution to replicate the 3000's built-in level of printing control. One answer to the problem might lie in using a separate Linux server to spool, because Linux supports the classic Unix CUPS print software much better than HP-UX.

The above was Glen Kilpatrick's idea. He's a Senior Response Center Engineer at Hewlett-Packard. Like a good support resource, Kilpatrick was a realist in solving the "where's the Unix spooler?" problem.

The "native" HP-UX scheduler / spooler doesn't use (or work like) CUPS, so if you implement such then you'll definitely have an unsupported solution (by HP anyway). Perhaps you'd be better off doing "remote printing" (look for that choice in the HP-UX System Administration Manager) to a Linux box that can run CUPS.

This advice shovels in a whole new environment to address an HP-UX weakness, however. So there's another set of solutions available from independent resources -- third-party spooling software. These extra-cost products accomodate things like default font differences between print devices, control panels, orientation and more. Michael Anderson, the consultant just finishing up a 3000 to Unix migration, pointed out these problems that rose up during the migration.

My client hired a Unix guru (very experienced, someone I have lots of respect for) to set this up a year or more ago. They recreated all the old MPE printer LDEVs and CLASS names in CUPS, and decided on the "raw" print format so the application can send whatever binary commands to the printers. Now they have some complaints about the output not being consistent. My response was, "Absolutely! There were certain functions that the MPE spooler did for you at the device class/LDEV level, and you don't have that with CUPS on HP-UX."

Anderson has faith that learning more about CUPS will uncover a solution. "One plus for CUPS, it does make the applications more portable," he added.

There's one set of tasks can solve the problem without buying a commercial spooler for Unix, but you'll need experience with adding PCL codes and control of page layouts. Hassell explains:

Yes, [on HP-UX] it's the old, "Why doesn't Printer 2 print like Printer 3?" problem. So unlike the Mighty MPE system, where there is an interface to control prepends and postpends, in HP-UX you'll be editing the model.orig directory where each printer's script is located. It just ASMOS (A Simple Matter of Scripting). The good news is that you already have experience adding these PCL codes and you understand what it takes to control logical page layouts. The model.orig directory is located in /etc/lp/interface/model.orig

What Anderson needs to accomplish in his migration is the setup of multiple config environments for each printer, all to make "an HP-UX spooler send printer init/reset instructions to the printer, before and after the print job. In other words: one or more printer names, each configured differently, yet all point to the same device."

You won't get that for HP-UX without scripting, the experts are saying, or an external spooling server under Linux, or a third party indie spooler product. If you'd like to look over the discussion in real time and add questions, it's on the LinkedIn HP-UX group's webpage. The third party software list for Unix is long. ROC Software moved into this field more than six years ago, along with its support of Maestro job scheduling for the HP 3000. ROC's products for Unix are Rhapsody and EasySpooler, for multiple-server and single-server environments, respectively. Another spooler software vendor with 3000 experience is Holland House, which sells its Unispool product for environments including Unix.

3000 managers who want third party expertise to support a vast array of print devices are well served to look at ESPUL and PrintPath spooling software from veteran 3000 developer Rich Corn at RAC Consulting. Corn's the best at controlling spoolfiles for 3000s, and he takes networked printing to a new level with PrintPath. Plenty of 3000 sites never needed to know all that his work could do, however -- because that MPE spooler looks plenty robust compared to what's inside the Unix toolbox.

12:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2012

Website reveals HP Discover 2012 sessions

HP and the user group Connect announced the opening of registrations for the world's largest annual Hewlett-Packard conference and expo. HP Discover 2012 is scheduled for the first week of June in Las Vegas. The meeting revolves around all things enterprise and HP, so it can be a mecca for migration training and information, and some instruction.

DiscoverSearchResultsConnect and HP have improved a customer's ability to scout the schedule for the three days of talks and training. A search engine helps to discover sessions that are organized by tracks, subtracks, customer challenges addressed -- even type of presenter. That last search element yields a surprise today.

"At HP Discover we will have sessions presented by people with a variety of different backgrounds: Analysts, Customers/Clients, HP Employees, Partners and Sponsors," the website explains.

A total of five sessions are listed as being presented by customers or clients. Three talks on using and supporting cloud computing, plus one each on "an effective IT support contract" to minimize downtime, as well as IT energy management. Even back in the days six conferences ago in 2005, the content of the conference as well as attendance wore a heavy HP coat. The vendor is giving its partners even fewer chances for partners to engage customers in talks, too. A total of four pop up in today's Discover search engine. No talks are scheduled from analysts or sponsors.

I'd never again suggest that HP has too large a presence at a conference now called HP Discover. And some of the best technical sessions I've ever seen at an IT conference have been delivered by HP engineers right out of the labs. Mark Bixby is the first software engineer who comes to mind, giving a presentation on how to make great use of Perl on the HP 3000. (Yup, that's a PowerPoint slide link.)

But Bixby arrived in HP's labs after years of administering a customer site in a California college system. You don't need customer experience to deliver a meaningful and instructive session. But it helps to know what it's like to sit in the audience, wondering what you can take back to the jobsite to show value for the travel expenses.

In my experience sitting alongside those managers, the in-person bonus of hearing any talk live is the interaction that happens at the end. Questions and answers are much harder to share over a webpage. There are 165 HP sessions on the HP Discover schedule of 2012. A session like BB2125, "We know how much your applications cost to run. Do you?" -- that's got a sort of teach-y tone to it. Maybe the questions at the end will deliver some less-practiced but fully-useful answers.

You might want to schedule a healthy slice of time for the vendor expo area to create an interactive experience at HP Discover. There are some interesting gems among what the HP organizers describe as an 800-session conference. The abstract for "BYOD (Bring your own Device) – how to meet demands for streamlined client virtualization implementation" reads

In this session you will learn the trends in client virtualization, the architectures to consider, new solutions and services that you can leverage to reduce the complexity of planning, architecting and supporting client virtualization. We will cover organizational and technical considerations as well as best practices to reduce the time from architecture to deployment by 50 percent or more.

The conference has an official feel to its registration today. Policies on refunds are explicit so there's no confusion. But I don't recall language that reminds a manager HP can cancel a registration to a conference, even if it's had HP in the name of the show.

No HP Discover 2012 registration cancellations will be processed after 15 May, 2012. User Group memberships are not refundable. HP reserves the right to cancel an attendee's registration, conference price paid will be fully refunded.

It's $1,795 to attend HP Discover 2012 as an individual, but the Connect user group rate is $1,495. The price includes "all general sessions, breakout sessions, hands-on labs,certification testing, HP Discover Zone, track keynotes, one-to-one meetings with HP experts, demos, scheduled meals, conference receptions, and evening entertainment." Registration is active online today.

07:09 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2012

Virtual futures await for early 3000 readers

ViralTimesAd-RGBNewsWire Editorial

    A dream delayed is better than a dream denied. It's a natural element of being human to look into the future, a skill your community has polished over the last decade. Across the same period I've done polishing of my own on a dream that looked denied, but has escaped its delays.

    It's Viral Times, the novel I began to write in earnest once HP stopped writing its futures for the 3000. This month the book is a reality in printed and ebook versions, available at Amazon.com and signed from my Writer's Workshop website, workshopwriter.com. I think of Viral Times as my 3000 emulator. It's a project devised from a sense of necessity, given up for lost at least once, but revived and delivered after a surprising amount of challenges in its creation.

   I'd also like to believe my novel has fans waiting in their seats to experience its magic. Not a bestseller's number of readers, partly because a wide-scale release is no more likely than the prospects for the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000 to reverse the trends of 3000 ownership. But you don't need to be a bestseller to tell a good story with meaning for the future. On the other hand, if you don't tell a good story, there's only a slim chance to become a bestseller. Of small books and modest software projects come enduring classics, if we're patient and lucky.

    There's been plenty of time to practice patience with the emulator. It was first discussed in the fall of 2002, the same time I started my training as a writer of fiction with classes at the Austin Writer's League. The concepts of both these ventures have changed a great deal, just like the fields where they're appearing. The '02 emulator was heading for a specialized hardware design that could mimic PA-RISC processors. Software would be essential, but at one point the leading vendor was looking for PA-RISC chips to be placed in a PC-slot card.

    Viral Times started off in a very different place, too. This story of a star reporter who's disgraced and must redeem himself and recover love in a pandemic opened in 2044. I thought I needed that much elbow room in the future to show a society locked down into virtualized life, even virtualized love to avoid disease. It now starts in 2020. By the time it went into release this month, my shorthand for the tale was "It's a story in a future closer than you think."

   In the emulator's tale, the marketplace believed it needed a 3000 replacement right away to stem the departure of customers from the platform. Anything that would arrive later than HP's exit would be meaningless. The reality of the 3000's future was a more interesting story.  It turned out to be a tale of preserving MPE, not the hardware and software we've come to call the HP 3000.

   Nothing was ever going to reverse the outflow of 3000 customers from this community. Too much change took place as a result of the dot-com Web boom to give vendor-locked computing much of a growth path. For business computing, an open model fed by many allied independent players is the only way to grow. Within the last four years, this kind of virtualized community, working with open specifications, is spinning the story of the future of computing. And storytelling, too. The changes don't signal the end of other kinds of computing, though — not any more than the rise of ebooks means the demise of paperbacks.

    Even through Viral Times will enjoy a long life as an ebook — it will never go out of print — it's also getting a loving debut as a story printed with ink on paper. I've published it using everything the 3000 community has given me the chance to polish: deadlines and printer double-checks, research and feedback (we call that last one "workshopping" in the fiction business). We used to call such books "self-published," a lot like the 3000 market used to call most of its products "third-party."

    But independence from strategies of the past is driving both books and computers. Looking to the future provides the great spark of "what if." HP once enjoyed the same phrase when it first introduced a touchscreen computer, a 9-inch marvel of the MS-DOS heyday, too far ahead of its time.

    Viral Times needed eight years of planning and work (and another half-dozen of dreaming) to become a book I can sign and send to readers. There's the ebook version to download to an e-reader like an Amazon or Apple tablet, yes — but just try signing that one. The act of a human hand pushing ink across paper is one of those pleasures we continue to enjoy. I enjoyed signing at a little release party here in Austin. People enjoyed seeing a writer at work, jotting down personal messages above a signature.

   Your community's emulator needed futuristic changes in its strategy to become a reality, too. Virtualization grew stronger, like a chapter revised and edited, until it became a keystone to extending computing into any budget or set of human resources. The IT datacenter with a troop of white coats has become virtualized, so ethereal it's called the cloud. We used to work with service bureaus because the computers were so expensive. Now we use the cloud because people are so expensive.

   And yet we can't dream of a time when we don't need people to manage computing, not any more than I could dream of a story where love wasn't the most important part of staying healthy in a future filled with danger. What I didn't see coming, but wished for, was virtualizing the publishing field. People tell stories that can be read without a wall of paper to prove their worth. Self-publishing, the old vanity press, has become indie publishing thanks to e-reader technology people slagged — just like emulation — for many years.

    What both the Stromasys emulator and my Viral Times need now are reviews. People need to try out the future to see how it fits them and report back. Take a ride on the indie express, and see if there's joy for you in its future.

07:50 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 16, 2012

Taking a Glance at 3000s: where to get it

On a visit to the offices of The Support Group today, president David Floyd asked a great question. If a 3000 manager wanted to buy a copy of HP Glance, where would they go?

HPLogoClassicReaders probably know Glance as the HP-created performance measurement tool built for MPE-based servers. The product went through 20 years of upgrades and revisions before HP stopped enhancements in the late 1990s. At that point, performance measurement techniques of 3000s weren't about to change much. Reading and understanding the data from Glance always was the counterbalance to the copious detailed reports.

The answer to Floyd's question is Client Systems. This is the former HP 3000 North American distributor, once in lock-step with Hewlett-Packard while Client Systems configured and shipped many a 3000 sold through application-based resellers like Ecometry or Amisys. A few years back HP made its subsystem software available for sale in the market, even though nothing else remained on the price list.

You won't find a way to buy those subsystem product licenses in many places. OpenMPE ran a promotion with the aid of Client Systems starting in 2011 to help the advocacy group raise operating funds. (Website registries, servers, accounting -- it adds up). You can get in touch with an OpenMPE board member (Jack Connor was the last director to mention this offer) and ask for a copy of Glance/iX. HP discounted the prices to a more reasonable post-sales tier, via the deal that gets customers the tools and OpenMPE some assistance. "Client Systems has given OpenMPE pricing at cost," Connor said, "which will allow us to charge 50 percent of HP list for a product, with 10 percent going to OpenMPE."

Why buy Glance now, in the post-HP era of 3000 ownership? Homesteaders and owners on a budget are still working to get the most out of server investments. If you use an independent support provider, Glance can give you more data to share with your experts on call -- whether they're the gurus at The Support Group or others in the field.

Glance was once so ubiquitous in the 3000 community that providers of alternative products like Lund's suite were bitter over the single-vendor advantage HP owned. Back in the days of the 1990s, an additional $8,000 charge for Glance on top of a $130,000 system sale didn't raise an eyebrow.

You may have avoided raised eyebrows if you're interested in getting Glance/iX for a 3000. In an arrangement between OpenMPE and Client Systems that been in place since April 2011, there's a means for anyone who wants to buy licensed HP software for their systems.

Connor can be contacted about subsystem software sales at [email protected], or email to Dan Cossey at Client Systems directly. "Make sure to let Client Systems know this is a purchase via OpenMPE, to receive the discounted price," Connor said.

06:10 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2012

Vendors mull emulator tool, app licenses

Even while we await the announcement of the first installation of the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000 emulator product, we're even more eager to get updates on related software. Third party software -- we like to call it independent products now, since HP's stepped away from the party -- still needs a model to license the use of tools and applications.

By many estimates, four out of five HP 3000s in the homestead world are running their own in-house packages. Or they're using commercial vendor software that's modified so heavily it may as well be a custom system. There are licenses of MANMAN from Infor to consider, as well as the remaining installations of Ecometry and a few others. But it's a rare thing for a company to be charging a support fee for an application on a 3000.

Surround code, and third party tools, are a very different territory. Products like UDA Link from MB Foster, Speedware and PowerHouse, Robelle's Suprtool and Qedit, VEsoft's MPEX, even a bedrock tool like Adager -- all are vital parts of the 3000 community that must mull over how their licenses on the HPA/3000 should work. The tool providers usually sustain themselves with annual support contracts, but some have used license transfers while products were moved from older to newer HP 3000s. Several of those vendors have tested their products against HPA/3000 for compatibility.

One such vendor is MB Foster. When we checked in recently with founder Birket Foster -- a Q&A with him is coming in our printed February issue -- he mentioned licensing for emulation as an issue that was resolved by HP, but is still in play at independent software vendors.

"What do you do about software licensing for all of the vendors out there?" he asked during our hour-plus interview. Foster was not only involved in getting the terms on HP's MPE/iX emulator license hammered out in work with OpenMPE. His work goes back to the days when indie software vendors, then called ISVs, gathered in a Special Interest Group he chaired for Interex, SIGSOFTVEND. HP worked through that group to ensure tool makers and app vendors had early tech access to fresh MPE/iX releases.

In the face of a new system model where Stromasys will be selling a USB key, equipped with a valid HPSUSAN number for a replaced 3000, "We still have to charge for all of this," Foster said. "We still have hundreds of customers running our UDA series products on the HP 3000." As development continues on the products -- both for new platforms like Unix and Linux as well as 3000s -- "we have to pay people to do that work, and they in turn pay on their mortgages, their kids going to school and more. We still have to charge for this to keep the engineering in place."

"That's a concern for all of the vendors as they walk into an environment where they'll be on an emulated HP 3000," he adds. "It's not going to be free. But I think most vendors realize that it's got to be reasonable."

07:03 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2012

String some perls on a day for love

PerlheartThe HP 3000 has a healthy range of open source tools in its ecosystem. One of the best ways to begin looking at open source software opportunity is to visit the MPE Open Source website operated by Applied Technologies. If you're keeping a 3000 in vital service during the post-HP era, you might find perl a useful tool for interfacing with data via web access.

The 3000 community has chronicled and documented the use of this programming language, with the advice coming from some of the best pedigreed sources. Allegro Consultants has a tar-ball of the compiler available for download from Allegro's website. (You'll find many other useful papers and tools at that Allegro Papers and Books webpage, too.)

Bob Green of Robelle wrote a great primer on the use of perl in the MPE/iX environment. We were fortunate to be the first to publish Bob's paper, run in the 3000 NewsWire when Robelle Tech made a long-running column on our paper pages.

Although you might be dreaming up something to bring to your sweetie tonight, you could grab a little love for your 3000, too. Cast a string of perls starting with the downloads and advice. One of HP's best and brightest -- well, a former HP wizard -- has a detailed slide set on perl, too.

The official perl.org website has great instructions on Perl for MPE/iX installation and an update on the last revision to the language for the 3000. First ported by Ken Hirsch in 2000, the language was brought to the 5.9.3 release in 2006.

An extensive PowerPoint presentation on perl by the legendary porter Mark Bixby will deliver detailed insights on how to introduce perl to your programming mix. Bixby, who left HP to work for the 3000 software vendor QSS, brings the spirit of open source advocacy to his advice on how to use this foundational web tool.

As an example, Bixby notes that "it's now possible to write MPE applications that look like web browsers, to perform simple HTTP GET requests, or even complicated HTTP POST requests to fill out remote web forms." It's no box of Godiva, or even the classic blue box from Tiffany's, but perl might be something you love to use, to show that 3000 isn't a tired old minicomputer -- just a great sweetheart of a partner in your mission-critical work.

11:07 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2012

Developers, users manufacture 3000 chat

LinkedIn-LogoA lively discussion is in play at the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, where users, developers and managers are examining issues around migrating away from an MPE application of serious size and age. Or the need to do so.

Once Randy Thon mentioned he's using MM/3000 to manage maintenance services at Cessna Aircraft -- adding that the company's looking at options to leave the 3000 -- others in the 425-member community supplied advice and counsel.

The options suggested to Thon go beyond using the new Stromasys emulator. He's pleased with the way his app is working on the 3000 for Cessna. The hardware is the burr under the aircraft maker's saddle. The migration of an app like MM/3000 is a project that taxed every aspect of the software's owner, a crew laden with ex-HP engineers.

"The eXegeSys team spent years trying to migrate MM/3000 to Unix and ultimately gave up," said Jeffrey Lyon, "and sold the intellectual property. 11.7 million lines of COBOL, SPL, and Pascal is a big beast to move."

Another community member said that 11 million lines of code isn't that large, really. "The 11.7 million is not that big," said Brian Stephens. "I did a migration at Speedware; think it was about 4 million lines of COBOL and 300,000 Pascal and SPL in about a year. Our team was 14 members and we started not knowing the app. A bigger team, knowing the app, could get the MM3000 migration done in under two years."

There's also the issue of whether you would get what you were really pursuing, once you'd complete a migration. These are different issues for a software vendor than a user of its products. Have a look at the chat and chime in with your own experience about migration strategy.

04:38 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2012

HP-UX users consider virtualized future

BillingtonWhen HP opened its can of Odyssey for the HP-UX operating system, the vendor induced the labor of migration forcasts among its user base. The HP plan to move the best enterprise features of UX to a "hardened Linux" drew this comment from consultant Eric Billington (shown at left) on LinkedIn. Billington wonders if virtualization of hardware -- what many users call emulation -- is all but certain in the future of running HP's Unix.

Virtualization is very likely for many options, I suspect. I have a lot of respect for HP-UX and Itanium, but it is mostly about the third party software support for the platform, and the ongoing related legal battle between HP and Oracle. This may well be a Plan B, just in case.

Billington, who was a consultant for MB Foster as well as a 3000 migration planner for fellow-Platinum Migration services vendor Speedware, goes on to say that "HP is in a pickle, because Oracle has been promoting the Sparc/Oracle platform aggressively (sales is their thing after all), and at the same time pulling the rug out from under UX/Itanium by holding back on future Oracle product releases for the platform."

This would be a big problem for HP promoting UX/Itanium in the future for customers, unless this situation changes. Oracle's own "hardened Linux" is also Red Hat-based, so HP would likely have some assurance of support from Oracle for the Odyssey platform.

A few HP-UX users are learning that virtualization has a less common face: replicating hardware architecture on top of more popular chips such as Intel's Xeon line. While Stromasys is working on finding a market for its Charon HPA/3000, there's always been talk that the technology of Charon would be a foundation for emulating the chips that support HP's Unix servers. Nothing official from HP, of course. But the vendor won't even admit that the Odyssey is a path away from using HP-UX, either.

HP keeps trying to push back on that idea, but it's not working. No matter how much HP says that HP-UX is so secure and robust enough that it doesn't need a migration path, now there's an Odyssey to put the best of that OS into a new environment -- this "hardened Linux" that is well-supported by Intel and Oracle, among others. If there's no need to go on an Odyssey, why did HP begin one? For those who like the HP-UX+Itanium mix, hardware virtualization now seems a certain destination, however distant.

But when you start to talk about virtualization in the Unix marketplace, the IT managers there immediately think of virtual instances of OS environments, instead of replicating the underlying hardware. Independent consultant Keith Dick did his wondering out loud.

To me, virtualization is what VMware or KVM do, and I don't see how that would be possible. I'm assuming that the processor in whatever system that would be running the virtualization would be a Xeon, or a successor to Xeon. I think that implies that the hardware instructions available would be x86-64 instructions, not IA64 instructions. That's why I say that what I know as virtualization would not be possible.

Billington pointed to the Stromasys technology as an example of how an emulator -- Stromasys likes to call its tech hardware virtualization -- will work to maintain the lifespan of HP-UX apps beyond the Itanium era. That era isn't limitless. As HP announces an Odyssey it has sparked talk of how long HP-UX and its apps that breathe life into the Itanium chips.

Emulation of a different processor architecture, on another machine architecture is what I am referring to. It can be done within a virtualized environment, if the OS in a VM is running on top of a machine level emulator in the VM. They do exist in the wild (www.stromasys.ch) but are not as common.

I agree a successor to the Xeon, incorporating some elements of the Itanium architectrure, seems to be the processor direction, but the OS running on it will be one written for the x86-64 instruction set / little endian data. I think the most likely outcome is that Itanium processor blades will be running alongside the newer Xeon blades in future servers using integrated VM management. This would allow the older HP OSs to run natively on the appropriate hardware, and allow workloads to be distributed appropriately.

That's HP-UX which Billington is calling "older." The environment does harken all the way back to the early 1980s in the HP lineup, after all.


11:38 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 09, 2012

Third Party Futures Revisited, Maintained

CessnaEarly this morning I went on a search for modules of HP's Maintenance Management/3000 software, known as MM/3000. A new member of the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community posted his user profile on that group (425 members and counting), and Randy Thon identified his shop as an MM/MNT user. The software that's running at his HP 3000 site was first installed in 1988. Thon explained that the program suite is still functional and efficient today.

The HP 3000 is still the core of our application. We're running on a Series 969-420 and rebooted two months ago -- we last rebooted five years ago. So far the application has been very robust, averaging production application changes weekly, allowing us to change at the speed of thought to accomodate changes in the manufacturing workplace and reductions in workforce. One of the main reasons we are still on this application and platform is that it is cost effective, solid and all development and management of the system is within the Maintenance Department.

That's the maintenance department of the Cessna Aircraft Company, the world's largest manufacturer (by aircraft sold) of general aviation airplanes. Not exactly a small enterprise, and there's clearly no software problem in Cessna's maintenance group. (Thon, by the way, is looking for fellow users of MM/3000. You can link in to him via the HP 3000 Community.)

The ease of integration which lets Cessna "change at the speed of thought" is enhanced by a third-party piece of software that improves MM/3000. Products like the eXegeSys eXegete client, a front end for the MM/3000 software, have made using 3000s to drive a big company a safe long-term investment. It's been that way for more than 30 years in your market, but there was a time when any software sold outside of HP was a budding enterprise. I located a link to illuminate this pedigree at the Adager website, where long-term 3000 resources have always had a generous harbor.

On the Adager site you can read "The Future of Third-Party Vendors In the HP3000 User Market." The paper written by Eugene Volokh of VEsoft at the end of 1983 does some in-house forecasting. Third parties are going to do well in the world of 3000 owners, Eugene figured, because the system vendor would always be missing out on improvements, innovation, or competitive pricing on software. This might seem like a no-duh theory now. But in the world of 1983, independent providers of computer solutions were anything but a slam-dunk in the world of enterprise IT.

Volokh, Adager and Robelle are among the group of software solution "Improvers" that Eugene cited in his historic paper. In essence, after 3-4 years of success from these companies the case was pretty well proven that a solid product like MPEX, Adager, Qedit or Suprtool was going to win a lot of business away from the systems makers.

But the point that you might overlook in the paper is that these three companies continue to make long-term investments in 3000s possible and profitable, even after three decades. Eugene was just taking note of a software trend that remains true today: innovation from outside the system creator builds a lifelong community of support.

In a recent talk with Birket Foster, whose MB Foster Associates celebrates 35 years of continued business this year, he reminded me of where the community turned for new ideas in the early 1980s. The third-party vendors such as Foster, Adager, VEsoft and Robelle turned out papers, published books and newsletters, and spoke at in-person user group meetings. "There was no Internet back then, so you had to meet with somebody or talk to them to get solutions," Foster said.

A user community that grew up before the Internet has stronger links to innovation and assistance than groups that grew in the 1990s (Windows) and later (Linux), member for member. I like to think that every member of your Community carries several times more power and prowess than those from younger communities. As we've grown older things have changed a lot for the prospect of independent software and service providers. Yes, HP cleared out of your market. Its departure is even making companies like Cessna revisit how long they'll use the 3000 hardware no longer built by Hewlett-Packard. (There's a virtualization opportunity to replace HP's gear in the Stromasys product.) But HP's exit has also opened up the field for those Innovators and Improvers. Just look at how the world's change reveals itself in Eugene's survey of manager purchasing habits. One retired relic of that market: The Single-Vendor Shop.

Many HP customers have an almost blind loyalty to HP. In my years as an independent vendor, too often have I heard "sorry, we don't buy third-party products." This attitude, although sometimes justified by the desire to have a more easily supportable system, is usually quite incorrect because it deprives the user of the many advantages that can be derived from independent vendor products. However, condemning it won't make it go away, and every third-party vendor must live with the fact that a substantial part of the HP3000 market is forever barred from him.

Forever turned out to last less than 30 years. The change in the third-party vendor picture, whether selling software or services, has delivered a brighter opportunity for anyone who wanted to buy from more than HP. If an application enables your company to "change at the speed of thought," then the exit of the system vendor won't inhibit the useful lifespan of that application. Now there's only two parties in this ecosystem -- you, and anyone who can enhance and support your speed of thought. The third parties have become primary players with HP's exit. Since they created their places with innovation and improvement, I prefer to to call them independents -- or indie vendors, to borrow a term from the movies. The studio system isn't turning out as many great releases 30 years later, in either cinema or computing.

12:16 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2012

3000 group links up to LinkedIn job advice

LinkedInJobsEditor's Note: The 3000 Newswire has become the official publication of the CAMUS user group, a service we're happy to perform for these MRP and ERP sites which use the classic MANMAN application. Michael Anderson, a board director of the group, asked us to pass along these tips from the group's last meeting -- advice on how to make LinkedIn work best for you. Anderson says, "As our systems migrate to new platforms, so do our associates and coworkers migrate to new jobs.  The easiest time to build up your professional network is while you're working on a migration project."

We like LinkedIn as the Facebook for the professional set; there's an HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn that's got more than 420 members, ready to network with you on jobs and share advice. The article below was written for the group by Linda Tuerk, executive director of siliconvalleysearch.com. Tuerk notes that adding groups (like that 3000 Group) helps you rise up in the LinkedIn searches.

Your goal is to keep up with your professional friends quickly and easily. LinkedIn can do this.

Your goal is to have a modern version of the business card; you want to appear professional and up to date when clients look you up prior to an appointment, meeting, conference call, or interview. LinkedIn can do this, too.

Your goal, if you're job seeking, is to show up in the first 100 profiles when someone is searching for someone like you. The real goal is to be in the first 10, since that is all that shows per page. Shallow profiles rarely get found. Deep public profiles are searchable on Google/Bing. And internal corporate recruiters and execs are looking for you too. The following are the steps you can take on LinkedIn to raise these odds.

1. Use LinkedIn for interview preparation and business prospects. In a "people" search, type the name of the company; all the employees will come up that are in your network within three levels of separation. You might have to pay LinkedIn $20-80 to see all the names and full profiles. It's probably worth it. You can always do it for just a month.

2. Wordsmith your Headline, Summary, and Specialties sections. They all have maximum allowed spaces. Play with them. Use keywords and titles to describe yourself. Review position descriptions and ads of jobs you want, and pepper your profile with the most frequent, relevant, and desirable. Review peer profiles. For more on this subject, see booleanblackbelt.com and befoundjobs.com. You can also use wordcloud apps like wordle.net to create relevant word clouds.

3.  Turn off your LinkedIn member feed, profile and status updates from the settings page, found on the popdown menu under your name. Wait a few hours, maybe overnight. You may want to keep some of these off most of the time, depending on how much you want others to see who you are connecting with, etc.

4. There's a new section, Skills. These are pre-selected. You can have 50. These are very important as of late. Some say this section has surpassed keyword density in relevance.

5. Consider job seeking status on a monthly basis. Pro: You end up listed first. Con: You look desperate?

6. Link with as many as you can. Some experts say that you will only show up in search results for your skillset only 3 percent of the time if you are linked to fewer than 200 people. That incidence is supposed to climb to 90 percent if you are linked to "500+." Look for "Open Networkers" and LIONs that will link with everybody. Drop them later if you like.

7.  Add Groups related to your professional field. You are allowed 50. Concentrate on ones that have thousands of members at first. Add local ones that seem relevant and have at least 100. Check them out, and as you near your 50 Group maximum, drop some that are less relevant and add the most relevant for you. Most have jobs tabs. Link to Group members you like or that have 500+ connections. Find jobs on Discussion tabs also.

8. Check settings for your public profile. This is searchable by Google, Bing and Yahoo, and there is a huge recruiter subculture using Google strings.

9. Now, turn your privacy settings back to "broadcast mode." Consider whether you want your member feed showing, but you do want your status updates showing, and you might want to update your status 1-2 times per month.

10. Join discussions on your groups, follow the threads that seem to have good content. Comment where appropriate, get your name out there. This is a chance to impress. When you appear knowledgeable in your field, others will come forward and ask to be linked to you. Likewise, you will notice people that you like and can ask to link with or "follow." Check out group events, especially local networking opportunities.

11. Use a good basic headshot for your photo. It gets you three times the responses, compared to no headshot.

08:01 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2012

Managers report on mobile access to 3000s

Put a problem or a possibility in front of HP 3000 veterans and they will share what they know about solutions, usually on the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. As we first noted last week, the problem of connecting the iPad or iPhone to a 3000 -- or the possibility of enabling this most mobile of clients -- sparked some tests and suggestions from your community.

"I've had a couple of requests from sales people wanting to log on to the HP 3000 to do lookups," said Randy Stanfield of Unisource. It's a company using the HP 3000 in support of its business selling printing materials such as papers, facility supplies and equipment, and packaging materials and equipment.

Telnet, as we noted yesterday, is the state of the art for apps to communicate with the 3000. A telnet client will most probably not know anything about HP escape sequences, so the app access will be nothing more than character-mode.

ZatelnetConsultant and security expert Art Bahrs reports he's found a couple of telnet emulators, and wondered if WRQ might have one that runs on iOS. Alas no, and WRQ became a part of Attachmate years ago. Its Reflection line still offers NS/VT and telnet links to 3000s. Attachmate has no iOS apps, a fact that's easy to confirm because the Apple App Store is the only source of apps that don't need a jailbroken phone or pad. Jailbreaking adds power and options to these devices, but deploying jailbroken iPads to a sales force is a strategy that can change a career.

Then Bahrs checked back in to report on zaTelnet v 3.3, from zaTelnet. Bahrs and other 3000 vets are running tests to see if an iOS device can manage a 3000, access that's a few steps short of user-grade interfaces to 3000 applications. 

Bahrs said that he was able to test the free version of the telnet iPad app zaTelnet. Many apps are free in this category, with a more fully-featured complement for a few dollars more. "It definitely would work for a quick and dirty trouble shooting session, or to check on a job, or support a user with an abortio or such," he said.

Security is another testing point. ZaTelnet is a SSH2 client for iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. It  emulates terminal VT100 and partially xterm  -- enough for  console programs. ZaTelnet supports SSH2 authorization by plain password, interactive password and private key file.

"SSH is an option," Bahrs said of the secure shell handler on ZaTelnet, "and it did work successfully both ways. There are times that good old fashioned telnet really does come in handy when doing testing, so I test both."

Mocha Telnet, which we mentioned yesterday, gets the job done for 3000 management. "It works perfectly on my iPhone," said support provider Gilles Schipper, "even the Lite (free) version. I can even run HP Glance on it. While it doesn't look too pretty, one can decipher the output. I set the termtype to "hp," rather than the default "vt220."

05:37 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 06, 2012

Telnet offers a 3000 link via tablet app

"Our reps connect via the Internet and laptops," said Luen Miller on the Eloquence newsgroup. "But they are all dying to walk around with the iPad." A typical situation for IT to handle: Some of your most persuasive and eloquent users, making a case for bringing their own devices to connect with your corporate server.

Ask a few mobile-savvy consultants about how to marry an iPad with an HP server and you hear the word telnet. One manager reported that the iOS app Mocha Telnet has 700/92 emulation. Of course, there's a bit of the 3000's world missing from that solution -- NS/VT.

MochaTelnetNow it might be an odd match to require a 3000 app that's old enough to use NS/VT to link with a mobile tablet that owns more than 95 percent of the tablet marketplace. A 3000 system probably designed in the 1980s, still being delivered to a mobile device that didn't even exist two years ago. If that's the challenge, the full range of 3000 interfaces -- including some of the oldest block mode response -- is not yet being served directly. (The Splashtop Remote Desktop app offers the best chance of that, since it controls a PC desktop over a wi-fi network link.)

But if your 3000 can be accessed via Telnet? Well, then the app Mocha Telnet is an app worth taking a shot towards. It's only $5.99. There's even a Lite version that's free.

The IT manager using Mocha will need to know telnet well enough to configure a telnet server. If that's your HP 3000, good for you. But telnet might be managed from another server. It's entirely possible that a free Windows client is doing the traffic management for telnet-enabled hosts.

If it's an all-3000 solution you need for the 3000, there's a great telnet webpage on the 3k Associates Technical Wiki (Twiki) for the server. The page covers the details of using an indie bit of software, the contributed NQTELNET program written by Eric Schubert of Notre Dame. NQTELNET is a host-based telnet server which will handle basic terminal operations.

What's this about a Twiki for the HP 3000? It's a tech resource set up years ago to capture as much tech expertise as possible from community 3000 managers such as Schubert. You'd be surprised how much is online at the site managed by 3k Associates founder Chris Bartram. But then you might have been surprised to learn that telnet is the interface that keeps on giving to the 3000, even while the community waits for a block mode tablet app to touch all of the MPE/iX apps.

For a better background on the possibilities of the HP 3000's connectivity, comparing telnet to NS/VT, have a look at the 3000 connectivity webpage at AICS Research. One of the great gifts that AICS gave to the community was the free QCTerm terminal emulator. There's top-grade telnet support inside that product, so much so that the freeware recognizes two levels of telnet access.

09:09 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2012

Living with Licenses All Around (Tech) Life

GoogleLogoIf yesterday's article about the state of HP 3000 License Time gave you any pause about buying a 3000, consider what we all face in the rest of our tech-related lives. For the last two weeks, Google has been reminding us that it will change the terms of its privacy policy, a license where users permit the advertising and search giant to track their behavior.

It doesn't sound too sinister until you take a few moments to consider how much Google is likely to know about you. Some people are surprised to see a picture of their house when they punch in their address in the search engine. Others simply write it off to life in the New Century. The cynics celebrate the fact that Google even bothered to tell us the policies were changing.

HP spread the word about its RTU license changes, sort of, in 2007. The 3000 group worked hard to make sure we had the story details. HP posted the notices on its 3000 webpages. US Mail didn't carry the news to those who don't read their NewsWire or travel to HP's web property. Just like the Google change, however, HP meant for its new license policies to be retroactive to anything you'd signed in order to own your first HP 3000. All you had to do was use the 3000, HP said, once it changed the terms in 2007.

Google has a similar trigger. Once you sign in to anyplace on Google on March 1 or later, you will be tracked across all of Google's properties -- apps, Calendar, Mail, YouTube and more -- as if you signed into them all. These are End User License Agreements, the EULAs that New York Times columnist David Pogue noted in his list of "Things That Were Once Amazing, but Are Really Kind of Old News at This Point."

The point of Pogue's report was that you ought to get used to having printer ink cost more than human blood, or software quit working because a vendor changes its mind. (On the latter topic, the 3000 customer might still feel the sting of HP's changed mind circa 10 years ago. Except MPE/iX didn't quit working, did it?) Pogue also takes a moment to show an example of licensing and how severe its language becomes in the hands of vendors.

These documents often contain astonishing language along the lines of this, from the original Google Chrome browser EULA: "By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services."

It certainly does sound appalling. And I really have no idea what the lawyers really mean by that.

At the same time, there’s never yet been a case where this "ownership" amounted to anything. Google never published a book, for example, based on stuff its customers have written on their blogs.

Since the last time HP flexed its 3000 license muscles was 1999, we don't really know what that License Time language means in today's post-HP world of the 3000. Hewlett-Packard probably won't follow Google's path away from such steamroller language. About six months later, the license for Chrome was backed down off the ledge and included this simple explanation about Section 11.

This section is included because, under copyright law, Google needs what's called a "license" to display or transmit content. So to show a blog, we ask the user to give us a license to the blog's content. (The same goes for any other service where users can create content.) But in all these cases, the license is limited to providing the service. In Gmail, for example, the terms specifically disclaim our ownership right to Gmail content.

So for Google Chrome, only the first sentence of Section 11 should have applied. We're sorry we overlooked this, but we've fixed it now, and you can read the updated Google Chrome terms of service. If you're into the fine print, here's the revised text of Section 11:

11. Content license from you
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

And that's all. Period. End of section.

It will take a little time to propagate this change through the 40+ languages in which Google Chrome is available, and to remove the language in the download versions. But rest assured that we're working quickly to fix this. The new terms will of course be retroactive, and will cover everyone who has downloaded Google Chrome since it was launched.

Licenses are often about "just in case." Other times they're simply taking what a large company knows a small guy can't protect -- or a deal where you have no choice. Last year, you had to give up your name to be on TV with Oprah.

The recent derby to win a starring role in a new series on the Oprah Winfrey Network forced every entrant to sign a five-page legal document. In it, OWN said it would own your name that you'd use on the show in perpetuity, IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE. (The caps are on because that's how it appeared in the agreement. We can't be sure about any un-known universe, because we don't know about it.) But licenses only have the power, at first, that we grant them in our minds. If you don't mind the all-caps language, then they don't matter -- unless lawyers change your mind.

11:45 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 02, 2012

HP's 3000 License Time, Then and Now

PA-RISC-clockFive years ago this week HP rolled out the first new 3000 product in more than four years. As it turned out the Right to Use (RTU) Software License Update was the last MPE/iX product ever placed on HP's corporate price list. And the lifespan of HP's interest in this product? Certainly less than two years. Even HP said it didn't expect measurable revenue from its bid to get additional money from owners more than five years into HP's 3000 afterlife.

Measured by the interest and behaviors of this February's market, the RTU seemed to be written to serve lawyers instead of IT managers. Many HP 3000s are sold today without regard for license validity. This is one reason you see a Series 9x8 on eBay for well under $1,000, until you don't see it, because it's been purchased. Sometimes a server like that -- which once had a valid license -- is being bought for parts. Some of the time this kind of 9x8 is being bought to replace an existing 9x8, or a 9x7 server. In that latter case, HP expected some RTU money to lift the license level.

It didn't make a difference to many companies, but some still want to stay inside the rules. HP said at the time it knew the RTU licenses would only make it into the budgets of some customers. Perhaps those who had internal auditing which would want to include system licenses. There are also resellers -- though not that many in this February -- who only sell licensed 3000s. It costs them some sales, but as Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions says, "I sleep better at night, knowing HP won't be calling to ask about the lost revenues."

The likelihood of such a call gets slimmer with every February. At one point during the post-exit-notice era of HP's 3000, an engineer left a reseller with diagnostic internal manuals in hand. The kind of things that HP reserved for its own repair force. They were posted for sale to the open market, and in one report, didn't even draw a reaction from Hewlett-Packard. It's a very large corporation, and by 2007 the 3000 business had receded to support checks. So long as those manuals didn't ruffle feathers in HP Services, nothing would be done.

HP used to say, while it was drawing up this Update License and presenting it for sale, that a price on a used 3000 that seemed too good to be true probably was. The definition of truth was consistent for some of the really inexpensive systems: resellers have been candid from the start when selling 3000s sans-license. Others, not so much. No lying, but the unlicensed nature of a 3000 isn't part of the public offer. As it turns out, License Time has expired in a lot of 3000 shops. For a server the customer is migrating away from, a computer not sold or supported by the maker anymore? Even auditors could be induced to overlook that. It's a stopgap solution.

Those few years of License Time might turn out to be a very small percentage of the 3000's Afterlife, however. Migrations to SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials and worse take a long time. Often longer than planned, so hardware's got to be replaced. The systems not only have an Unlicensed discount now built in, they sometimes can be clocked up to the full speed of their processors. HP never had any license offered, five years ago or even 10, to let a 3000 N-Class use eight processors, or run the PA-RISC chip at full bore. The market has expanded to what we might call Simulated Licensing, as if HP has stopped the clock on License Time. Until we hear about the HP Development Company -- the owner of the 3000's patents, copyrights and licenses -- reaching out to bill for an unlicensed machine, we can assume the clock has stopped.

If License Time ever restarted, however, it might look like another February, the one in 1999. That was the month when HP was busy suing resellers accused of back-door switching HP 9000s to 3000s, or extending power and users beyond licenses. Some were cleared or negotiated settlements, while others lost their suits. Jail time was levied to a select few. A $15,000 server would genuinely cost $120,000 during License Time. Suraci says he's glad no time will ever arrive when he'll have to wonder how to raise a missing $105,000.

05:33 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2012

Links last longer in latest survey for 3000

What's NewWe continue to move through the state of links on the hp3000links.com site, a way of checking up on the web pointers presented at that longtime 3000 community resource. The P-S group of pulldown links on the busy main page has a higher share of valid links than any we've surveyed so far. It may just be the luck of the alphabet, but this group seems to spell stability better than the rest.

First the dead ends, 11 of them. Premiersoft has nobody home at the URL of the same name; the company sold OSCAR, the Online Services Catalog and Application Repository to let HP 3000s host enterprise-wide server objects. (Object tech may have been too many steps ahead of an MPE market sweating out Y2K in 1999.) Retriever Interactive is gone along with its DataAid/3000 for data lookup and manipulation, which was even integrated with Suprtool. Also dead are Riva Systems (referencing exegesys.com, which now points to a French casino machine website); SeraSoft's link, though the company was migrating 3000 sites as of 2010; Software Licensing Corp.; Software Research Northwest, gently retired by founder Wayne Holt, who published the first PA-RISC hardback; Software and Management Consultants; Spentech; Starvision; Symple Systems, and SolutionStore 3000.

We know a lot about that last one. SolutionStore was a 3000 NewsWire project during the late 1990s, our effort to sell and report vendor listings for the 3000 community. In a way it was a precursor to the vendor list of hp3000links.com. A web administrator melted down while he took down the site with no warning. Such madness happens, but it was a serious gaffe to us at the time.

But then there are a dozen survivors, most thriving, some surviving. Pro 3K still leads you to consultant Mark Ranft, tending to servers and also managing the world's biggest fleet of N-Class servers at Navitaire. Productive Software Systems, Quest, Quintessential School Systems, Rich Corn's RAC Consulting, Robelle, Speedware, Solution-Soft, and STR Software, the last still supporting FAX/3000. Syllogize offers support for HP 3000s. Synowledge supports MANMAN, according to the IT Services page on its website, through six offices. There's even a valid link to Shawn Gordon's S.M. Gordon and Associates webpage, listing 3000 software of advancing age.

Gordon, one of our hardest-working reviewers, has gone into the Linux business long ago, founding theKompany.com. (Products include Kobol, to take the place of COBOL for customers entering the Linux world.) Quadax is on the hp3000links list because it sold billing apps for healthcare, but the company migrated all clients off the 3000 more than two years ago. Summit Systems still sells credit union solutions, but not for the 3000 any longer. It's all Unix over in the Oregon company, the former turnkey app provider to 3000 owners.

Toting up for this list, we get 12 valid web links to 3000 vendors, 11 fully deceased, and two which lead to places where 3000 is spoken no longer. There's much more that can be done to sort through some of those survivors; we know a website falls short of vetting a company for active 3000 work. But considering that the hp3000links.com resources were built more than a decade ago, and last updated in the spring of 2010,  a little under 50 percent is a respectable survival rate.

We'll look at the final 15 entries in this snapshot of 3000 Vendors and Consultants next week. Time moves at a more casual pace in your community, so we don't expect any more deaths in the family over the next seven days.

07:49 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)