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June 2012

Celebrate net printing's anniversary: use it

Seven years ago this week HP's 3000 lab engineers announced that networked printing was ready for beta testing. This was one of the last enhancements first demanded by a wide swath of the 3000 community, then delivered by HP. The venerable Systems Improvement Ballot of 2004 ranked networked printing No. 1 among users' needs.

MPEMXU1A is the patch that enables networked printing, pushed into General Release in Fall, 2005. HP had given the community a OS-level substitute for good third party software from RAC Consulting. It might have been the last time that an independent software tool got nudged away by HP development.

The HP 3000 has the ability to send jobs to non-HP printers over a standard network as a result of the enhancement. The RAC third party package ties printers to 3000 with fewer blind spots than the MPEMXU1A patch. HP's offering won't let Windows-hosted printers participate in the 3000 network printing enhancement. There's a Windows-only, server-based net printing driver by now, of course. The HP Universal Print Driver Series for Windows embraces Windows Server 2008 and 2003.

Networked printing for MPE/iX had the last classic life that we can recall for a 3000 enhancement. The engineering was ready to test less than a year after the request. This software moved out of beta test by November, a relatively brief 5-month jaunt to general release. If you're homesteading on 3000s, and you don't need PCL sequences at the beginning and end of a spool file, you should use it. Commemorate the era when the system's creator was at least building best-effort improvements.

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Long MPE future, longer list to learn about

Up on a favorite technical mailing list of mine, one HP 3000 manager laid out his future for MPE and the 3000. While it may well be a long one, he's now looking to learn IBM mainframe technology. Yes, studying up for work on a system whose legacy is even longer than MPE's.

Yes, I know that COBOL is dead and there's no future in mainframes. Somehow, I think they're both going to be around as long as I am. Remember, I work for state government. We have at least one agencywhere their idea of application modernization is converting from Assembler to COBOL.

Our veteran manager wants to make a shift that looks like this: 



The common element in there is COBOL, a language almost always essential to supporting 3000 applications. In spite of its repeated death announcements, COBOL's in use on every platform being run by enterprises today. Not everywhere, by a long shot. But since COBOL training won't be a big part of our manager's tech learning list, he could move on to newer tech. Maybe you're interested in Java, for example. One of HP's arch rivals is streaming free training for a language that's being classified as legacy. It should be so lucky.

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Marking Time To Recovery: No Mean Feat

0624_US_DebbyMB Foster led users through 45 minutes of MTTRO fundamentals this afternoon in a webinar. That's Mean Time To Recovery of Operations, or the amount of effort measured to get an IT operation back online after a disaster like a hurricane. Here in Texas, the state's coastal cities including Houston were once bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Debby, which was predicted to make landfall later this week before it turned back out to the Atlantic.

MTTRO "really has to do with what it takes to get back in operation after the disaster occurs," said MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster. "Also, what the skill sets are for building the new environment." Communications between team members are one issue to consider, now that company operations are often spread out geographically.

"One of my favorite stories about a disaster recovery team was the one that was getting on plane to fly from New Jersey to their Colorado disaster recovery site," Foster said. "On check-in, the communications specialist was told that the test scenario was 'You're on vacation in Mexico and unavailable.' So he was told to go home, and the cross-training was then put to the test."

With HP 3000s often running in mission-critical mode, plans for DR are crucial. There are many items to track, starting with an estimate of what it will cost to recover. A good MTTRO plan calcuates the length of time that each business unit can survive without a system. In other words, estimating the pain and cost of each of the following timeframes: the increasing impact of disruption for the first hour offline; after 4, 8 and then 12 hours offline; then after one full day offline, then after one week offline.

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Reductions via migration feed 3000 pipeline

RoastbeefIt's a fact of life in 2012 that HP 3000s are being retired by some companies. Migrations are far enough along -- in some cases -- that backup 3000s are finally being turned off and sold. Many migrators report there's a 3000 still running just in case, even after the MPE applications have been replaced, re-hosted, or re-written.

However, the exits of these servers are usually not from service to the community. By this year, the latest-generation 3000s are coming available on the market once they move out of an IT shop. At the US sandwich chain Arby's, an N-Class 3000 is on offer at a price below $4,000.

Speedware, which is now making a fresh mark as Fresche Legacy, moved out more than 730 HP 3000s between 2002 and 2011. Speedware (the fourth generation language) provided the landing platform for Arby's move off MPE, too. Paul Edwards recently announced an entry-level N-Class for sale that once worked at Arby's. Recently, Fresche reports that it's landed a new project to "eliminate the mainframe environment at a major North American railway, providing $10 million in cost savings and improved performance."

Not all of Arby's change in platforms is spinning off of HP's strategy, however. Arby's and Wendy's married up over the last few years. They're splitting up after a short union, and the IT resources are being dispatched as a result. A 3000 that feels stale to one company may look fresh to another.

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HP's deepest woes: ahead, or just behind?

Trench-warfarejpgThe financial press is treating the HP 3000 customer to a full spectrum of Hewlett-Packard analysis by now. At the close of June 25 trading, the company's stock was at a seven-year low of $19.55 per share. (And that November, 2004 price was four years after a 2:1 split.) The price is tied to market valuation and makes this vendor of 3000 migration replacement systems a more attractive takeover target. This is no longer just a matter of HP's employees keeping fair value in their retirement accounts.

But HP's been within 10 percent of this newest low before, even within the last year. How much this should matter in selecting a replacement enterprise system -- well, it depends on who you're asking. Even the customers have views on this, although the ones making their stand on the 3000 have been more eager to speak up.

In response to one report on an HP breakup, which said even last summer "the reality is that Itanium is dead, dead, dead," Tracy Johnson said circling sharks wouldn't bite on HP's morbid tail. Sharks like Oracle haven't been imagined in HP's waters.

"Is it really a matter of Itanium, or any other product line?" Johnson wrote on the HP 3000 Community at LinkedIn. "HP is already the walking dead. It's not the sharks; sharks prefer live prey. It is rather the vultures and jackals that feed on carrion that will pick on HP."

Strong sentiment, but not unusual among the customers which HP left behind to maintain systems and an ecosystem without vendor assets. However, the business finance community has a few analysts who see this week as the deepest of HP's stock troubles. Some are believing HP's now got nowhere to go but up.

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Database changes target weekend's quiet

The HP 3000s still serving throughout the world are often on all-day, every day duty. But activity can quiet down on the weekends. That's when Terry Simpkins, Director of Business Systems at the manufacturer Measurement Specialties, wanted to add an index.

"I need to add a new index into a detail dataset," he said. "But I'd like to complete this change on Sunday, if possible, while there are no users on the system." Simpkins hoped that DBGeneral would be able to adjust a Jumbo dataset in IMAGE, but a problem cropped up that didn't have an immediate weekend solution using that Bradmark tool in his IT belt.

The detail is a 'JUMBO'. The new index will be to a new Automatic master set. Using DBGeneral, I get an error when I attempt to 'activate' the change. It says the number of blocks exceeds the IMAGE max. The detail is very large. Is there some undocumented switch that needs to be specified for DBGeneral to work on JUMBO databases?

Whether DBGeneral has any undocumented Jumbo dataset switch didn't come up in users' replies to the issue. But Sunday support expectations, and the built-in nature of the alternative tool to DBGeneral, Adager, rose up. Not even a better tool can enable a change to such a very large detail dataset, however.

"I think that you probably are exceeding the MPE file size on your detail dataset when DBGeneral tries to add the new index pointers," Pete Eggers said. "My choice would be Adager over DBGeneral years ago, and I suspect that would still be true.  But even Adager cannot create datasets that exceed MPE's file size limit." But these are the instances when such advice helps teach about the limits which applications must respect in IMAGE/SQL, as well as the tools to work around them.

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Heading North to find fast indexes and BBQ

The Eloquence database has become a drop-in replacement for IMAGE/SQL as part of HP 3000 migrations. The version 8.20 includes fast text searches using new indexes, and a 2.5-day seminar taught in North America takes place next month on July 25-27. Making travel plans soon might be in order -- plus there's a legacy of BBQ to follow the training.

EloquenceTrainAgendaMB Foster’s 25th Annual BBQ -- a cookout, for any unfamiliar with such a gathering -- caps off the gathering, taking place Saturday, July 28 at the Foster HQ in Ontario, about 45 minutes from the Ottawa airport. During the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday which precede the BBQ, extended training on the latest version Eloquence unfolds at the headquarters. This is the first year that Birket Foster has extended an open invite to anyone in the 3000 community to his event. Details are on the website.

MB Foster has released a detailed agenda (above) for those two-plus days leading to the BBQ. Eloquence has gotten regular improvements and new features for many of the years of the 3000 Transition Era. It's more than a database; it's an environment including its own language. Marxmeier understands 3000 structures enough to have created a QUERY/3000 which now runs on non-3000 platforms.

Over the course of the seminar, "There will be an opportunity to see and discuss the utilities that come with Eloquence B.08.0, B.08.10 and details of the recently-released B.08.20 version, with the 08.20 features including Full Text Indexing and ability to do indexing on numeric fields." Signing up for the seminar is a matter of a quick email, or a call to 800-ANSWERS, extension 204.

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Blogging marks history, reports on legacy

Interex 92 programSeven years ago this week, the 3000 NewsWire's blog opened for business. During that week of June that I consider historic, I reported on the Sun initiative to make its operating system an open source item. Seven years later, Sun's Solaris software (hawked by Oracle and former HP CEO Mark Hurd) is pushing Hewlett-Packard into a no-win situation with HP-UX. (We were also looking at customer uptake on HP-UX as a migration target. Trailing Windows, even then.) Back in 2005, the prospects for Solaris looked like a lipsticked pig, as one recently-fired Oracle executive said of the OS and hardware. Given seven years, pulling Oracle's futures out of HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop (via Itanium) will cost HP $4 billion in profits through 2020, according to the HP lawsuit against Oracle.

Seven years ago during that summer, Interex entered its last throes of existence by closing its offices and websites virtually overnight. An organization with three decades of activity and service on the books never created a history of itself. That's an omission that Bill Hassell, the former Interex board member and HP-UX expert, noted for us today. Wikipedia believes the former user group has been only a European-MidEast-African (EMEA) venture.

Looking around the Web one day, I typed in "hp interex" to see what showed up. Wikipedia defines Interex as EMEA-HP. Wow -- 30 years of history undocumented, at least at Wikipedia. Have you got any references and history for Interex? I started attending with the San Jose HP 1000 conference in 1980 or 1981. There’s a lot of misinformation about the beginnings of EMEA.  

I made a comment one time in Wikipedia to clarify a term used in serial port communication, but I got critiqued for not having references ('net or paper) for most of my comment. The HP 3000 and the 1000 seem somewhat well-covered, but the history and legacy of Interex seems lost to the Internet.

Not lost, perhaps. But since there's no Interex archives online, you have to piece together the history of the group from accounts such as ours in the NewsWire -- starting with the '05 meltdown and working backwards. We have stories of the user group on the Internet that date back to 1996. Summertime used to be an important meeting point for your community, thanks to that user group. Its legacy is online, but scattered.

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Keeping up with Cognos can demand a lunch

Print-ExclusiveWhile IBM's enterprise juggernaut keeps rolling out in front of HP's, the share of business that Powerhouse contributes is miniscule. HP 3000 operations comprised far more of HP's business while the vendor was still selling MPE. Nudging along Powerhouse technology has become a tricky assignment for indie tool providers who need changes. Sometimes an informal lunch works a lot better than any official action on tech agreements between IBM and the long-time 3000 partners who hail from years before IBM bought Cognos.

In the era of this kind of response, 3000 software vendors such as MB Foster have promised Powerhouse-using customers like Dave Vinnedge of Accuride that their software would continue to keep up with Cognos changes. But communications into the 3000 community have become a low priority for the IBM Advanced Development Tools group. (IBM didn't respond to requests for comment on this story.)

Support for Powerhouse at Accuride is $6,500 yearly, a figure that buys the highest level of access for an HP 3000 user: Vintage Support, created in 2009 after the $5 billion merger. It hasn't improved via the association with IBM.

"During disaster recovery testing, about the only time we ever called Cognos for quick support, it took about two hours for them to get us a 'disaster recovery key', " Vinnedge said. "At that time Cognos support needed to contact our Cognos sales rep for an okay. We have not yet tried to contact IBM's support during a DR test." Contact is tough; it took over 15 minutes to find a US support phone number to add to Accuride's DR docs, "and that was from using links in IBM's emails they sent when they merged in the Cognos support."

Continue reading "Keeping up with Cognos can demand a lunch" »

Powerhouse future spurs 3000 adjustments

Print-ExclusiveAfter IBM's Cognos acquisition, the Powerhouse language now offers slower development prospects. Some long-term users are adjusting their expectations further in 2012, even while they work to make other software integrate with the fourth generation language.

It might be easy to pin today's prospects for Powerhouse onto IBM. The computing giant purchased the creator of that product, Cognos, in 2007. The years since that purchase have frustrated some users who try to rely on the 4GL. While the concept of a 4GL remains a useful Advanced Development Tool (ADT), the potential for adapting Powerhouse or extending its reach looks challenged.

One example is at the manufacturer Accuride, a 3000 shop using Powerhouse. Dave Vinnedge says he's been working to integrate the latest, 8.49F version of Powerhouse with MB Foster's UDALink software. As Cognos was edging into the realm of IBM, it was changing internals in the Powerhouse data dictionary. These differences were not communicated to such independent software allies in time to make the changes so the products might integrate. More than four years later, the liaison between a now-small Cognos ADT operation to allied companies still isn't working on an official level.

Customers expect this kind of technical exchange to continue between their vendors. But reports from the installed base of Powerhouse customers indicate that IBM's interest in Cognos remains largely in the Cognos Business Intelligence products. The ADT tools like Powerhouse look forlorn in comparison.

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Oracle's legal jousts missing Media's marks

MediaGeneralLogoHP and Oracle have been squaring off in court over the future of the database on HP's Unix servers, jousting since the first week of the month. But after a break on Wednesday to attempt to settle the battle out of court, these two companies were back at it after talks crashed. Oracle's got HP's database futures in its hands, and testimony from its executives asserts those hands have crimping sales of HP's Itanium Business Critical Servers.

But that's just not enough to keep the attention of some Itanium owners. One migrator is already heading away from HP's Unix and onto Oracle's Unix. But the death-knell that Oracle wants to spread about the HP-UX platform isn't spooking Greg Barnes.

Barnes has an 3000 background that dates back to MPE III, but his company took its time getting away from 3000s. Media General, which agreed to sell off nearly all of it newspapers to a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, was using publishing software from Collier-Jackson until the late 1990s, when the shift started off 3000s. Barnes said the Oracle jabs didn't rattle him a bit in HP Unix management.

"I'm not aware that the snipe-fest had any effect whatsoever," he said, while reporting on the company's in-house migration to the Itanium servers. "Like much of the death knells I’ve read over the years, I have better things to ponder." Among his new interests are Oracle's direct competitor to HP-UX, Solaris. Media General is now phasing out the five HP-UX systems left in its datacenter. It's also focusing on its TV business, post-newspapers.

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Open Sourcing Access to Linux or Windows from MPE/iX

DSLINE is a classic networking access service provided for HP 3000s. The software is so classic that HP once charged separately for NS3000/iX Network Services. One user wanted to employ DSLINE to make connections, starting from MPE systems and into remote Linux and Windows servers. Sending commands was the task to be performed.

"I currently use a Reflection script to do the job," said Krikor Gullekian. "However, we are moving away from that and creating a JCL for it. I am using FTP to create a file on the host system which is activating commands to run, and that works, but it's a little cumbersome. That's why I was wondering if there were any other way."

Another community member pointed to using the ssh client included on the HP 3000. In theory, so long as the Linux and Window servers have an ssh server, then Gullekian should be able to run remote commands via ssh. But there's some hurdles to overcome in using ssh on a 3000 for remote command execution.

Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, who's maintaining a repository of these sorts of open source tools for 3000s, warns that ssh needs some improvements to let it perform the same level of work as Linux or Windows versions of the remote access tool.

Unfortunately, the available ssh client for MPE/iX is none too current, and is essentially 'broken' with regard to remote command execution. As I recall, it has something to do with SELECT being busted on MPE/iX. It works well enough to support scp and sftp though, but that's pretty much it.  

Edminster has created workarounds for anyone who needs password-free invoking of secure remote scripts, however. What's more, it appears that the MPE way of writing such received files to disk is more secure than the other platforms' FTP services.

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Is HP porting HP-UX to Xeon, or not?

MegWhitmanCoverJust as soon as it seemed obvious HP's Unix was going to run only on its Itanium processors and the Integrity/Superdome servers, new data has emerged to change that limited future. HP CEO Meg Whitman was interviewed as part of the Wall Street Journal's All Things D conference last week. She tossed off a message that HP-UX is on its way to the Intel Xeon processor line.

"She also said that HP will create a version of HP-UX, its version of Unix that will run on Intel’s mainstream server chip known as Xeon," reporter Arik Hesseldahl wrote in Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman Has a Lot to Say. Drilling into the text of the interview, the HP CEO seems to acknowledge that Project Odyssey and a Xeon-native HP-UX are two distinct projects.

We have a lot of customers on Oracle Itanium who... do not want to get off of HP Unix and on to something else. And they kinda like what they have and they’d like to stick with it. I think either way, [the VP of HP Servers, Storage and Networking] Dave Donatelli’s got in the works the next generation of Business Critical Servers on a more open platform. It’s called Odyssey, which is pretty cool. Ultimately we’ve got to build Unix on a Xeon chip, and so we will do that.

"We've got to build Unix on a Xeon chip" means something very different from Dave's Odyssey. The first is a project that HP calculated at $100 million in costs five years ago. The Odyssey takes the best of HP's Unix and puts it into a "hardened Linux" from SUSE. Long before Whitman got to HP, Hewlett-Packard managers at HP SSN decided that the $100 million port was a non-starter. It all reminds me of the no, then yes, then no dance of MPE into, then out of, the Itanium architecture. HP called it IA-64 back then. It used a TV broadcast to its offices to step back from IA-64, then relented a few years later.

But having a CEO confirm a business unit-level project can be scant assurance, especially while talking to anyone but internal HP executives. Carly Fiorina once pledged fealty to the 3000's future, after all.

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ODBC provides link to analyzing data stores

An essential database feature of the HP 3000 is still providing the means for advanced analysis. A new alliance between the top-rank ODBC provider for MPE and a data analysis firm is also delivering better access to the value of deep data on HP 3000s, as well as other servers in the enterprise.

VisualAnalyzerTomorrow MB Foster and InfoPlanIT will show off tools and practices to make operational data stores and warehouses more valuable to companies. InfoPlanIT has been working with manufacturers who use HP 3000 and MANMAN for more than a decade. MB Foster created the bundled ODBC driver in MPE/iX, ODBCLink/SE. That product has evolved to become the UDA Series during the 15 years since HP wired ODBCLink/SE into the 3000's data services.

The June 13 Webinar at 2PM EDT (11AM Pacific) will show how to monitor the vital signs of a business by combining the InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer. The companies say that the Visual Analyzer is "web-based and works with virtually every desktop, laptop and mobile device." It can be fed with data from ODBC sources, not to mention the ubiquitious SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, MS Access, SQLite and even Excel.

MB Foster has created report templates that streamline integration with the Visual Analyzer capabilities. The 45-minute program will also show the benefits of using an operational data store or a data mart. You can sign up online for the presentation, which is free.

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Staying in Orbit of 3000's Spoken Stories

Editorial-IconI've been lucky to see enough 3000 transitions that I can record many of those stories. I turned 55 this spring and have spent half my life writing about the HP 3000. It's been one of the greatest pleasures to continue to be able to take telephone calls. You're a community that still enjoying speaking its stories.

Phones were all we had while I grew up with your issues, all tied to a single vendor, while the 3000 market sported a thick catalog of third-party software. Today the stories might come from cell phones, or via Skype, but the calls still transmit a warmth that reminds me of why I do this work. The people, the stories, and finally, the history to be written. I won't be calling it a history, but there's a biography of the HP 3000 coming late this year. Your stories are most welcome, looking back at what launched the 3000.

It's said that life must be lived forward but understood backward. Living into the afterlife makes such understanding crucial -- and sometimes darkly comic, too. The Cloud is just a newer, deeper incarnation of timesharing, Application Service Providers, even Infrastructure as a Service. You're skeptical about its security. You should be, without the belt and suspenders practices that made your generation of IT management legendary. A hair-raising story of six years of email, erased by a hacker from Google's Gmail cloud, will have you resetting passwords and doing more backups. Especially for the cloud.

But you've always been told you could do with less metal boxes, fans, spinning platters and files inside your company's buildings. Given enough time it might turn out to be true. The technology of virtualized computers will also require a migration of sorts -- the testing of MPE software against a host not built by HP. But it will be simpler than Y2K, much simpler than migrating to a new OS or apps. But 2012 is a learning year for this emulator, education to the community and maybe with some lessons on what price will reduce time to close sales.

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Learn more about the drop-in DB for IMAGE

Marxmeier Software is hosting the first in a series of instructional webinars about its Eloquence database today. In dozens of independent software vendor customer bases, and hundreds of other HP 3000 sites, Eloquence has been praised as a drop-in replacement for IMAGE/SQL when moving to Linux, Windows, and even HP-UX.

Full Text Search is the most prominent enhancement to Eloquence in the new 8.20 version. FTS offers new ways of searching the contents of Eloquence databases beyond what key, search and index items allow.

We will discuss FTS concepts, use cases and benefits and show practical examples of setting up full text indexes and using them in your application without the need for extensive code changes. You will be surprised to see the flexibility and speed of FTS searches.

The webinar from the company's HQ in Germany, led by Eloquence creator Michael Marxmeier, begins at 11:30 EDT/8:30PDT today. You can register for the free class at a GoToMeeting page. Marxmeier is using VOIP audio as a default for the meeting, but you can also dial in via telephone. If you change the audio option to use a telephone, the GUI will then display dial-in numbers, an access code and an audio pin for you to use. There's more details on the process for the webinar at the Marxmeier help page for the event. Another webinar is scheduled for two weeks from today, same time on June 25.

3000's orbit decaying slower during 2012

NewsWire Editorial

Print-ExclusiveThe HP 3000 orbits our community like a GPS satellite. It was launched long ago and now provides us with reference to reach destinations in our future. For some companies the 3000 and MPE have represented a waypoint to move away from, a technology mile-marker to show you how far they've come. But fewer shops are moving off by now. That orbit of this system and its users is now decreasing its rate of decay.

The big projects that supported a deep bench of larger vendors are much harder to find this year. If a vendor is efficient enough to survive on $10,000 a month of billable hours for an engagement, then there's still business to be written, of course.

Given enough time, migrations will draw to a close just like new MPE software did. The end of these transitions may signal a door opening for new revenue. We've always argued that sustaining a 3000 demands spending, and vendors are now seeing application and operational support business rise. Migrations are not ended yet, but turning the last 20 percent of your market into Linux, Unix or Windows shops, or something more virtual, is going to take a long time -- maybe twice as long as the other 80 percent took to launch or complete migrations. It took migrators at least seven years to move that much.

Now that the 3000 can be pared down to its essence of MPE and IMAGE, about to be freed from physical hardware, there could be another 15 years of homesteading life. It's been called the afterlife, yes, but that's a force as durable as vampires in our storytelling. Abraham Lincoln hunted vampires, according to a summer movie. What story isn't better with vampires?

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Chief Meg roars out HP's future at Discover

While the HP Discover party animals rock out to Don Henley and Sheryl Crow tonight, a swan song rings in their ears. HP CEO Meg Whitman sang off the grow-to-be-big era of Hewlett-Packard at the annual show of HP and its partners. About 10,000 were on hand in Vegas, but only a modest fraction of them heard the notes of a coda to consumerization strategy. HP will pivot to IT pros even while its consumer operations retract. It will be quite an act to observe, worthy of anything in the zoo of Madagascar, to see the needed cash emerge for overdue R&D.

MegandAlexHP will still sell its products to the world at large. Whitman said he loves HP's printers, and she decided to hang onto the PC unit after HP tested the concept of a spinoff. But she's calling a tune that leads Hewlett-Packard back to business computing. The company is so far off that track that Whitman is calling the new strategy a turnaround, one that's going to take years to finish. Longer than your average Dreamworks animated feature takes to draw and render, using HP's systems.

Meg's keynote, complete with a finale from a cartoon lion, wasn't viewed live by all that many working on the busy expo floor, each trying to connect with as many prospects as the three days would allow. CEO speeches are given for big customers who don't need to see things at an expo, the analysts who tell these customers what to think and buy, and user group officers and volunteers. They shouldn't expect overnight change, which may disappoint the investors who put money behind a company that has been getting bigger for being the sake of No. 1, ever since Carly Fiorina became the first non-HP CEO in 1999.

"Most turnarounds in American industry are anywhere between four and five years," Whitman said. "And we’re at the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey." HP's been bleeding new business and seen its stock at five-year lows at the start of that turnaround. The shares are down 8 percent since she took over nine months ago. This was her first HP Discover keynote.

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Migrations replacing apps, working in-house

Print-Exclusive3000 migrations are continuing at companies that choose to follow one of two paths. At the Visalia school district in California, operations for its 40 schools will continue to be served by the QSS K-12 applications they've used on 3000s. But IT manager Al Foytek said that Visalia will be following the QSS customers who are moving to the Linux version of the app.

"We will be moving as soon as that's ready, and the front runners are poised for this year," Foytek said. "We won't be in the first wave or two." Schools have a narrow window during the year to make such a transition, typically in the summer between school years. "July 1 would be the ideal time," he said.

He added that Visalia won't move this year and is not likely to make its transition next summer, which would mean its 3000 apps may be migrated to the Linux version of QSS software by 2014.

Customers with packaged applications see advantages to migration beyond just having commodity hardware supplies. Foytek said that moving to an SQL database is also a plus. But QSS has engineered that change for the app, rather than an outside firm selling services to the district. QSS adopted the Postgres SQL database for the Linux version of its 3000 app. Founder Duane Percox has hired key developers from HP's labs such as Jeff Vance and Mark Bixby to do work on the new app's technology.

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Contemplating Migration Era's Completion

Print-ExclusiveLike a flock of geese receding beyond the horizon, customers who are still migrating from the HP 3000 are getting harder to spot. Although engaging this business hasn’t ended altogether, signs are mounting that the 3000 sites which are on the move may not need much help finding the door to migration.

During March one of the original HP Platinum Migration partners reported that no new migration business had been booked over the prior fiscal year. Speedware, which has made a transition to legacy systems service by becoming Fresche Legacy, said they hadn't written new migration business for a period since April, 2011.

Some projects are still underway at the company. But much more of its legacy transition operations and engagements are growing in the IBM marketplace where it sells tools and services. The past year has led the company away from relying on HP 3000 migration projects.

"We thought that HP 3000 migrations would be a significant contributor to the business," said CEO Andy Kulakowski. "As it turns out, we were forced into this transition a lot sooner than we thought -- and it ended up being a good thing for us. Fresche Legacy’s Chris Koppe, as the firm’s business development director, doesn’t think the migration era for the community is over.

"Not by any means," he said. "I think we won’t be moving the last 3000 anytime soon. There will be a trickling of that business over time."

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Pigs fly in Classic 3000 storage skies

Terry Simpkins was looking for a piece of HP storage history recently. Simpkins once worked for the fabled HP disk division in Boise, Idaho. Now he's managing the IT empire for Measurement Specialties, a manufacturer with more than a dozen HP 3000s churning in China and elsewhere. Simpkins heard a phrase that culled up a memory of a circuit board with an insider's message about accomplishing the impossible with an HP 3000.

A friend made the comment, "when pigs fly" during a discussion and for some reason, this memory popped into my mind. I was at HP's Disc Memory Division in Boise when the HP7933/5 was designed and introduced in the early 1980s.

The story goes (and is attested to by several of my co-workers at the time) that a manager, upon hearing of the plans to make the disc pack removable, proclaimed this plan would work, "When Pigs Fly"! Hence there is etched into one of the PC Boards of the 7933/5 drives a little pig with wings. I've decided that I'd like to have one of these boards to go with some of my other "conversation pieces." I had (and disassembled) several of these drives over the years, and have no idea why I didn't keep one of these boards. But I didn't.

HP 3000 users are a sentimental lot. It wasn't long before Simpkins got what he needed from the community. There's more out there for collectors -- or gad, anyone who's still got a Classic 3000 tucked away in a garage.

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Community volunteers to extend EMPIRE

Empire-players-1963-B-300x241One of the original role-playing games for computers gained a home on the HP 3000 during the era of text-based interactive gaming. Reed College in Portland hosted the first board-game version of Empire (at left), giving the game a Pacific Northwest home that would lead it to the HP 3000. In 1971 Empire first emerged from Unix systems, created by Peter Langsdon at Harvard. It resurfaced under the name Civilization on an HP 2000 minicomputer at Evergreen State College, where an HP 3000 would soon arrive.

Powered-by-e3000When that HP 2000 was retired, the source code to Civilization was lost -- but Ben Norton wrote a new version of the game for MPE, EMPIRE Classic, in 1984. Built in BASIC/3000, EMPIRE became the 3000's best-known game, in part because it was included in the 3000's Contributed Software Library.

EmpireWhile Civilization was having a graphical life on personal computers like the Amiga, EMPIRE on the 3000 is text-only, using prompts and replies designed to build eco­nomic and polit­i­cal entities, with mil­i­tary actions included. That's right, we mean present-day: the game remains in use today, nearly 30 years after it was first launched for MPE. Tracy Johnson, a volunteer with the OpenMPE advocacy group, sent along the story of how EMPIRE has gained a web address -- so now anyone in the world can join a multi-player game.

By Tracy Johnson

For about a dozen years in various incarnations, starting with an old HP 3000 922RX and later on a 957, IT management at my company Meaurement Specialties undertook a small, fun-time project: to enable some of the old Interex Contributed Software Library games written for the HP 3000 to run on the web. Notably, the game of Empire and a few others. The website needed something to hang its hat on, so the name EMPIRE was chosen to encompass everything at the site.

We also got in contact with one of the original contributors of Empire, Ben Norton, who started making enhancements to the game after 20 years.  Another programmer eventually picked up the mantle, and improvements to the game are still being made to this day.

Eventually, someone in upper management asked what our EMPIRE machine was being used for.

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