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October 2012

3000s can beat fiery, flooding disasters

As the New York and New Jersey grids battle back to restore power and pump out floodwaters today, we recall the stories of HP 3000s that survived almost anything nature had to dump on them. More than once we've heard tales of systems still running, while plugged in, surrounded by several inches of water. 

Screen shot 2012-10-31 at 9.14.29 AMWe've checked in on several HP 3000 sites in the Tri-State area but haven't heard back from the likes of NPD, Jennison Associates or the Local 237 chapter of the Teamsters in New York. Perhaps out of harm's way, or maybe just too busy reconnecting the rest of their infrastructure -- or waiting for the power to come back on.

But one of the early stories we ran in our blog came in the summer of 2005, while the waters of Hurricane Katrina were falling away, slowly. The advice about recovering a 3000 intact after that flooding still holds true today.

John Saylor, Director of Special Markets for 3000 supplier Quest Software, posted some very basic advice back then about restarting equipment after a water disaster:

If your equipment has gotten wet, take a moment to plan your recovery strategy before you plug anything back in. To begin with, don’t plug in anything if it’s even damp, let alone wet. Make sure that any equipment that has been touched by water is completely dry before turning it on. That goes for battery-operated equipment as well as equipment that you plug in. If the water damage was minor, it might work fine. Even if it’s underwater, you might luck out. I once had a cell phone that went through the washing machine yet miraculously worked once it dried out. Had I turned it on when it was still wet, it would have almost certainly have been permanently damaged.

If your computer is completely underwater, there is a strong likelihood that your hard drive has been damaged. If you have a backup, you’re going to be okay. If you don’t have a backup, you might still be able to recover the data, but it will cost you. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina have been with us for a long time, but in today’s world there are additional things to think about as people begin the recovery process. Even if you don’t live in hurricane country, you still run the risk of another type of disaster, fire or just a run-of-the-mill power failure.

Then there was the 3000 left standing, still servicable, when the rest of a company's building burned all around it.

Continue reading "3000s can beat fiery, flooding disasters" »

Personal 3000 iron offered for shipping cost

The HP 3000 emulator is still en route toward its freeware personal version. But in the meantime there's still plenty of equivalent HP-badged iron out there in the marketplace. One spot to look is in the shops of the recently-migrated companies.

Series 918Lane Rollins of Boyd Coffee sent us a notice about a pair of Series 918s he's been wanting to move out of his datacenter. (There's a Series 979 on hand that's not going away, even though the company has been migrated for several years.) Rollins was looking for a good home for his rack-mounted Series 918 and a standalone 918. Both of the systems are the same power as the personal version of the HPA/3000 emulator software. The rack-mounted unit had an added benefit of an extra SCSI card as well as HASS storage.

This kind of hardware is still circulating in the community, even if it's got as much cost attached to it as that personal freeware emulator. If you can find something like this out on the market, Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions -- which still sells 3000s -- says you shouldn't be paying more than shipping. Although his company collects systems like this for their depot parts value, they also keep an eye the shipping costs.

We still take them on at times when it makes sense.  Some gear is too far away to make sense.  By the time we get a mover out there to collect it all, and get then have it shipped back to us we have more into it then we could ever get back.

But the closer a 918 sits to your own shop, the better value it can be -- so long as it's offered free, plus shipping.

Continue reading "Personal 3000 iron offered for shipping cost" »

My Life with HP, Top to Bottom

Editor's Note: We've invited 3000 veterans to tell their stories of their first HP 3000 encounters, as a way of stocking the 3000 Memoir Project. Some have graced us with full-on accounts, like this one by a manufacturing software pioneer.

By Terry Floyd
The Support Group

Note: I was at first surprised when I counted the number of times I used the word “I” in this article (much less in this very sentence). But then I decided to just let it go and admit that it takes an egoist to attempt to write his own story in the first place.

Forty years ago I was in college taking a FORTRAN IV class on a PDP-11. I went to work for Thermon Manufacturing Company in San Marcos 10 days after graduating from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) in May of 1974. I had a major in Computer Information Systems and Quantitative Methods and a minor in Accounting. An application called TRACE, running custom FORTRAN heat-transfer calculation software, had been developed in-house on an HP 1000 (2100A) with core memory and 5 MB of disc.

In 1974 with HP 1000
The prior Data Processing Manager, a real pioneer named John Hastings, went to work for Radian in Austin, an early environmental testing company, so I was on my own with the RTE Operating System from the beginning. Somewhat indirectly, I helped figure out how much heat to put on parts of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and into some very large processing plants. Including the nuclear heat-tracing elements, we were actually programming things where lives might be at stake. But mainly, I was hired to “computerize accounting and payroll” which were manual systems.

In 1975 HP came out with a Time Sharing Basic system on RTE with TCS (Terminal Control System) but we ran FORTRAN programs on it, not BASIC. In November of that year I went to a class in Cupertino for something called the IMAGE Database. That may have been the first class HP ever taught on IMAGE (at least for non-employees). There were 10 of us in that class taught by Paul McGillicuddy.

Terry Floyd and Shirt
Floyd in 2003 at the World Wide Wake
The first HP 3000 I ever saw was in 1976 at Futura Press on South Congress Avenue in Austin.  Bill McAfee owned Futura and was a mentor to many of us in Texas. Futura was an HP reseller, and aside from a wonderful printing company, they wrote their own software and some of the first MPE utilities. Interesting people like Morgan Jones hung out around Futura Press in the late 1970's and I can never thank Bill and Anne McAfee enough for the great times.

Continue reading "My Life with HP, Top to Bottom" »

Taking Care of Too-Great Expectations

Apple is weathering the woes today of an entity which is managing expectations that are too great. Migrators may be laboring under the expectations of moving too much of an HP 3000 to another platform at one time.

CoalmineOf course, these are very different times for these subjects. Apple set a record for a single quarter. At $35.9 billion in sales ending Sept 30 -- a boost of 27 percent over last year -- it's on a run rate that can make it a $143 billion company during 2013. People continue to call Apple a consumer company, although millions of its devices are powering the mobile needs of business. You simply cannot sell 40,000 phones and tablets -- a whopping $24 million worth -- in a brief 90 days just on the whims of consumers.

So Apple's on a mobile computing upswing, but not enough for the finance analysts. These experts who predict how much a company will earn guessed a little more than Apple posted. So today's a down day for the stock, just at $593, the first time under $600 since last August. HP used to suffer from such Great Expectations. Today, not so great.

However, the HP 3000 has expectations as well. Not for the growth of the platform or an increase in the revenues from its economy. 3000 expectations run to how much of its databases and applications need to be mined and moved -- and how much can remain on a 3000 in near-line storage, ready for the ultimate extraction.

Continue reading "Taking Care of Too-Great Expectations" »

CAMUS meeting to examine cloud ERPs

SocialElectionNovember 7 is more than just the day after the US 2012 elections. It's also the morning that the CAMUS user group is holding a call-in webinar to explore cloud-based ERP solutions to replace hosted software. Some of those hosts might be HP 3000s, if representatives from INFOR and Kenandy score any votes.

The meeting which starts at 9:30 PST (12:30 EST) will be open to anybody who registers at a page at Signup Genius. Over the following two and a half hours, the founders as well as the current holders of ASK technology will show off technology combos which want to eliminate the need to manage servers at manufacturing locations.

Warren Smith of INFOR will demonstrate SyteLine, a cloud-based application offered by the company which now holds the licenses for MANMAN, among several other ERP systems. Rob Elliot of Kenandy will take the Kenandy Social ERP for a spin via the web. Kenandy uses designs and systems architecture from ASK founder Sandy Kurtzig, who first developed MANMAN in the 1970s for an appreciative 3000 customer base rolling its own MRP solutions.

These software solutions rely on faith in offsite servers and secure bandwidth, elements which have become more proven in the years since became a business standard. While INFOR draws itself into the cloud world by way of its installed MANMAN base, Social ERP relies on the cloud reputation. Both companies claim to be able to eliminate local IT resource requirements, or at least the largest ones which demand veteran pros.

Continue reading "CAMUS meeting to examine cloud ERPs " »

Speeding Along Migration's Silver Linings

SarofimMigrations off HP 3000s come in varying degrees of difficulty. One set of choices gives sites a way to move their MPE-based environments with the Fresche Legacy (Speedware) AMXW. Even heading to HP's Unix servers, this kind of project can take more than a year. George Willis of the investment portfolio management house Fayez Sarofim talked about their project that moved COBOL and Powerhouse onto Unix.

Coupled with Eloquence as their database, the migration took around 16 months, "largely due to the volume of code that we used," Willis reports. 

We used Speedware to help us migrate our portfolio accounting system, “DataVestor”, to HP's Unix Itanium servers. The Unix server was the best choice for us because we leveraged AMXW to emulate the MPE/iX environment -- so that we could lift and shift our COBOL and Powerhouse code with somewhat minimal changes.

But moving away from older HP 3000 hardware uncovered an advantage. "The silver lining to being pushed off the HP 3000 by HP is that our overnight batch improved three-fold," Willis said. "That means we now have a comfortable recovery window before users log onto the system in the mornings."

Never Happy, Even With the Advances

The HP 3000 had detractors and opponents from the day of its birth. It was not an HP-style product, this computer, said Bill and Dave. It started out too slow, or crashed, or relied on software so expensive people had to write their own. Later on it got slammed because it used proprietary operating software. It didn't speak in Unix, collaborate with Windows, communicate with computers on standardized LANs. It didn't FTP files like other computers. It didn't have a modern user license. It didn't use low-cost peripherals. It wasn't the Digital VAX, the IBM AS/400, the Compaq ProLiant or even an IBM mainframe.

But for all of its failings, the HP 3000 did as much as Hewlett-Packard's best to keep up. It did even more when the customers' love was allowed into its designs. Its flaws run back to the business managers, MBAs, engineering leaders and finance officers curating the 3000's future. What this business system finally was not results from choices that its customers made, choices led by the computer's creating vendor.

I am thinking about this today as Apple announces a new generation of computers, revamped with things like a Fusion Drive, ranging from its hottest mobile products in iPads to its least sexy systems in desktop iMacs, skinny laptops, and stacking-small Mac Minis. For every one of these improved machines, snarky commentators brayed out the missing benefits during Apple's worldwide introduction of five distinct computers -- six, if you count the stack-and-rack Mini version that companies use as business servers. I don't believe it's fair to call Apple a company selling to consumers alone. Businesses are filled with pocket-sized iPhone computers and tablets -- the kind of devices that the business-focused HP tried and failed to sell.

RonwithSeries1At the end of 90 minutes of Apple's parade of advances, its detractors spewed their opinions. Something everyone has, like a certain body part. No matter what a vendor does to try ries to improve a product, these kinds of gimcrack mavens have their juvenile sport. Not a one of them ever shepherded a product like an A-Class server through battles with finance VPs or focus group disciples or engineering leaders who wanted designs that were only successors. In spite of all of that blathering drool, people will love their new iPads and Mac laptops and the same way your community still reveres the concept -- if not the execution -- of the Series I shown above.

Or how loved its 9x9 3000s -- and then finally lusted after that first A-Class unit that Dave Snow carried under his arm to the front of a hotel meeting room at a conference. (Watch at the 20-second mark; somebody in the room wanted to buy that demo unit right out from under Snow's arm.)

That 3000 didn't run Unix, cost twice as much as a Dell server, and it undercut the value of computers HP had sold just six months earlier. People wanted it, no matter what the know-nothings said about value.

The final class of HP's 3000 design was unfair to anyone who bought a 9x9 in 2000. But it advanced the art of MPE business servers. Customers suffer when they purchase too close to the future. But whether they buy a server on the eve of its futures, or an iPad this spring, they suffer on our behalf. The cost of not advancing the art can be seen in a collapse of a vendor's futures.

Continue reading "Never Happy, Even With the Advances" »

Marking Time with MPE's TZTAB File

By Gilles Schipper
GSA Associates 

Last in a series

Twelve days from today, Daylight Saving Time ends and will give HP 3000 users a reason to look at their clocks. This week may be an appropriate time to think about implementing some best practices associated with clock maintenance for the HP 3000s that you administer. One special nuance for MPE administrators is the TZTAB file. It's code that turns out to be important to third-party and independent software on your system.


In other installments in this series, I mentioned the TZTAB file and TZ variable and their relevance to popular third-party software suites. Although not utilized by MPE, by and large, this file and variable are important for some widely-used software. 

And, due to a relatively recent change to the universal TZTAB file required to accommodate the new Daylight Savings rules effective in 2007, it's useful to understand the quite simple format of the TZTAB file, and the corresponding TZ variable that points to its appropriate location in the file.

Continue reading "Marking Time with MPE's TZTAB File" »

Changing Clocks for Good Maintenance

By Gilles Schipper

Second in a series

Two weeks from this weekend, Daylight Saving Time ends for 2012. It may be an appropriate time to think about implementing some best practices associated with “Clock Maintenance” for the HP 3000s that you administer. For example, there's the task of changing the system clocks for other than trivial or TIMEZONE changes.

Your system clocks can be inaccurate either because they are out of sync with each other (ie. wrong TIMEZONE setting) or they simply contain the wrong time, or both. If your problem is an incorrect TIMEZONE (as shown by the SHOWCLOCK command) you can easily and quickly correct with the SETCLOCK TIMEZONE= command.

Keep in mind that if this command would normally result in a backwards time adjustment, the change will take place gradually such that the system clocks will never go back in time.(This default behaviour can be overridden with the ;NOW option of the SETCLOCK command). If the SETCLOCK command results in a time advancement, the advancement takes place immediately.

Again, you can use the SHOWCLOCK command to see the current time, timezone as well as the pending time correction in seconds. If you are experiencing both a timezone problem and clock accuracy issues, that's another matter.

Continue reading "Changing Clocks for Good Maintenance" »

It's About Time

By Gilles Schipper
GSA Associates

First in a series

NeonClockWith the impending end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) -- just two weeks from this coming Saturday night -- it may be an appropriate time to think about implementing some best practices associated with “Clock Maintenance” for the HP 3000s that you administer.

To refresh your memory, beginning in the year 2007, DST was extended by approximately one month for most time zones in the US and Canada. Consequently, for most locations, DST now begins at 2:00AM the second Sunday every March, and ends at 2:00AM the first Sunday each November.

The rules for specific time zones are contained in a file named TZTAB.LIB.SYS, whose exact format and interpretation will be shown in detail later in this series. Suffice it to say, this file is largely irrelevant for the normal operation of the HP 3000. 

But it is relevant and important for various software products  that are common to the HP 3000 environment, including, among others, products by Nobix, IBM/Cognos, and Speedware -- but surprisingly not by a very useful utility, NTPDATE, which I'll describe in detail.

Continue reading "It's About Time" »

Changing Engines, or Cars? It Depends

ReplaceEngineHomesteading customers are looking at the Stromasys emulator product as an interim solution before migrations. Dan Miller, a consultant in the community whose roots go back to using MPE in 1975, helps a client who wants to know if the HPA/3000 will perform in place of a Series 9x8 server.

The customer of Miller's runs their 3000 without HP support, but the site has risk avoidance measures in place.

As insurance, they have an additional redundant HP 3000 system on-site should hardware parts become immediately unavailable;  besides HP, there are many third party hardware resellers available to replace or repair their hardware. They are assured of software support, as I am retained on an on-call basis should they run into system or software problems. They can also contact the local HP office or other third party vendors for pay as you go software support.

But Miller noted an unusual profile for the homesteader. The company is running "lights out," which in this case means operating with no IT staff in place, except for the on-call Miller. The arrangement which gives ERP and financial processing to about 35 users has been flawless, "but time marches on," Miller says, "and a future migration is inevitable." Perhaps not nearly as close as it might be, if the emulator meets Miller's definition of viability.

For another aspect to the question, customers will weigh how cost-effective any emulator will be. That's a subject where ScreenJet's Alan Yeo says the costs depend on a customer's comfort with MPE's limits and the success of current applications.

Continue reading "Changing Engines, or Cars? It Depends" »

State of HP license transfers alive, kicking

TransferwiresEveryday purchases of used 3000 systems have included license transfers for many years by now. When there's a 3000 license to transfer, of course. Some customers have a host of old 928s they could transfer with legal paperwork. Some have just one server, but it's been in archive-only mode for awhile.

Taylor Lumpkin of Hire Experience is in one of the best license positions we've seen.

We are still a HP Partner, and HP have allowed us to have free MPE for over a decade now. We also own a small pile of 918s which all have legitimate HPSUSAN numbers with the HP license converted into our name by HP, back when they still did that.

But for others interested in a license transfer, the requirements from HP include a $400 fee (US dollars), plus a serious sheaf of documents, either to be signed or presented. The paperwork is no more extensive than it ever was during the post-1999 era. 1999 is the year that Hardware House and a few other brokers were sued by HP for illicit use of HPSUSAN numbers, all to create 3000s out of 9000s or upgrade the user limits. That was back in the day when MPE/iX came with user limits; those were dropped with the 7.0 release of the OS for the newer A-Class and N-Class 3000s.

But some prospective freeware emulator customers have more questions on the details. One veteran of the 3000 platform even wonders if an MPE V license will do for a transfer. After all, MPE is HP's property, but its vintage may not matter. Such stuff isn't covered in HP's webpage on SLTs.

Continue reading "State of HP license transfers alive, kicking" »

HP insists emulator transfers be immediate

An HP 3000 emulator offered to the community for evaluation or personal use will require a license transfer right away, HP's Jennie Hou has confirmed.

A personal, freeware version of the Stromasys 3000 emulator product is coming very soon. It's a 1- E3000 PU horsepower instance, basically a Series 918. It's designed to help customers test the abilities of the emulator. Stromasys already distributes this kind of freeware for its VAX/Alpha emulator.  

Hou said HP requires its customers to transfer an MPE license at the time they start to use this freeware product.  "The one-to-one license transfer is required," Hou reported.

In 2004, HP outlined the terms for an emulator-only license of MPE/iX. An FAQ created in 2008 stated that 'If "a customer cannot transfer a license from an existing HP e3000" to an emulator installation, can they pay HP $500 for an RTU license to enable that emulator." By this year, however, the only licenses available are the Software License Transfer licenses from existing 3000 systems.

Continue reading "HP insists emulator transfers be immediate" »

3000's cells seem simpler to retrained vets

PrisonWalter Murray was a veteran of 10 years' service in HP's language labs when he left the company in 2003. HP's writing was on the wall about all things MPE including the server's languages. Murray took an IT post at the California state prison system. But last month he left the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for another state agency job. The new work has led Murray into a genuine legacy cellblock: IBM's mainframes, the System Z and MVS.

Murray is a veteran of the 3000 from 1975 onward, but his newest job is in the world of systems which are even more established. "I'm spending a lot of time learning how to do all the things that were so easy in MPE," he said this week. In 25 years at HP,he worked on 3000 graphics software, the HP Toolset manufacturing development suite, 3000 millicode, HP COBOL and the C compiler and libraries at HP’s language labs. During the era when Hewlett-Packard was developing and improving compilers for the 3000, Murray was doing the engineering.

Murray signed on to enter a different, more complex world of data processing with IBM legacy iron. In the meantime, the 3000 platform is still working in what some might call cells at 33 prisons. About 40 HP 3000s still run at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which includes one A Class at each of the 33 state prisons, an N-Class at the central office, and a handful of test machines.

Another veteran of the 3000 checked in with us to report he's set a flight path for some of the newest computing, after the same length of journey in MPE. Paul Edwards has bought an iPad 3, a tool for heading back into the skies as a pilot at age 71. That iPad, Edwards' first Apple tool, is in his cockpit because it runs an application he needs. Even the BYOD marketplace follows the same attaction as the 3000s do -- it's the software.

Continue reading "3000's cells seem simpler to retrained vets" »

COBOL You Know, vs. COBOL You Don't

DevilMigrations are in play all over the world between HP 3000 systems and Linux environments. Nobody seems to be reporting very many at the moment, but the Little OpenSource Environment That Could is a regular replacement when a 3000's futures go a-wanting.

All well and good, in many instances. Hiring Linux help is never an issue, but the know-how and replacements for the rest of the 3000 ecosystem are more complex. For example, a customer who's been using scripts in their HP 3000 ops needs a replacement. MB Foster's created one for Windows in UDAXpress, which the company has been demonstrating this year.

COBOL, however, becomes an element that might be integrated tighter than you'd imagine in a 3000 program suite. For example, one recent migration project we heard about included a 4GL-to-4GL Powerhouse.

The decision was made to move the application largely as is, to Powerhouse on Linux, and to Oracle. Porting Powerhouse is not too onerous; apart from a few limitations and differences, you just port the code across and recompile it with Oracle as the target database, and off you go.

There was one catch, and it might become one in a migration near you. Some core calculations can be enshrined in a set of COBOL routines. Maybe they were too complex to write in Powerhouse. So at this point, a Linux-bound customer is looking seriously for a COBOL replacement. They can reach for commercial products which run on Linux, or look to the open source community at OpenCOBOL. Some such migrations are moving from a COBOL they know, to a COBOL they don't. The commercial COBOLs have support staff and training. Open, not so much, unless a third party gets involved.

Continue reading "COBOL You Know, vs. COBOL You Don't" »

Sparks powers down 3000, opens Windows

The president of the Connect user group and a veteran of 28 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek has announced that his employer, the City of Sparks, Nev., has taken its last HP 3000 application offline.

It is with extreme sadness that I inform you that the City of Sparks, Nevada has powered off our last HP 3000. The last payroll has been processed, the last report has been printed and all relevant data has been archived. This HP 3000 (a 969KS-220) went online September 22, 1996. Its last day of use was July 6, 2012. Powered down October 10, 2012.   

In all these years we only lost one power supply and one system board (lost when that power supply failed). Our first HP 3000 was installed in September 1980, a Series III. I'll miss this reliable and trustworthy system. My 28 years managing our HP3000s have been the best.

Sdavidek_grayThe cut-away from the 3000 began amid cutbacks at the city. Just before Sparks started cutting things it signed for a new financial system to get off the HP 3000. "Not that we wanted to, but we had to move forward," Davidek said nearly two years ago. He had been managing HP 3000s which were supposed to be offline in 2010, but homesteading has a way of occupying more of the future than companies expect.

For all of the devotion and experience Davidek admits for the 3000, it’s time for his shop — where he started as an operator and now manages a staff that handles hundreds of PCs and several dozen Windows servers — to move into the world of Windows.

Continue reading "Sparks powers down 3000, opens Windows" »

Now arriving: Calls for an HP breakup

HP slide stockHewlett-Packard's stock took another tumble today, the latest bit of insult added to the injuries of the year 2012. Shares closed at $14.37, a low that HP hasn't seen in more than a decade. The sell-off was triggered by an HP analyst briefing you can watch for yourself on the Web. The financial experts are edging toward a consensus that HP ought to become two companies -- with just one of them focused on your enterprise dollars.

More than 150 million shares traded hands at the end of the last week -- Monday was a market holiday -- a volume that HP had seen only once in 50 years of trading: in the shadow of the Mark Hurd ouster of August 2010. All of the high-volume days of trading since then have hammered the stock into the mid-teens. HP has found a way out of this before -- by purchasing EDS and muscling its way into top spots for PCs and servers. Those services and PC plays are gone for good. That chart above only shows the stock slide from February onward.

The breakup calls include a remarkable one from an analyst who says even Bill and Dave would push for an HP dedicated only to enterprise computing. At the website, UBS analyst Steve Milunovich said that activist investors or private equity buyers are likely to split up HP.

In our view, full value won’t be realized by just improving operations -- structural change is required. Based on HP’s history, we think Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would support this approach.

But the current HP strategy is to try to reorganize its way out of a free fall dripping with quarterly red ink and slipping sales. A full split, Milunovich wrote, would at least push HP's shares to $20. Usually an analyst briefing like last week's produces a modest bounce in share prices. HP seemed to confirm just the opposite, even though its presentation included "The Great Things About HP."

Continue reading " Now arriving: Calls for an HP breakup" »

Emulator freeware license needs hobbyists

HP doesn't have much impact on the 3000-only customer anymore, but the licensing terms which can matter to auditors are still in force in 2012. Although it's almost nine years since Hewlett-Packard built a 3000, the MPE/iX license tied to every server still carries some barbs.

HobbyistThe terms are "barbs" in sense of hooks or wire, since the audited 3000 owner will see these license items are designed to stick to the servers. You could download a personal freeware copy of HPA/3000 this month, or even next. But as things stand today, HP expects its customers to transfer their MPE/iX license to the freeware version of the Stromasys product. Even if the freeware is just there to experiment with, testing to see if it can duplicate the work of the HP-badged hardware. It still needs a license transferred. That's a $400 charge to test out freeware.

But being an MPE hobbyist might change that.

Jennie Hou of HP -- the last business manager for HP 3000s -- remains the decision maker for this kind of policy. Stromasys CEO Ling Chang, a former HP exec, checked out the chain of command last week. Bernard Determe, Service Lifecycle Planning manager for Enterprise Servers, Storage, Networking and software, said Hou is in his team and has the call on a fresher licensing concept: hobbyist copies of MPE/iX.

HP's Digital group has done this for more than a decade with VMS. The hobbyist licenses are limited to non-commercial uses. That's very good news for the 3000 user who's hoping for a hobbyist license. At least Hewlett-Packard has history of the goodwill needed to create this kind of MPE license.

Continue reading "Emulator freeware license needs hobbyists" »

How about an MPE hobbyist's advocate?

TitltingatwindmillWho's still on the field for the game between HP -- the owner of MPE/iX -- and the user community? Connect is a user group representing HP customers, but the only 3000 advocates left are on the board of directors. Chris Koppe is past president and current business strategist for Fresch Legacy, nee Speedware. The current Connect president Steve Davidek manages a 3000 shop in Sparks, Nev.

OpenMPE had a good run from 2002-2009, but that's become a volunteer group for online resources like the Invent3K site. The days of advocacy over MPE might be over, some say.

But perhaps not. Stromasys is working on arranging the license and delivery specifics for a personal, freeware edition of its new HP 3000 emulator, HPA/3000. There was once a license offered for that emulator by HP. But the vendor's cutoff date to sell such $500 licenses was December, 2010. Stromasys hadn't even announced its designs by that time.

A license for freeware in HP's Digital VAX/Alpha customer base doesn't face this dilemma. Digital created a hobbyist license for VMS so long ago that HP was still building 3000s at the time. This hobbyist license gives the users of the Stromasys VAX/Alpha freeware all rights to run OpenVMS on that emulator. The same kind of license needs an advocate for MPE/iX users. Even a 60-day grace window to run MPE/iX on the emulator would be a good start.

As members of both Connect and OpenMPE can testify, advocacy is no hobby. Especially not with a company as lawyered-up as HP. But the MPE community now has an ally in a former HP executive, one who has just begun to lead Stromasys.

Continue reading "How about an MPE hobbyist's advocate?" »

How LTO Tape Support Won't Matter, Soon

LTOBetterA few weeks ago an InfoWorld article told the IT community that the storage in the cloud was the final nail in backup tape's coffin. Our intrepid author Brian Edminster took a close look at what the Amazon Glacier cloud could do for the HP 3000 user. But it's almost as important to listen to what he's got to say about support of the latest LTO tape devices.

They won't make you need to migrate, though, if you virtualize the 3000 iron.

It's just another example of how an emulator removes the risk of staying on an environment. A virtualized server isn't going to be tied to interfaces from 10-year-old systems, or IO designs first crafted in the previous century.

This used to be a big deal in HP's engineering plans. One of the primary advantages to creating PA-RISC architecture was supposed to be peripheral support. HP figured to be writing and maintaining fewer device drivers if its enterprise servers shared an architecture. PA-RISC just led HP away from the HP-IB interface, something Hewlett-Packard created for instruments, not computers. But in practice, the operating systems still needed specialized engineering to pass data quickly between server and peripheral.

These late-gen LTO-5 tape drives are the kind of peripherals which HP supported more slowly, if at all, during the final decade of lab work on MPE. The first LTO with an HP badge, Ultrium, ran half as fast (160 mb/sec) as the same unit hooked to HP-UX -- because its mandatory MPE interface was engineered for half the bandwidth of the more updated Unix-based servers. HP never made up the difference in speed, and that shortfall arrived right out of the gate with LTO-1. LTO-5 was the state of the art in 2010, two years after HP closed the MPE labs.

Aging backup devices can pose a serious reason to consider a migration off the 3000 iron, if you're bound to an HP-badged box. The media gets harder to buy. The devices become a special case for IT to support -- although there are some crack independent companies who'll service 3000 sites regardless of what backup drives are on the job.

Continue reading "How LTO Tape Support Won't Matter, Soon" »

New iOS mobile app monitors server admin

Treemap_128x128Allegro Consultants has released what appears to be the first iPhone/iPad app which will monitor any servers running HP's Unix, Sun's Solaris, Linux or the Mac OS. iAdmin has a few more operating environments that it will touch, according to Allegro's co-founder Stan Sieler.

"Of course, we're working on adding MPE/iX support, as well as Windows," said Sieler.

iAdmin is an app that allows you to view the status of your servers  from anywhere your iOS device has connectivity.  At the moment,  you can view your disk space utilization, drilling down through  your file systems and directories, to see where your disk space  has gone, and also, get a glimpse into your CPU performance.

If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch and one or more servers  running HP-UX, Linux, Mac OS, or Solaris, you might want to try out  the app. You can find it via or by clicking on the App Store icon at

Details on the server and setup for the app -- it also works on the iPod Touch -- are at the website address above.

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Fresche biz for Speedware: LA's AS/400s

LADWPFresche Legacy, the company that rebranded itself from its Speedware roots this spring, has announced a project to migrate mission-critical apps at the LA Department of Power and Water away from legacy AS/400 servers. The utility's target to take systems off what IBM now calls System i: HP's hardware running Microsoft's .NET framework.

This represents the freshest line of business for this well-known 3000 vendor. Ever since 2010, it's been partnering with HP to transform these IBM servers to HP's Intel-based systems, usually running Windows Server.

Fresche continues to serve and pursue the HP 3000 customer in a couple of ways. It's got an application support business that takes over customers' maintenance and management of MPE apps and systems. Francois Desrochers, who was once part of the Robelle labs, is working at Fresche these days. Not long ago, Fresche put out a general call for such 3000 experts -- by advertising on the PowerHouse mailing list.

The other means to engage 3000 customers comes from supporting the Speedware tools already sold into the installed base. The automated development toolset continues to run production-grade applications, and Fresche president Andy Kulakowski said 3000 tool support continues with no end-date in hand.

The company also employs a tool that it acquired to migrate these AS/400 customers. ML-iMPACT, renamed as iModernize, allows System i sites to automate conversions from legacy RPG and CL languages to Java or C#.NET. At the LADWP, that's software serving a record number of customers across an enormous stretch of California.

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When HP's SUSAN Won't Say Enough

Emulator vendor Stromasys has sold a few instances of its Charon HPA/3000 virtualization engine. But there's even more interest in the free version of the product. Not much surprise there, considering the average budget for a company that's sustaining its 3000 in production use.

DSSHowever, there's another kind of 3000 user who's looking at this personal freeware. Developers of MPE/iX code -- mostly consultants, and some tool and utility providers -- are expressing an interest in downloading the freeware version. When they do this, they'll require some strategy to tell their other software that the emulator is actually an HP 3000 with a valid HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN number.

The HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN combination is used by third party vendors to validate a license. If the combo doesn't match, most software won't load at all. (At best, you might get a demo version, but that's more of a personal computer fallback.) Stromasys is looking at the issue for the freeware it calls the A200. The paid version of the product uses a USB stick with these numbers encoded, which makes any Intel i7 Core PC capable of running a utility like Adager or an application like Ecometry.

But the days of that HPSUSAN being a unique number -- identifying only one MPE/iX licensee -- are over. CEO Rene Woc of Adager said that as HP began to use and re-install these numbers, creating its own 3000s out of HP 9000 servers, duplicates have emerged. But the combo of HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN is still needed for verification. Even it it's not unique, it's still not generic.

"Way back when, with an HPSUSAN I would be able to tell you the HP 3000 model, and even the serial number, I believe," Woc said. "Today that's not true anymore. It's not a unique number."

This leads the users interested in freeware HPA/3000 to a challenge which Stromasys must master: How to give hundreds of freeware emulator users a way to employ their valid HPSUSAN numbers with third-party software. Only using the full complement of software on the emulator constitutes a complete test, Woc said.

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