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October 31, 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.

A fire showed how essential the 3000 can be. John Lee of Vaske Computer Solutions offered up an incredible tale of how durable HP 3000 hardware can be in disasters -- one that seems to define the outer limits of any computer's capability. 

"One of our customers had a fire in their headquarters last night, and it caused major smoke damage throughout the building, including the datacenter. The building lost power and their 968 powered down as it was supposed to. But the blackened, ash-covered beast booted up in the morning once power was restored, and they continued operations from their remote site (the manufacturing plant) which they are linked to via T1, and they're still running! "

Lee supplied the topper to the story later in the day. "The building has been gutted except for the computer room, which they're going to demolish last so the system can continue to run," he said. "So here sits a burned out, gutted brick building with an unrecognizable 968 in the middle of it, still running the company. That would make for almost as good an ad as the HP garage!"

Before Katrina swept its broom of destruction in 2005, we ran a pair of articles about disaster recovery strategies, written and adapted by Paul Edwards of Paul Edwards and Associates. Our columnist Scott Hirsh has also weighed in with best practices on DR in his Worst Practices column, written in the wake of 9/11.

06:22 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 30, 2012

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.

"Someone local may be interested if they could pick it up," Suraci explains. A migrating customer who's holding deactivated Series 918s may have to help out on the costs to ship away. To be frank, this kind of server is a better value to the buyer than the seller. Some kind of pickup fee, even from a scrapper, would usually be part of moving out this lower-end 3000. At Rollins' shop, the offer included an LPQ 500 printer with LAN card, a Printronix-based unit, and a few p405 printers.

"The resale value is just about nothing on this lower-end 3000 gear," Suraci said. "Any of the printers might have some value, because of the fact that they are used in non-3000 shops. Shipping cost would still probably be a concern." 


05:37 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2012

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.

I had a FORTRAN/IMAGE Payroll system working on RTE by 1976. So that I would really get it right, the CFO, my boss, Kenneth Pitzer, made me do the payroll by hand (no kidding, with a pencil) while developing the code and documentation all by myself. I found out that manual payroll processing for 100 employees took about four days a week (more when I first started) and that Quarter-End and Year-End were special periods of extra torture. Six months of that was all I could stand and fortunately it was enough, because we did go live on my payroll system and never looked back.

I learned a lot when I converted my RTE IMAGE payroll system to the HP 3000; anyone remember the Decimal String Arithmetic Package? It was ASCII math in firmware, precise to 128 digits of accuracy. There were no rounding errors in my FORTRAN payroll system. That payroll system ran at Thermon for about 15 years, long after I had left.

Thermon bought an HP 3000 Series II in mid-1978 and, for just a little bit more money (a special offer from HP), it became a Series III by the time it was delivered two months later. I remember sponsoring a FORTRAN programming class, after working hours at Thermon, and how the local university professor of Computer Science told us that an “Engineering Minicomputer” ran ASCII and that a real business system ran EBCDIC. We showed him different. I remember dialing in at 300 baud on an acoustic coupler from the geodesic dome I had built while in college on the GI Bill. My kids, David and Callie, played HP 3000 games at 300 bps from home when they were 3 years old.

I went to MPE classes in Cupertino and Atlanta and attended the 1978 General Systems Users Group meeting in Denver; that group became Interex and David Packard gave the keynote address. I met a fellow named Orly Larson and another named Alfredo Rego, both of whom liked to talk about databases. I went to IMAGE class again in Houston and worked with Frank Letts and Brad Webb from HP's Houston office throughout 1979. I attended HP classes in Maryland as well.

The main reason we bought an HP 3000 at Thermon was Sandra Kurtzig's MANMAN (Manufacturing Management) MRP software system. The application drove the hardware sale, beating out Univac and IBM. I had called ASK Computer Systems the first time in December of 1975 after reading a 1/8 page ad in Datamation magazine and after learning that MANMAN was priced at $65,000 I spent the next 2 years trying to do it myself thinking that was too much money. After messing around with IMAGE/1000 during 1977 and early 1978, doing A/P manually (this time with an Olivetti 801 “Posting Machine” instead of a pencil) and trying to code that and also thinking about how to write my own Inventory Control software, we decided to buy a software package.

One day the VP of Engineering wanted something on the same day as the VP of Finance and I found out that money talks. Most valuable lesson learned, that. We started the project to acquire a business computer the next day. I was really glad MANMAN was written in FORTRAN with IMAGE (crazy basis for a decision) but it really worked out nicely. MANMAN/3000 became an iconic classic. Birket Foster visited Thermon in 1979 and I hired John Banks before leaving Thermon.

I went to work for ASK Computer Systems in August 1981 and moved from “The Dome” to Houston. We installed over 50 HP 3000 MANMAN systems before I moved on and started my own company, Blanket Solutions, in 1985. From that came a move back to Austin and starting The Support Group in 1994, and the rest is history.

In 1979 my first wife, Nanci, and I went to the 1979 World HP General Systems Users Group meeting in Lyon, France. I still can't believe Thermon approved that, but it's where I met Vladimir Volokh and Bob Green. I remember D. David Brown hitchhiking outside Nice. During all those years, I missed only one of the annual Interex Conferences, in 1984. Together with David Groves, Jane and Tinker Copeland, and Bill McAfee, we hosted the Interex Conference in San Antonio in 1982. A particularly lasting memory is of working with Ron Seybold on the 1994 AllTex RUG Meeting in Lakeway.

I've worked with some great people since I first started programming on HP's RTE and MPE Operating Systems; thousands of people. MANMAN took me to over 350 manufacturing sites in North America where just regular folks were doing the best they could. I think in some small ways I helped them make all those diverse products labeled Made in America. From Greyhound buses to Conner disk drives, from Lowrance fish finders to MagicAire A/C units, from MSI sensors on the space shuttle to Korry's Dreamliner dashboard to Bose speakers and Wave Radios, MANMAN and MPE made things better at over 2500 locations worldwide. Even in 2012, it still does for several hundred companies.

I've spent over 35 years with jobs all related to using the HP 3000: an entire career on one platform. I've seen HP come and go. It ain't over yet. I will only be 77 years old in 2026. My kids will be in their early fifties by then. Time enough to forget about Carly Fiorina. Here's to the future of MPE! May the singularity bring peace and prosperity to everyone associated with HP -- and to you too, Carly.

08:18 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2012

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.

MB Foster walked customers through the benefits and strategies of using its UDA Central software this week. This time out in its fortnightly webinar, the company's founder Birket Foster compared the subject of data migration to the expected needs for such a journey. You don't have to bring everything over, even though UDA Central makes it drag-and-drop easy to do so -- even for databases and servers which have little to nothing to do with HP 3000s.

Foster noted during the webinar that some customers are even purchasing 3000s for the specific reason of putting data onto the equivalent of a railyard siding. Of course, that's a a low-speed track section distinct from a running line or through route such as a main line or branch line or spur. But the sidings might still connect to higher speed sections.

"Among the things we've discovered is that when you go to extract your data, obviously you're reading a lot of data," Foster said. "That has an impact on the amount of CPU cycles and bandwidth being used to help data across to the other machine. You have to make sure you understand the timing of when you do that. It wouldn't be a good idea to do that in the middle of the day." But then came the surprises in expectations: 3000s on some kind of new mission, as well as what you can expect to move.

For that extraction reason, some of our customers have gone and bought a separate 3000 to stage the data. They just move the database. They don't move any of the code. They take that database and use it as a staging area to work with it. On the final extraction, they'll go back to the production database. At least they've got a working area where they're not interfering with day-to-day production. You might be able to come up with a very low-cost HP 3000.

There was more to consider about too-great expectations of migration of data.

Some of our customers have been able to work with us to get a methodology that allows them to move just the last month's records, or the last week's records, at the time of moving between systems. That's because all the rest was already staged. History is just history. As long as you can prove that the totals of all of the above equals the total of what you've moved, there's not a problem. Except in cases where you've got revisionist history, the history shouldn't be changing. If you look at it, about 90 percent of your database of transactions didn't happen in the last week or month.

UDACentral-datatype-mappingUsing this method, a customer could do a first run of data extraction, make adjustments to the process (item names that might be reserved words, different transfers between datasets), and then take a larger segment of the database and repeat. If a migrator has great expectations of making a complete move of data in one pass, they're overlooking these adjustments.

"We've seen customers where it actually takes two days to move all the data, and it ran into some kind of problem," Foster said. "Then we had to check the logs for details." Naturally, UDA Central has a comprehensive logging capability.

A customer from the UK in the webinar, who's moving off a version of Ecometry to an app using SQL Server, said he'd need to check on his permissions to access that target database. It's also essential to be adjusting the expectations for the time to clean up and route these extractions correctly, Foster said. Then there's the understanding that not everything's got to be migrated.

"Customers don't think of all the issues that there might be during the initial stages," he said about more typical sites. The fact that the UK user was on the call showed some foresight. "It's not until they get deep into the project they realize there might be any problems."

You consider how much data you expect to keep, "not only from the accounting perspective, but also for marketing, merchandising and purchasing," he said. "We suggest people start a migration by looking at how much must happen, and do it early. If they discover during that look they need an extra six months, it's better than learning they don't have any time left at all. Know how long it will take from the beginning of the data dumping to the end." 

11:31 AM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2012

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 Salesforce.com became a business standard. While INFOR draws itself into the cloud world by way of its installed MANMAN base, Social ERP relies on the force.com cloud reputation. Both companies claim to be able to eliminate local IT resource requirements, or at least the largest ones which demand veteran pros.

But Social ERP isn't always aimed at 3000 sites using MANMAN, at least not this year. Terry Floyd of the Support Group, which serves MANMAN customers on 3000s, has worked closely with Kenandy for more than a year by now. His target is the small manufacturing company that needs a better ERP solution and knows nothing of MANMAN.

"We don’t intend to convert anyone from MANMAN to Kenandy within the next year," Floyd told us in January.  "We are going for new customers who never heard of MANMAN, startups and tiny manufacturing companies." Tiny is a word that fits well with Social ERP, since it can erase the capital costs and staff resources of the classic local-host system. The Support Group has been working on add-ons and extensions to the Kenandy apps.

As for SyteLine, its a new branding of the INFOR10 ERP Business software, extended to the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. One of hte SyteLine options includes application managed services. The SyteLine configuration model expands choices in purchasing, deployment and managing of ERP.  "With SaaS, manufacturers gain access to the same functionality available in on-premises software, with the flexibility of on-demand access from Infor," according to an Infor webpage on the product.

CAMUS meetings always include a "Talk Soup" segment where users can chat about implementation issues, workarounds and IT plans. Talk Soup starts at noon PST, after the Kenandy Social ERP demo.

09:42 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2012

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."

07:32 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2012

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.

Being too close to the future might seem like living too close to the sun. It's bright and warm there because you purchase what's become a hot value. The price has dropped by the time you get there, the momentum of the user base is with you. Apple said today that it's sold 100 million iPads already. You have to go back to the rank of Windows PCs to find a number that big. And nobody has ever done it in just 30 months.

But now those kinds of breakthoughs -- like the HP employees who lined up to form the number 10,000 when that many servers had rolled off 3000 factory lines -- are ended for HP's iron. Stories appear regularly now which wonder if Dell or HP could ever regain their strength. A customer who got burned buying an N-Class just weeks before HP ended its 3000 futures might find some solace in seeing HP stripped of its market cap. It's been three weeks since the stock was above $17. When the 3000 was on the product line and HP was still selling unique environments, the stock was at $70 before it split.

A vendor which leaves its product on the market too long without advances pays a price. And one which updates too fast makes nitwits niggle about timing, too. Perhaps getting it right to please both those who live close to the sun and those who orbit the asteroids is genuinely tough. When the response to advances is measured in millions of sales, however, the niggles seem foolish.

06:08 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2012

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.

Let's illustrate by using Aleutian Time (Hawaii) as an example. The TZTAB file (which is located in the LIB.SYS group), contains:

# Aleutian Standard Time, Aleutian Daylight Time (US)


0 3 24-30 4  1970-1973 0   ADT9

0 3 6     1  1974      0-6 ADT9

0 3 22-28 2  1975      0   ADT9

0 3 24-30 4  1976-1986 0   ADT9

0 3 1-7   4  1987-2006 0   ADT9

0 3 8-14  3  2007-2038 0   ADT9

0 1 25-31 10 1970-1973 0   AST10

0 1 24-30 11 1974      0   AST10

0 1 25-31 10 1975-2006 0   AST10

0 1 1-7   11 2007-2038 0   AST10

So, where does that mention anything to do with Hawaii? It doesn't.

However, the first item in a Google search for "Aleutian Standard Time" does.

How to interpret TZTAB

Let's repeat the portion below that is associated with Aleutian Standard Time. We'll add a reference number at the beginning of each line.

1.  # Aleutian Standard Time, Aleutian Daylight Time (US)

2.  AST10ADT

3.  0 3 24-30 4  1970-1973 0   ADT9

4.  0 3 6     1  1974      0-6 ADT9

5.  0 3 22-28 2  1975      0   ADT9

6.  0 3 24-30 4  1976-1986 0   ADT9

7.  0 3 1-7   4  1987-2006 0   ADT9

8.  0 3 8-14  3  2007-2038 0   ADT9

9.  0 1 25-31 10 1970-1973 0   AST10

10.   0 1 24-30 11 1974      0   AST10

11.   0 1 25-31 10 1975-2006 0   AST10

12.   0 1 1-7   11 2007-2038 0   AST10

Line 1 is simply a comment line (#) in column 1, that identifies the common reference to the time zone

Line 2 is the actual value that the TZ variable needs to be set to for many Unix/Posix/Linux commands that need a time-reference to work properly.

All subsequent lines represent specific fields that have meaning according to their positional ordinal.

The first value (which is 0 in all lines) represents the minute of the hour.

The second value represents the hour of the day  (0 or 3 in all lines)

The 3rd value represents the day or day-range in the month.

The 4th value represents the month.

The 5th value represents the year or year-range.

The 6th value represents the day of the week (Sunday=0).

The 7th value is a string that represents the time zone adjustment in the form tznameDIFF, where "tzname" matches the first or last 3 characters of the TZ variable in line 1, and the DIFF represents the number of hours offset from UTC (Universal Time Clock, aka Greenwich Mean Time(GMT)).

In the above example, since only lines 8 and 12 apply to the current (and all future known) years, I will translate each of the 2 lines:

0 3 8-14  3  2007-2038 0   ADT9

On Sunday (6th field = 0), March (4th field=3) 11 (3rd field = 8-14), the first minute of the adjusted time will take place at 03:00 (fields 2 and 1, respectively), the adjustment resulting in the time being 9 hours from UTC (numeric part of seventh field).

Which means nothing for Hawaii, since Hawaii does NOT adhere to Daylight Savings Time.

One more thing: The above line suggests that the time adjustment BEGIN at 2:00AM, since the first minute of the ADJUSTED TIME should be 03:00 AM - which is exactly what happens when the time is moved forward one hour at 2am.

So, using the example above, we can see that:

0 1 1-7   11 2007-2038 0   AST10


The first minute of the adjusted time will be at 1:00am on whichever day in November (1 thru 7) falls on a Sunday, in the years 2007 thru 2038. The adjusted time will be 10 hours removed from UTC. Again, since Hawaii does not adhere to Daylight Savings Time, no actual adjustment is necessary.

Let's use another example, using Eastern Time. The relevant portion of the TZTAB file is:

1.   # Eastern Standard Time, Eastern Daylight Time

2.   EST5EDT

3.   0 3 24-30 4  1970-1973 0   EDT4

4.   0 3 6     1  1974      0-6 EDT4

5.   0 3 22-28 2  1975      0   EDT4

6.   0 3 24-30 4  1976-1986 0   EDT4

7.   0 3 1-7   4  1987-2006 0   EDT4

8.   0 3 8-14  3  2007-2038 0   EDT4

9.   0 1 25-31 10 1970-1973 0   EST5

10. 0 1 24-30 11 1974      0   EST5

11. 0 1 25-31 10 1975-2006 0   EST5

12. 0 1 1-7   11 2007-2038 0   EST5

Line 1 is simply a comment line (#) in column 1, that identifies the common reference to the time zone

Line 2 is the actual value that the TZ variable needs to be set to for many Unix/Posix/Linux commands that need a time-reference to work properly.

All subsequent lines represent specific fields that have meaning according to their positional ordinal.

The first value (which is 0 in all lines) represents the minute of the hour.

The second value represents the hour of the day  (1 or 3 in all lines)

The 3rd value represents the day or day-range in the month.

The 4th value represents the month.

The 5th value represents the year or year-range.

The 6th value represents the day of the week (Sunday=0).

The 7th value is a string that represents the time zone adjustment in the form tznameDIFF, where "tzname" matches the first or last 3 characters of the TZ variable in line 1, and the DIFF represents the number of hours offset from UTC (Universal Time Clock).

In the above example, since only lines 8 and 12 apply to the current (and all future known) years, I will translate each of the 2 lines:

0 3 8-14  3  2007-2038 0   EDT4

On Sunday (6th field = 0), March (4th field=3) 11 (3rd field = 8-14), the first minute of the adjusted time will take place at 03:00 (fields 2 and 1, respectively), the adjustment resulting in the time being 4 hours from UTC (numeric part of seventh field).

The above line suggests that the time adjustment BEGIN at 2:00AM, since the first minute of the ADJUSTED TIME should be 03:00 AM - which is exactly what happens when the time is moved forward one hour at 2am.

So, using the example above, we can see that:

0 1 1-7   11 2007-2038 0   EST5

means: “The first minute of the adjusted time will be at 1:00am on whichever day in November (1 thru 7) falls on a Sunday, in the years 2007 thru 2038. The adjusted time will be 5 hours removed from UTC.”

Using these examples, you can construct your own TZTAB.LIB.SYS file  that satisfies the requirements of your particular HP 3000 system.

The bottom line to all of this: The TZTAB.LIB.SYS file, in conjunction with the TZ variable, is utilized by the MPE Posix environment, as well as some third-party software suites -- if and when necessary to accommodate GMT and local times.

If you can't find copies of NTPDATE or the TZTAB file, send me a request by email ([email protected]) and I will send you a copy of both in a single Reflection-label storefile format file. Thanks to Mark Ranft and Jeff Kell for assistance in acquiring these files.

03:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2012

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.

If you are experiencing both a timezone problem AND a clock accuracy issue, you can effect a correction as follows:

:setclock timezone=w5:00

:setclock ;cancel (which cancels any pending gradual changes and permits the subsequent setclock command to succeed.)

:setclock ;date=mm/dd/yy;time=hh:mm;now (the date/time should correspond to your desired “software” clock - ie, the actual location-specific date/time.)

Be careful if the above command sequence will result in the clocks being adjusted backwards that could affect any scheduled jobs or any running application that is date/time sensitive.

If the timezone is correct and you wish only to adjust your software clock, you can simplify by:

:setclock ;correction=no-of-seconds (plus or minus)

Regular Clock Maintenance

Now that you've set your system clocks appropriately, just like any nice-looking grass lawn, they need regular maintenance to stay nice-looking -- or accurate.

From my experience, HP 3000 system clocks are woefully inaccurate if left to their own. They tend to lose time over periods of time - notwithstanding power failures combined with non-functioning main-board batteries and UPS's, in which case the magnitude of clock discrepancy would be much larger.

The System Administrator can solve the clock maintenance problem in two ways:

1. Manually, by checking the system clocks at regular intervals with the SHOWCLOCK command, and, when necessary, issue the appropriate SETCLOCK command to effect adjustments, or

2. Automagically, by utilizing an available utility, called NTPDATE, scheduled to run at regular intervals to adjust your system clocks to the correct time.

Naturally, being a suitably lazy SysAdmin, I prefer option 2.

Since this utility works extremely well when used modestly, I choose to execute it once daily - at most. (Depending upon how inaccurate your system clock is and your tolerance for clock variances, you can choose to run it weekly or monthly)

The NTPDATE utility should be available from whoever is currently maintaining the old Interex contributed library, or an echo of the old HP Jazz site. It comprises a single program, called NTPDATE and can be located in PUB.SYS or whichever group/account you wish having PM capability.

To execute, simply

:ntpdate.pub.sys “pool.ntp.org”

It will synchronize your software clock with the time servers at pool.ntp.org and according to the value of your TIMEZONE setting. You can follow the ntpdate command with a showclock command to see if any adjustments were necessary. You can replace pool.ntp.org with any suitable time server that you prefer and have access to.

Placing this command in a regularly executing job stream will keep your system clocks accurate and worry-free while you work on other things. 

Next time: The nuances of HP's TZTAB file formats

10:41 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 18, 2012

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.

And for those products that do utilize the TZTAB file, it behooves to set the variable TZ to its appropriate value, for example:

:setvar TZ, EST5EDT (appropriate for the Eastern Timezone, which, during Eastern Standard Time, is 5 hours west of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)). 

Two Clocks, Two Times

Each HP 3000 contains two separate clocks, commonly referred to as the hardware clock and the software clock.

Typically, the hardware clock is set at system boot time, with the ISL CLKUTIL command. This clock should be set to coincide with the GMT.

The software clock can be set at the ISL START NORECOVERY dialogue. This clock should be set to the actual local time in effect.

If both hardware and software clocks are set properly the system's TIMEZONE setting will reflect the difference between the two.

This can be checked with the command :showcloc

SYSTEM TIME: MON, SEP  3, 2012,  2:25:01 PM

The SETCLOCK command

There are occasions when it's desirable to modify one or both of the hardware and software clocks - without requiring a system boot. The SETCLOCK command permits us to do exactly that.

As shown above, the SHOWCLOCK command will directly show you the value of the “SOFTWARE” clock (contents of SYSTEM TIME). 

The value of the “HARDWARE” clock is shown indirectly with the combination of SYSTEM TIME and TIME ZONE.

In the above example, the value of the “HARDWARE” clock is MON, SEP 3, 2012, 6:25:01 PM -- which is the value of the SOFTWARE clock plus 4 hours (TIMEZONE of 4 HOURS WESTERN HEMISPHERE). (If the TIMEZONE value showed EASTERN HEMISPHERE, the corresponding TIMEZONE value would be subtracted from the SOFTWARE clock to arrive at the HARDWARE clock.)

The SETCLOCK command has the following parameters:


Alters the system time or system time zone.


     SETCLOCK  {DATE= date spec; TIME= time spec [;GRADUAL | ;NOW]}
              {CORRECTION= correction spec [;GRADUAL | ;NOW]}
              {TIMEZONE= time zone spec}

You can see more detail associated with the individual parameters by issuing the command :help setclock, all

For those whose system clocks are generally quite accurate and properly maintained (and I will show you how to ensure that later), the command you will need to invoke twice annually is:

:setclock timezone=W5:00 (First Sunday in November, at 2:00AM, assuming Eastern Timezone)


:setclock timezone=W4:00 (Second Sunday in March, at 2:00AM, assuming Eastern Timezone)

These commands can be launched by a job stream that executes, say, once a week-- such as a full backup, for example -- by simply utilizing system date variables to calculate whether the following Sunday is either the first Sunday in November or second Sunday in March, and then stream a job that Sunday at 2:00AM which modifies the TIMEZONE with the appropriate SETCLOCK command.

However, there may be occasions when less granular modifications to your system clocks are necessary. One such occasion could be when your HP 3000 experiences the following conditions/events:

1. It shuts down (ungracefully) due to a power failure, and
2. It is unprotected by a UPS system, and
3. Its internal battery is no longer functioning 

The internal battery is what maintains the hardware clock. A non-functioning battery will cause your system to lose its proper clock value and typically boot up with a value of January 1, 1972 - or some ridiculously erroneous value like that.

Incidentally, this battery is easily replaceable - at least it is on my model 928. The battery it uses is a 3-volt lithium, Panasonic BR2325 - obtainable at most camera supply stores - but, hurry, camera supply stores, like the HP 3000, is a dying breed). If the Panasonic is unavailable, a suitable replacement would be a 3-volt lithium RENATA CR2325.

The battery is located on the main system board - the one containing the CPU, which you can also identify with its included black toggle switch donating “normal” when positioned to the left, and “service” when positioned to the right. To remove that board for battery replacement, you will need to remove the metal plate that covers the disabled RJ45 and AUI ports of the board.

Next time: The task of changing the system clocks for other than trivial or TIMEZONE changes

Gilles Schipper is founder of the system support supplier GSA Associates and Homesteading Editor for the 3000 Newswire.

10:38 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2012

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.

Miller points out that his consulting client's operations to support a hardgoods distribution business is running without DP staff.

Although they have knowledgeable mangers to handle the day-to-day operations problems, they have no DP staff!  Because of the reliability of the HP hardware and the demonstrated success of their custom software, they have been able to avoid the cost of hiring a System Manager, Programmers, or Operators – they run “lights out” and are extremely satisfied with the results of these executed plans.

Needless to say, they are skeptical and hesitant to move away from their current system.

When is that kind of migration due to arrive? Yeo says the same choice befalls an owner of a comfy and reliable car which needs to be certified for a long trip. Buy a new engine, or spend the money on a down payment on a new car? Even at a reduced level of licensing, HPA/3000 is still going to cost in the realm of five figures. Yeo examines the question, "Is an emulator cost-effective?"

If you are keeping HP 3000 hardware running for a couple of thousand bucks a year, then No. If you are reliant on your HP 3000 applications, are happy with the constraints of MPE, and think that will hold true for a few years, then Yes.

The analogy is rather like running an old car that you like and feel comfortable with as your daily transport. It's inexpensive to keep running; the local parts store and local garage seem to be able to supply and fix everything for a few hundred bucks when it breaks. But you have a nagging doubt that if you decided to undertake a cross-continent journey that the engine might just expire with a loud bang. Now someone comes along and offers you a brand-new engine for $5,000 -- what do you do?

1) Decline the offer as too expensive, and carry on as now.

2) Accept the offer, and continue driving your comfortable old car for a number of years, confident that it's got a good engine that's going to be reliable.

3) Decide that if you're going to spend $5,000, that you may as well use it as a deposit and buy the new vehicle that you would really like, one that will better suit your needs for the next decade.

Which is the best most cost effective choice? Ah well, only you can know that, for as with so many things the answer is "It Depends."

07:44 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 16, 2012

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.

The Software License Transfer is an everyday operation that covers HP's Unix licenses as well as those of the NonStop and VMS worlds, in addition to the 3000's. In fact, when you seek out the webpage you'll find that the URL ends in the characters "sltprocesshpux." Perhaps there's a lot more HP-UX transferring occurring.

Chris Bartram, who still owns an HP 3000 or two after more than two decades of development, software sales of Netmail/3000 and more, plus consulting on the platform, wonders about the process.

What's the cost to transfer a license if you do have a legitimate system to transfer from? Is that still $500? How much of a (scrap) 3000 do you need to perform a transfer? Just the serial number and/or HPSUSAN? Can one perhaps transfer a legitimate license from an old MPE/V era system?

Onward to the HP cost details. Examples of the needed documentation, by the way, refer to HP 3000 models on this page.

A cost recovery fee of $400 USD, plus applicable sales tax, is charged per server, per EVA, or per batch of OpenView products on non-server platforms. Sales tax is required for all transfers into/within the US. Sales tax is based on the location of the Transferee/New Owner. The payment should come with the Transfer Request. We can accept checks, money orders, Visa, Master Charge or American Express.

There's no language on the page that addresses if the hardware is scrap -- so long as the license is still alive and un-transferred. This is the Proof that HP requires.

The proof must show the Product Number, Serial Number, User Levels and a list of the HP proprietary software to be transferred. This can be done in one of four ways.

  1. A copy of the INVOICE for purchase of the hardware and software from HP or an HP Authorized Reseller 
  2. A copy of a complete HP hardware and software SUPPORT AGREEMENT/ CONTRACT
  3. A copy of an HP PACKING SLIP listing the hardware and software, OR
  4. If purchased as used, a copy of the SOFTWARE LICENSE TRANSFER AUTHORIZATION - Exhibit F00, signed by HP.

Finally, the details appear below on where to get more specific answers to questions like "What do I do if I transfer the license to the emulator for testing, and then decide I want to run my 3000 in parallel for testing?" We have a pretty good idea what the customers will do, but it's unknown what HP wishes in that instance. It might matter to a customer's auditor, after all.

Hewlett-Packard Company 
MS: SLT 4061
19420 Homestead Road, Cupertino, CA 95014
Fax: 408-796-5390

06:17 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 15, 2012

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.

The immediate-transfer intepretation of HP's licensing policies could stand in the way of any legal use of the Personal Freeware version of HPA/3000. The vendor's offer of $500 emulator RTU license "has expired and it’s no longer available," Hou said. That license never got used by the 3000 customer base -- because no emulator was ready to ship by the end of 2010, when HP's RTU offer expired.

Interpretations of the SLT process are Hou's responsibility. The vendor's SLT Process webpage states that "The person representing the Transferee cannot sign the Request Form." In the case of an emulator transfer, the person initiating the transfer will always be the transferee, one and the same. It's as if they're saying, "I'm transferring my legal copy of MPE to my new emulator." 

But Hou said that emulator-based license transfers within a customer's site present no problem for the current process.

"What the SLT FAQ meant is that the transferor has to sign the request form," Hou said. "In the case of an emulator transfer, the transferor and the transferee could be the same person. Thus, that person can sign it."

There are five parts to a software right-to-use license transfer: the Request, the Proof, the Transfer Fee, the Software License Terms and the Authorization. Each of these five parts must be in place before HP will grant a right-to-use license.

09:38 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 12, 2012

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.

It's been four decades since the veteran Edwards filed a flight plan or had to know the way into and out of US air territory. "Forty years later, it's a lot different air space," he said.

Edwards is retraining on the iPad as a user, but he's employing an app that tracks flight plans, airspace maps, fixed base operation providers and more. He's familiar with those elements as a pilot, and the iPad delivers newer technology than the paper-based maps and flight log books from his younger flying days.

He said it's a lot like that for 3000 users who may be training on newer technology: proven concepts like DP management and development, enabled on more prevalent technology. He went on to note a handful of clients in his IT community in Dallas who are making that move, including Club Technology (club billing) and MilesTek (electronics connectivity products).

"They're winding down and converting their stuff to Windows," he said of those companies, places where Edwards has helped with tools like Speedware and Suprtool. In particular, Club Technology was a great advocate for the 3000 technology while the systems were replacing computers the size and scale of those where Murray now works.

While legacy systems seem shackled compared to a 3000, both then and even now, it was the software delivered under MPE that made the difference, Murray said. "The most impressive thing about the 3000 was the bang for the buck, especially in terms of the compilers and IMAGE. We wrote our first online system in COBOL using KSAM, which was brand new, and DEL." He was proving that legacy technology of the mid-'70s had to give way to interactive 3000s. 

The first 3000 on which I programmed was a CX machine located at the HP Fullerton Sales Office, connecting via a 300 baud modem with an acoustic coupler. With that technology, my partner and I ran a number of benchmarks, demonstrated the feasibility of converting our existing applications (mostly COBOL) from a Honeywell system, and started exploring the world of online transaction processing.
Everything older can appear to be chained. But there are those 40-some 3000s still keeping the California prison system running for now. Some shackles, like Murray's new MVS job, have stability to call upon, too.


03:23 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 11, 2012

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.

A seasoned migration engineer on an adept team says that OpenCOBOL and Linux had to be blended without help from the OpenCOBOL online forum. This typical sort of knowledge repository for open source "seems to have been read-only, for newcomers at least, ever since last January." When nobody's posting to a help forum, any questions had better be the same as they ones already answered.

OpenCOBOL is open source code that has a commercial counterpart, just like Red Hat commercialized Linux. You can download COBOL-IT to get started with this blend. Freshe Legacy, the former Speedware, was drawing attention to COBOL-IT during 2011.

But 64-bit OpenCOBOL, running on RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.3, eventually assumed the core calcuations which the 3000's COBOL once did. The calculations were in surround code. Sometimes Powerhouse is an application's surround code, but sometimes it's COBOL.

The 3000's COBOL can be compiled on OpenCOBOL 1.1. (Actually running it against a database like Oracle is another matter. There's the calls to HP's intrinsics, plus the exchange of data with IMAGE, to rewrite into Linux intrinsics and Oracle calls.) But there's also a thorough pre-requisite to simplifying the COBOL from the 3000. 

1.Remove all the code relating to long-dead product ranges that would never be purchased again. Good policy in all migration cases. Your migrations should well begin by studying all the programs that need not be migrated, because the end-users don't use them anymore.

2. Make the code almost completely ANSI-compliant, using COBOL's functions for date calculations instead of any home-grown ones. The 3000 COBOL's ENTRY points are already simple enough. They might be a lot of trouble to code around, and OpenCOBOL supports them anyway.

The blend of OpenCOBOL and Powerhouse works very differently than the 3000's, which requires this bit of technical refitting: keeping the OpenCOBOL on 64-bit. 

A 32-bit OpenCOBOL is needed if Powerhouse, itself 32-bit, is to call COBOL subroutines. So you do a COBOL wrapper for the subroutine, which makes it possible for Powerhouse to RUN it as a separate executable -- and 64-bit OpenCOBOL will be okay, now passing and returning the variables in a file.

If all of the above sounds like the effort of home-grown application development from the 1980s and 1990s -- workarounds galore -- of course it is. These migrations are moving applications that were constructed during that era. It might also serve as a leg in the journey moving the COBOL you know to a COBOL you don't on Linux. Especially if that COBOL is open sourced. The reputation that Linux bears -- being a hands-on environment -- survives, especially powered by reports like this.

Database: vendor-supported. Environment: same. COBOL: Perhaps best chosen as a commercial tool with support. And be vigilant about the run-time costs, which never existed under HP's COBOL II. That was the final COBOL, by the way, that HP ever created, using a well-honed languages lab. By the time COBOL became important to Unix or Linux, HP had left the compiler business to third-party experts.

12:52 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 10, 2012

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.

Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks, and in our 2010 interview with him, he chuckled repeatedly while telling stories of revisions of management plans

We were supposed to be off the 3000 five years ago. We did another upgrade to our financials, Bi-Tech, something we’ve been running for 18 years. We realized after we got going that the system couldn’t handle the city’s finances.

Back then, the finance department decided they wanted a new system that didn’t involve IT. But what they picked out couldn’t handle the job of General Ledger. We ended up going back to the 3000 after being off it for a year with GL. It was still running payroll.

As HP was slowly ramping down, we realized that we needed a more modern system. Plus, finances are really important to the city. Bi-Tech quit developing on us 10 years ago. They were like others; if HP wasn't going to support the 3000, they weren’t going to move forward. 

The city's system to handle its courts was once running on a 3000, an in-house app launched in the late ‘70s. That 3000 was turned off in 2010. That year the city was accessing a 3000 "almost daily, just for history. They’ll do that until we’re off the 3000s totally, about 18 months from now," Davidek said.

I watched us go from terminals to where we are today. It’s moving forward, and you’ve got to keep moving forward. You can’t block modern technology just because it might be hard to manage. That’s always been my thing: what’s the next step that can make our jobs easier?

But even while the migration plans were at full throttle, Davidek was full of praise for the architecture and ability of the 3000s.

Let me tell you — you just can’t beat the way the HP 3000 runs. You can do so much more with the MPE operating system. It’s so much more robust than people ever realized.

But you can’t just keep looking at that. The city manager wants to use his iPad, connected to our network. We can’t just tell him no. We’ve got to look at the future, these handheld devices. You have to be able to look at your data from that level and at the desktop, laptops or whatever the next great thing is out there, but look at it securely.

The 2010 plan was to leave the 3000 connected for historic lookups, but the hardware hasn't been very cool about that idea. "We thought the 3000 would just be sitting here for history until we didn't legally have to keep the data around," he said. "We were hoping to do that, but the box itself is making this difficult as it keeps overheating." The 3000 data has now been copied to an SQL database and inquiries have been written to access the data.

04:23 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 09, 2012

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 Forbes.com 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."

In the past we've reported on HP's stock and fiscal woes with an eye toward warning buyers of HP's enterprise products. You might not want to invest strong in a company drifting into equity buyout or takeover territory. But if a full-on split between PCs, and products like Integrity and ProLiants, takes place then the enterprise might lift up its future at HP.

CEO Meg Whitman has already told the world HP is doing too much and needs to focus. A split up would inject dedication to the kind of customer who owned a 3000 and moved onto other HP platforms. When your only stream of operating income arrives from datacenter customers, their every need becomes a vendor's desire.

Without the split at hand, even Whitman had to admit these woes to the analysts:

  • Lack of competitive focus.
  • Cost structure not aligned with revenue trajectory
  • Accountability and compensation linkage not optimized
  • Significant underinvestment in R&D and IT impacting the businesses
  • Direct and partner go-to-market model need renewed focus

Screen shot 2012-10-09 at 3.18.17 PMHP's chief competitors seem to be Apple on the consumer and PC end, as well as IBM on the enterprise end. These companies have something in common. They don't try to spread themselves as thin as HP has. There's no certain floor for the stock at this point -- the rock bottom was $12.20 in the bleak quarter after 9/11. Bill and Dave might have steered clear of selling printers and PCs at all in this kind of competitive market. After all, the company was reluctant to sell computers in 1971, and it didn't discover Windows as an enterprise tool until the late 1990s.

A split-up HP might be selling $50 million less without PCs, and $70 million less if printers got spun off. But as things stand today, the lack of extra cash for R&D because of low-margin PC sales is dragging down enterprise innovations. Things like an Intel-based HP-UX would be a slam dunk for an enterprise-focused HP. Becoming smaller could be the first step to make its enterprise action bigger.

04:00 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2012

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.

Chang has asked me to lead the effort to encourage HP to consider and MPE hobbyist license. The vendor was ready to extend a low-cost license, which is a step towards a hobbyist license. But that 2004 offer of a $500 emulator license was just an offer. HP tied a 2010 deadline on selling that license, and the vendor wouldn't sell one until an emulator existed. The deadline expired without a single license sold. But HP's intention to support an emulator was clear.

We have about as much support here at the Newswire from migration suppliers as we do from homesteading resources. But there's not much advocacy for the former that's required with HP. The vendor has done nearly everything it can make the exit from the 3000 enterprise easy and cost-effective. To be helpful to everybody, someone has to step up and try to change things for homesteading licenses.

I would like to work on the advocacy with HP to make a hobbyist license for MPE available, "similar to the OpenVMS hobbyist license that HP makes available for the OpenVMS enthusiasts" Chang says. That's a hobbyist license at no cost. In the Digital arrangement, you need to be part of a user group. Connect membership is available for this purpose for the Digital users.

This all might get closer to being a reality with the participation a 3000 owner, user, expert or veteran who'd like to have such a hobbyist's license. The licensing document that would make an auditor happy could well become an interim document -- one that could lead from freeware to Stromasys emulator installations. Think of what 90 days of goodwill through an interim license could buy HP, a company whose CEO is courting enterprise business.

11:27 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2012

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.

A hobbyist's license for MPE/iX was discussed during the OpenMPE heyday, but HP never followed through on a plan that would serve former customers like Digital does today. (It sounds funny to say Digital when we mean HP, but the HP staff who are Compaq- or Digital-bred know the distinction.) One of those ex-HP staffers believes there's a good reason for a hobbyist MPE/iX license. Ling Chang is the new CEO at Stromasys. Here in her first week leading the company, she suggested this idea needs an advocate. She nominated the NewsWire.

I understand that for years, there has been a VMS hobbyist license available on www.openvms.org. I assume that this is still the case.  Would you like to look into that, and see if a similar approach could be established between HP and the HP 3000/MPE end user group -- led by you?

We'd like to take up that job, even if some might think of it as tilting at a windmill. Publications do operate on other levels than information sources -- like the Le Equipe sports tabloid running the Tour de France. We'll all need to pull together like a cycling team to climb this Category 1 mountain of MPE hobbyist. If you'd like to help, we can use the aid and counsel. Email me, or leave a comment below this article.

03:13 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 04, 2012

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.

Emulation -- the virtualization engine of the 3000's hardware -- changes all that. Edminster said if a VM supports a device, then the aging artifact of peripheral interface simply goes away. Supporting tape devices was a milestone which the Stromasys emulator crossed early in 2012. "I think that the question of should MPE/iX have support for LTO-5 is largely a red herring," Edminster says.

In a solid virtualization design, whatever device the hosting hardware supports (in the current emulator's release, that's any Intel i7 Core system) is the only thing that matters. And if the cloud replaces tape, fine. But you won't need to rely upon cloud storage just because HP stopped engineering MPE's IO a decade ago. Edminster explains.

LTO-5 is largely a red herring. Why? Because it doesn't matter if the 3000 support it or not. Instead, does the hosting VM support it? My guess is that the only instances of MPE/iX which will survive, in the longest term, might be those which run under the Charon HPA/3000 VM. Since the hosting VM manages the disk images and their backup, it'll all be transparent to MPE/iX as to what kind of medium is being used. That's true if the backup occurs via a 'virtual' tape drive, or even that it's being backed up at all (a backup of disk-image, done by the hosting VM).

LTO was not a project in HP's labs that got extensive 3000 testing victories -- that's to say, a wide scope of software running against it which passed the MPE/iX speed tests. Jim Hawkins, the IO device expert in that lab, says the tests failed to deliver adequate small-file transfers using HP's own backup software, TurboStore.

When Herb Statham of Cerro Wire asked if he could use a LTO-1 Tape Drive on an A-Class 500 HP 3000 with Turbo/Store iX, because his was back was backup exceeding 100GB, Hawkins had one word of advice: Don't.

Hawkins referred to a page of a 2004 HP Communicator, a tech document written in support of the PowerPatch 2 release of MPE/iX 7.5. That's just about the last Communicator that HP produced about 3000 techology. The warning on page 26 sets expectations pretty low for Ultrium LTO. The 215 and 230 models were the state of HP's art in 2004.

Physical connections are to be made only to LVD-SCSI Host Bus Adaptors. LVD-SCSI terminators must be used for devices to function at rated speeds. HP recommends only one Ultrium Tape device per SCSI bus for maximum performance. No more than two Ultrium Tape devices per SCSI bus will be supported. An Ultrium device must never share a SCSI bus with any other SCSI peripheral type.

There's also the matter that there was little support for using MPE/iX to diagnose Ultrium problems .

Most diagnostic support for Ultrium drives comes from HP Storage Works Library and Tape Tools (a.k.a. LTT). LTT does not run on MPE/iX; therefore in some diagnostic scenarios the Ultrium may have to be removed from the HP e3000 and connected to a host running LTT.

So here comes HP LTO-1 technology that was too advanced to work with HP's own backup software. The indie software tools HiBack and Backup+/iX were the only backup apps certified for Ultrium. Not TurboStore, "for the reason of poor performance, especially for small files," Hawkins told me.

But don't interpret that "don't" too literally. It's not that LTO devices of that era are unusable with 3000s. Not at all. Consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech reports that there's N-Class servers in his client base using LTO-1. Hawkins said the tests against TurboStore didn't pan out, at least for the little things. Like files.

Basically performance may be very much less that "Native" device speed, even slower than DDS-4 in some cases, due to a combination of TSTORE and TapeDM limitations. In fact we'd already seen a bit of a drop-off in TSTORE performance with DLT80/8000.

Thinking about it again, I suspect that customers with a set of very large files would probably do okay, especially if you have the space a store-to-disk backup and then a store of those files to Ttpe probably would be okay.

It's the small files that will get you hung up using LTO-1. Hawkins even shared his lab notes from those tests, for the customer who's tech-savvy enough to want details on the failed proof of concept.

It is apparent from the TSTTOOL results that the larger the blocks being written, the faster the Ultrium device will run.  Also the fewer the number of file marks, particularly on smaller block sizes, the faster Ultrium will run. Although the numbers achieved by TSTTOOL are not realistic compared to STORE since no disk IO are required to deliver the data to the tape. It still demonstrated the potential for improvement. Even STORE shows some improvement depending on whether the MAXTAPEBUF option is used. I would recommend that the MAXTAPEBUF be increased to 64, or possibly 128K.

Secondly, the combination of file marks and small block sizes can be devastating. The STORE test with the statistics option clearly shows that the Ultrium and the DLT80 are greatly effected by the storing many small files due to file mark usage between file. I am assuming that the use of file marks is tied to using the SPACE command to moving around on the tape currently.  

So, I would recommend that the file marks be reduced or eliminated through the use of alternate positioning commands; i.e., READ POSITION and LOCATE which allows the device to move quickly to any point on the tape.  If  READ POSITION and LOCATE are considered the tape DMs will require updating as well.

Something not addressed in this investigation that may (or may not) need to be checked: to ensure that the 200Gb cartridge, capable of handling many more files than previous tape devices, does not have any issues handling a potentially large directory size for a tape or combinations of tapes.

If you don't have a copy of that 7.5 PP2 Communicator handy, you can download it from us here. The link will probably outlast LTOs 1-4, and even LTO-5.

11:37 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2012

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 http://www.itunes.com/apps/iadmin or by clicking on the App Store icon at http://iadmin.allegro.com.

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

Use of the app requires setting up an account on Allegro's web server (http://iadmin.allegro.com), and then registering one or more systems (servers).

Then, the web server allows you to download a script for each system ... that script does data collection and emails the result to our  iAdmin server, for later retrieval by the iAdmin app. Typically, users run our script via a cron job at least once a day.

Allegro has designed iAdmin as a subscription service. "We charge $9.99/month per  system, with a discount for a longer term," Sieler says. "The first system is free for one month."

02:57 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2012

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.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the nation's largest municipal utility, providing safe, secure and reliable water and electric service to almost 4 million residents in Los Angeles. LADWP’s real estate division owns and manages more than 310,000 acres in the Eastern Sierra.

Fresche Legacy flies the flag of a company employing "experts in application transformation and application support services for IBM midrange and mainframe systems, including the IBM i (AS/400) platform... with proven experience with RPG and the IBM i environment.

"We are excited to have this opportunity to work with one of the largest public utilities in the US," said Kulakowski, "as we continue to execute our core strategy to grow and expand our footprint in the IBM i (AS/400) market." Fresche will work on LADWP applications based on RPG which serve the utility's real estate division.


02:13 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2012

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.

Stromasys founder and chairman Robert Boers is examining this challenge. He ran one concept past me last week.

In the commercial version of the virtual HP 3000, the HPSUSAN is located in the license key (set to the number the customer specifies). The freeware A200-sized emulator has no license key. We can program into the code a fixed number (such as 123456.) Would that work for non-commercial use?

Commercial or not, a fixed HPSUSAN won't verify third party software which expects a number registered with the vendor. While a fixed number would satisfy MPE/iX so it could boot up on the virtualized 3000, it doesn't seem likely that it would meet the validation requirements which utilities, development tools and even some applications require.

And if you're going to test it, you cannot ignore the third-party software.

A lack of that kind validation might render the A200 HPA/3000 -- Stromasys calls it equivalent to the power of a Series 918 -- nothing more than a proof-of-concept demo.

"If you're going to test it, you cannot ignore the third party software," Woc said. "At some point Stromasys might offer a freeware version where they charge a nominal fee for the administration of producing a USB device with some HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME that would work with the third party applications and software. The third parties would have to update their license algorithm," Roc said while he considered the challenge, in order to use a generic number. To avoid triggering upgrade fees during the testing, that HPCPUNAME would be the lowest possible tier of 3000. A Series 925 comes to mind, probably the slowest 3000 ever released into the market.

But HPCPUNAME is half the value for those algorithms. And even a user who has valid HPSUSAN numbers will need to deploy them on a personal freeware A200 model of the emulator. For example, Taylor Lumpkin of the Hire Experience consultancy continues to develop for Ecometry e-commerce users. Hire Experience was founded by key employees who designed and built the Ecometry app suite. Lumpkin loves the idea of skipping the use of more 3000 hardware with an emulator -- just like his company has skipped Windows hardware by virtualizing the OS on Macs.

"We continue to develop for Ecometry on MPE/iX," he said, "and being able to run it on one of our existing i7 Apple machines, right along all of our Windows virtual machines, would be of great benefit. We could deploy machines to our remote developers and eliminate the need for connectivity."

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.

We love virtual machines and have not had to run any hardware on Windows now for seven years. This has proven to be a huge resource saver -- as we have eliminated all downtime which used to accumulate to 7-8 person days annually, all by running our desktop and server hardware on OS X exclusively.

Intel i7 distinctions aside -- the only i7s referenced by Stromasys so far have been PC hardware running Linux -- the profile of a developer customer usually matches lowest-speed units. Developers rarely need the commercial-grade, production-level horsepower of 3000s to cut and maintain code. But a free version of a 3000 might get in the way of a Stromasys sale.

Simply put, using the HPA/3000 freeware as a development tool would only benefit the developer. Stromasys seems to want to introduce the A200 product into the end user customer base -- a group of users who would likely need a paid version of the software to put the emulator into production.

If the HPSUSAN licensing challenge could be solved, the A200 could become the realization of the mythical Series 908. That was a model of 3000 which HP was going to sell to its developers in the 1990s for as little as an equivalent PC development system. The 908 was much more of a programmer's wish than a genuine HP product. But it illustrated just how little budget was available to development teams for 3000s.

Instead of the Series 908, HP introduced the Series 918DX. The server was only available to members of HP's DSPP developer program. Each came loaded with all of HP's subsystem software. But it was sold by the vendor that created the 3000, so each 918DX had an HPSUSAN which could be registered with any third party for software validation. A few third parties included their software with the 918DX. Most saw the low-power system as a prospective sale, instead of way to expand their installed base through a reference or a proof of concept. The emulator, being novel technology that appears to be a marvel to much of the market, could use proof of its concept. 


06:52 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)