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November 30, 2012

It's time to admit that IBM won at being No. 1

It's taken more than 10 years for all of the votes from the business community to be counted. But after HP launched into a campaign to become the world's largest computer company, by buying Compaq in 2001, the enterprise IT legend that HP's chased has finished at No. 1.

BernsteinNot in company sales, of course. As Kane's financial manager Mr. Bernstein says in Citizen Kane, "Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money... if what you want to do is make a lot of money." The trick HP wanted was to make a lot of profit while increasing shareholder's value. This week we received two pieces of news about that odyssey to be No. 1. Both suggest the game is over, and HP will need to try to win the next, different game.

First, the bond rating service Moody's has downgraded the value of HP's debt paper to just three steps above junk bonds. HP's debt carries the steepest risk ever at a Baa1 rating. This didn't matter as much when HP held so little long-term debt. That's not the case today. About $25 billion in debt is affected, Moody’s said.

HPvsPSASecond, the price of HP's stock has taken a tumble all through 2012. It's dropped so low in company valuation that Public Storage of America, a $1.8 billion storage unit renter, is now just below HP's valuation. Hewlett-Packard is the diving blue dot in the valuation chart, and PSA is the green. HP now needs 330,000 employees and $130 billion a year in sales to keep up with a storage unit company's value. HP lost that valuation that's charted there in a little more than one quarter. There seems little chance of regaining it while HP's built the way it is today. 2013's February 21 looks like a genuine fork in the road. HP reports its Q1 results that day.

In this week's New York Times, an op-ed piece written by a CEO contemporary of the Bill-and-Dave HP says it's time to split up Hewlett-Packard. Not to improve its valuation. To save the company, says Bill George, now a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.

Immediate salvation is required, if you read the business press. You could talk about the HP leadership of this era by pointing at articles like "Why HP Won't Fire Meg Whitman (At Least Not Right Away)." If they do, that would be the fourth straight CEO fired by HP. The last CEO who held the job through a peaceful resignation was also the final CEO groomed from within HP's ranks. Wow, Lew Platt: who among us ever thought he'd look like a powerful business leader?

But Platt wasn't made of the stuff that sent HP sniffing after every computer business where it didn't have a lead and wanted it, all in the chase to make a lot of money. That $22 billion to buy Compaq was Carly Fiorina's first brainstorm, but the profits didn't rain down on the company. Then there was the $14 billion spent on EDS, just so HP could puff itself up with a 144,000-employee headcount and compete with IBM's Services business. This too was recently written down.

All that Platt seemed to know how to do was lead an HP that was still investing in enterprise technology. His was the last CEO term where the sensible 10 percent R&D expense was safe on the HP books. R&D grows value in companies, especially ones like HP that can't carry off an Apple turtleneck cool or maintain IBM's ediface reputation.

The only thing that's succeeded in the HP march toward bigness, is, well, bigness. An employee force so large that it could lay off 75,000 workers over a decade and still be larger than it ever has been, paycheck-wise. IBM dropped its PC business at about the same time HP bought up billions of Compaq sales. Add in $10 billion of Autonomy (another writedown, with a swindle story in play) and HP's gotten what it wanted to be. Very big.

But while it drifted from the HP Way, the company watched Apple pass it to become the largest technology company in sales. HP has struggled because it wanted to be IBM and Apple at the same time. Each of these companies outflanks HP in size that matters: valuation and profitability. By factors of 10, or more.

George, who was CEO of Medtronic before he moved to the Harvard business faculty, pointed out that HP's quest to be No. 1 has been costly.

With 330,000 employees and $120 billion in revenue, HP has become too big to manage.

It is really two businesses: a commodity personal computer and printer business and an enterprise systems, services and software business. The characteristics of these businesses are entirely different.

And so while you've been assuming that a very large vendor could deliver very large value, HP's R&D and management have been taken from pillar to post, from PC to IT. That thrashing means that now a storage unit company is worth just slightly less than the creator of the MPE/iX, PA-RISC, Superdome, IMAGE, and ink-jet printing.

2012 stock declineWhitman -- for as long as she lasts after a scary 2012 where shares tumbled as steeply as the chart at right shows -- should be tossing in the towel on this fight to be No. 1. She's got to try to bail out a listing ship. George points out in his article that HP's enterprise business demands heavy R&D, "including very sophisticated software (an area where HP is sorely lagging behind IBM, Oracle and SAP), high touch customer service, and an expensive support structure to meet its customers’ complex needs."

In its current form, Hewlett-Packard is a wasting asset, whose value to customers, employees and shareholders is steadily declining. It is time for the board to move quickly to restore its former status as a company everyone can admire, one that can compete successfully in two very different global markets. 

There's a game where HP can finish on top, perhaps. It lies on a different field from trying to run a company large enough to be No. 1, while trying to beat two wildly different rivals at the same time. Whenever HP starts playing that new game -- cleaving itself into a $60 billion IT company and a $60 billion PC company -- its enterprise users can look away from this blowout loss that's taken a decade to sink in, after chasing No. 1.

10:10 AM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 29, 2012

Power of File Equations: HP 3000 Flexibility

Editor's Note: HP's George Stachnik spent more than a decade teaching HP 3000 customers how to use the best of the system, back in the days when HP was selling it, and then when the vendor was pushing migration. On the former mission, Stachnik wrote a 33-part series in InterACT magazine, The HP 3000 for Complete Novices. Our archives have revealed a paper copy of Part 14, which included figures you can't find anywhere else. The figures make the article, one of more than 20 available online at the 3k.com website, even more useful. Here's an excerpt of this advanced MPE/iX tutorial.

By George Stachnik

Let’s turn our attention to more advanced characteristics of MPE files: file equations. 

Suppose you were writing a COBOL program to read data from an input file. Let's assume that when this program is placed into production, its input file is called INFILE. In COBOL, you could code the filename right into the file definition. When you run such a program on an HP 3000, it will look for a file called INFILE and attempt to read data from it.

Of course, Murphy's Law dictates that as soon as you have a program that is "locked into" a particular filename, a need will arise to have it read a file with a different name. For this reason, most commercial operating systems provide a way of assigning a temporary alias to a file. Perhaps the best example is the granddaddy of all commercial operating systems: IBM's MVS operating system.

Most mainframe applications refer to files not by their filenames, but by temporary aliases called DDNAMES. On IBM mainframes, DDNAMES are assigned using DD statements in a job control language called (fittingly enough) JCL. JCL is an old (and cryptic) language, but the concept of DDNAMES is a good one. It allows mainframe application programmers a degree of flexibility. 

The HP 3000 provides a similar capability. MPE allows you to assign temporary aliases called "formal file designators" using :FILE commands.

Figure 1, shown below, shows an example of the simplest form of file command:


FileEquationFig1001Such a command is often referred to as a "file equation" because of the equal sign ("=") in the middle of the command. In this example, the filename MYFILE has been assigned a formal file designator of INFILE. The formal file designator can be used as a temporary alias for the filename. So MYFILE can now be referenced by two names: MYFILE and INFILE.

Figure 1 shows an example of how a file equation might be used in conjunction with a program that has been coded with the filename INFILE. On the left side of Figure 1, we see the application program as it normally works--reading its input from INFILE. But the right side of the figure shows what happens when we issue the file equation before running the program. In essence, this FILE command tells MPE that any program that tries to read a file called INFILE should be redirected to a different file (in this case, MYFILE).

The scope of a file equation is limited to the session in which the file command is issued. In other words, file equations are in effect only until you log off. For example, suppose you issued the file equation shown on the right side of Figure 1, and then immediately ran a program designed to read data from INFILE. The program would be redirected to MYFILE, just as the figure shows. You could run the program repeatedly during your session, and it would be redirected to MYFILE every time.

But as soon as you log off the system, any file equations that you've issued will die with your session. The next time you log on to your HP 3000, things will be back to normal (as shown on the right side of Figure 1). If you run the program again, it will revert to looking for an input file called INFILE.

Furthermore, the impact of file equations is limited to your session only. It is not global--it doesn't affect other users who may be logged on at the same time. So if you issue a file equation that assigns the formal file designator INFILE to the filename MYFILE, while another user runs the program, the program will behave normally for them, but it will be redirected when you run it.

There's another use for the :FILE command. Yes, file equations can be used to assign a temporary alias called a "formal file designator" to a file. The example shown below is a bit more complicated. The command is:

:file x=myfile;acc=append

This file equation does two things. First of all, it assigns the formal file designator "x" to MYFILE, so that a program that writes to a file named "X" will be automatically redirected to write to MYFILE. But this file equation also contains another parameter. The keyword "ACC=APPEND" (the "ACC" stands for "access") tells MPE that any data that is written to the formal file designator "X" should be appended to the file being written to.

Normally, when you write to a file that already contains some data, MPE/iX would simply write over the data that is already there. But the ACC= APPEND keyword preserves any data that's already in the file and appends the new data to the end of the file.

In order for this file equation to work, we need a program to write to an output file called "X." Of course, we could get out our trusty COBOL compiler and write one, but there's an easier way. Our old friend FCOPY can write to any formal file designator we like. All you need to do is to put an asterisk ("*") right before the output formal file designator. Returning once again to our figure above, we see the following FCOPY command:

:fcopy from=;to=*x

This command leaves off the input filename, just as we saw earlier. FCOPY will therefore read its input from $STDIN (i.e., from the keyboard). The output filename ("x") is preceded by an asterisk, or "star" ("*"). This tells FCOPY, "You are going to write your output to 'x'--but 'x' isn't a filename, it's a formal file designator. Go look at the file equation that I've specified, and it will find what file I want you to write to, and how to write to it."

FileEquationFig5Putting the :FCOPY command above together with the file equation in Figure 2 above (click for detail), we are telling the HP 3000 to read data from our terminal keyboard and append it to the end of MYFILE.

At the top of our figure, we saw that there was one record already in MYFILE when we started. The figure shows four additional records being added to the file. Record number 2 contains the number 2 (followed by 79 blanks). Record 3 contains the number 3, and so on. After we've added record number 5, FCOPY dutifully returns to our terminal keyboard for a sixth record. Watch what happens.

I've typed the character string "This one won't work!" Ordinarily FCOPY would have written a sixth record containing this string to our output file. But as you can see, something has gone horribly wrong. The error message "*134*FOUND EOF IN TOFILE" has been displayed instead, and FCOPY has terminated.

The error message isn't as cryptic as it looks. FCOPY is simply trying to tell us that MYFILE has a capacity of five records and we just tried to append a sixth record to the file. When it tried to write record six, it found the EOF (end of file), and it knows it can't write past the EOF.

04:50 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2012

As Itanium speeds up, sites fly to Windows

Within the next week, HP's going to ship a new generation of Itanium-based servers. Using the Poulson chipset known as the Itanium 9500, these blade-based systems are going to outperform the current generation of Integrity servers by a factor of 3.29, according to HP.

Rx2800i4The engineering gains are impressive. HP tested the new Integrity blades that use the 9500 series against the Itanium 9300-powered servers. Blades start at $6,490 for the 9500-based systems. "For those remaining committed to Itanium and its attendant OS platforms, notably HP-UX, this is unmitigated good news," said Forrester's analyst Richard Fichera. HP's building these new servers exclusively in Singapore, so it can offer three times the computing speed at about the same price.

But even with all that improvement, HP needed to remind the market that these gains were also heading to its Intel x86 Xeon systems. The reason for that reminder: more of HP's customers, such as those leaving the 3000 in migrations, are moving to Windows.

We're not hearing nearly as many reports of migrations which landed on HP-UX systems. The latest news arrived today from Bob Thorpe of National Wine and Spirits. At the Detroit-area IT center, this 3000 pro turned migrator said their customized system is being moved, COBOL and all, to Windows.

"We are in process of having our in-house designed app (using COBOL, IMAGE, and VIEW) converted to NetCOBOL," he said. "We will migrate to a Windows Server platform by March or April next year."

It doesn't matter so much that it took NWS 12 years to leave MPE/iX. What seems more meaningful is that in spite of the Itanium speed-ups, HP couldn't lock NWS into its single-vendor, OS-plus-Itanium environment during those dozen years.

The newest Itanium muscle will arrive a little more than two years after HP's 9300-generation Integrity boxes rolled out to customers. These newer blades consume 21 percent less power, led by a new entry-level server, the Energy Star-certified Integrity rx2800 i4.

But dropping the cost of ownership for Itanium has mostly been a pleasure for the existing HP-UX customer. Oracle cast a year's worth of doubt over the chip's future until the courts made the vendor cease, and pledge to support HP-UX and the other operating systems which rely on Itanium. That's one reason HP reminds the market about Itanium's advances and where the improvements will end up: Xeon systems. 

With advancements in availability and reliability, HP’s mission-critical Converged Infrastructure will continue to enhance established HP Integrity platforms supporting HP-UX, HP NonStop and OpenVMS operating systems. Over time, these advancements will cascade to mission-critical x86 platforms delivering a single, unified infrastructure for Unix, Windows Server and Linux environments.

That means this "i4" line of Itanium-9500, with its new server blades of a two-socket BL860c i4, the four-socket BL870c i4, and the eight-socket BL890c i4 -- all of these are simply pilot units for the inevitable transfer away from Itanium. How inevitable depends on the customer's trajectory. Windows-bound sites like NWS don't much care how much Itanium can outperform Xeon.

At TechWeek Europe, one writer there interviewed the European head of HP's Integrity business. The website's Peter Judge didn't hear HP expecting to sway many new customers.

According to VP of Business Critical Systems for EMEA Mark Payne, customers still see plenty of performance benefits in the Itanium platform, and would not move across until the x86 platform can match that. Itanium-based systems like Integrity have better mission-critical performance, and users won’t move away until, at the very least, x86 can equal that, said HP.

Unix systems are obviously changing their role in the datacentre, and no one at HP actually suggested they would start to win back business against x86 servers. However, there was a clear expectation that the end of the Oracle lawsuit and the new chips would unlock demand from uncertain customers.

Judge compared the Unix vs. mainframe battles to the future facing the installed HP-UX base. "When we hear that the Unix ecosystem is doomed, we should take some perspective, and expect a similar process to occur. There seems every reason to expect Unix to last as long as the mainframes it failed to dislodge."

HP's message off its own Itanium website shows that it considers "legacy systems" to be its own older Integrity servers. A business case study of manufacturer Steelcase started with the company's use of the Tru64 OS and PA-RISC, then movement to Superdome Integrity. HP seems just as enthused about seeing fewer Oracle licenses needed in the more powerful configuration.

Itanium once had a clear power disadvantage against the PA-RISC chips that drove the ultimate HP generation of 3000s. It took as many as three years for Itanium to catch PA-RISC after the Intel-based systems began to ship. Somewhere in the future of HP's migration campaign, customers like NWS will be hearing more about Xeon systems than Itanium servers. Windows Server, not the Integrity server, is luring migrations.

05:06 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2012

Coding, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll

Ask around and you'll find nearly everybody has heard of the Rolling Stones. Do the same asking, outside of our community, and you'll find just the opposite for the HP 3000. You probably already know the cock of the head or the squint of the brow that signals "what's that?"

MickBut the Stones and the 3000 have something in common. They're both performing long beyond their expected retirements. This past weekend in London, the Stones performed in concert. Their average age is hovering around 70, and certainly nobody could see a day when Mick and Keith and Charlie and Ronnie would bring their raisin-like faces onstage. 

Of course, the reviews from the British press have made a lot of the Stones look. But no one is spreading anything but praise for the sound of their music.

Even more remarkably, the years barely seem to have made a dent in Jagger’s voice, nor dimmed his stockpile of restless energy. He leapt and danced across the huge stage, doing that old electric eel impersonation, as if it was still the Sixties.

Alan Yeo of Screenjet, headquartered in England, brought the commonality to my notice.

Which is the most remarkable -- that there are still users of a 40-year-old computer (or at least a computer that will run 40-year-old code), or a band like the Rolling Stones who at nearly 70 were onstage last night for the first of their 50th anniversary concerts.

It's kind of interesting that the development of computing has sort of marched side by side with Rock 'n' Roll, and also the combined interest in that Folk/Rock genre that so many we know in computing have.

Then there's the possibility that the just-released 3000 emulator is the equivalent of a tribute band.

For those who don't know the term, tribute bands specialize in the greatest hits of legendary artists. They study the songs closely to be able to play them and evoke the exact sound of the original recording. Yeo's already installed the emulator and appreciates the accuracy of its design

Is the Stromasys emulator like a Tribute Band? It can get up and stomp out all the old numbers, note-perfect and possibly with even more energy than the original. But it's still never going to be the same experience as the "Old Iron."

Read a few reviews of the Stones concerts from this weekend, and see if the tone seems to match what you hear about your HP 3000. Old can mean "to not fade away," since the 3000 is still rocking out the classic code of the 1970s and '80s. The Beatles took a different route, but Sir Paul just toured Texas and entertained at last year's Connect conference.

Here's a poll: Tell us, "Stones or Beatles? As Yeo says,

Given a black or white choice, which band, when "that track" comes on at a party, makes you immediately want to get up, loosen up those arthritic joints, and show that you can still "head bang" better than today's youth?

06:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 26, 2012

Experience a future of corrections, together

On the front page of our latest printed issue, now arriving, we've reported on a snarl that sprang up when Stromasys tried to give away HP 3000s over the Web. Not the actual hardware instances of the 3000, of course. These were the 2-user freeware emulators you will be able to download and install onto commodity computers.

The emulator itself is getting strong reviews for its capability. We'll have a report in full from the first production site soon, once our paper subscribers enjoy it first. However, a file full of HP's add-on subsystem software got slipped into the first zipped package, a mistake that didn't seem to meet Stromasys standards to introduce this virtual 3000's licensing strategy.

The calamity was held in check by the Internet. In the days before the Web, when we had only paper and land line phones and a fax machine, plus the delivery of the mails, this might have been a lengthy crisis. To start, thousands of customers would have had the incorrect bundle, not just the handful who downloaded that too-bundled Stromasys package over 24 hours, before it was withdrawn.

The postal mailboxes would have been full of DAT tapes, or even 9-track reels: the small ones which indie software vendors shipped out. You'd be expected to destroy those tapes and wait on the postman to deliver something a vendor had to re-manufacture, both in the coding sense as well as the writing of bits onto mylar sense. It might have taken weeks.

But now that it's nearly 2013, this kind of snarl becomes a bump in the road. A better version of the emulator freeware is being coded. And it may even be downloadable before our paper issue arrives in all mailboxes. We finished this issue's writing on a Wednesday. Less than seven days later, we were in print. The Personal Freeware version of the emulator will enjoy a uniform delivery schedule, a soon to South Asia as to South Dakota.

Mistakes are a part of creating and learning, but the correction time has been reduced because we're so much better connected.

The curve of connection keeps bending us together. During our last US election the thrum of Twitter was only starting to mount. The newly elected President Tweeted, while his opponent had to yank down a transition website which appeared online, even before all the votes had been counted.

And even though that website was only up for a matter of minutes, it was captured so everyone could connect with the details of the story, re-reported and trumped and harrumphed and spun. All within a few hours.

Where does an HP 3000 stand in such a connected world? I would offer it a position of honor and grace, since it still holds the answers to questions which are asked over the Web. In a little while, new software will let handheld iOS devices monitor the status of HP 3000s. That will mean that the iPad Mini which came to my door this month, earlier than expected, could be carried easily in one hand to track the status of a computer conceived in the late 1960s. We once couldn't hold a console for the 3000, even with two hands, unless we lifted weights at the gym. From 70-plus pounds to 7.9 inches and a matter of grams, we're reducing while we're better connecting.

There must be something we read in our DNA that keeps us linking more closely. I like to believe that it's represented in A Machine with an Old Soul, my prospective title for the book that will flow from the 3000 Memoir Project. Your computer family was created to remember what's important. Connecting that data in every way possible, safely, just improves its powers to bring us together. Like on that special Tuesday evening this month in the US, we experienced our future together, and all at once. Anything that aids the art of community is worth preserving.

-- Ron Seybold

06:41 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2012

Programming Note: Holiday at Hand

TurkeyWe're taking today and tomorrow off from our newswriting and analysis duty to give thanks for all that we enjoy in our world. In particular, Abby and I are thankful for the devotion and attention your community has graced us with over the past 17 years.

We'll keep an eye out for anything important to break before Monday. Stromasys has said it'll have a downloadable freeware emulator (2-user limit) ready very soon. But for many of us, this is a time to share with family, either the one you've chosen or the one which chose you.

Have a great holiday if you're celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday made permanent by Abe Lincoln. We'll be back at the recording of your community history on Monday. 

06:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 21, 2012

One month, Twin markers, News on Paper

NewsWire Editorial

For the past 11 years I've written a story during the month of November about the greatest un-natural disaster your community experienced. It's shameful and inappropriate to compare the end of 3000 futures at HP, announced on November 14, 2001, as anything like Superstorm Sandy. Lives haven't been lost. But livelihoods have been, at least. More than a decade after that business-only decision, we all are suffering through the changes HP dished out during that fall.

As it turns out, fall was also the season when we launched the 3000 NewsWire. The mashup of creation memories with what HP's always called "end of life" makes for a complicated, bittersweet time. The same energy -- change -- gave the community our printed publication as well as HP's exit announcement just six years later.

NewsprintpaperBut we have survived along with you, although the suffering metaphor to powerful climate change storms will stop right here. It was scary and uncertain in those first months after a suprising announcement that wasn't a surprise to some skeptics. Now everyone is crossing into our 12th year beyond that ill-fated Nov. 14. And this month we are watching a virtual 3000, the HPA/3000, take its first steps, probably into even more years to come.

However, we used to mark our newsletter's anniversary with our October printed issue. Within five years of that HP exit plan, our printed editions evolved to quarterly products, rather than monthly. We have sponsors and readers who prefer to read this vehicle in print. Amazon sells a lot of paper, even in 2012. But the trend is toward online reading. It's why we moved our reporting toward the news blog more than seven years ago. By the time you read this, we will be crossing the milestone of 2,000 stories reported on the blog. That's happened in less than half the time the NewsWire has published.

And today the 149th issue of the 3000 NewsWire went into the US Mail. As they used to say on TV, more to come. 

Just like many of you remain connected to using the HP 3000 as a mission-critical tool, we've remained devoted to print. My partner Abby and I cut our publishing teeth in an era where paper and ink were the only means to spread news. Outside of our offices here in Austin, a massive mailbox still stands next to the curb. It's large enough to hold a dozen tabloid-sized trade publications. We had nothing else but paper. It deserves an honorable place in our business plan, even in 2012. That paper issue still breaks news that our subscribers read first, even before the blog. Watch your mailbox in the week to come.

Like you, we're cutting against the grain by sticking to some print. In Detroit and New Orleans, daily papers are no longer daily in printed versions. Newsweek just chose to stop printing, taking its news services completely online. Even at the writing workshop sessions I lead in the evenings, my writers often prefer to buy e-books. "I want to save paper," said Blake last night, "whenever I can."

Change is one of the great forces for good in the world, and so we should embrace it and be happy in the growth it promotes. But it takes an open mind and instruction to adopt such an advanced skill. One printed book — at least I bought it recycled — sitting on my nightstand is The Five Things We Cannot Change, and the Happiness We Find Embracing Them. Control and forecasting are two skills I've often found in our community's members. They're a natural for a journalist. But those two things stand in the way of growing.

It's important to know the Five Things.

1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan
3. Life is not always fair
4. Pain is a part of life
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

Many of us are moving into the third act of our lives by now, so it's a good time to turn some pages and see how these Five Things have already applied to the lives we've led together as co-owners of an HP business computer without peer, or as a storytelling writer and editor and his readers across more than 17 years.

Every computer ever made will change, and its lifespan will someday end. Yours did, and it will.

Things do not always go according to plan, like HP's Powerpoint slides you saw and believed in August of 2001, charts predicting the future. Or the plans which HP worked at, with some gusto, to make the 3000 a good alternative to the endless fixing of Windows and Unix business servers.

There's the fact that investing in 3000 skills and servers during Y2K was unfair, in the light of seeing that server abandoned by HP less than two years later. The end of HP's 3000 plans inflicted pain on paychecks, on company budgets and survival. Perhaps hardest of all, we've all learned that people are not always loyal all the time. Or their loyalties shift away from ours, while they protect their jobs.

So knowing all this, there are graces that flow from the Five Things. From those endings and change, things renew themselves and evolve. We can sense a larger plan at work when smaller ones fail us. We remain committed to fairness, when the unfairness helps us defend that. 

We expand our powers by enduring pain. And even in the face of not getting the loyalty we deserve, we don't have to stop our own loyalty, or the love of what we adore. Nothing can take away your capacity for loyalty and love.

These are higher ideals, but you can see how they apply to a community whose greatest stories are still to be written. There's a memoir series afoot to celebrate the 3000's roots. There's the rise of an emulator to eliminate any need for a vendor's good business sense. There is also a compassionate and ever-wiser font of helpers, vendors and consultants, to aid in your evolution to whatever is next.

In my writing workshops, where I often use hardback books to teach, I have a prompt to offer that sparks free writing. I invite writers to imagine a story that has defined them for many years. Then I ask them to begin writing, "This is the last time I will ever tell this story." This month will not be the last time we recount the story of how the 3000's future changed.

We cannot change that day, but there are many other things we'll change because of it. We'll evolve and reach out to grow, because we still can count on good roots. Abby and I are delighted to have been able to protect and nurture and chronicle them for these years of change and transition. Thank you for your devotion and attention. We'll see you in print once again, in 2013.

-- Ron Seybold

09:28 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2012

CEO Leo's defeat now complete with loss

NewsWire Editorial

HP's stock dove 10 percent this morning on the news that its last big-ticket acquisition lied about its net worth during the 2011 buyup of Autonomy. Aside from the spectacular flame-out of the HP TouchPad and its subsequent fire sale -- and the loss of WebOS futures -- Autonomy was about the only other thing Leo Apotheker could manage while CEO. Manage, it appears, being a term used hopefully.

Now comes the news that HP believes the UK British company it bought for $9.7 billion lied about its finances. Current CEO Meg Whitman didn't call it fraud, but the undervaluation triggered an $8.8 billion write-down of the value of the UK maker of big data software.

Whitman said in a statement there were "serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy Corporation PLC." The former CEO denied the charges, but the Associated Press ran a story this morning that tallied the tricks that Automony used to fool HP.

StrikeoutHow bad is the strikeout? This time HP is asking the SEC and Britain's Serious Fraud office to look into criminal charges. The inevitable HP lawsuit, this time against its own operating unit, is in the wings. The AP story said Whitman revealed "a senior Autonomy executive volunteered information about the accounting shenanigans, prompting an internal investigation." The internal investigator? None other than PricewaterhouseCoopers. HP tried to buy PWC during the Carly Fiorina spree, but the boardroom held that one in check. HP got EDS instead, along with another $9 billion writedown.

The result is the second straight quarter of losses for HP, a first in the company's history. The maker of replacement systems for migrated HP 3000s is having a dark chapter in its turnaround story. Now it heads into a winter season where tablets -- a product HP failed to launch under Apotheker -- will be bleeding sales off the PC business which HP has been using to generate cash, if not many profits.

The turnaround story will have to start in earnest come mid-February. No one knows what it would mean to see HP fail to turn a profit for nine consecutive months. While its cancelled HP 3000 business didn't deliver enough cash to survive the company's new wave, at least HP knew the valuation of the 3000 for certain. After it cleared Y2K, that year was the start of HP's era of buying companies like Autonomy which triggered moves like easing the 3000 out of HP's future.

HP's board of directors has been swinging and missing at the business plate for many years. But many of the whiffs were covered by profitable HP Services business and the thrum of PC's meager profits off massive sales. There was a deep count -- lots of foul balls to prolong the outcome, in baseball terms. But eventually that thin-profit cavalcade of PC consumer business is heading back to the bench. HP's PCs are already so desperate for acceptance they're rolling out as knockoffs of Apple's Macs.

Now HP has spent each of the last two quarters writing down massive companies which it purchased. In a flurry of ill-advised and shortsighted moves, the years from 2000 to 2011 were spent shucking off product lines where HP owned everything, including legacy sales, in order to step into areas where billions were peeled off to buy competitors (Compaq), businesses built on a model totally different from HP (EDS, which never tried to sell its own systems at the same time it did outsource work, but needed almost 150,000 people to do it) or software companies whose hopeful rise or valuation turned out to be fever dreams or worse (Mercury Interactive, Autonomy, and other).

There have been some things HP has done from its heart -- R&D -- and done well. Enterprise servers starting with the HP 3000, and then because the 3000 was a winner, enterprise Unix. Its Labs cooked up innovations in printing which remain a revenue firewall against HP's torched-up trials like Autonomy. When you go back to what made HP into a $130 billion computing powerhouse, the most potent return on starter money came from anything which Hewlett-Packard built itself. (Unless you count NewWave software or the HP Touchscreen, efforts that surely didn't cost even 1 billion dollars to fail in the 1980s.)

With the latest news, it's doubtful HP's got any other course going forward but to build. To run the baseball analogy into the ground, it's become a company that can only go out to its minor league farm system: brilliant wizards who cost less than $10 billion pseudo-stars. Purchasing free-agent players like Autonomy is beyond HP's budget, and nobody knows who's smart enough on the board to approve a winning deal anyway. Unless the markets recant, the forthcoming Q1 of 2013 could determine how hard HP's got to run to avoid being chased down in an acquisition.

All of this might not end up affecting the future of those migration platforms. Analysts are saying HP's headed for a split of the company, a spinoff that might right the listing ship to give the vendor time to focus on its own technology and its enterprise legacy. A migrated customer is usually watching cost of ownership or a tech roadmap while making a futures plan.

But the company's Project Odyssey, announced just one year ago this week, is a costly venture designed to preserve that migrated business -- at least the part that went to HP's Unix. There's a limit to how much HP will have on hand to pay for R&D in the coming year. Something like Odyssey might stanch the flow of enterprise business away to commodity Linux computing. Odyssey represents the most likely future for the migrator who wants to stick with HP's technology and heritage.

The former is the most tangible asset HP seems to muster, along with the hundreds of thousands of IT customers who will be hearing the alleged shenanigans and red-ink news. That latter heritage looks worn down this morning. The companies who left HP behind -- even to homestead on its shunned 3000 -- could be forgiven for feeling a bit vindicated on the woeful news. The migrators will supply hope of better management, plus a cheery outlook from Wall Street in the months to come

12:30 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 19, 2012

Looking for MPE Expertise

Speedware has become Fresche Legacy this year. But the vendor which is one of two survivors of the four original HP Platinum Migration partners continues to search for MPE and HP 3000 expertise, even while its name has changed.

It's actually that name change that reflects what Katie Flynn Bernard is seeking. She's Freshe's Human Resource Generalist and just joined the HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn. Her experience description up on LinkedIn reports that her mission is attracting the necessary expertise for the renovation and migration of legacy applications. Including those which run under MPE/iX, although the company is also doing business in the AS/400- Series i community.

We checked in with Bernard to see what Fresche was looking for, 3000-wise

Right now it is more of a Case Test Builder or Test Analyst that we are looking for. Both are contract positions based either in our Montreal office, or initial training in our Montreal office and then working remotely, or at our client's site in Iowa.

Migration service partners in the 3000 space -- MB Foster is the other survivor among those 2002 HP partners -- always count on strong testing process to make sure the work is done right. It's the same way at Fresche, and Bernard's explanation offers some insight in how they structure a migration team.

The Test Case Builder Interacts directly with the client Business/Technical analyst to help create Test Cases that will be used by Fresche Legacy Testers to test an application that has been migrated from an HP 3000 machine to an HP-UX machine. This person must have HP 3000, COBOL and Unix experience.

The Tester will execute Test Cases on the HP-UX machine and report bugs. This will involve listening to Test recordings and following instruction from Test Documents. This person must have COBOL, Unix and Windows expertise. 

I've received several contacts so far, but am still looking for more! 

You can contact Bernard with your CV up on the LinkedIn group for the HP 3000 Community.

06:37 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2012

Running a Freeware Emulator: Just Ducky

Editor's Note: I asked several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation of the new freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator worked for them. In yesterday's article, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet led us through a weekend-long journey to get the right VMware and a 2GB Player-ready file onto a server, rather than a desktop. A genuine HP 3000 played a key role. Now with an ISL> prompt on his screen, Yeo plunges forward.

By Alan Yeo

Second of two parts

Okay, so with no documentation at hand (as of last weekend), let’s try ISL>START NORECOVERY

This starts the MPE launch, I get prompted for date and time which I correct, and it continues with a normal 7.5 launch, right the way through to starting JINETD and logging on as OPERATOR.SYS.

You know what they say. "If it looks like a Duck and quacks like a Duck, it’s probably a Duck," and this thing looks like an HP 3000 and would have probably quacked like one if it could.

As far as I can tell I'm sitting at the console of an HP 3000! I’m running in a Putty Terminal, so I'm not going to be able to do any block mode stuff, but it’s good enough to run a whole load of MPE commands and have a look at the created environment. Yes, it still quacks!

I don't want to try doing too much perched on my stool in front of a rack in the computer room, so can I access this thing from our network? Immediate answer, is No. It is configured with some strange IP address, so I need to reconfigure it for our network. On an HP 3000 easy just go into NMMGR, but that's in block mode and I'm connected via Putty. 

Looking around the screen I see another icon, which turns out to be for xhpterm (a nearly usable HP Terminal Emulator). I launch it, up pops a colon prompt and I logon as Manager Sys. So far so good, let’s try NMMGR; it loads and runs and I do some basic network configuration, validate and exit — and darn I have lost my connection as the IP address has changed. Now what do I do? as I don't seem to have any way to change the IP address that xhpterm is using, and my Putty window has disappeared somewhere.

Let’s try connecting from a real terminal; nope no luck, looks like I have broken this, maybe this demo version only works with its fixed IP? Anyway back to the i7, and decide that I'll shut down the VM and maybe reload. It may have been me but I couldn't find a way to shut down the VM without saving changes, which I didn't really want to do as I had obviously screwed something. So I saved changes. 

I thought maybe I'd have to blow the files away and re-extract the CHARON files again, but I thought, well let’s just launch it again! I did, it went through the boot sequence again, during which I spotted that the new IP I had set had taken effect, and magically when I launched xhpterm again it connected. They must have configured it to use the current IP address of the emulator.

Can I get to it externally via Reflection now? Yes! Okay, now we are "Cooking with Gas." (For those non UK readers you'll have to Google that). File transfer a bunch of stuff, and everything works!

Think I'll finish tidying up in NMMGR, but it won't run from Reflection! Why not? What normally stops NMMGR running? Yep, hptypeahead was turned on, but how — I hadn't done it and it’s not a default. A quick search shows that this box has a whole bunch of SYSTEM UDCs set including:

option logon
setvar hpsysname 'CHARON-DEMO'
setvar tz 'PST8PDT'
if hpjobtype='S'
  setvar hptypeahead true

Now fine and dandy if I had actually been in Pacific Time, and if I had wanted hptypeahead set (I NEVER have hptypeahead set!).

Bit of a cleanup job to get rid of UDCs and replace with a set from one of our HP 3000s. Driving an HP 3000 with someone else's UDCs is rather like walking around in someone else's oversize boots. They are still boots, they keep the water out, but it just feels a bit uncomfortable, and you can't run!

I do a bunch of file transfers and restores, some COBOL and Transact compiles, restored a database, ran some programs, everything worked. And to be honest I didn't expect it not to!

For those of you thinking of trying the emulator, don't waste your time trying to find something in MPE that doesn't work properly, or a program that gives different results, You won't. I know this sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. 

I was fortunate enough to have Mike Marxmeier explain to me a year ago how a hardware emulator works, and basically if you can get the OS to boot, it’s a done deal and anything that runs on that OS hasn't the faintest idea that the hardware has changed. And this is the real MPE we are booting, not an emulated MPE. 

The only thing that is emulated is the hardware, so the only place where there might be problems would be in handling peripherals, or possibly the interpretation of error codes from them. Believe me, way beyond my capabilities or desire to go investigating.

So we now have a virtualised MPE 7.5 HP 3000 running on an Intel i7 server (which we have called "Sharon"). It only permits two concurrent users (hey, this is the free version) and I'd defy most people to logon and know that it wasn't a real HP 3000. 

I don't know what the final hobbyist version of the CHARON-HPA 3000 package will look like, as I was just being used as a guinea pig tester by Ron. However, this 7.5 box came with all the subsystems I needed to do anything I wanted. If the final hobbyist version doesn't, then unless you already have a 7.5 box with an MPE license then it will be virtually useless to you. 

CHARON-HPA 3000 is exclusively 7.5, so you won't be able to take subsystems of your aging 6.0/6.5 9x7/9x8 and use them. My opinion is that for the Hobbyist Licensed version this shouldn't be a problem, as it’s restricted to two users so it’s not like HP would be opening the floodgates on the use of unlicensed subsystems. What’s more, anyone moving from an earlier version of MPE already has a licensed version of them anyway. However, HP is a strange company these days, so I guess we just wait and see what happens.

Commercially, I'm sorry it works, as it will give people more excuses to homestead instead of using ScreenJet's software to migrate. Personally, I like it, as it sticks two fingers up in the air at HP and says "see, if you had wanted to keep all those HP 3000 customers you lost it was technically possible.” And who knows — as ScreenJet's Transact and VPlus migration products also run on MPE, and we now have a new MPE platform, maybe there may be emulator customers interested in advanced versions of Transact or VPlus with all the bugs fixed. And versions that are far more capable than the original HP versions, and are supported!

01:42 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 15, 2012

Installing the Emulator: Ahoy, the Disruptor

Editor's Note: As soon as the freeware personal edition of the Stromasys 3000 emulator went live for downloading, I sent the FTP links to several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation worked for them. Before we'd follow through on helping to host this freeware, I wanted to see the state of the packaging. Allegro's Gavin Scott also installed it at our request, and his report appears in the forthcoming 3000 NewsWire print issue.

By Alan Yeo

I'm not sure why I agreed to Install the Stromasys CHARON-HPA/3000 freeware. It's disruptive technology to the HP 3000 migration business that my company depends upon. However, as I have spent most of my working life using an HP 3000, it would be nice to always have one available after all the old hardware dies or becomes uneconomic to keep alive.

This is almost one of those stories that went nowhere. There seemed so many stupid obstacles to overcome that I almost gave up a few times -- and that was mainly down to lack of documentation that could have saved hours of work. There was also the fact that instead of wanting an emulated HP 3000 on my desktop, I wanted one on a server where a few of us could test drive it.

Hopefully, the lack of documentation last weekend will have been resolved by the time you try the freeware. But here, over today and tomorrow's articles, is the tale of getting my HP 3000 Emulator into the delivery room and smacking its little bottom until the first little colon prompt appeared.

Part 1: Getting things downloaded and installed, starting with a compatible VMware Player and a 2GB Stromasys file.

My only documentation for this was an email from Ron Seybold at the Newswire, with a link to a 2GB download on the Stromasys site.

Hardware requirements:

  • Intel i7/i5 or Xeon CPU with SSE4.1 support; 2 GHz minimum,  3GHz or above recommended.
  • 8 GB RAM minimum.
  • dDsk space - 0.1 TB + space required to keep HP3K disk images.
  • 20 GB is the minimum requirement for the freeware package.
  • Two Ethernet ports.

This is the full 2GB VMware kit, uncompress and open with VMware  Player. (And an FTP link followed)

CHARON HPPA runs under any of three supported 64-bit Linux Desktop  distributions.

Ubuntu 11.10 is our recommended Linux distribution, and is available at no cost.  Ubuntu 11.04 is also supported; versions 12.04 and 12.10 can also be used for testing. Fedora 16 Desktop Edition (64-bit). Fedora is available at no cost. Fedora 15 and 17 are also supported. Red Hat 6.2 (64-bit) is available at www.redhat.com; it is a commercial distribution.

Fortunately we have an Intel i7 server that already has Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop as the host OS. Unfortunately it has Virtualbox installed not VMware, and there were a number of horror stories on the net about running VMware and Virtualbox on the same host. This it turned out was not true, however your mileage may vary.

Downloading delights

So the first problem was getting the 2GB download. I don't have fast broadband, and to be honest I didn't see the "GB" and read it as "MB" (as who the hell downloads 2GB?) so it was a bit of a surprise when I browsed to the ftp location and started the download and was told it was going to take 23 hours! I think I looked at the screen for a few minutes just to let it sink in that it did say 23 hours and wasn't going to change its mind, it didn't and I killed the process.  

The next day with the weekend looming I thought okay, I'll start the download to my PC in the evening and pick it up the following evening (if the connection has managed to stay up that long). This time it told me that it was only going to take just over five hours (don't know what had happened in the intervening day) but five hours meant I was able to check before bed, and as the download completed, plan to do some work on it the following day.

Saturday: The Second Shoot of the season, and me and the dogs were out after Pheasant and Duck, so "Sharon" was going to have to wait. Evening, glass of wine, let’s take a look at where to get this VMware Player thing. Find the VMware site, find the latest version downloads, Oh blast, another 200MB download. Ah I know, I'll logon to the i7 server and download it direct. Strange, if I went to the website from my PC with IE I was offered the downloads. If I browsed there from the i7 with Firefox I got the page, but no downloads offered. Since it is evening I can't be assed to find out why, so resort to downloading the correct Linux version for x86-64 to my PC, and will pick up the following day.

Sunday: Really nice sunny day, unlike the crap we have had for weeks, did I want to spend time working indoors? No, but if I didn't I might never get back to it. Fortunately as it transpired everything took so long and was so broken that all I had to do was wander back and check on progress every hour or so.

Okay I have this 2GB download I need to move from my PC to the i7 server. Easy I'll cut a CD, Windows refuses to copy the file! CD burning software refuses, nay, won't even show me the file to select! That's okay, I'll FTP it. Windows FTP won't even show me the file with a DIR let alone let me PUT it anywhere!

How do I move a 2GB file from my PC to the i7 server if I can't FTP it and can't burn a CD or DVD of it? I could try playing with my PC to see if I could share its drive and do an FTP GET from the i7, but life's too short. I then thought, I wonder what Reflection thinks of the file? Sure enough, it’s happy to show it, maybe it will transfer it? Where to? I need something with PCLink installed.

Ah what about an HP 3000? No problem, Reflection starts transferring the 2GB file (in Binary format Streams) to one of the HP 3000s. It says it’s going to take a fair while even over a 10MB link, but the sun is shining and I can wait.

Becoming a VMware Player

Okay, let’s get this VMware Player set up on the i7 so it's ready and waiting. 200MB is easy to move via a memory stick. Got the file on the i7, follow instruction to right click and open with gedit, it’s a shell script file that it says will do everything for me, including extracting and installing VMware Player if it isn't already installed. Off we go, it has to process the file but shouldn't take long —this is an 3.4Ghz i7 quad core with 8GB RAM. 

Time passes. Time passes. Look at the bottom line of the screen: it says it is processing line 450827 and counting, Time passes, the count is on 600 thousand and something! How many lines could there be in a 200MB file? Time passes, I wander back about 30 minutes later it’s on line one million one hundred thousand and something, and as I'm watching it pops up a box to say its finished, but it has an error with some of the characters, do I want to continue? in which case the result will probably be bad! Or do I want it to try a different character set encoding to translate the characters?  Okay, says I, "have a go." Oh blast, it’s gone back to line one and started processing the whole frigging file again! Yep running just as slow, time to get outside and do some real work and come back in another hour and a half. 

I notice that the Reflection transfer of the 2GB file has finished to the HP 3000, so now I need to get it from there to the i7. No problem: open an FTP connection from the i7 and get the file (binary) leave it running, go get that sunshine.

Pop back a couple of hours later. I have a nice 2GB "Sharon" HPA/3000 file on the i7, and the VMware Player extract has finished! But has the same error! Okay, so on the latest 200MB VMware 5 something is broken and won't install. Give up, or get a long spoon and ask the evil Goggle Empire what it might know. 

Okay, lots of horror stories about getting VMware Player 5 running (or rather not) on Ubuntu 11.10. But quite a few people having success with the older Player 4.5 version. Browse to the links from the i7, and this time I can see the version 4 downloads! Select the latest, slightly smaller, and let the download run. Come back, it’s finished, and this time the file has a .bundle extension, so I click and run and it unpacks and installs like a dream, 

What next? Okay, find the now-installed VMware Player, and run it, up it comes. But what do I do next (remember, I have NO documentation). It must have something to do with that 2GB file that has a GZ2 extension, so let’s try opening it. Right click, get offered an open by something, which I do and then get an "extract" option. Okay, in for a pound, in for a penny, so off we go, everything unpacks clean as a nut.

Okay, there must be something I select from VMware Player. I click open and browse to the directory where everything "Sharon" had unpacked, and it showed me a single file that it obviously thought it could use. I select it and click open, and wait. I get a warning that something is trying to open Ethernet1 in "promiscuous mode" but that it has been denied, and that if I want to read all about it, a web link was supplied. 

At this point I have been playing fast and loose with a bunch of software, so I don't give a damn about something else being a bit promiscuous.  Wow! I get a "Sharon" screen, and then a Putty terminal window opens in a bright green. (I start thinking Putty, that ain't going to do Block Mode) but low and behold in the Putty window I see an HP 3000 going through a recognisable boot sequence ending with an ISL> prompt. 

Tomorrow: It looks like a HP 3000 Duck and quacks like one, too

06:53 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2012

What day is it? Oh, it's THAT day

14thCalIt's November 14 in the US for awhile longer. If the date isn't significant to you anymore, or you never knew why the middle of this month represented a visionary cliff for HP, let us bring you up to speed. HP announced a five-year plan to the HP 3000's end of life on this date. Eleven years ago.

I know, you must be confused. You've probably looked over at the 3000 in your server closet or the office and had a thought. Hey, this machine has already had it's end of life. How can I still be using it? Didn't HP promise dire consequences and risks galore for anybody using that computer after December, 2006? If the maker didn't kill it off, who's in charge of that anyway?

To assist in marking the anniversary of HP's jump off the cliff, we've assembled a short FAQ.

Who was in charge at HP when they made this decision?

Good question, although it doesn't matter much because everybody's moved on. The CEO, Carly Fiorina, wrote a hardcover book and ran for US Senate after leading HP around for six years. She had a "it's growing or it's going" mantra once the company wanted to buy up Compaq. The high-growth march left HP's 3000 plans on the cutting room floor.

Wasn't it some general manager who decided to end HP's 3000 life?

It was, but don't let anybody tell you it was anyone but Winston Prather. On the strength of a promise to preserve the jobs of people in his division, he told the world "it was my call" to chop off the futures of the HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard. He might have been the first GM in the company's history to kill off his own product line without any involvement from above. Or, there might have been a series of elaborate PowerPoint slides presented to the VPs who had some access to Fiorina. The CEO wasn't fond of giving much authority away. Prather took the credit for the hit, but he wasn't the single shooter. It's tough to imagine a 28-year-old product line with 25,000 servers worldwide, including some inside of HP's own datacenter, being slashed by a general manager who'd held his job for less than two years.

Prather has taken on work outside of product general management at HP. Christine Martino, the marketing manager whose job involved selling 3000s in marketing, has hung on in something you might have heard of called cloud services. The HP Cloud is up against Amazon's, so there's got to be some real deja vu going on there against another Goliath.

The last general manager who tried to grow the 3000 was Harry Sterling, and the last marketing manager to truly try to sell it was Roy Breslawski. His successor told us that putting Oracle 8 onto the 3000 wasn't going to help, because IMAGE was enough, and advertising wasn't part of her job, either. Things didn't get better for new business on the 3000 from there -- unless you count the dot-com boom that created scores of new high-profile customers in retail and catalog sales. You hadn't heard about those? That doesn't come as a surprise. Nordstrom's just turned off their HP 3000 last year.

I heard the 3000 was dead anyway, and the Nov. 14 stuff just killed it. Doesn't it die in 15 years because of its software?

There are a lot of things that will be dying in 2027, but that 3000 isn't one of them. What will happen depends on how much you need a correct calendar year representation in your software. On Jan. 1, 2028, very novel things will happen to the 3000's timekeeping. But it will continue to keep 60 seconds to the minute, 60 minutes to the hour, 365 days to the year. You just will have to get used to the year looking like "1900," even though it's 2028.

So it doesn't have 15 years or so left?

There's some disk drives that won't survive into the start of the next US Presidential campaign. But what we know as the HP 3000 is really MPE/iX and TurboIMAGE. Aside from that odd calendar year, there's nothing else that's broken enough to consider this a mortal wound. Sorry to say it, but the computer whose life HP was eager to begin finishing off is going to outlive some of the people who tried to kill it.

What about that decision to not move MPE/iX to Itanium -- didn't that doom the 3000?

You probably have heard a lot about Itanium from Oracle. HP's spent a lot of money calling Oracle a liar about its Itanium promises. But in 2012, Itanium doesn't look like it would have provided much help for the HP 3000. OpenVMS got an Itanium port by 2005 or so, but pack a lunch and thick hiking shoes while you look for a VMS owner who feels good about their Itanium protection.

Wasn't there an ecosystem HP was worried about in 2001, so they wanted to warn us?

HP certainly did warn everybody about that shaky ecosystem. Except for some of the biggest software vendors who made up the friendly forest of 3000 tools and apps. There was a problem with the 3000's ecosystem at the time. The real trouble began on Nov. 14, when HP took a public sip of the system's growth prospects and yelled out, "This milk's gone sour." The company had lost its taste for the nectar of the cash cow that was tens of thousands of companies paying for support they didn't use.

What's the big deal about all this anyway? Isn't what HP says about a software's future the way it goes?

Let us refer you to WebOS, from just last year, powering the now elusive HP TouchPads. HP's history in predicting the value of software, and ensuring the same, is not exactly spot-on. Just as the company has promoted and invested in software that didn't stand a chance against entrenched competition, it has also let good technology wither to satisfy larger partners who want to operate smaller development staffs. 

So if I have an HP 3000 today, am I running on borrowed time? Whatever happened to that five-year plan?

It became a nine-year plan, with exceptions for customers who still wanted HP to support the 3000. The ecosystem suffered because software companies lost customers who'd lost faith in HP. But a wider array of support providers emerged over those nine years. HP predicted a bubble that would burst. It turned out to be the company's valuation. R&D, the kind of magic that built the 3000's innards, was not a favorite line item in the budgets of HP's CEOs for more than a decade.

Now you're back on years again, so I still don't get it: what keeps that 3000 year machine from running as expected? I heard there was a "sheer volume of application and store data" relying on it.

This is a phenomenon known as the Spectre Temporal Memory Displacement. The 3000 is just a spectre by now, goes the theory. So by the time its calendar runs out of genuine years, it isn't supposed to matter. Except for that "sheer volume" of data, which all will somehow remain crucial and vital. You're supposed to remember at one moment the 3000 is evaporating. At the same time, there's a massive volune of data still important to customers.

Humans are extraordinarily bad at predicting future happiness. It's not a malady that's limited to planning offices in Cupertino, California -- although by the time 2028 arrives, those HP offices will be replaced by already-aging Apple headquarters offices.The only thing keeping the 3000 from running a business in 2028 is a desire from a customer who will pay a wizard to adjust time. Around the year 2000 a product emerged that acted as a Time Machine. Or an HourGlass that you could tip over. 

Never mind 15 years from now. About 15 years ago, companies sold products exactly by those names to adjust HP 3000 dating for Y2K testing. If the same wizards eat their vegatables and exercise and take plenty of naps, there's a fair chance that dating will become an online nirvana in the land of the 3000. One 3000 veteran, Terry Simpkins, suggests that if the MPE CALENDAR base year could be changed from 1900 to 1950, that might do the trick. 

07:17 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2012

8 decommission tips on a significant 14th

Tomorrow is a very special day in the annals of the life of the HP 3000. A "where were you" afternoon 11 years ago -- but tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, Nov. 14) you can get free advice on how to decommission data that's no longer needed on your HP 3000.

Of course, HP never intended for anyone to leave data behind in that infamous Nov. 14 advisory. Just the rest of the mission-critical enterprise, software, a career full of expertise. At one point, I advised Computerworld that the data in IMAGE databases would be a serious drag on 3000 migration. Not so mcuh, by today. Well, enough of that tomorrow — and not a moment of it until after MB Foster has educated us on 8 Things to Consider when Decommissioning Legacy Data. 

It's a Wednesday webinar starting at 2 PM EST, one you can register for at the MB Foster website.

Decommissioning is the forgotten stage of an application migration project. All too often it is an afterthought – this webinar puts a framework around decommissioning. Experience has shown that there are eight things to consider when decommissioning legacy data

During an interactive presentation -- more than just PowerPoint slides, but one where CEO Birket Foster is certain to ask each attendee how he can help -- the first three things will be examined.

• Evaluation of application inventory

• Identifying data owners and stakeholders and their future needs for legacy data

• Identifying types of information

MB Foster also promises to give attendees a chance to learn of the other five things to consider, what decommissioning is and where to begin, as well as its benefits and cost savings.

10:40 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2012

Intel takes Itanium towards Xeon's standard

Intel-Itanium-Processor-9500_3HP has introduced a new generation of Integrity servers powered by the Itanium 9500 chips, computers which will start to ship in December. For the HP-UX adopter of migration platforms, the Integrity systems have been high-value, high-performing, and high-attraction computers. The servers are blazing fast and a good value for a high transaction box (something crucial to 3000 migrators). They've also been attractive as in sticky. Because taking steps down the HP Unix path has meant treading the tar-pit of Itanium. No other processor will run HP's Unix.

However, Intel is starting to take its own steps to open up the Itanium architecture. With the Intel 9500 announcement, the chipmaker added that there would be shared technology between Itanium and HP's acknowledged industry standard for processors, the Xeon family.

Future generations of Intel Itanium processors will adopt an innovative "Modular Development Model" that enables deeper commonality between Intel Itanium and the Intel Xeon processor E7 family, from shared silicon design elements to full-socket compatibility. This will provide a more sustainable path for Itanium development and greater design flexibility for Intel's partners.

HP itself calls the Xeon server business Industry Standard. When Intel starts to talk about taking steps to sustain Itanium development, it's a sign that the future being sold to HP customers was wearing thin. Oracle tried to prove as much in its attempted pullout from Itanium development, but a judge ruled against that ideal. However, the evidence submitted for the lawsuit trial showed HP's Project Redwood documents were aimed at shoring up Intel's Itanium interests. The project was proposed before Oracle bought Sun, and Itanium sales have gone nowhere but down since then. Those sales have the advantage, however, of still being far more profitable than all of HP's PC business.

This "but it's profitable" perch provided no safety for HP's 3000 plans during 2001. The 3000's sales and installed base were not growing to Carly Fiorina's satisfaction. And so the customers were given an "end of life announcement." In every company's product line, all products die one day -- at least a death of manufacturing. Then there's some loose cannons that cook up an emulator, and heaven knows when the 3000 will see an end of life.

Even if Itanium growth continues to decline, Intel's fresh plans will let the chipmaker keep developing new iterations of Itaniums. However, they're likely to be more incremental than innovative. Innovation requires marketplace growth. In HP's world, as well as Intel's, growth is Xeon's speciality.

Yes, there are bona fide technical advantages to the Itanium designs. These are what make the processors a value for an HP customer who's all-in on Itanium. It's a chip family that's been competitive for about seven years by now. It took Itanium three years just to come even with the performance of PA-RISC chips, the ones which powered HP's ultimate edition of MPE/iX iron. The 3000s never got the PA 8900 chips that landed in HP's Unix servers.

Twelve years ago, HP was not yet announcing Itanium IA-64 plans for the 3000. At that time there wasn't even a clear case inside the vendor's 3000 labs, led by Dave Wilde, to get an 8900 into an MPE/iX box.

Do you think you’ll get to an PA-8900 processor in an HP 3000? That’s the last generation anybody’s willing to talk about in a slide. Will you need all that PA-RISC headroom as you watch IA-64 take shape?

We try to understand our customer needs and work hard to understand the HP roadmap, and work to put those together in a way that makes the most sense for our customers and the business. If an element of that is delivering an HP 3000 on a PA-8900, then that would be something we would obviously do. It’s a little early to talk about availability of the 3000 with that [processor]. Watching is exactly what we’re doing: what happens in the overall market, and what happens in the HP product roadmap.

By 2005, at last, a Unix user could finally adopt an Itanium box that could outperform even the 8900 PA-RISC server.

Easier for partners and vendors

However, when you tease apart that Intel announcement of the Itanium 9500 chip line, you'll see a reference to partners. That's software partners as in app builders, and hardware partners including Itanium in servers. Instead of needing to maintain a separate software design team for Itanium and Xeon (we're looking at you, Oracle), developers might reduce the amount of one-off work they do for an HP Unix application. Whenever Intel gets to "full-socket compatibility," then the Itanium chips have a chance -- not a very big one -- to find their way into the higher ends of non-HP product lines. Because when you get out of the HP and NEC product lines, it's the rare Itanium chip to be found on a system's motherboard.

As part of Intel's announcement of the 9500, it mentioned 15 years of alliance with NEC on the chip's designs. Software partners in the release were Oracle, SAP, SAS and more. But these companies also develop for a much larger customer base that uses Xeon systems. Those are computers which HP is also selling to its migrating 3000 customers: HP's ProLiant systems. By working on a melding of Itanium and Xeon, those software vendors may not be forced to choose between resources for Itanium (HP-UX) and resources for Xeon (Linux, Windows).

Make no mistake about who is acquiring whom in this tech merger. Xeon is the larger entity and so will dole out its tech essentials to the Itanium designers. Don't expect that socket compatibility to be an adoption of the Itanium designs, or the shared silicon designs to promote Itanium's nuances on top of a Xeon empire. The whole Intel enterprise will keep HP from being forced to commit to a port of HP's Unix to Xeon, perhaps. That's $147 million estimated by HP that it will save, and maybe drive into Project Odyssey. But the end result of Odyssey is Linux environments, secured better and hosted on Xeon-based hardware -- with all of your favorite characters from the world of HP-UX. Now that HP's promised the best of HP-UX in Odyssey, Intel's gone and promised the best of Itanium in the Xeon family.

These facts about the future are enough make a customer believe, if they're a HP Unix user who's migrated custom code to an Integrity box, that there's a migration waiting out there. We'd guess anytime after 2016, with a 10-year "end of life" countdown for HP-UX. MPE/iX got a nine-year countdown of that sort. Because every product will see an end of its life on a vendor's price list, after all. Perhaps its best elements will live on in emulation, or integration with newer architecture.

05:37 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 09, 2012

Emulator freeware users input HPSUSANs

Stromasys has completed the engineering on its Personal Freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. The software is available for downloading will be available from the company's FTP servers once issues with subsystem software licensing are resolved. Several bundles are available -- more on that in a moment -- but even more flexibility comes through assigning an HPSUSAN number for the emulator.

According to the Stromasys CEO Ling Chang, a user who's downloaded and installed the freeware can simply type in the HPSUSAN which belonged to a legal HP 3000. No certified USB keys are required, an element that would've made the freeware a $50 item, according to CTO Dr. Robert Boers.

Hurricane-sandy09Chang said that a warning message upon bootup of what it calls the A200 emulator says "The configuration file of this freeware allows you to set the HPSUSAN number. Please know that you should only set the HPSUSAN number to a value that you are legally entitled to." 

Chang added that Stromays would like freeware users to send a donation to the American Red Cross for superstorm Sandy relief.

The packages available include a full 2GB VMware kit, including the A200, which a user can uncompress and open with VMware Player.

A freeware user will also need a 64-bit Linux Desktop distro; the A200 freeware runs under Ubuntu and Fedora (both free) or commercial RedHat 6.2. A smaller set of files, without the VMware Player-ready kit, will also be available.

Since that full VMWare 2GB download might take as many as five hours to retrieve, a shorter path to a bootable download exists on the Stromasys server. Stromasys supplied links for the emulator file itself (5MB) and a compressed disk image which includes MPE/iX (398MB).

We'll keep you updated on when those links will be up and running again.

This story was updated Nov. 10 to reflect the removal of the files from the download addresses which were forwarded by Stromasys.

04:38 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 08, 2012

HP flies its Fink just as Poulson pokes up

FinkMartin Fink because a lightning rod among HP enterprise users over the past year. The former general manager of the Business Critical Systems unit, which has led the HP enterprise sales slide for the last five quarters, was bumped into HP's top engineer spot this month. HP named the man who'd battled Oracle over Itanium, and won, the leader of HP Labs and the company's CTO. Those are two positions which have never been combined at HP until this month. Personnel moves at HP can spark head-scratching in 2012, but this one baffles me in a way that says something about the HP Way.

Fink took the reins of HP's R&D empire just as Intel rolled out its latest -- and maybe the last -- upgrade to the Itanium chipset. Poulson arrives as the Itanium 9500 Series for Mission-Critical Computing. Way back in the history of HP, the HP Labs once worked on the keystone of VLIW architecture, which it once called HP Wide Word. That work was turned over to the Intel Labs while the two companies partnered. Of late, the HP Labs output runs to the world's greatest device fans (and I'm not kidding about the greatness) and experimental designs for chips that couldn't be built in 10 years of continued research and design.

Although Fink's unit will likely spill even more sales blood in the figures to be released at the start of Thanksgiving Week, he's the man that HP's Board of Directors has assigned to lift up R&D in the company. The CEO Meg Whitman has spent much of 2012 saying HP ought to be building tech instead of buying it. Perhaps, since Fink's line of business relied upon a chip and an OS that were built out of HP's wizardry, he'll get the budget to demonstrate a new R&D gusto required for enterprises.

But to start off, he'll want to backpedal on one of his 2011 predictions on HP technology development. It may not be an HP Labs-caliber project, but you'd think he'd head for his engineering throne with a mission to make HP-UX run on Intel's Xeon chips which power the ProLiant series. In other words, to make HP's Unix an industry standard product. Long before Fink grew into a GM, HP-UX was touted as a standard by Hewlett-Packard. A migrating HP 3000 site would do a lot better with a Unix investment if it became a standard. HP calls the successful part of its enterprise lineup the Industry Standard Servers.

Poulson is not a standard, not any more than its predecessors were. It might not be the final generation of Itanium, but it could be the last one that will get a chance to win a new customer or two for HP enterprise datacenters. Adoption of HP-UX in new sites is running close to nil, and so the denizens of VMS and NonStop lands (where there is least scant growth) are left to add customers to Itanium ranks. Like the user groups and HP marketers insisted all through the previous decade, technologists don't hold sway over the industry anymore. This is why Fink will go to lead the Labs following a far more technical set of predecessors.

Just in my era covering HP, here's the list.

1984-1986 Joel Birnbaum: A pioneer in the development of distributed computer system architecture; real-time data acquisition, analysis and control systems, and Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture. Birnbaum joined HP Labs in 1980 and became director in 1984. He was a top-flight director plucked from IBM's R&D efforts at RISC.

1987-1991 Frank Carrubba: An inventor of Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture. Led work on the first single-chip implementation of HP's Spectrum precision architecture, which powered HP 3000s and HP 9000s for the next two decades.

1991-1999 Joel Birnbaum: Under his '84-'86 guidance the company further developed PA-RISC, the first commercial RISC processor, and the client-server architecture. In this later term of service, Birnbaum returned as senior VP of research and development. Researchers developed the architecture and much of the technology for pervasive computing, as well as the Wide-Word architecture that became the basis of a partnership with Intel.

1999-2007 Dick Lampman After 35 years at HP, Lampman took over the Labs to manage key research efforts as PA-Wide Word, which was the basis for Itanium, as well as the development of technologies like digital photography that launched new businesses for HP. Under his leadership, the lab played an integral role in transforming HP from an instrument- and hardware-based company to one focused on software, systems and services.

This was a period, however, when HP Software and Services didn't change the landscape the way those chips and environments had. HP's tech word turns away from very wide research, because by 2007 the Labs and HP R&D spending has been eviscerated by CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd. So HP Labs gets the message to stop inventing things that will change and direct alliances by putting Hewlett-Packard in a tech-leadership role which others want to follow. By 2007, the Labs are headed by a "serial entrepreneur."

Unlike his forebears, Prith Banerjeee (2007-present) became Labs leader as soon as he joined HP. He was "charged with reorganizing HP Labs to better align its research agenda with HP's overall business goals." And since those goals now deferred operating environments and computer architectures to outside companies, HP-UX and Itanium became minimized players in the tech world. Linux, Windows, Intel's Xeon -- all were preferred by the Board of Directors as enterprise choices. To create, the Labs went even further afield of what its everyday customers needed in research. Instead, Labs delivered "breakthroughs such as memristor research, sensing solutions (CeNSE), optical connections (photonics) and nanostores." 

Whether any of that work makes its way into product lines might be Fink's challenge. The emphasis on software and cloud technology will doubtless occupy his plans. How HP promoted a general manager of a skidding business unit, with some unit-level R&D management, into a storied position of HP's DNA is boggling. You can say this much: winning that Oracle lawsuit didn't hurt. But since software is now HP's first love, and the customers Fink's left behind at BCS could really use an HP-UX port, perhaps he'll have an easy and early success at he called a $100 million project in furtive emails about Oracle's Itanium boycott.

It was a non-starter just a year ago by his reckoning. "At this point there are no plans," he said "and I predict that it will never happen. The big problem is the software support and the ISV support for the 5,000 current HP-UX ISV applications. The better model is to bring the HP-UX capabilities to Linux, rather than port HP-UX to x86." And what in the world will happen to those HP-UX ISVs? They'd better be porting to Linux, starting about last year.

HP's press release says that Fink will report directly to his CEO, and "as part of his role, Fink will be responsible for looking holistically at how innovation is created and commercialized at HP." It's not your father's Hewlett-Packard anymore, but that's not news for a 3000 community which might recall moments like Birnbaum's in 1987: When the Spectrum Series 930 3000 and MPE/XL was way overdue, Birnbaum stood in a circle of industry reporters and said that bugs and failures of the new-gen 3000s "will yield to engineering discipline." And not a word was said in reply after that, because HP'ers and even jaded reporters heard the resolve in his voice. Birnbaum was an IBMer before he served HP.

Fink doesn't arrive with zero HP experience like his predecessor Banerjeee. He's 27 years along on Hewlett-Packard assignments, but his battle scars trying to sell Itanium in a Xeon world are part of what his CEO likes about him in this research role.

“Martin’s experience on the front lines with customers combined with his experience in the business units will be invaluable as we work to focus our innovation agenda at HP,” said Whitman. “Martin will ensure that our research and development activity is aligned with our steady focus of anticipating and delivering on the future needs of our customers.”

Fewer memristors, and more engineering that will become distinguishing products. That's the best that the migrated customer now on HP-UX can hope for from a director who graduated with an EE degree from Canada's Loyalist College. By 1995 he'd made his way out of HP Canada and "a variety of positions in hardware and software support, consulting and telecom sales. In '95 he moved to HP’s Ft. Collins, Colo., site to work in HP OpenView telecom, where "he managed small business startup activities for HP OpenView telecom." Here's some R&D management in his CV: Verifone Software Business, and then the R&D manager in the Customer Solutions Organization, "with responsibility for HP-UX, Linux and the patch program."

HP reported on the current bio page for Fink -- it's still listing him as BCS chief -- that he's co-inventor on two patents related to online e-commerce and is the author of The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. If a customer had any doubts about what software research in HP Labs might lead toward, the title of that book would give a clue.

The company could use more R&D for enterprise customers, but not necessarily another boost of Realism and Domestication. It's a different world for technology creators that the one which Birnbaum, Carruba and Lampman led. But in the face of the WebOS flameout of just last summer, the need for software superiority seems more likely to revive HP than integrating inventions with commercial craving.

05:20 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2012

Catalog to dotcom to dash: Ecometry path

Ecometry software was called MACS/3000 back in the days when HP was slinging new 3000s into a market eager for a 32-bit MPE system. But the software suite that was built for mail-order and catalog sales became an ecommerce tool when it was re-released as Ecometry during the dotcom heyday. Now after a sojurn in the Escalate Retail group, this 3000-sparker has glided into the realm of Red Prairie. And just last week, Red Prairie made another buy, this time of software company JDA. This buy bridges a path that's led to a data stable which looks so complete that its scope evokes the classic and massive Enterprise Resource Planning designs. Analysts call the merger a shot across the bow of companies as big as Oracle.

JDALogoJDA sells software for "planning, optimization and execution of supply chain merchandising and pricing processes for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, retailers, government and aerospace defense contractors, travel, transportation, hospitality and media organizations." That sounds like a wide range of customers, but it does fit the profile of HP 3000 customers who first employed the system as a general purpose computer. In the modern era, well along that Ecometry path, a dashboard helps them move forward.

Both JDA and Red Prairie help customers move goods. JDA allows retailers to figure out which goods should be on the shelves and how much to order. Red Prairie is primarily a warehousing company, with a lot of its customers in retail -- such as the likes of Hickory Farms and PC Mall, both still using HP 3000s running MPE-based versions of Ecometry.

A manufacturer and a school district listened to a roundup of prospects for Key Performance Indicator data dashboards today, a solution offered by MB Foster. Since Birket Foster estimates there are still about 100 sites using the Ecometry software on a 3000, the data dashboard is a tool that could make their futures more productive.

Dashboard Example MBFA


All they need to motivate them is a search for an answer to this question: "How are you going to pull all your information from all of your data silos just so you can have a dashboard?" The goal is to make the massive stores of data work harder at companies who've done decades' worth of business . A dashboard is a way to employ Business Intelligence, because given a large enough history of transactions, the data stores from a 3000-based company can constitute Big Data.

"We want to help people see what they have," Foster said. "A lot of times you can't see the pattern because you've got four different accounting systems you're trying to pull from." Accounting officers figure out the need to see first, but then sales managers also want to know what products and inventory are in the supply funnels.

Since "they're not moving because the economy is slower than they wanted it to be," aiming at a data dashboard analysis architecture could be part of these 3000 companies' migration goals. For example, a company that sells a customer a child's coat, Size 6, can be pretty sure of a date when that coat wearer should need a Size 9. With a data dashboard of KPI, accountants and sales managers can see a collection of charts and reports presented in a format resembling a dashboard.

This summer MB Foster introduced the dashboard strategy with a webinar offered alongside InfoPlanIT, which makes a dashboard called Visual Analyzer. With a KPI dashboard, some of the charts and metrics associated with the dashboard, known as "key performance indicators" or KPIs, will often be set up to update in or near real time. KPI dashboards have become increasingly prevalent in businesses over the past decade. In order to create a KPI dashboard there are a number of key steps and procedures required to ensure the KPI dashboard is providing useful and relevant information.

Where does the JDA acquisition impact 3000 sites who might be interested in a data dashboard? Foster said that Red Prairie now owns and manages about 43 different technologies, including Windows-ready versions of Ecometry. Adding JDA's portfolio of software and customers bumps up the tech count by another 13, he said. A 50-plus technology vendor can extend the initial mission set of ecommerce, but it will help if a customer can hire a partner who understands the line of business' workflows.

Business Intelligence is becoming a bundled feature at many of the largest database vendors. KPI and dashboards are an advanced aspect of BI. Using BI in any way -- even on a migration platform -- can lift up data which had made a 3000 valuable to even greater value. Corporate officers notice when data works harder to generate things like sales of Size 9 coats or a better value on classrooms which can be rented out in the evenings to local universities, just because a dashboard shows their usage and availability.

At the heart of the value of a KPI dashboard is the desire to undersand Operational Data Stores. These stores are a replication of production database tables to a separate database, updated by the transaction in real time. They often have the benefit of some data transformation, don't contain history and recognize that the data is volatile, constantly in change.

Adding a dashboard allows an IT manager to visualize data with a high return on investment. It can start small and scale as a company's needs, KPI's and Metrics grow. Customers on the MB Foster webinar call considered what their organization's metrics are today. A KPI is designed for making informed decisions and take action. Even if the action is a series of tiny moves, like sending an email to a customer to remind them they've grown and need a new coat this winter -- and here's the coupon code to seal the sale.

06:11 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2012

Voting for Security, Obscurity and Propriety

As I write this the polls have closed in the eastern-most time zone for the US elections. Nearly all of the ballots cast in this election have passed through some kind of electronic device, from a touchpad to a click wheel to other, non-uniform interfaces. You might visit a dozen counties in one state alone and see as many proprietary devices. Proprietary carries a negative vibe, this decade as well as this evening. A troubling report in Forbes related how experimental software patches in Ohio might be on live production voting machines today. Those are likely to produce unintended results, as such beta patches often do on HP 3000s.

But the word proprietary has a root of propriety, and that means proper: according to agreed-upon and accepted processing. You'd never sling out beta patches on an HP 3000 because it's just not proper. Your intention is to produce expected, reproducible and fact-checkable results. The fallout from using a proprietary interface, software or patch is simple: someone who's an insider needs to check it. And in a sinister aspect, knows how to crack it.

EugeneblogDecades ago the steady value of the HP 3000 and MPE was its security, one which flowed from privileged mode code. Then during the '90s it was the system's obscurity, once open-source and open system computers took the IT lead. Few people knew the 3000 well enough organize a serious breach. You were much more likely to be hacked from the inside, according to Eugene Volokh's classic Burn Before Reading. The same might turn out to be true this week, if the worriers from Forbes have conjured up a plausible nightmare about election machines. This evening, the biggest news outlets also fretted about the prospects.

Even during this data revolution, the 3000 is remaining settled in its nest of propriety as it's become ever more proprietary. The solution to the balloting mess is to standardize on devices and open the software. Not because the latter is harder to hack, but because an opened-up system is easier to scan for malware. The HP 3000 didn't need security patches after 2008 because the systems practiced propriety to earn their keep, and they were secure through their obscurity. National election voting systems don't have to meet that bar today. It costs too much, apparently.

My security expert colleague Steve Hardwick said that he's been involved in developing a secure voting system which could maintain its propriety. But the project didn't see the light of day in any of the 50 US states.

I did some work on a standard that would have provided very secure voting software. The effort was abandoned due to final cost of the units. Any system, including the physical one in place today, can be circumvented. I have not seen anything showing the comparative security to the physical one. At least the lawyers will have a field day. I wonder if this is the "hanging chad" of this election.

Nobody's hoping for such a thing, especially with so much at stake. But an HP 3000 veteran might be wondering, sometime tomorrow, how such a set of incompatible systems, installed entirely at local whim and desire with software so complex it can't be independently verified for security, could be rolled into production for this country's Big Event. It's the kind of thing that would get an IT pro of age 50 or more fired, if the results became improper.

To establish security of HP 3000s by now is a matter of sticking to an environment that's stable and limiting the access -- just like Eugene wrote in the 1980s. You keep track of who's got access and when to determine where the theft or malfeasance may have occurred.

The very fact that  someone is trying to run payroll across  a  phone  line  at  11 P.M. on a  Saturday is an indication of unauthorized  access. Thus, it is worthwhile to implement some form of security  that  prohibits access to certain user IDs and accounts at certain  times  of  day, days of week,  and/or from certain terminals. Alternatively,  you might want to force people to answer an additional password  at certain times, or especially when signing on from certain terminals.

This  may seem like a poor approach  indeed -- after all, if the thief hits  the time of day, day  of week, or terminal prohibition/password, this  means  that  he  has  successfully  penetrated the  rest of your security system, which will never happen -- right? In reality, this is a   very  potent  way  of  frustrating  would-be  security  violators, especially if the attempted violators are promptly investigated. Thus, another maxim appears:

Some forms of access are inherently suspect (and therefore require Extra  Passwords)  or  are  Inherently security  violations. Thus, access to certain user IDs at certain times of day, on certain days of the week, and/or from certain terminals should be specially restricted.

Eugene Volokh could understand those basics and preach them to his community of computer pros 30 years ago in his paper. By now, he's in government work, in the sense that he's a constitutional law expert and a maven of free speech. We might all hope, before our week is finished, that the philosophy that 3000 users knew in the 1980s about authorized access has traveled from Eugene's first community to his current one: the realm of the US courts.

Nobody ever hopes for a test of security, but it's expected that a system will pass -- or that changes, recalculations and improvements will result from any lack of propriety.


06:32 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2012

Accepting Irregular Statistics

Nov. 5 538We're on the eve of the US national elections today, so a lot of stories are being told about statistics. In many segments of the country, one-third of the registered voters have already cast ballots. We are told that statistically there are under 1 percent of the voters who remain undecided.

A small percentage might continue to matter. And the trends often do matter statistically. For example, Microsoft's Windows XP still represents about half of the PCs still in use, according to metrics company Net Applications. And just this week, the number of Mac users who are clinging to three-year-old Snow Leopard Mac OS still leads the installed base.

And maybe just as surprising, some large and well-known companies are still continuing to embrace their HP 3000s. It's irregular to believe that major corporations continue to use an operating system this dated. Well, maybe not so dated. MPE/iX got its last security patches in 2008, just a little bit farther back than Snow Leopard was created. Maybe because of their stability, both Snow Leopard and MPE/iX continue to serve in the market. One place we discovered this morning is PC Mall, an online sales outlet selling computers that will run Snow Leopard and Windows XP. And they're doing it off software written for MPE/iX.

PC Mall is providing an irregular statistic, but they also prop up a trend. The adoption of non-MPE/iX platforms by the installed base has slowed to a crawl. Migration suppliers all predict that 2012 will one of the least active migration years since, well, the 3000 transition era started in 2002.

What's more, PC Mall isn't a complete outlier. Unisource, a $5 billion company, continues to run its operations on HP 3000s.

Both of these pieces of information come by way of the LinkedIn's HP 3000 Community Group. There's 538 of us in that group, numbers that start to approach the membership of the 3000-L newsgroup. Except you can see and connect with every LinkedIn member. New members come on, like those from PC Mall and Unisource, every week. Chris Enderle of Unisource checked in when he signed up.

I still work at Unisource based out of Atlanta and we are running strong on the HP 3000. Unbelievable that we are still running a $5B company on the 3000, but like I tell our CIO, as long as we keep electricity to them, they will chug on forever. We have very bright people writing code, and they do some amazing things compared to when I wrote code. 

Code from bright people is creating interesting statistics about the prospects for our election, too. And in about 36 hours that exciting code will give us results of a hotly-contested election. I hope you've voted already if you're in the US, or that you will do so tomorrow if you haven't. It takes full participation and complete tabulation to get to the point where you can accept irregular statistics for what they are -- part of the greater truth.

11:56 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 02, 2012

Manufacturing Projects with HP Cloud

Gladinet offerHewlett-Packard has been promoting the concept of cloud computing for more than three years, culminating in the opening of its own HP Cloud service this year. This month there's a special offer of 1 TB of extra storage in HP Cloud. It's available by signing up for a Team Account at Gladinet, a provider of cloud storage access solutions. In its simplest configuration, Gladinet is a shared and collaboration workspace like Dropbox for Teams, or Box.

HP Cloud will chip in 1 TB of space with a Gladinet Cloud signup in the deal. There's also a Gladinet Enterprise version that can be modified for more extensive work sharing. But the HP Cloud's got some other possible uses for enterprise customers, perhaps as a means to host the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in to ask about an update on the Personal HPA/3000. Floyd's company supports manufacturing sites running HP 3000s, as well as some non-3000 operations and prospects.

"I recently joined a free partner program for HP Cloud and can supposedly specify what kind of system I want, and deploy anything I can make fly on it… for just a little bit a month," he said. Floyd's working on calculations about how big HP's little bit of cost will be, "and what happens when I decide to pull everything off of it and stop paying." Cloud-based hosting poses this "take-my-stuff-back" issue, one which is new to the 3000 IT manager who's hosted everything locally up to now.

This morning Floyd reported that "I have not activated my HP Cloud space yet. It would take a phone call to them to get the configuration I want – it wasn’t among their standard offerings." One thing that's held Floyd at bay about HP Cloud is the sophistication of the Salesforce cloud offering. "HP Cloud is probably a long ways behind what Salesforce is doing," he said after attending the recent Dreamforce '12 conference.

Salesforce doesn't need the lift of attraction which HP Cloud requires at the moment. HP's Cloud opened for business just this spring, while the Force products have been doing remote hosting of app services for years. But through Nov. 24, the Gladinet trial allows you to access an extra 1 TB of HP Cloud Object Storage as if it were a local drive. HP says that "This makes it extremely easy to manage and share documents, images and videos."

The Team Edition of Gladinet is free for the first 30 days with a minimum of three users per account. Then it's $9.99/user/month. Extra fees are billed for any HP Cloud Object Storage exceeding 1 TB.

Coming from the Force environment, however, Floyd sees a lot more maturity. It's an aspect that will come into play when manufacturing enterprises consider a new ERP platform. Those might not be 3000 sites, but they're pretty likely to be modest-sized companies -- which has often been the profile of the 3000 customer.

The only purpose I had in mind for HP Cloud was the Stromasys Emulator and that’s just a whim. I’m crazy about Salesforce and how they provide security and assurance of zero data loss and very little (almost 0) downtime. At Dreamforce 12 in September, I learned a lot about the internals and cannot believe the depth of their services.

Making a business out of cloud offerings (including the Kenandy Social ERP) looks like it's still in the early days. "I assume it will be the way things are done in the future, therefore I’m trying the learn as much as possible. I learn best by doing something real, so I’ll learn a lot doing the Stromasys freeware emulator," Floyd said.

But cloud computing on such small scales is still competing with low-cost local hardware. For example, instead of using HP Cloud for the emulator, Floyd said, "I just bought a refurbishes HP Elitebook 8470w with 8GB of RAM on an i7 with 500GB of disc. It should do nicely for Personal HPA/3000."

Even the older 3000 iron -- which the HPA/3000 freeware will emulate -- offers a cheap alternative to the HP Cloud. "I could potentially move my EDI business (which is now done on the Series 928 in our datacenter) to Stromasys in the cloud someday," Floyd said. "But that 928 is very reliable, so there’s no hurry that I can come up with."

03:54 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 01, 2012

November wasn't a-happening for 3000s

EdMcCrackenArticleHP intended for a November of 40 years ago to be the debut month for the HP 3000. But delays swept the 3000's stage entrance more than a year farther into the future. One of the key players during that year was one of the system's best advocates, Ed McCracken.

He was charged with un-selling HP 3000s as his first job in public related to the system. According to Tom Harbron's Thinking Machines, the month of November 1972 was the final month that HP tried to keep that inevitable postponing of the system at bay. The future was obvious by December at Anderson College, where Harbron was leading the push to put a 3000 into the datacenter.

During the period from April to November, 1972, we continued to learn of delays. Cobol and IMAGE were pushed back from December 1972 to June 1973. We also wrote the 1620 simulator during this time, using HP’s new language called System Programming Language or SPL (not to be confused with SPS on the 1620).  SPL was essentially Algol with some machine dependent extensions.

By February of 1973, McCracken "was going about the country, visiting customers, and unselling the 3000," Harbron wrote in his book. At the time McCracken was only the Market Manager for Government, Education, and Medical Markets. Within a few years he became essential to putting the IMAGE database on every 3000. It was a move that most of the community's veterans consider the turning point for your server's survival in the markets of the 1970s.

About 10 years later, McCracken was on his way toward becoming the CEO of Silicon Graphics, but still working in HP as a VP. InterACT, the magazine of the Interex users group, interviewed him about HP's business server strategy in the spring of 1984. McCracken called the earliest days of the 3000 a time when customers were buying a database machine to create their own applications. He was taking note of a shift in the enterprise computing market space that would make outside software companies essential to 3000 success.

According to Chris Edler's Early History of the HP 3000, someone in the HP 3000's birthplace lab had come up with the clarion call that "November is a Happening" to spur on the platoon of engineers.

In the weeks prior to the release of the first HP3000, dozens of the "November is a Happening" posters were placed all over the factory floor. The posters showed an HP3000 going out the shipping dock door, ostensibly to its first customer, the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley.

HP installed the machine, turned it on, and discovered -- along with the customer, of course -- that the 3000 could only accommodate one or two users before falling to its knees. It was immediately returned.

IMAGE, the database which would win an award from Datamation when stacked up against other system vendors' software, was not a part of that November failure. It wasn't ready until 1974. The earliest success of the system matched a profile of a customer "looking for a generic database management tool to adapt to his own particular environment," according to the InterACT article. IMAGE literally was the HP 3000 to most of its earliest adopters. It's what led McCracken to bundle the database with the computer -- an unprecedented strategy at the time.

McCrackenMugBut by the '80s McCracken had become the GM of what HP called the Business Computer Group. He saw "the market has changed dramatically in the last four or five years. Now almost every customer is really interested in a complete solution." That meant letting third-party software companies, building applications as well as tools, into the HP 3000 strategy, in addition to software sold by HP.

In that November of 1972, it looked to HP like it would be enough to release an HP 3000 with programming languages and a database management system. A decade later bundling the database and selling the customer a range of HP-written apps and tools wasn't going to satisfy the majority of customers. What's more, the Not Invented Here attitude HP had taken toward partners was supposed to be on the wane.

But new independent software companies could only be lured to the HP 3000 if the vendor had an open architecture, one that relied upon similarities with other vendors'. HP, and the 3000, needed to become less of an island, McCracken said.

I think we used to be somewhat arrogant about our capability to survive as an island in the computer industry. We've come to realize that an open-architecture philosophy is fundamental to a successful strategy.

He went on to explain that HP was changing the architecture of the 3000 to offer a single design for all of its computing platforms. This was PA-RISC, which McCracken explained was "to have one architecture that spans the applications from personal computing to real-time control of machines to commercial machines." That would become HP's Series 100 PC efforts, the RTE real-time platform of the HP 1000, and the HP 3000. Oh, and a commercial role for the HP 9000 -- which had a head start on an architecture similar to other vendors' because it was based upon Unix.

McCracken left HP in 1984 to become CEO of Silicon Graphics, a company whose workstations powered the hottest graphics and lifted SGI to rock-star status. For eight straight years every movie, such as Men in Black, nominated for the Oscar for Achievement in Visual Effects was built on SGI systems. But unlike McCracken's advice for HP, SGI used proprietary MIPS processors and fostered its own ecosystem of software suppliers -- even while basing its OS on the not-quite-similar Unix.

Similarity became so prized at the Hewlett-Packard which McCracken left that 18 years after that Happening November, the company attempted to pry IMAGE loose from the HP 3000 by un-bundling it -- simply to encourage wider-installed database companies to select MPE and the 3000 as a supported platform and kick start sales. What had made the 3000 a winner for the 1970s HP was now being viewed as an island.

Those participating software suppliers of 1984 were not about to let HP cast away such a bundled target market, though. Most of them report that IMAGE made the 3000 as good as it would ever be for a high-value business platform. That's high-value as in one which is capable of lasting through many Novembers. And at some companies of as large as $5 billion yearly revenue, this November continues to be a month with 3000s in place, their month-end cycles still a-happening.

08:13 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)