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First production emulator wins IT's respect

Freeware emulator rates zippy in early test

Print-ExclusiveStromays product manager Paul Taffel updated us today on the freeware HPA/3000 emulator project. Company officials have said that "very soon" they will share a link on the FTP servers which, over one November weekend, were serving up files ranging from 2GB to less than 500MB, depending on configurations.

The full commercial emulator is not only available and fully tested, but installed at a reference customer site in Australia. We'll have an interview with the manager at the customer site on our website tomorrow.

The personal freeware edition had some bumps during its first rollout to the 3000 community. Limited to 2 users, that download included an MPE/iX disk image along with files to run in a VMware Player to enable an unzip-and-load experience.

Taffel said that earliest peek at the freeware included some MPE/iX ancillary software such as TurboStore and COBOL II, subsytems which are not covered in the blanket freeware's licensing. After releasing the download addresses for publication by the NewsWire, Stromasys moved quickly to turn off the FTP addresses while it works on creating a download file that would remain within licensing restrictions.

But during the few hours when the freeware was alive, it impressed a pair of development veterans of the 3000 community. Gavin Scott of Allegro was the first to report on the speed and functionality of the freeware. He compared its speed to a much more advanced rate than the promised Series 918.

“I was able to get networking working, and I can now upload and download files to do things like performance tests.” Scott said. “The performance of the emulator appears to be similar to that of an original HP A-Class running MPE/iX, which is quite impressive.”

Scott said that his download in November was “indeed a Charon virtual disk with MPE 7.5. Those two files require that a user have a supported Linux environment (virtual or otherwise). Then you need to install and configure the emulator and associate the disk file with it. The 2GB download has all of this done for you via a virtual machine image that contains Fedora 16, plus the installed and configured emulator which starts up when the virtual machine boots — to the ISL> prompt, where you just need to type START).

Stromasys tech manager Peter Ljungberg passed along hardware requirements for using the freeware.

• Intel i7/i5 or Xeon CPU with SSE4.1 support; 2 GHz minimum, 3GHz or above recommended.
• 8 GB RAM minimum.
• 0.1 TB + disk space required to keep HP 3000 disk images. 20 GB is the minimum requirement for the freeware package.
• Two Ethernet ports.

Despite the 8 GB spec, Scott tested the freeware on a PC with 6GB of RAM. He said he was using a Dell T-7500 Precision Workstation with two quad core hyperthreaded CPUs from 2-3 years ago. “It’s pretty beefy, but probably not even as fast as a modern inexpensive single CPU Quad core would be for this application,” Scott said.

“I was a bit worried about their minimum specs, but it turns our their VM is only configured for 4GB of RAM, so my 6GB system was able to launch it without any problems,” Scott said. “I opened it in VMWare Workstation 8.0.3. You could also use the free VMWare player, according to their instructions.

“With the VM up and the virtual 3000 booted up completely, my system is still only using a total of 5.11GB of RAM for everything I have running. So their hardware requirements are quite conservative, I think. 

“It booted up pretty speedily,” Scott added, “and seems to be quite zippy. You might get the VM to run on a 4GB machine, though it would probably take over most of the machine and performance might not be as good especially if you’re running other programs simultaneously. But a 6GB machine seems fine, and the host disk space is only around 11GB for the full VM (even though it’s got a virtual 20GB disk).”

ScreenJet’s Alan Yeo also was able to download and install the freeware edition, but wondered how the users of non-7.5 subsystems like TurboStore would be able to work with the included MPE/iX disk image.

“I think most people who may be interested won’t be on 7.5,” he said. “They are more likely to be on 6.0 or 6.5. So I have a licensed HP 3000 running 6.5 and I want to try the emulator, and they ship a bare-bones 7.5 MPE, the more interesting question is — how do they think I can use or move my 6.5 subsystem software onto a 7.5-qualified emulator?”

Yeo performed the install but learned that he “had to shut everything down and reboot before it would work.” He was connected to the emulator via Attachmate/WRQ’s Reflection.

“The freeware ships with an HPUSERLIMIT = 2,” he added, “and as that’s a read-only variable, it can’t be changed. But they have done exactly what I think is required for HP to ignore what they have or haven’t included in the freeware version — which I think is quite a lot.”