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Testing and waiting: Top 2 emulator tasks

Testing-robotAt least every other day, a 3000 user calls or emails us to ask about the arrival of the Stromasys emulator's freeware version. To recap just a little, this 2-user version of the HPA/3000 would be free to run on any Intel Core i7 or faster PC. The freeware user would input their own HPSUSAN number to get third party software running.

I have to say would because for the last 30 days the freeware has been stuck in the Stromasys development and approval cycle. It surfaced as briefly as a salmon on a summer stream on November 9-10. Then the too-bountiful bundle that included HP's subsystem products was taken off the Stromasys FTP site. The full-scale emulator is being tested, however, by some customers as well as vendors.

MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster just reported today that "We are still testing it, and just added the disc to get ready for throughput testing." Like the managers at some of the other beta test sites, Foster posted a command line stream that showed DISCFREE operating by way of the emulator. His company which sells and supports software for the 3000 community is looking at how extra disc space would impact the use of the product.

There are also other sites in the community which are doing their own beta tests, probably of the full product. Frank Gribbin of the law firm Potter Anderson & Corroon said he's been doing some limited development. He's impressed with the speed.

I am still using BASIC, some FORTRAN and a little SPL. I like the interpreter for rapid development. The compiled code is fast, even faster on the Stromasys emulator.

Gribbin has been on the trailblazing path with the 3000 before this breakthrough. His company was among the first to put Java/iX to work in its production software. Now the emulator software is looking for a foothold, but the delay in releasing that freeware code might be costing the HPA/3000 some early adopters. The holidays are only a week or so away.

What does the onset of the Christmas-New Year week have to do with embracing the Stromasys product? As one developer told me this week, "I'm getting to the part of the year where I have extra time. If I had a chance to look at the emulator, it would be easiest now."

He also asked, like others have, if we could prevail on Stromasys to kick loose that rare software bundle that flashed out of the water a month ago. Believe it or not, there are still some 3000 customers who haven't kept up with how far the full product has traveled. It's been a journey with some happy endings.

We've reported a couple of data points on the emulator; three actually, including one from the field. We have reports from testers Alan Yeo of ScreenJet and Gavin Scott of Allegro, both of whom put the freeware version through its paces in November. These testers had two distinct backgrounds.

Yeo admitted that the emulator will be disruptive to his migration business, but he found the software to be fast and reliable. Scott supports HP server sites including those which use MPE/iX, as well as Linux and HP-UX installations. He found it zippy and even got it to run in under 6GB of RAM.

We also reported on an IT manager in Australia who has installed the emulator to replace an aging 3000 and drive a customized in-house app suite, all now in production. Stromasys provided us with that reference, and I did an hour-long Skype interview with Warren Dawson.

We continue to be promised by Stromasys that the freeware edition will be out any day now in full public release. Even though it's only a 2-user license, it has been reported faster than a 918 by a factor of up to 4, so long as you have 8GB of RAM on a i7 core Linux system for hosting it. The speedup of the emulated 3000 is likely to be removing the PA-RISC hobbling which HP introduced in its HP 3000 hardware. If nothing else, the PA-RISC "chips" emulated in the Stromasys product can be used at the full speed of the PA-8800 processor.

However, more deliberate speed of release would quicken this product's chances of catching on in places where word of mouth and references could lift its profile. Vendors and licensing departments seem to be welcoming it, so long as a customer arrives with the emulator in hand and wants to continue support of their MPE/iX products. Even though a consultant or a small support shop will be able to work inside the freeware's 2-user limits nicely, many of them have clients who'd consider a full commercial license. They just need someone who can reference this new tool.

You might even consider the freeware release to be a holiday gift. We're just trying to be encouraging here.