Advice on reductions helps manage risk
Still Patching After All These Years

Freeware emulator user reaches for support

In one of the greater gifts to the 3000 community, Stromasys has unleashed software that permits a 2-user HP 3000 to appear on the hard drive of a PC anywhere in the world. The Charon software could replace consultants' aging 3000 systems immediately after a download and install. These consultants could then demonstrate this emulated 3000 to homesteading companies. A sale to the company might take place.

However, the HP 3000 rose to its highest peaks with the benefit of other emulation, decades ago. The server's oldest software employed proprietary terminals. When PCs displaced terminals because of those desktop computers' industry standard and flexibility, one software product made it possible: terminal emulators. WRQ shipped Reflection. Minisoft distributed MS 92. More than a dozen years ago, a freeware terminal emulator, QCTerm, rolled out of the labs at AICS Research.

When these emulators emerged, prospective customers had questions during proof of concept testing. During the years while that era's emulation was proving itself, tech support was a call-in experience. I don't recall how a company might handle a technical support call from a non-customer. At Adager, the tech team was often contacted about how to repair IMAGE/SQL databases. That kind of call would earn a non-customer some advice, because that's a full-service model being preserved by some vendors.

And freeware? It didn't exist in anything but the most rudimentary bulletin board system-driven downloads for PCs, or the Interex swap tapes for MPE software.

Terminal emulation is still with us, in the form of entrenched applications that rely on linking to a Reflection, MS 92 or something else like QCTerm. Now there's a second level of emulation in the Charon solution. It's not clear yet how the markets, the customers and the vendors of freeware will handle this kind of inquiry.

On one hand, it seems obvious that a software company couldn't really be expected to support freeware users 1-to-1. There's not enough revenue to support that expense. However, 3000 emulation is trying to prove its worth this year. It's going to need some of that personal attention for dug-in 3000 managers and consultants.

This afternoon we got a call from a consultant who'd run up against this emulator-to-emulator handshake. Did I know, Dan Miller asked, how to achieve a connection to a 3000 using Reflection and Charon?

We've never pretended to be that smart here, but we know people who can answer that question. Dan got a referral, and we hope to catch up with the answer to his question. He had many others for Stromasys last fall, and must've gotten answers enough to start his proof of concept installation for his client. He might be trying to get a serial connection -- bereft of any outside network -- in step with the emulator, but that might not be true. Dan's is the first question we've seen about Reflection and Charon.

These days, tech support for freeware is handled by user communities, email, SourceForge message boards, explicit user guides -- the kinds of advice channels which can't really walk you through an installation. We don't know where the future is on freeware and support, but it's an interesting aspect of this year's emulation debut.