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Still Patching After All These Years

PatchesHP solved the problems of the 3000 and MPE with patches, revised software which Hewlett-Packard still distributes today. Probably not as seamlessly as it did while the company supported the system. But just as inexpensively: MPE/iX is one of the only HP operating systems with free patches. The still-engineered and fully-supported OS lineup requires an HP support contract to retrieve patches, even the critical ones.

Patches resurfaced in my reporting this afternoon while I interviewed a consultant to a large site, one where 22 HP 3000s once ran altogether. Today it's a couple of N-Class servers. He was feeling good about the chances for a Stromasys emulator there, partly because the customer is already running on MPE/iX 7.5. The final generation of the OS is required to run the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.

"We got away from using Large Files, too," he added. "I think HP never did fix that corruption bug in those." That would be the >4GB corruptor, discovered in 2006 by Adager and finally fixed in '07 by HP's IMAGE/SQL labs. The repaired software required a millicode patch, the first one HP'd written for the 3000 in 16 years. You can get that patch via HP's Response Center website. But that's not how most 3000 managers are getting these patches today.

The number of HP contract-holding 3000 administrators has dropped since the 2007 date of patch MILNX10A. Most people are calling into HP's support line, then plowing through the confusion that arises when you ask for something related to HP and a 3000.

"If one has a functioning support center logon, then yes -- you can download the patch via the Web," said one indie support provider. "I find most people need to call the support line. I always tell them to take their patience with them, as it can be challenging to get past the initial call handlers.  ("No…my 3000 is not a printer…")  You’ll eventually get to the one (?) person still handling MPE patching requests."

We are told, by Allegro Consulting's Donna Hofmeister, that "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person."

MILNX10A is important enough to patch, especially on a 3000 that's got databases that are still growing. One traditional advisory in the 3000 community is that "there are three things that can happen when you apply a patch, and two of them are not good." So that limits an administrator's gusto for patching -- but this corruption problem was a big enough deal for HP to label that patch critical.

The patch repairs access to any in-house applications that have used Large Files, or do a sort with a temporary file that can exceed 4GB. If your app has not been modified since March 30, 2000, it's safe. That's when HP introduced the Large File feature.

Large Files has been engineering which HP worked to remove from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the 3000 converted to Jumbo files, much better engineered. Jumbos were at work where our consultant was arranging an audition for the emulator.

MILNX10A is not stageable because it requires a installation job. It is most easily installed by using HP's autopat.  Autopat, at its conclusion, will say "stream this.job." A couple of blinks later, milli.lib.sys (and friends) is updated.

MILNX10A won't be enough to fix this corruption problem. HP's repair also requires MPENX11A. Unlike the millicode patch, MPENX11A is not stageable, as it is a patch that requires a reboot. A manager can use Patch/iX to get the patch staged and schedule a reboot.

If you don't know if you should apply this patch, contact your support provider. If you're patching, pay attention to when you run 'unpackp.' We'd love to hear any experience you might have while navigating the free phone support from HP for these patches.