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August 2013

A 3000 emulator needs HP's IP to boot

Last week we reported a couple of stories' worth of information about a new emulator effort for the HP 3000. This one couldn't be more different than the Stromasys Charon product that's now winning customers. We've gotten a heads-up that another Charon site will be going online to replace large HP 3000s, this one in the northeast at a financial services company.

Meanwhile, Piotr Głowacz in Poland is fronting a band of developers who are taking an open source approach -- using publically-available documents.

We did our simulator based 100 percent on publicity-available docs (which is typical for FOSS projects). We've reached the point where the simulator is running, going through the install process for MPE/iX and crashes at the very unspecified moments. As we can't provide an HPSUSAN number for testing, we're just hoping our simulator will do (and we're closer to our goal each day).

We’re still checking to see if Głowacz’ team means that they're getting closer to a non-crash startup for MPE/iX every day. It’s not clear why if they had an HPSUSAN number, it would that help in the testing.

BootWhat your community learned in 2003 was HP's help would be required to emulate PA-RISC processors capable of booting MPE/iX. There's a Processor Dependent Code routine or module that halted the Stromasys work for years. HP's intellectual property lawyers wouldn't cooperate, and the Stromasys development had to get shelved. Until 2008, when HP changed its mind.

Open source has its unique advantages. One of them is finding things available in public domain and modifying that source code to solve a problem. However, PDC has been considered a trade secret by HP. Getting documentation about PDC from a public source is going to be a tough assignment. Stromasys got the information by arranging for a top-down, official relationship with HP. That's led to an HP Worldwide Reseller agreement.

Not even the licensees of the source code for MPE/iX have those internal HP docs about PDC in PA-RISC.

In a commercial arrangement, HP's lawyers might be convinced that it's a good idea to make that data available. It's a leap of faith to imagine that arrangement taking place for an open source project. This project would be the first open source re-engineering of a processor for the HP enterprise user base.

Continue reading "A 3000 emulator needs HP's IP to boot" »

Data migration requires disk, plus planning

We've written about data migration as the precursor to any kind of transition. Yesterday MB Foster held a webinar to dive deeper into the strategies that can give an IT manager advantages while migrating.

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 1.37.25 PMThe company says that the drivers for for moving data from one device to another include "Data refreshes, server and application consolidation, data center relocation, data classification/taxonomy, analytics/BI, reporting, MDM, Big Data and mergers/acquisitions. You’d think that any operation performed routinely would become easy. But alas, it is not so."

"These migrations are never going to be trivial, based on our experiences with customers. Not until you've got them scoped, figured out and automated. Even two companies using the exact same application might have stored things in their databases slightly differently."

The webinar included a demonstration of MB Foster’s processes using its product UDA Central, a data migration solution. There was also a mention of a new software tool that can look inside of databases, to see data that would benefit from being merged. For example, many different colors of black inside the records of a garment warehousing application.

Continue reading "Data migration requires disk, plus planning" »

How to Restore Posix on a New 3000

Everything is peachy after my new install of MPE/iX (6.0; yes, I know it's very old) on my Series 918 -- except I haven't been able to get Telnet working. It errors every time when I put in the INETDCNF.NET file. In my attempts, it appears that I have missing links to the Posix shell. When I execute SH.HPBIN.SYS -L, I get a $ prompt which suggests that my /etc/profile isn't being executed. How can I fix this to get things working?

Donna Hofmeister replies

You're probably missing all/most of your Posix stuff. You can easily check by doing ":listfile /etc/,2" (you have to use listfile for this). If you see nothing...yeah, well... A quick repair for jinetd would be to do the following:


On my system, I see the following files with links back to .net.sys:


You might want to go ahead and make those as well....

For restoring your missing files... you're on a bit of a quest.

Continue reading "How to Restore Posix on a New 3000" »

The Things We've Missed, This August

ScottHirshThis week the VMware annual conference is holding court in San Francisco. Three HP 3000 faces are at the conference. Stromasys has its booth up and running, because the company's specialty is virtualization. Scott Hirsh (at right), former chairman of the SIGSYSMAN group in the '90s, is on hand as a member of his new company, virtual storage startup Actifio. Meanwhile, Doug Smith is on the scene, taking a few days away from his HP 3000 consultancy in the Dallas area.

It all reminds me of the way August usually buzzed for your community. This was the month when the printed publications that covered the 3000 swelled in page count. Today there's only one of us left, but August used to promise hefty issues of HP World, or Interact, or HP Professional. Even HP Omni, based in the UK, had a lift from the annual Interex conference, held as a moveable feast around North America.

We are mailing out our usual August issue this week. But it doesn't have a special shipment ahead of the postal service, to arrive at a show hall. The sweet frenzy of booth setup was one of my partner Abby's favorite times, when the vendors and leaders of your community could talk before showtime. This was when we'd usually bring around a small present, often made of leather, as our way of showing thanks for those sponsors. I'm even more grateful this August for our sponsors, fewer in number but just as devoted.

By the time our blog began, the annual conference was gone, a victim of the Interex bankruptcy. We could only report on what was no longer there, and why, what it cost everybody. It was the last time than an August had a conference scheduled with an HP in the title. Now HP Discover is entrenched in Vegas and happens every June.

Virtual shirtWe're also missing the parade of t-shirts that floated through August. A t-shirt offered at an HP conference had to be clever, if it was going to be picked up from a booth worker. Even the Newswire had t-shirts. The ones that HP's handing out this week are a bit threadbare on clever, or even inspiring. You don't often want your marketing message, something as unwieldy as "Proven software-defined innovations from HP," on the front of a shirt. It's another place where HP "needs to do better," as its CEO said while explaining the latest financial results last week. We once designed a shirt, for a vendor out of this market, with a wraparound rocket screen-printed on front and side.

Another thing we've missed this August is the annual HP Management Roundtable. Veterans of the conference trail might remember one of the last roundtables, this one focused on the 3000. On cue, 11 HP executives and managers rose up as one, removing their sportscoats and suit jackets. It was a powerful moment that was supposed to signal that the managers were rolling up their sleeves to do work answering questions. Harry Sterling, the best GM the 3000 division ever had, choreographed that move. He was the only GM ever to appear onstage for a talk wearing a tuxedo.

IMG_4051We miss the stunts and the amiable suffering too. The former included The World's Largest Poster project, where an HP 3000 drove an HP large-format printer, for weeks before the show, creating the poster in strips. The Newswire provided lunch while Wirt Atmar did all the organizing and produced the poster in rolls of paper. It all had to be loaded in a van and driven to Anaheim. Atmar called that toting of the rolls "the corporate fitness program" at his software company.

Continue reading "The Things We've Missed, This August" »

Buy wee HP discs? Small payoff, big price

Minions USBIt's probably a habit you could break easier than you think. If you're keeping a 3000 online, either in homesteading or pre-migration mode, you could quit buying something as antique as 18GB disk drives. Taking a minute to consider the payoff might help adjust this habit.

We spoke to an IT manager at a California school district who was heading for a Linux replacement, somewhere down the road, for his HP 3000. One reason for the migration was the price of hardware. Yes, even in the year when HP hasn't built a 3000 for 10 years, original equipment disc is selling. Our IT manager reported his 18GB device had doubled in price.

That's original HP-branded disc, certified to run on an HP 3000. Sounds good, but it doesn't mean much in 2013. If that disk doesn't boot a 3000, or it becomes lost in the 3000 IO configuration -- LDEVs fall off -- who will you complain to? The seller of the disk, perhaps. But there's no HP anymore that knows or cares about the HP 3000 and its discs. So much for vendor warranty or certification.

Your third-party indie support company will do the certification -- let's just call it a check -- on the suitability of a model of drive. Seriously, we can't see why managers would buy system discs that have less storage than a USB flash drive crafted to look like a Despicable Me minion. Buying these is a habit, and one you can break with many SCSI discs out there, selling for under $100.

Continue reading "Buy wee HP discs? Small payoff, big price" »

Rocky HP Q3 triggers replacement reorg

Hewlett-Packard has announced another skid in its fortunes for the servers designed to replace HP 3000s. This time around, the results were so disappointing that the Enterprise business unit had its Executive VP removed from the job.

Enterprise Group Q3 2013 slide


It's not that the numbers for this period were out of line with the last eight quarters. (Details above) But the malaise of the sales at Business Critical Systems -- where the Integrity servers have been losing revenue and profit -- has spread to the sales of the ProLiant systems as well. BCS, which still gets its own baggage to carry in the HP quarterly reports, dropped another 26 percent of sales versus 2012's Q3.

How small has BCS become? It's a question which can be answered at last. HP reported that sales of the Integrity systems' unit represented 4 percent of the total $6.8 billion of the Enterprise group. That's $272 million in sales of HP-UX, NonStop, and OpenVMS servers and related peripherals for a 3-month period. Less than 1 percent of HP's sales, or a run rate of just over $1 billion a year. Except that it's been running downhill since 2011, and Dave Donatelli was all but fired for the results.

HP's CEO Meg Whitman reported that Donatelli -- who came to HP in a contested job change from EMC -- will be "on special assignment," instead of running the futures and fortunes of HP's Enterprise servers. The group includes Industry Standard Xeon-based ProLiants. The whole unit dropped another $600 million in sales during Q3. Like so many of the dropping units on the HP report, the group was listed as working in a "tough compare" to the 2012 business. 

Which would make for a good explanation, until you remember HP reported a record loss for last year's Q3. Analysts said after the call that the HP results show, as Mad Money's Jim Cramer brayed, "HP needs three things: new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck."

Continue reading "Rocky HP Q3 triggers replacement reorg" »

Other emulator: no sales, some commerce

The developer team that's working on a second HP 3000 emulator opened its horizons today with a message sent to the 3000-L mailing list. Piotr Glowacz was on the hunt for a copy of MPE/iX, as we noted yesterday. He'd really like copies of 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5.

One reader on the mailing list suggested this software was available from Client Systems. That company sells HP 3000s, as it has for more than five years by itself, and another 10 before that as the only North American distributor for HP's 3000 business.

The scope of this project led by Glowacz -- the group has yet to boot up a 3000 under any conditions, emulated or not -- clearly falls outside the range of sales. Today Glowacz said that there will no sales of the software once they finish. It's open source, after all. Noting that the project is not like the 3000 emulator now selling from Stromasys, Glowacz calls it a simulator.

Our simulator isn't going to be a commercial software. We want free, BSD-licensed, fully functional simulator for 3k architecture, for both private and commercial use.

There's another non-commercial aspect to this Simulator project. The group doesn't have a company behind it or enough resources to buy a bottom-end HP 3000 -- and get a copy of MPE/iX in the process.

Continue reading "Other emulator: no sales, some commerce" »

Open source emulator creator seeks MPE

Our ally and friend Alan Yeo flagged down a message to the 3000 community from a developer who says he's in a group that's written an HP 3000 emulator. "A second emulator," read Alan's message. He suggested that we track down details from Piotr Glowacz, the creator of the message below -- which was posted on the comp.sys.hp.mpe newsgroup.

As I can't get any response from HP, I've decided to give this group a try. With a group of system programmers, we're working on a free, open source 3k emulator, based on QEMU (and its binary translator), with the goal to get a fully functioning rp7400/N4K environment. As for now, we have it working with HP-UX 11i, but our main goal is to get MPE/iX up and running on it.

So, my question is -- is someone on this group able to provide us with MPE/iX installation media images? I know it's a gray land, but as I can't get any response from HP (even after they announced their HP3k simulator programme), I'm willing to risk, and try to run our simulator with an 'unauthorized' copy of the OS, just to check if it's working.

Glowacz might know that there's already a free version of a tested emulator out on the marketplace. The A202 version of the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator can be downloaded from Stromasys. It's a two-user instance and includes a version of MPE/iX, already hosted in a VMWare player instance and bootable from a Linux distro. Stromasys was passing out this freeware -- which is not open source software -- on USB sticks at this spring's Training Day event in Mountain View. The stick even includes an MPE/iX image. The A202 is not licensed for commercial use, only personal and pilot testing.

Continue reading "Open source emulator creator seeks MPE" »

Terminal emulation app tested via LinkedIn

In a first for the HP 3000 Community, that LinkedIn group is trading test experiences for new software. The TTerm Pro iPad app, available to employ HP 2392 and 700/92 terminal emulation, has been sent for evaluation, purchased, and discussed among the 3000 pros in the group.

The developer of TTerm Pro has been responsive in the give and take for a product new to the 3000 world. Turbosoft's Art Haddad said that the software has had 3000 emulation capability since the early 1990s. This is the first month of availability for the iOS version of the software.

Stan Sieler of Allegro first raised the question about block mode's capabilities. "My concern is that most fourth-party emulators in the past that have claimed HP compatibility have failed in the block mode area. That's what I want to test most. Fourth party: not HP, not home-written, and not from a usual HP 3000 vendor."

Jon Diercks, whose mini-review with screen shots will appear in our imminent August printed edition, replied that "I've bounced it through a couple of NMMGR screens without trouble, but haven't tested any more extensively than that. Anything specific that you'd like me to try?"

Continue reading "Terminal emulation app tested via LinkedIn" »

Replacing LDEV 1 drives: many options

Our bulletproof Series 918 has finally crashed. It's been a great, solid, stable runner for years. However, I desperately need to find a new, used or refurbished drive to replace its system disk, preferably here in the UK. I assume it was LDEV 1, as it couldn't boot. However, I have two drives in the system drive enclosure, and am not sure how to tell which was designated as LDEV 1.

I figure a like-for-like replacement would be less hassle if I can find one. What I need is a C2490-69365 drive with a massive 2GB of storage, one that has a 50 pin connector.

Craig Lalley answered, with a short method on how to discover which drive is designated as LDEV 1.

Look at the primary boot path.  Then find the SCSI drive with that ID. Disconnect the drive and see if the boot behavior changes.

Keven Miller also replied, with advice about finding drives seemingly everywhere -- and another method to figure which drive is LDEV 1 in a 3000.

I'd prefer to replace that 2GB with a larger one. A 4GB, if you’re running MPE 5.0 through MPE 7.0, and something larger if running MPE 7.5, where you can access beyond the 4GB limit.  I have a 4GB LDEV 1 that houses MPE 6.0, and an 18GB LDEV 2 that’s a user volume for other data. For compatible disks, I have many of have these lying around. I could supply any of the following on my list below, for the cost of shipping only.

Continue reading "Replacing LDEV 1 drives: many options" »

Something for MPE at Apple's App Store

About 10 days ago, the Australian software company Turbosoft announced that it had unveiled an iPad app that will emulate HP 3000 terminals. While the functionality of TTerm Pro is being reviewed for our August printed issue, we can review the costs of delivering a 3000 terminal interface to the world's most-purchased tablet.

Art Haddad made the first mention of TTerm on the HP 3000 Community group of LinkedIn. Turbosoft wasn't on my radar for MPE-ready software, but I can't even pretend to know every product. This one has been on offer for 3000s for about 20 years.

TTerm definitely supports Telnet connections, and the [HP 3000] emulations are complete. Turbosoft has been developing terminal emulation software since 1986 and the HP series of terminals has been in its Windows-based products from the early 1990s. The main feature that our Windows products have over the iPad range is NS-VT support, as well as scripting. However, there is a plan to add NS-VT support to TTerm Pro in the not too distant future.

TTermProConnectionsHaddad, who works from Australia but actually takes calls in North American West Coast time (that's an early workday there) also gave us a peek at what it's like to sell on the Apple App Store. TTerm was already evolving when we talked last week, but that improved version was going to take a few more weeks of review time before Apple would sell it. Apple's system would then notify a user who'd bought the app a newer version could be downloaded.

Somehow, Apple has turned around the usual software formula: now sales and delivery has been made to lag behind development. This situation might serve to explain a little about the $49.95 price for the app. It only seems pricey until a 3000 manager goes to look for another terminal emulator app -- on any tablet. Not just Apple's.

Continue reading "Something for MPE at Apple's App Store" »

HP wins suit on strength of weak standard

This week a Federal judge ruled that HP won't have to pay lawsuit damages after a CEO violated a code of conduct for the company's workers. The alleged harrassment by Mark Hurd was not studied as closely as that code of conduct for Hewlett-Packard.

Pink-DumbbellThough HP's standards brochure contained provisions like, "We are open, honest, and direct in all our dealings," District Judge Jon Tigar found that such comments aren't material statements. The wording in the code was vague enough that some major shareholders, led by the Cement & Concrete Workers District Council Pension Fund, don't get to collect damages in a lawsuit because the judge called the HP code "puffery."

It's not shocking that a sexual harassment case, one that been broadcast in a lurid story, wouldn't end in jail time for Hurd, or a fine against HP. Those are big players with great legal representation. Hurd's amorous advances earned him a spot at Oracle selling Sun servers, so well that the Business Critical Systems division hasn't had a good quarter since he left HP.

It's probably not even surprising that a current HP code has a vague wording. Somehow, it took more than 18 months to decide that in a District Court matter. What is genuinely surprising is that any corporation code would be considered a cut above a prayer or an advertisement. The old Hewlett-Packard -- the company that current CEO Meg Whitman says remains in the new HP's DNA -- would see a code as a promise. It worded the copy of the HP Way clearly enough that it could defend its practices. Corporate-level creeds such as standards brochures are low bars to clear. Nothing as concrete, so to speak, as "profit is the best single measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength. We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives."

That's the old HP, considered benevolent and collegial, talking there in the HP Way. Profit was the biggest goal. Today HP takes its commitment to green manufacturing and the environment more seriously than corporate officer accountability. This is important to remember when choosing a systems vendor for a migration project.

Continue reading "HP wins suit on strength of weak standard" »

Having support is a matter of needs

One of the broadest brushes used on MPE systems is "they're no longer supported." This is one way to view the departure of HP from the support options for a 3000 server. Using this perspective, the 3000 was a safe choice in the period ending in 2008 — because no matter who did the everyday critical support, Hewlett-Packard engineers were always a last-resort option under time and materials contracts. Many HP 3000s were not under HP support at the time the vendor announced its exit plan. They were supported, however.

But an unsupported system sounds risky, doesn't it? It's not tough to find computing functions that didn't evolve on the 3000. Many are in the open source categories, such as Java, or SSH server abilities. Others involve fundamental services like domain name hosting. DNS programs like bind never caught on as 3000 tools. And you know, there's just not much call for word processing on HP-UX systems, either.

Reasonable IT planners will get the point. When you need SSH server ability hosted on a 3000, the lack of it will reduce the MPE system's utility. Perhaps enough to make it look risky. Security updates come to mind, but a computer needs a great payback for hackers to throw a flood of malware at it. Windows XP will provide this next year, when the security updates cease. MPE/iX, not so much.

Just this week we located a genuine use for the missing SSH server ability on a 3000. As it turns out, SSH would be very useful if your 3000 users were working from iPads.

Continue reading "Having support is a matter of needs" »

Glossary to the Future: ITIL, APM, and rank

NavyinsigniaA 3000 manager's career was once rooted in technology. In the future it will be rooted in management, even when the 3000 in the datacenter is a virtualized one. The most secure place to manage IT is on an executive team. ITIL and APM can help get you earn enough rank to get a seat at that table. (Rank, not stripes, but we'll get to that in a minute.)

Tomorrow, MB Foster offers a webinar on these two concepts. One is a standard (ITIL) and the other a strategy (Application Portfolio Management). Both are designed to make your work more essential to your employer.

"The challenge for IT is adopting a business- and customer-focused approach in terms of delivering high quality IT services," Foster's invitation explains. "Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) mitigates these challenges." 

Application Portfolio Management (APM) provides IT departments and management visibility and clearly defines insight into critical applications and data with actionable information on the business value and fit and the technical condition of each application.

The webinar starts at 2PM EDT tomorrow, with an online signup at Foster's website. When combined, ITIL and APM provide guidance to organizations on how to use IT to facilitate business change, transformation, growth and benefits -- and where to focus investment. It's an interesting time for enterprise server management, with cloud and virtualization options front and center. Investment is going to be a constant wedge to get into corporate discussions.  

Continue reading "Glossary to the Future: ITIL, APM, and rank" »

HP Ready to Renew VMS, Like It Did for You

Even after HP stopped making HP 3000s in 2003, it did not stop selling the servers. No, not those holdover orders placed at the end of '03, computers which were not delivered until the spring of 2004. Cast your memory back to 2005 and 2006, when servers and their MPE licenses were advertised from the company's used computer unit, HP Renew.

SoyonaraNow there's another chapter to this song of sayonara. Customers using OpenVMS systems built on Integrity can buy older machines from HP Renew. "HP Renew helps you to develop, migrate or augment your IT infrastructure at your own pace, without impacting efficiency," says its website. The Integrity 9300 series i2 blades and rackmount servers are on sale, only slightly used.

HP 3000s are not offered in HP Renew any longer. They once were, at the same time as independent resellers and brokers sold this iron. HP iron is "the monkey on your back," according to virtualization vendor Stromasys. You get the monkey off by going to Intel servers that run Linux, and then MPE in that cradle. The monkey is PA-RISC servers.

But the vendor still sells HP 9000 PA-RISC systems through HP Renew, servers built with identical hardware as the HP 3000 iron. There's an HP-UX license sold with these HP 9000s, computers that are 10 years behind HP's latest HP-UX Integrity servers. Today the HP 3000 iron, with its discs of varying age, comes from the resale markets. You get them from vendors like Pivital Solutions (one of the last authorized 3000 resellers), or the MPE Support Group, or even on eBay. HP's turned away from the 3000 customer, as it will for nearly all of them except those who use industry standard environments. Right now that looks like it will be Linux and Windows -- but we're not that certain about the latter, for the longest run.

Whatever the length of its promises which have passed away, the current HP CEO has passed on an ideal that HP never did lose its customer focus. At a recent conference, Meg Whitman gave a speech that concocted a company that would never leave a customer out of its heart. OpenVMS users have already been told their OS will be left off of the next generation of Itanium. There's no other chip that runs OpenVMS, just like no other iron will run HP-UX. Oh, except those 10-year-old PA-RISC systems. Is that resold iron better than nothing when a customer needs a replacement system?

Continue reading "HP Ready to Renew VMS, Like It Did for You" »

Techniques of CSV Importing, Revealed

CSV iconI'm importing a Comma Separating Value (CSV) text file into a COBOL II program. I want to compare a numeric field from the file to a number in my COBOL program. In that program, the number is defined as S9(8)V99. The CSV file’s numeric field can vary in length, such as "-1,234.99" or "-123,456.99". If the CSV text file field is always the same length, I know I can move the text field to a COBOL numeric field that is redefined as alpha-numeric. My problem is that the input text field can be different for each record. How do I code in COBOL to accommodate the different number sizes in the text file?

Several HP 3000 programmers and developers recommended Suprtool from Robelle to accomplish this kind of import. Robelle's own Neil Armstrong has offered this advice.

One of the goals I had for Suprtool was what I called "close the loop." What the goal of the project was to essentially provide functions and other enhancements within Suprtool to aid in the import of data into self-describing files, FROM the CSV type files that the Suprtool suite of tools have been able to generate for years.

I added some new functionality such as $split, $number and $clean amongst others to facilitate the importing of data from really any source. I wrote an article about it on our website. The article essentially shows some the steps in Suprtool that you can use to import CSV data into a self-describing file -- or really any data target.

Walter Murray, who worked inside HP's Language Labs before moving out into the user community, noted that Suprtool was likely the best solution to the problem. But after a suggestion that the UNSTRING statement could be useful, he had his doubts.

Continue reading "Techniques of CSV Importing, Revealed" »

HP placed a bet on SQL with open IMAGE

August used to be a month for HP 3000 gatherings. The majority of the community's Interex conferences convened in this month, including one in San Francisco 20 years ago. In 1993, Hewlett-Packard was making a gamble on the future of the database that had already led the 3000 to 70 percent sales growth.

HP Market PushWhen the year opened, HP was telling customers that unit sales had led the computer out of the wilderness. "It's not a backwater," said HP's UK Managing Director John Golding. "It's an important order and profit generator." But the open aspect of the 3000 was dragging focus away from the server -- HP's own focus. Changes from inside HP's IMAGE labs were going to refocus attention on the heartbeat of the MPE/iX experience.

HP said "it believes it is the first vendor to develop an SQL-based interface that read and write information stored in a previously non-relational database." The new HP IMAGE/SQL, replacing TurboIMAGE, was supposed to bring the 3000 customer a wider array of reporting tools. Maybe even more importantly, IMAGE/SQL would connect the 3000 with other systems' data. The media and analysts were calling those other systems Open. 3000 users needed that word applied to their computer to regain HP's interest.

The ardent fans of IMAGE could see the possibilities of a SQL interface. But HP had made tens of thousands of customers out of companies that found the networked TurboIMAGE worked just fine. The technical trick was to put an interface onto a successful database that wouldn't demand a migration.

Continue reading "HP placed a bet on SQL with open IMAGE" »

Open source enables MPE enhancements

Earlier this week we looked at the prospects for creating an OpenSSH server component for HP 3000s. Some veteran developers have spent a bit of time on the engineering and learning the undocumented behavior of parts of MPE/iX. As such, this is work that could benefit from the knowledge in source code. Source was licensed to seven companies by HP.

We also wondered if enabling the server aspect of OpenSSH would be considered an MPE/iX enhancement by Hewlett-Packard -- or just a repair of a bug report. That would mean it was a workaround for anybody who'd like the complete OpenSSH on their MPE system.

The source code was provided to help repair problems and perform workarounds for homesteading HP 3000 customers. HP didn't want anybody creating new features for MPE/iX. But enabling the full range of SSH services doesn't constitute a new feature -- at least not from Brian Edminster's viewpoint. He runs a repository of open source software for HP 3000 users. 

If OpenSSH gets better on MPE/iX, Edminster suggests it won't improve simply by way of MPE internals information.

I'd argue that because OpenSSH is not an HP product -- and if making modifications to allow it to use existing features (even undocumented ones) within MPE/iX can allow it to work -- HP would not have grounds to complain. MPE/iX would not be modified in the process. They may not be happy about it, if such a modification extends the useful life of the remaining systems. But I don't believe they'd have legal standing to object. 

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV, the 3000 NewsWire, or the 3000-L. What I'm saying is not legal advice, just my own opinion of the situation. If someone is potentially at risk from HP by acting on the above advice, they should first get advice from competent contract and intellectual property counsel.

However, I'd go so far as to suggest that even if enabling OpenSSH required a binary patch to an existing MPE/iX routine which might not be behaving properly, HP still wouldn't be able to complain.

Continue reading "Open source enables MPE enhancements" »

Community experts explore Opening SSH

A little way back in July, we reported that the OpenSSH software on the HP 3000 was still somewhat short of full open source functionality. It could be completed, with some extra help from community experts and some testing. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies looked into what was needed to create a OpenSSH interactive client that would run under MPE/iX.

For anybody new to OpenSSH, it supplies services for encrypted communication sessions. Secure file transfers are the prize here. This would be one way to use the 3000 as an SFTP server, not just a client.

Edminster said, "The fact remains that SSH cannot connect to a remote system and execute commands that produce any output. Ken Hirsch did the original port, but he only really needed the SFTP client -- so the issue with ssh wasn't addressed."

Hirsch had asked years ago "if anybody knows a way to actually write to a terminal while there is a read pending, then I could use OpenSSH as a server on the HP 3000. Apparently there are undocumented MPE/iX sendio() and rendezvousio() calls. There are also tread()/twrite() routines in libbsd.a that I think are intended for this, but there's no documentation for these, either." 

As of this week, the community is looking into connecting these dots and producing documentation.

Continue reading "Community experts explore Opening SSH" »

Bottoms up delivers a bubbling MPE future

BubblesNot a single source of information can verify how many HP 3000s are working today. Never mind the complications of whether a 3000 is archival, or running until a migration is started or completed. Nobody knows where the systems are or the number that are working. Islands of information about 3000s were tied to resellers, to the vendor, even to third party software suppliers. 

Sometimes the owners themselves don't know there's a 3000 in their IT data environment. MPE experts move on and their replacements just think of an application that supplies computing services. Not the host system or the environment hosting it.

Support companies work to find these 3000 outposts. The IT staff onsite often needs help, instead of making the call they might've to Hewlett-Packard 10 years ago or more. They might even need a path into the future for the server, a way to ensure the hardware will carry onward as far as needed. Even more than two decades. We heard of one 3000 user that needs its applications available until 2035 to meet regulatory requirements.

Stromasys wants to sell its Charon HPA virtualization solution to those companies. They're also recognizing that to find everybody, they need a bottom-up effort to go along with top-down prospecting. The bottom might be considered grassroots. That's where partners come in.

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Migration servers live together at new HP

RandyMeyerQuietly this year, HP reorganized its server operations. Under the cover of an announcement of a Converged Systems group, Hewlett-Packard combined its Intel Xeon-based server business with the specialized Intel Itanium-based server products. The new unit hasn't reported its results yet; the reorg took place just at the end of the second HP quarter of fiscal 2013. Randy Meyer has been named as the GM of many products.

Numbers for this business won't appear for a few more weeks -- HP closed its third quarter on Wednesday, July 31. However, Hewlett-Packard says the combination of these groups will quicken the pace of something the vendor calls "the speed of transformation of the server industry."

While the un-migrated 3000 customer evaluates platform options, they've been watching a transformation that probably didn't seem to require more speed. Business Critical Servers (BCS), the home of Integrity/Itanium operations, has been on a speedy path to a slimmer profile at HP for nearly two years. Integrity servers have become a tough sell to new customers, but a preferred path for existing companies that have a lot invested already in HP's Unix, for example.

Obviously, the 3000 site that hasn't made a move yet won't have much invested in HP-UX or Integrity. Unless that company already has operations elsewhere that use Unix and Integrity boxes. It might be the place where Integrity can still claim some fresh datacenter real estate, but those won't be new customers.

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Keeping XP and MPE follows same path

A few days ago we wrote about a manager of MPE servers who believed in making a transition. However, the financial leadership at his company didn't believe in a non-critical expenditure. At some companies, while profits are low or even worse, replacing something that's still working won't pass the justification test.

YellowbrickroadSince the HP 3000 drives businesses like storage companies and catalog-web retailers, I found an interesting connection to the replacement strategy in the Windows XP ecosystem. XP runs businesses, too. It has done so a long time, maybe about a third as long as MPE. XP was rolled out at the same time HP announced its exit from the MPE marketplace. Hewlett-Packard bowed out of the MPE enhancement business close to five years ago. Microsoft hasn't updated features in XP for at least that long.

On the Infoworld website, Windows book author Woody Leonhard explained that keeping a business running on old technology was going to trump many reasons to upgrade for better features. In "Why I'm Keeping My Windows Machine," he explained that Windows 8's better features came at the cost of letting crucial things -- like cash registers -- go unsupported on the new platform. Leonhard knows enough about the new Windows to author a book about it. A hardware element of his XP business ecosystem: An ancient IBM ThinkPad with an old-fashioned COM port.

Pieces of brittle plastic fall off it from time to time, and the creaking hinge always leaves me cringing for fear that the screen will finally fall off. But that old beast runs a proprietary piece of software that's vital for updating a specific line of Casio cash registers. My wife's business runs on those old Casio cash registers, and if that ThinkPad goes, her business goes, too.

I have heard from 3000 system managers still supporting a business with aging HP printers, ones that need MPE to drive their CCTL carriage control commands. Other sites have checked in using DTCs for communication with terminals. What about fax machines? I found another fax outpost this week: consumer-level investment companies. At TD Ameritrade, getting authorization to manage a retirement account involves a downloaded form, filled out and mailed. Or you can fax it. No emails, please; not secure enough.

Fax, DTCs, CCTL, it's all antique tech, but it's working. For some companies that's the best report they can hope to hear, while they invest in marketing, retooling their manufacturing line, or trying to position themselves for investment or acquisition.

Working in one of these places, where IT needs to have something broken to get major investment, can be no fun for a forward-looking professional.

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