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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.

However, if you'd like to help Glowacz and his group, he's listing his email as [email protected].

It seems the best way to get a disk image is to purchase a used HP 3000. It's very inexpensive these days, for a small one, with a valid license. The 3000-L mailing list -- which is not where Glowacz started his hunt for an MPE image -- has seen several individuals who have 3000s which they'd like to get out of their shops or garages. Some have been offered for the cost of shipping, but we don't know how many have MPE/iX 7.5.

For that matter, we're not sure if this open source emulator requires the latest version of MPE/iX to succeed. As the developers don't yet have MPE/iX in their lab, they probably don't know that either. But many of the nearly-free 3000s have an MPE license, something Glowacz's team could create a disk image from.

It's interesting that HP hasn't responded to his request for an MPE image, but it's not clear where you'd ask for an image of MPE/iX simply for testing. There's no way for HP to just hand out an image. The OS has been tied to real HP hardware instances -- and defended in lawsuits by HP -- for close to 15 years. You cannot have a legal copy of MPE without a piece of hardware. HP created an emulator license in 2004, but you must transfer a legal copy of a license to emulator use. HP's not creating MPE licenses anymore.

To be sure, Glowacz can get an MPE installation image from somewhere in the community. For testing purposes, this could be a start. We'd advise that he go straight to NMMGR for testing once he's got it loaded. (Be sure and see if block mode works.) He should also start up ODE from the ISL prompt that he'll get off of this open source emulator.

It's easy to be skeptical about open source projects. But some amazing tools have started there. The obvious poster child for open source is Linux. We don't know if this open source emulator is hosted on a Linux system as its cradle. Stromasys began with the idea of using Windows, but that didn't even last long enough to see the light of the round of beta testing.

We'll check back in when we hear more about the open source emulator. QEMU is, according to Wikipedia's article 

a hosted virtual machine monitor: It emulates central processing units through dynamic binary translation and provides a set of device models, enabling it to run a variety of unmodified guest operating systems. It also provides an accelerated mode for supporting a mixture of binary translation (for kernel code) and native execution (for user code), in the same fashion VMware Workstation and VirtualBox do. QEMU can also be used purely for CPU emulation for user-level processes, allowing applications compiled for one architecture to be run on another.

QEMU "can boot many guest operating systems, including Linux, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, DOS, and BSD Unix. It supports emulating several instruction sets, including x86, MIPS, ARM, PowerPC, SPARC, ETRAX CRIS and MicroBlaze." The main website for the code lists HP PA-RISC as a "target" for QEMU. There is a Git repository for HPPA target support.