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October 31, 2018

Another If-Only Salvation, this time Linux

John Young Lulu
This man launched Red Hat out of a sewing closet, a firm that just sold for $34 billion. HP had a shot at buying Red Hat, too.

IBM announced it's buying Red Hat, paying an all-cash price of $34 billion to help make Big Blue relevant in cloud computing. While investors hated on the deal in the markets, others like Robert Cringley said it makes sense for Big Blue to own Red Hat. It's a color wheel that's spinning around IBM's enterprises. The ones that are the oldest might be those that stand to gain the most. It's the word "most" that reminds us how HP might have salvaged the future of MPE, if only with a deal to bring open source to enterprise customers.

One of my favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, sent along a message about RedHat + IBM. He said that this acquisition could have been done long ago—so long, in fact, that Hewlett-Packard could have executed it before the company stopped believing in MPE/iX. That would have been in the late 1990s, happening to a company that was deeply invested in two technologies just about played out today: Itanium and HP-UX. HP had faith enough in Itanium to stake its enterprise future for its biggest customers on the chips.

As for HP-UX, the OS that HP set out to devour 3000 opportunities, it remains to this day an environment that runs only on HP's architecture. HP used to snicker at Linux and open source options in those late 1990s. One presentation that sticks in my memory has an HP manager presenting a slide of a cartoon drawing of an open source support expert. He's a guy in a goatee slouching in a bean bag chair, mouthing "Dude" in a cartoon balloon.

HP meant to tell the audience that getting Linux support from HP was much more professional. Another message the cartoon sent was that Linux really was something dominated by open source nerds. Just about 20 years later the Revenge of the Nerds moment has arrived with a $34 billion payday. For some reference on that number, recall that HP gave up about $25 billion to purchase Compaq, a company with factories as well as labs.

HP used to have a slogan in the 1980s for advertising its PCs: What If? The IBM acquisition triggers the what-if thinking about Linux as in, "What if HP might have purchased the leading distro for Linux and used it to improve its proprietary environments' futures?" Would it have helped in any way to have a true open source platform, rather than just environments that were called "open systems?" The difference between an open source and an open system matters the most to developers and vendors, not to system makers. If Red Hat Linux might have helped MPE/iX look more open, at a source level, who knows how the 3000's prospects might have changed.

The melding and overlay of operating environments as different as Linux and MPE/iX had been tried before at HP, more than eight years before the company made its way away from the enterprise computing HP Way. In 1993 the project was HP MOST, one where I did some writing for Hewlett-Packard about a world where everybody could live together. Cats and dogs, Unix and MPE XL, all working together.

1993 was also the year that Bob Young, working out of his wife's sewing closet, started Red Hat. By the time HP hired a CEO who made a beeline to buy Compaq, Red Hat went public and Young retired. (To the publishing industry to do something called "self-publishing." Wonder how that worked out?) A forward-looking HP might have decided to invest in software by 1999 rather than more hardware in that Compaq purchase. Then armed with the technology that matters the most to applications — the OS platform — the 3000 vendor could have used Linux as a means to bring together proprietary power like MPE/iX with open source access.

MOST wanted to do just that, with MPE being the command module and HP-UX being the excursion module that would bring in the applications. It was a project that acknowledged the strengths of both kinds of technology, something open and something efficient. It ran dog-slow in the few spots where HP beta tested it. HP MOST had no serious love in a salesforce selling Unix everywhere that MPE/iX was installed. "If you build it, they will sell it" was an HP concept at the time, but the amount of sales in that formula were usually disappointing.

Now IBM has donned its Red Hat and some of its least open-sourced projects have a chance to benefit. I know an engineer inside IBM who's a lifelong AIX support expert. AIX is the equivalent of HP-UX, and much like HP's Unix, that OS runs best on IBM's proprietary architecture. This Red Hat deal "will be really good for POWER," the engineer said to me. We were both wearing costumes at a Halloween party while he said it, but there was no trick in his thinking. When a vendor is entrenched in its own inventions it can lose sight of what's succeeding better. IBM might have bought Red Hat too late. It's the kind of daring move that has kept that company in one piece, though. 

HP invested deeper into being a commodity computing company when it bought Compaq, adding nothing but the VMS legacy to its software assets. That legacy lifted VMS into the lead in investing in Itanium. The smaller customer set of 3000s was put aside so VMS could get its technical makeover for the proprietary Itanium platform. Now that Itanium has cratered and VMS has been sold off to VMS Inc. and Linux is ruling the future of cloud platforms, it's time to wonder — if only Linux could have been married to MPE/iX and PA-RISC, what might have been?

06:01 PM in History, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2018

3000 warehouse opens on distributor's shelf


Wine-racks
National Wine and Spirits has been using an HP 3000 to track inventory and shipments since the 1980s. Now the N-Class server at the distributor based in the Midwest is opening a new information shelf for its COBOL application.

Michael Boritz counts his HP 3000 experience back to the 1990s. The independent pro has a new project at NWS, implementing a data warehouse for the in-house application. 

"There's some Suprtool here, and some ODBC network interfaces that I'm not involved with," he said. "I'm strictly on the HP 3000 side: TurboIMAGE, Omnidex [for fast indexing], ViewPlus."

The development is happening on HP's 3000 iron over a nine-month contract for Boritz. There might be another six months of engagement at NWS for him, too.

New development on HP 3000s is not the typical reason to hire a pro of more than 25 years at a 3000 shop in 2018. Much of the time the professional engagements are in support of leaving MPE/iX. Companies need the experienced hands at IMAGE and VPlus screens while they make the transfer.

At NWS the methodology has been forward looking for a long time. In the summer of 2000 Kim Borgman was a manager there and wanted more training available from HP. And not just in classes about IMAGE, either. The newest technical capabilities were on her wish list.

“I think HP could do a better job on education,” said Borgman at the time. “For example, is there a class on using and setting up the Apache Web server on a 3000?”

There's more advanced technology on the N-Class. A few years back the company in Oak Brook, Illinois was using Hillary Software's byRequest to move its email and PDF from the 3000 to computers in the rest of the IT environment. byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application.

"We use it to e-mail all our reports now," Borgman said. "Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest will support secure FTP as well as standard FTP.

The fate and future of the 3000 application has been in flux. In 2012 another NWS official reported that the 3000 app was being moved to Windows Server. The code was headed to NetCOBOL at the time.

Dwight Demming, the VP of the company's IT operations, kicked off the new data warehouse project last winter. Demming said the work might possibly be leading to full-time employment. A year's worth of HP 3000 work starting in 2018 is a prospect few people could have forseen when HP turned off the lights in its MPE/iX lab almost eight years ago. 

06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2018

Command file tests 3000s for holidays

Holiday-Calendar-Pages
Holiday season is coming up. It's already upon us all at the grocery stores, where merchandising managers have cartons of Thanksgiving decorations waiting their turn. The Halloween stuff has to clear away first.

Community contributor Dave Powell has improved upon a command file created by Tracy Pierce to deliver a streamlined way to tell an HP 3000 about upcoming holidays. Datetest tells whether a day is a holiday. "I finally needed something like that," Powell says, "but I wanted the following main changes:

1:  Boolean function syntax, so I could say :if  holiday()  then instead of

:xeq datetest
:if WhichVariableName = DontRememberWhatValue then

and also because I just think user-functions are cool.

2. Much easier to add or disable specific holidays according to site-specific policies or even other countries’ rules. (Then disable Veterans Day, Presidents Day and MLK Day, because my company doesn’t take them.)

3. Make it easy to add special one-off holidays like the day before/after Christmas at the last minute when the company announces them.

Along the way, I also added midnight-protection and partial input date-checking, and made it more readable, at least to me.

Powell, who's contributed plenty of command files to the community through the HP 3000 newsgroup, says that most of the fun came in the day-of-week calculation.

I didn’t understand that part of Tracy’s script, or trust myself to adapt it without messing up, so I found a second method and used both, with a warning if the results didn’t agree. Surprise, surprise, they disagree about 12/25/2100, although they agree on dates I tested within the expected lifespan of MPE. So I shoveled in a third formula and found a day-of-week calculator spreadsheet, both of which agree with the second method. So anyone who uses Tracy’s original command file and plans to still run it in 2100 might need to make a change.

He offered what he called a preliminary version of the new datetest, which has been checked by Allegro's Steve Cooper


option nolist
parm CCYYMMDD    =   ""
if   bound (HOL_ERRORS)    or    bound (HOL_DAY)
    deletevar   [email protected]
endif
setvar   HOL_ERRORS  0
if   "!CCYYMMDD"     =   ""
    setvar  HOL_CYMD    HPYYYYMMDD
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HPDAY
    if  HOL_CYMD        <>  HPYYYYMMDD
#            if the date has changed, we just hit midnite and the
#            day-of-week we just set might be the new day; in this
#            case set the date & day-of-week again, and we should
#            be ok (unless the following 2 commands take 24 hours :)
        setvar  HOL_CYMD    HPYYYYMMDD
        setvar  HOL_DAY     !HPDAY
    endif
else
    setvar  HOL_CYMD    "!CCYYMMDD"
    if  not numeric (HOL_CYMD)
        echo **date parm, if entered, must be numeric**
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
    endif
    if  len (HOL_CYMD)   <>  8
        echo **date parm must be exactly 8 digits, unless omitted**
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
    elseif  numeric (HOL_CYMD)
        if  rht (HOL_CYMD, 2) > "31"
            echo **last 2 digits of date parm can't be more than 31**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        elseif  rht (HOL_CYMD, 2) = "00"
            echo **last 2 digits of date parm can't be "00"**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        endif
        if  str (HOL_CYMD, 5, 2) > "12"
            echo **bytes 5 & 6 of date parm can't be more than 12**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        elseif  str (HOL_CYMD, 5, 2) = "00"
            echo **characters 5 & 6 of date parm can't be "00"**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        endif
    endif
    if  HOL_ERRORS      >   0
        echo **exiting because the date-parm was not a valid**
        echo **8-digit date in yyyymmdd format **
        return FALSE
    endif
endif

#    -------------------------------------------------------
#    do not casually modify above here
#
#    Take any special / unofficial holidays here
#    OK to replace any dates that are past with the date of a
#    holiday the company just announced (Jewish new year,
#    days before / after Christmas & New Years, etc, etc)

if   HOL_CYMD="20080929"  or  HOL_CYMD="20081008" &
or   HOL_CYMD="20081226"  or  HOL_CYMD="20090102"
    echo It's a special company holiday :)
    return  TRUE
endif

#    do not casually modify below here
#    -------------------------------------------------------

setvar   HOL_YYYY    str (HOL_CYMD, 1, 4)
setvar   HOL_MM      str (HOL_CYMD, 5, 2)
setvar   HOL_DD      str (HOL_CYMD, 7, 2)

#
#    Set day of week, unless already set because processing "today"
#
if   not     bound (HOL_DAY)
#    1st, the method in the original "datetest" command file
    setvar  HOL_DAY str("000031059090120151181212243273304334", &
            !HOL_MM * 3 - 2, 3)
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + !HOL_DD
    IF  !HOL_MM > 2    and   ( !HOL_YYYY / 4 * 4 = !HOL_YYYY )
        setvar  HOL_DAY      HOL_DAY + 1
    ENDIF
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YYYY - 1
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + ( !HOL_YWK / 400 ) * 146097
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YWK  mod  400
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY - ( !HOL_YWK / 100 ) * 36524
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YWK mod 100
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + ( !HOL_YWK / 4 ) * 1461
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YWK mod 4
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + ( !HOL_YWK * 365 )
    setvar  HOL_DAY     ( HOL_DAY mod 7 ) + 1
    deletevar HOL_YWK

#    Next, the method posted to the 3000-l by Mike Hornsby 06/04/2004
#    except, add 1 at the end because his was 0-6 and we need
#    1-7.
    setvar  HOL_XYR !HOL_YYYY-((12-!HOL_MM)/10)
    setvar  HOL_XMONTH !HOL_MM+(((12-!HOL_MM)/10)*12)
    setvar  HOL_XDAY !HOL_DD+(!HOL_XMONTH*2)+(((!HOL_XMONTH+1)*6)/10)
    setvar  HOL_XLEAP_YR (HOL_XYR/4) - (HOL_XYR/100) + (HOL_XYR/400)
    setvar  HOL_XDAY (HOL_XDAY+HOL_XYR+HOL_XLEAP_YR+1) mod 7  +  1

#    Next, day-of-week with my adaption of a "Zeller" formula
#    off the internet.
    if  HOL_MM      <   "03"
        setvar  HOL_ZMONTH  !HOL_MM  +  12
        setvar  HOL_ZYEAR   !HOL_YYYY   -   1
    else
        setvar  HOL_ZMONTH  !HOL_MM
        setvar  HOL_ZYEAR   !HOL_YYYY
    endif
    setvar  HOL_ZDAY    ( &
        ((13 * HOL_ZMONTH + 3) / 5)  +  !HOL_DD  +  HOL_ZYEAR &
    +   (HOL_ZYEAR/4) - (HOL_ZYEAR/100) + (HOL_ZYEAR/400) &
    +   1 )     mod 7   +   1

#    Now, see if the day-of-week calcs agree
    if  HOL_DAY     <>  HOL_XDAY &
    or  HOL_DAY     <>  HOL_ZDAY &
    or  HOL_ZDAY    <>  HOL_XDAY
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        echo **day-of-week error**
        echo    HOL_DAY   =   !HOL_DAY
        echo    HOL_XDAY  =   !HOL_XDAY
        echo    HOL_ZDAY  =   !HOL_ZDAY
    endif
    setvar  HOL_DAY     HOL_ZDAY
    deletevar   [email protected],  [email protected]
ENDIF

#
#    Now check for specific regular holidays, month-by-month.
if   HOL_MM  =   "01"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "01"
        echo It's New Years Day
        return  TRUE
    endif
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=15  and  !HOL_DD<=21 )
        echo (It's Martin Luther King day - but do we get it?)
#        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "02"
    if  (!HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=15  and  !HOL_DD<=21)
        echo (It's President's Day - but do we get it?)
#        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "05"
    if  (!HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=25  and  !HOL_DD<=31)
        echo It's Memorial Day
        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "07"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "04"
        echo It's July 4th
        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "09"
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=1  and  !HOL_DD<=7 )
        echo It's Labor Day
        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "11"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "11"
        echo (it's Veterans Day - but do we get it ?)
#        return  TRUE
    endif
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=5  and  !HOL_DD>=22  and  !HOL_DD<=28 )
        echo It's Thanksgiving
        return  TRUE
    endif
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=6  and  !HOL_DD>=23  and  !HOL_DD<=29 )
        echo It's the day after Thanksgiving
        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "12"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "25"
        echo It's Christmas
        return  TRUE
    endif
    return  FALSE
endif

05:57 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2018

Wed Wayback: India rises, California rests

HP-3000-lab-Bangalore-1995

As we rolled out the NewsWire 23 years ago this month we tracked a new element in the HP engineering lineup. Resources  Sterlingwere being added from India. By the time a couple of Octobers rolled past in 1997 we published our first Q&A interview with Harry Sterling. He'd just assumed the leadership of the 3000 division at HP, bringing an R&D lab leader into the general manager's post for the first time. Sterling was the best GM the 3000 ever had because his habits flowed from customer contact. The labs developed a routine with customer councils and visits as a major part.

SartainThat Indian element was integrating in earnest by 1997. MPE/iX development was a serious part of HP's work in Bangalore, India. It was becoming common to see India engineers giving technical talks at user group meetings. IMAGE lab manager Jim Sartain, who worked for Sterling, was essential in adding Indian engineering to keep the 3000's lab headcount abreast of customer needs.

Bangalore is more than twelve hours ahead of the time zone in California, the state where the 3000 labs were working in 1997. We asked Sterling about how he was integrating the Indian workers with his Cupertino CSY labs.

So the actual head count in CSY's California labs doesn't matter?

No. Our solution teams are made of engineers in Bangalore and in Cupertino. It's a virtual team. It's not like Bangalore does this set of solutions and we do that set of solutions. We don't carve it up that way because we have mirror images of the different projects.

Why is the Bangalore connection working as well as it is?

We've created an environment where our engineers have been able to establish personal relationships with the engineers at Bangalore. For example, they've often been there. One time or another over the last 18 months most of the engineers from Bangalore, at least certainly all of the leads, have been to Cupertino for some period of time. We have pictures of their whole organization in our hallways so we know who they are. We know what they look like. We know, in many cases, we know about their families and it's like another HP employee just happens to be on the other side of the world.

They're real people to us, a part of the team. And that's what's made it work for us. We don't just treat them like we've subcontracted some of our work to a team in India. There are some HP organizations that treat them that way, but we've had a much greater success. They are so proud to be a part of CSY. They have a big sign that says CSY Bangalore.

They don't view themselves as being part of HP's Enterprise Systems Organization structure. They view themselves as being part of CSY. We've effectively carved out 70 people that we fund and are considered HP employees. Administratively, they report up through ESO because of local country culture things and that kind of issue. But, effectively from a working relationship, we view them as part of our organization.

You've been with HP a long time, long enough to remember when there used to be development of HP 3000 solutions in places other than the United States.

As a matter of fact, when I worked on the materials management product, in parallel they were working on the financial equivalent -- FA, if you remember, in Germany. We worked very closely together. I spent four months over there when we were mobilizing products.

How does that differ from what's happening today between Bangalore and Cupertino?

Back then we carved out a chunk of the charter. They did the financials. We did the manufacturing. We kind of shared the tools, and that part of it didn't work really well. I think the difference is, with this model it's a joint ownership. And I think there's a lot of sensitivity on our part to the cultural differences, and there are some. As a matter of fact, we're sending our managers through a special training class in the next couple of weeks focused specifically around India. And the differences and the cultures and the things that we need to be aware of. And we're going to do the same thing for them about the American culture. There's more sensitivity to the differences.

I understand the division will be able to call on some people in India who are reaching architect status, some a little faster than you've been able to grow an architect for the 3000. Why do you think that is? Is there a difference in the way that they approach problems?

I believe part of it is cultural. There's a real commitment to their work. I think that the other part of it is that there is some very, very strong talent in Bangalore. We have a former college professor working on our file system. It's pretty amazing.

10:07 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2018

How Support of XP Can Be a 3000 Mainstay

XP-storage-lineup
HP's XP storage lineup over the last 18 years


Hewlett-Packard first introduced the XP storage line in an era when an 18GB drive was a mainstream device. The first model was an XP 48, a unit that might still be running someplace where MPE/iX calls the business shots.

Chad Lester at Thomas Tech has seen some of those antique storage arrays in the field. He says that the old technology can be updated inexpensively: Thomas Tech will replace an aged device with a 3000-compatible state of the art unit. The array is free in exchange for a support contract to service it.

A storage array has moving media, most of the time, so getting support for any XP device is essential. Even the XP 512s and 1024s use 20-year-old architecture, Lester says. "The parts those XPs use are not out there, but the arrays still work," he says. The older XP arrays have been manufactured by Hitachi and are driven by laptops, little portables that Lester and his team have to buy from Japan and integrate into customer sites.

"One of our guys knows how to code them to make them work," he says. He adds that this antique laptop situation is a ticking time bomb. Newer hardware will defuse the risk. Today's XP consoles use a little chip inside the actual array. You log in to the array's Windows interface and do configuration.

Service on modern XP arrays — the 20000 and 24000 are the highest-end Hewlett-Packard devices ready for 3000s that use XP numbering — happens through a portal that Thomas Tech uses for customer sites. The company has third party maintenance relationships for servicing 3Par units, too. HP got 3Par in an acquisition in 2010, giving Hewlett-Packard a thin provisioning product.

If thin provisioning for storage seems like a long way from an 18GB drive, it is. So are some support resources. Lester says that Thomas Tech has hired a Level 2 XP support engineer away from HPE Atlanta. The advantage that hiring brings, he says, is that the XP customers who need support and buy it from Thomas Tech now don't have to go through Bangalore, India for Level 1 calls, then get the calls routed to Level 2 many time zones further away, then wait for the Indian engineer's resolution.

"It's amazing how compartmentalized the HP support has become," Lester said. He invoked the memory of the old HP, the one which 3000 owners remember. "The old HP in the 90s cared about the customer. They don't really care about that XP customer anymore. In the '90s the old HP sent guys out with briefcases to customer sites, met their customers and knew their environments."

Replacement hardware provided alongside a support agreement is a new thing for 3000 customers. It's not new to the rest of IT — and so a company like Thomas wants to make the service levels of old new again.

 

07:57 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2018

Fine-Tune: Get the right time for a battery

CMOS-clock-battery
Two weeks from now the world will manage the loss of an hour, as Daylight Saving time ends. The HP 3000 does time shifting of its system clock automatically, thanks to patches HP built during 2007. But what about the internal clock of a computer that might be 20 years old? Components fail after awhile.

The 3000's internal time is preserved using a small battery, according to the experts out on the 3000 newsgroup. This came to light in a discussion about fixing a clock gone slow. A few MPE/iX commands and a trip to Radio Shack can maintain a 3000's sense of time.

"I thought the internal clock could not be altered," said Paul English. "Our server was powered off for many months, and maybe the CMOS battery went flat." The result was that English's 3000 showed Greenwich Mean Time as being four years off reality. CTIME reported for his server:

* Greenwich Mean Time : THU, JUN 17, 2004, 11:30 AM   *
* GMT/MPE offset      : +-19670:30:00                 *
* MPE System Time     : THU, SEP 10, 2009,  2:00 PM   *

Yup, that's a bad battery, said Pro 3k consultant Mark Ranft. "It is cheap at a specialty battery store," he said, "and can be replaced easily, if you have some hardware skills and a grounding strap." Radio Shack offers the needed battery.

But you can also alter the 3000's clock which tracks GMT, he added.

"The internal clock can be set or reset at bootup (the method varies depending on the hardware), or by using the MPE SETCLOCK date=xx/xx/xx;time;NOW command, in conjuction with SETCLOCK ;CANCEL.  Follow these by the SHOWCLKS command. It usually takes me a couple of attempts to get it, but you should be able to straighten this out without even having to reboot."

A few customers warned that utility software will sometimes fail to start up if a bad battery has pulled the internal clock too far off the system clock. Tracy Johnson explained:

Collateral damage may include some third party software going non-operational. I have at least one software package whose license goes bad when the offset gets too large (think years).  When I fix the offset to a reasonable number (within a day or two), then the software works again.

08:01 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2018

Making Plans for a 3000's Futures

Ledger pages
We've turned the corner here at the Newswire to begin our 24th year. Thanks for all of your continued interest. We've always been interested about the future as well as the past which can teach us all. By this year, the 3000's experts are looking at working in their 60's and tending to servers and an OS which are more than a decade old. You have to make plans for the future to keep a legacy system working. Here's a few we've heard about.

At one HP 3000 site, the chief developer for its app turned 69 this year. There's an HP-branded server (a box with "3000" on the label) working at that manufacturing company. The plan for the future is to keep using HP's iron while the application gets migrated. 

That 3000 iron? If if goes south, there's always Stromasys Charon. The company's IT manager already evaluated it.

At RAC Consulting, Rich Corn says he's "still kicking here for a while longer with a handful of ESPUL customers still active. I spend most of my time supporting robotics programs in the local school district." Like a lot of the most seasoned HP 3000 gurus — Corn's software is at the heart of Minisoft's NetPrint products, as well as ESPUL — this charter advertiser of the Newswire is still working with the companies which are tied to MPE/iX for production boxes.

ESPUL is software that wouldn't have much use in an archival 3000, since the utility is a spoolfile and printing wizard. Those are production systems.

Roy Brown has been on the pages of the Newswire from the start of this century and onward. He's still running four production HP 3000s for a major U.K. company. Lately he's been trying to see if those servers might let him loose. The last few IT managers who tried to have the 3000s snuffed out found the systems still running on the day the managers left the company.

There are always good reasons to move along to something newer, different, or improved. Emulating a 3000 in software seems to deliver a lot of those, as well as options for backup that are novel. Ray Legault at Boeing passed along a tip to use PIGZ, a backup solution that makes sure the 3000s in the Charon emulation files have everything replicated.

Every time we need to shut down the Linux server, we shut down the HP 3000 first. Then we backup up all our disc drive files with PIGZ. We copy the compressed file to the other Linux server for safe keeping.

He shared this code that illustrates how he used PIGZ in Linux, the environment that cradles the Charon emulator.

PIGZ code

 

09:39 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2018

Friday Fine-Tune: Speeding up backups

Spinning-wheels
We have a DLT tape drive. Lately it wants to take 6-7 hours to do a backup instead of its usual two or less.  But not every night,  and not on the same night every week.  I have been putting in new tapes now, but it still occurs randomly. I have cleaned it. I can restore from the tapes no problem. It doesn’t appear to be fighting some nightly process for CPU cycles. Any ideas on what gives?

Giles Schipper replies

Something that may be causing extended backup time is excessive IO retries, as the result of deteriorating tapes or tape drive.

One way to know is to add the ;STATISTICS option to your STORE command. This will show you the number of IO retries as well as the actual IO rate and actual volume of data output.

Another possibilty is that your machine is experiencing other physical problems resulting in excessive logging activity and abnormal CPU interrupt activity — which is depleting your system resources resulting in extended backup times.

Check out the following files in the following Posix directories:

/var/stm/logs/os/*
/var/stm/logs/sys/*

If they are very large, you indeed may have a hardware problem — one that is not "breaking" your machine, but simply "bending" it.

07:25 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2018

Wayback: Charon kicks off with freeware

Free-beer-case-computer
Six years ago this week the HP 3000 emulator Charon had its debut among the masses who wanted to kick the software's tires. 2012 was the first year when a downloadable version of the PA-RISC emulator, the first of its kind, could be pulled off an FTP server in Switzerland. Stromasys called the freeware a Demo Package.

This was an offering that illustrated the famous gratis versus libre comparison. Something that can be free, like demoware, was also restricted in its use. You paid nothing but had to abide by the rules of use.

One of the more magic portions of that demoware was HP's own software. Since Stromasys had a long HP relationship, tracking back to the days when HP bought Digital, the vendor was able to include mpe75a.dsk.gz, an MPE/iX 7.5 Ldev 1 disk image that contained the FOS and most HP subsystems.

But wait, said the offer, there's even more. The file mpe-tape.img.gz was also available via FTP, a virtual HP 3000 SLT, generated on Stromasys' A Class 400 test system. "You can configure Charon to boot from this virtual tape file," the demo's read me advised, "and perform an INSTALL from SLT."

Whoa, that was all a leap of Web-based advances. For the price of some disc space, a 3000 owner could have PA-RISC hardware (slapped onto freeware Linux, running on an Intel server) plus the 3000's OS (on a limited license) and a file which could become an SLT. HP had never made MPE/iX a downloadable up to that point. The 3000 was beginning to look like a modern server again, empowered by files from an FTP server.

The freeware propogated through the 3000's universe, with each download promising a purchase of the full Charon. It was supposed to be a demonstration of an emulator. A few bad actors in the market tried to make the A-202 model a production version.

That first version of the A-202 freeware emulator was limited to two users. Stromasys has already managed a similar program for the VAX and Alpha hardware emulators in the Digital community. The Personal Alpha demoware was downloaded 10,000 times, Stromasys said, and ran at about 15 percent of the speed of the full AXP Stromasys emulator.

After two years the A-202 started showing up in support calls. These were calls from companies who were not on any Stromasys list, either prospects or customers. The freeware was downloaded and installed and running a production installation in some places. If the A-202 was supposed to be freeware, libre as well as gratis, it might've been alright. 

The A-202, just powerful enough to permit two simultaneous users to get A-Class 400 performance, was always tempting to very small sites. Stromasys was generous enough to permit downloading of the software, as well as the bundled release of MPE/iX FOS software, with few restrictions. But the instructions were explicit: no use in production environments.

The appearance of an emulator in 3000 production shops who hadn't purchased it proved two things. The obvious one was that some people will ignore licenses and rules and take whatever they want. The second thing the A-202 proved was that small 3000 shops would do just fine with an emulated 3000. The only thing left to work out was pricing in a market where HP had declared the OS a relic. As it turned out, the word relic meant holy object infused with powers. The power to drive MPE/iX came in a bundle along with Charon. For a few years it was available for the cost of a download.

Enthusiasts had unlimited personal non-commercial use. Commercial use was limited to evaluating the product.

The Freeware Edition only loaded up after a user configured it with a legal HPSUSAN number. "You must agree to respect these license restrictions before you will be able to download the Freeware edition installation files from our website," the terms of the 1.5 version stated. Stromasys freeware continued to be distributed to prospects who contacted the sales force. By now, a 3000 Charon installation arrives by way of Doug Smith, the 3000 product manager at Stromasys.

06:14 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2018

Leaving Something to Retire On

Vacation-home-retirement-rocker
The fate of MPE/iX shops can be a malleable thing. In the middle of the last decade every one of them was considering paths toward the future: migrate, homestead, or some blend of the two where homesteading was the prelude to a migration.

The more current situation takes the age of the professionals into account. People who were in their 50s during that decade are now closer to Social Security age. Only one person in five is going to enjoy a traditional retirement from here on out. They will continue to work and their benefits will reduce their need to tramp through the IT sector looking for a premier home. A nice chair with a great view will do.

If you're still in charge of an HP 3000, and you're not an IT pro, you're likely to be a CFO or a corporate soldier in operations. Those IT folks have retirement tattooed onto them. The MPE/iX applications, not so much.

The HP 3000s are going through a similar transformation. You don't retire an HP 3000 as much as you leave it in place and give it nothing new to do. The strategy might be called Migrating in Place. All of the other operations in the datacenter have a new and uncertain future. The MPE/iX applications now know where they're going: retirement, someday, but they all have to be made comfortable along the way. The most nimble of IT managers know there's must be reliable hardware right up to the retirement date for an application.

This thinking brings newer hardware into an organization to support older applications. The HP 3000 itself could get a replacement with a Charon virtualized server. Or it might be the storage components that are updated. Networking and switches have their makeovers. It's all justified better when the new elements are ready to work with other systems in the datacenter.

The code itself and the data remains the constant. In the retirement scenario, this might be like the retiree who's looking over active senior apartment complexes, or maybe that downsized house that's newer and needs little maintenance. The COBOL and the IMAGE datasets are the fingerprints and recognizable faces that establish who's moving into senior living.

"I am seven years past retirement age and still supporting four HP 3000s," Roy Brown said on the message board of the HP 3000 Community group on LinkedIn. "I'm trying to get it down to two now, so I can at least go part time."

One of those remaining servers looks to be a durable as a homeowner association board member. "Traditionally one of the two 3000s, called Troy, sees off anyone who tries to shut it down," Brown said. "The last three attemptees, each trying separately and some months apart, all lost their jobs shortly after commencing the exercise. So I now need to engineer the fall of Troy without instead engineering the fall of Roy." 

 

09:14 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2018

Shifting Data Off the 3000, Easily

NewsWire Classic

By Roy Brown

Tool-beltWhether you are migrating data, or just wanting to present it in a more portable format, be aware of how you can manipulate it using those all-pervasive Microsoft tools. When your consulting role takes you across a wide range of HP 3000 sites, you rapidly learn that not everybody has all the add-on tools you might like to see – Qedit, MPEX, Adager, Suprtool, and so on. You can rely on what’s in FOS, but there are a bunch of things you are brought up short by, that are not so easy without the armory above.

So, when I needed to extract and massage data from a bare or nearly bare HP 3000, I pretty soon learned to rely on what I could bring to bear from my laptop, equipped with Reflection and the MS Office suite.

Actually, the product I really missed isn’t one I listed above – it’s MBF-UDALink, from MB Foster. Perhaps because I’ve never quite mastered its rather quirky interface, I find it’s often easier to rewrite a query than to modify one. But they are so quick to write that it really doesn’t matter – especially for multi-set, multi-key extracts.

And as it can make your data extract, put it in the format of your choice, and transfer it to your PC via your termulator, all in one go, it lets you skip a whole bunch of what I describe below; stuff you need to do only if all you have is FOS in this area.

Extraction

Mostly, when grabbing stuff on an ad-hoc basis, I like to list it out in Query, and watch it scroll by in Reflection, with logging to a PC file turned on. I know that I could file equate the output to QSLIST with DEV=DISC, make a file and copy it that way, if I wanted. But this way, I get to see problems as it runs. And if it runs okay, it’s already on the PC for me.

I use Query because it’s always there. I figure I don’t need to do a Query tutorial here – though you can email me at [email protected] if you’d like a copy of one – but suffice to say that you can usually walk the paths you need, and pick up the data you want. I generally set LINES=0 or NOPAGE, and I pay attention to numeric field formatting with Edit masks where needed, but I only output Detail lines. Dates I leave in CCYYMMDD format, just as they come. And I don’t need to do any math – I can save that until I’m in Office.

But I do hit the 80-character line limit, which is where the first neat WinWord trick kicks in. I use multiple lines, and I mark the end of each line except the last with a string like ### - something that I know won’t ever occur naturally in the data – ending at position 80.

Formatting in WinWord, Part 1

Then I use WinWord to open the .txt file that Reflection has built for me on the PC, and Edit/Replace to change ###^p to one space throughout. Bingo! One long line per returned entry.

How does this work? Well, ^p (caret p) is WinWord’s code for a paragraph mark, which is how each line in the data is terminated. So I’m saying “Find each line ending in ###, and chop off not just these characters, but also the line ending itself. And then put a space in, to make sure that doesn’t cause two fields to run together.”

If you open Edit/Replace, choose the More tab and then the Special tab, you will be able to see the list of formatting characters you can search for and replace. Paragraph Mark is at the top, and right below it is Tab Character; click this, and you’ll see caret-t appear in the ‘Find what:’ window. There are 20 options there in all, but ^p and ^t cover pretty much 99% of what I need to do.

I top and tail my output file to remove the original query lines, and the >end at the end. Sometimes, I might then sort it, with Table/Sort and the default options there, to get the detail records in order. But generally, WinWord’s sort runs out of steam with a file that is more than a few megabytes, so I wait until I’m in Excel.

So I Save As on the WinWord file, taking care to keep it as a .txt file, and ignoring WinWord’s warnings about ‘losing formatting’ if I do. WinWord’s formatting is exactly what I don’t need; .txt is the most versatile format for use here.

This excursion into WinWord has really just been to de-block the detail lines, a task which is straightforward here, but nigh-on impossible in Excel. But we’ll find, in turn, that there are things which Excel can easily do for us, while in WinWord they would be nigh-on impossible.

Formatting in Excel

Next, I open up Excel, and File/Open my .txt file, setting ‘Files of type’ to All Files so I can see it. Excel comes up with its Text Import Wizard, a most powerful tool that lets me break my file up into individual fields.

The option to use here is Fixed Width, and Excel guesses where the field breaks are. It usually does this very well, providing the fields have spaces between them. But if not, I can add, remove or move the suggested breaks.

Moving on with Next, I can set the format for each field. Again it usually guesses these right, except for those CCYYMMDD dates. But for those, I just choose Date format, and the YMD option, and it will convert them to Excel dates. On completing the Wizard, I have my data, field by field, neatly arranged in Excel columns.

By the way, I could have just Copied from my WinWord file, and Pasted into Column A of the Excel sheet, and then split that. The wizard is available under Data/Text to Columns, for just that purpose.

09:17 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2018

Where have all the migrations gone?

Wilted rosesIs the bloom finally off the rose for migrations away from MPE/iX? I had lunch today with a support provider for third party maintenance who sees a lot of activity in the 3000 market. He said that as far as he can see — and of course nobody can see everywhere — the HP 3000 migration activity is pretty much done.

Nobody has complete visuals on the full marketplace. It can be difficult to know much about migration projects in progress. So if 3000 migration is done, maybe what that really means is that all of the migrations have been started by now. For example, I wrote about a company last month whose 3000 expert says they’ve been migrating for awhile. The project is supposed to be over by the end of the year. Then this 3000 veteran of many years added, “but you know how that goes.”

Like lots of 3000 experts, that IT pro is retiring from his company. At year's end he'll be leaving behind a 3000 app that’s working. Whoever’s got the job of getting that replacement app online will have to finish it in 2019 without as much MPE expertise on staff. I'm guessing that even retired, the expert will be able to bill for some consulting. "You know how that goes" usually means there's some unresolved issues, like there are in every migration. You never know what you've done well in a migration until you get to the testing phase. Birket Foster used to say that testing was at least 30 percent of the workload in a migration.

Once a migration team's testing gets serious, knowing the MPE app and the 3000 technical infrastructure can show off its benefits. It might even be like the way COBOL skills got valuable in the years leading up to Y2K. Getting that kind of independent expertise into the contract-procurement market can be the big hurdle for 3000 veterans. Lots of great 3000 experience has worked inside a company. Being for-hire is a different gig.

Migrations can be pretty secret. Some datacenter managers don’t want to talk about having a genuine legacy app (what, you use MPE?) still serving in production. Other 3000 managers don’t have control of the migrations their company is doing. Therefore, little knowledge they might share with 3000 friends (or writers). That migration might be done by the supplier of the new app, or the Platform as a Service (PaSS, or what they like to call cloud) such as a Salesforce reseller.

Finally, there's the IT management that's going on at the C-level by now. The guardians of the datacenter are sometimes not connected to the 3000 at all. The CFO just wants an outside company to take that putty-colored HP server box out of the shop, because nobody knows enough about it anymore. That's the circumstance where outside migration services can help. You've got to find those CFOs, though. A list of former 3000 sites might help. Someone just offered us one—but it was from 1988. There are dead people on that list.

Just because it's hard to see 3000 migrations doesn't mean they're not there. You can say the same thing about spirits and faeries and even some religious powers. If you're hoping for migrations to appear, it doesn't hurt to believe. Get your shingle out there and explore. Verradyne is a collective of experts who've done 3000 migrations.

09:18 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)