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December 24, 2019

Gift wishes heading into the future

Christmas tree
Today's the day when generous people tuck presents underneath a holiday tree. Not so long ago, the only museum devoted fully to HP's computers was looking for gifts of classic hardware to flesh out its collection.

The HP Computer Museum is based in Melbourne, Australia. Its founder Jon Johnston passed away but left behind gift requests. The museum is downsizing now, like a lot of the owners and managers of HP 3000s. It's worth noting, though, that HP's breakthrough 3000 designs were among the most desired of museum gifts.

A table provides a listing of major hardware products the museum was seeking. This matrix lists the items by rarity and product category. Near the top quadrant: HP 3000s first released 45 years ago.

HP Computer museum needs
The white boxes represent the most needed items. The museum has no samples of these items. Pink boxes are most rare.

An HP-built 3000 server is old by definition now. The freshest pieces of hardware were manufactured more than 16 years ago. The craft and design of the HP iron, of any vintage, was legendary as well as being a gift of legacy. Even if MPE/iX is the only thing in use at some sites in 2020, because Stromasys emulation has taken over there as the hardware platform, HP's hard goods made that environment a classic.

Several resellers still trade in HP's MPE/iX iron. Cypress Technology's Jesse Dougherty continues to leave reminders about his 3000 system stock. Ebay is another reliable source, a place where the systems are often being sold by a reseller like Cypress. A Series 969 220 was for sale this week at $1,450.

Happy holidays. We're taking a break until just beyond the new year, when we mark the start of the 47th calendar year of MPE and 3000 service.

12:21 PM in History, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2019

Seeking forgiveness as a support plan

So sorry chalkboard
ERP software becomes wired in deeply at corporations. Now that MANMAN has seen the end date coming for its manufacturer support, customers who rely on the ERP suite are looking for a 2020 plan to keep using it.

One aspect is a ruling about whether a product or a vendor is dead, but the intentions for its product lives on. It's an aspect of law called droit moral in France. Droit moral is not recognized in the US. Intentions are preserved in droit moral.

Some HP 3000 owners considered HP a dead entity after 2008, when no more patches were being built. HP's intellectual rights to MPE and the HP 3000 remain in effect. But there are those moral rights, too. This computer would not have become the keystone at places like aircraft makers and airline ticket agencies without customers' contributions, work that started many years ago. In fact, HP once recognized this kind of help in the market with the e3000 Contributor of the Year Award.

Contributors earn rights when measured in terms of ethics. Droit moral preserves ethics.

Source code rights might belong to customers once a product goes into permanent hibernation at the manufacturer. In 2008, I wrote that I believed that in order to honor droit moral for the 3000 community, HP's increasingly restrictive statements of licensing needed to stop. The vendor's support group needed to move on to other profitable HP markets. The vendor needed to leave owners and customers to continue using their computer, without any extra licensing payments to HP.

Droit moral lived in the hearts of some of the 3000 advocates within HP. While I visited HP's 3000 group one afternoon, the former business manager Dave Wilde and I walked across the wooded HP campus to lunch. That entire campus site is now the location of Apple Park, Apple's worldwide HQ, so things have changed a lot. At the time, through, Wilde said the 3000 group wanted to give the system "the ending that it deserves." It sounded warm and genuine.

Infor, the owners of MANMAN, are not as warm and genuine, even though they have enough sense about branding to sponsor the NBA Brooklyn Nets with an Infor logo on Nets uniforms. At the moment there's no coordinated effort from the remaining MANMAN customers to establish whether MANMAN truly belongs to customers after the exit of its creator. The customers are unsure who might even respond to such ownership questions.

Terry Floyd, who worked for the creators of MANMAN before starting his independent support company early in the 1990s, believes the intention of the customers should be the guiding signpost into a post-vendor future.

One customer on a user group conference call said they need source code they didn't have, because something is broken in MANMAN. "We found we don't have the source for some of the system commands," the manager said,  "because we wanted to fix some commands, and don't have the code."

Floyd said the restrictions on source should come off for MANMAN users next summer. If a site is missing some source, it might be at another customer site. An exchange could be made.

"I think a lot of people have lost some source code over the years," Floyd said, "and I think it will be legal for people to move it around between them individually after May or June." Like another caller, he added, "I'm not a lawyer either."

The ending the 3000 deserved didn't become a reality. The software that powers PA-RISC servers remains legally bound to a company no longer supporting or selling that operating system. This is the same circumstance facing the MANMAN users of 2019. A vendor's exit is just one important milepost on an application's highway. The goes on beyond vendor plans.

Some large customers are going on beyond Infor's end of support business. Modifying software, fixing bugs: these are things that matter more to customers than to manufacturers. Swapping source code is a strategy that will be governed by seeking forgiveness if there's any lawsuit to prevent it — rather than asking for permission. That's a strategy that will meet the droit moral.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

11:50 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2019

Does orphaned source code belong to you?

Orphan with bike
Not many application vendors still have shingles hung out for business in the MPE market. It's also been awhile since any vendors made an exit from the MPE marketplace. Now that Infor, makers of MANMAN, will depart this coming June, its ERP customers are talking about what source code is rightfully theirs.

During a conference call, about a dozen customers and another dozen independent support vendors kicked around the idea. Every customer on the call had signed a MANMAN license agreement, way back in the 1980s or 1990s. It was generally accepted that you never own a piece of software unless your organization wrote it.

To put it more plainly, the use of a vendor's product is always governed by an agreement. Everybody agrees on the rules for ownership and use.

Then conditions change.

The vendor folds up a product line, or goes out of business altogether. It happened with MPE/iX, to note one instance of the former fate. 3000 users can scarcely take a few steps before they stumble on a software vendor who's closed down all business. That's what happens over time after a vendor has built the bulk of its business around a server that's no longer sold or supported by the manufacturer.

The new condition gets managers asking about why any license should apply to an orphaned product. Permission to own the code that's only been licensed — that's a matter for the courts, or at least lawyers represening both sides.

The hard place the managers encounter is the language that keeps software in a vendor's IP locker. In cases like these, IP not only means Intellectual Property. It means, "in perpetuity." If anyone has a digital copy of their contract, searching for that phrase will certainly bring up a hit.

Eleven years ago, the 3000 community talked this through while Hewlett-Packard considered the new licensing of MPE/iX source code. Customers wanted their intention of owning a 3000 — to run a business in perpetuity — to match the intentions of HP's product licensing. We invoked French law to give voice to our wishes for that outcome.

There is an aspect of French law which does not exist in US law. It's called "droit moral," meant to protect the moral rights of ownership of a work of art. Even more than HP's support group, the 3000 community considered MPE/iX to be a work of art.

One story about using droit moral in the movie business:

Droit moral is an intellectual right of an artist to protect his work. When an artist dies, the droit moral goes to his heirs, unless he appoints someone else. For example, a John Huston movie was colorized in the US, and the movie was shown this way in the States, despite the opposition of the Huston heirs who were trying to honor their father's artistic wishes. But in France, where the Huston heirs argued their father didn't want his film to be in color, the colorized film can't be shown because of droit moral.

The argument, one which might be tested in court, is that the intention of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a product is to use it in perpetuity. Ownership of source hasn't been much tested in US law. The places where cases have appeared before a judge are courtrooms where things went better for the customers than the manufacturers.

Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

10:26 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2019

Information for MPE/iX: Always Online

NClass movie

HP's movie tour of the first A-Class systems, still online

Time machines transport us through the power of timeless information. It can take us way back, into the era when legacy technology was current and popular. In the 3000 community we are connected by wires and circuits and pulses of power. We always were, from the days of black arts datacomm that pushed data off of cards of punched paper. We’ve lived through a glorious explosion of ideas and inspiration and instruction. It’s a movie that always has another story in waiting, this Internet, so ubiquitous we’ve stopped calling it by that name. In 2019, 45 years after MPE became viable and alive, the World Wide Web is named after an element common throughout the physical world: the cloud.

And through the magic of these clouds come stories that lead us forward and allow us to look back at solved challenges. My partner Abby and I sit on the sofa these days and play with paper together, crossword puzzles, especially on weekends with the New York Times and LA Times puzzles. We look up answers from that cloud, and it delivers us stories alongside the answers. Finding the Kingston Trio’s hit BMT leads us to the Smothers Brothers, who started out as a comic folksinger act. After HP 3000 strategy TV broadcasts came alive via satellite, there were webinars. Today, YouTube holds stories of the 3000’s shiniest moment, the debut of the ultimate model of that server's N-Class.

Gravity - George Clooney One night we sat on another couch and watched the splashiest celebration of stories in our connected world, the Academy Awards. Despite racking up a fistful and more of them, Gravity didn’t take the Best Picture prize that night. A thing can have many elements of success, enjoy parts of being the best, and not end up named the winner in the final balloting. The 3000 saw a similar tally, a raft of successes, but its light began to fade from HP's vision. In the movies they call the last light of the day magic time, because it casts the sweetest shades on the players and settings.

It’s magic time for many of the 3000’s stalwart members in its special academy. The 3000 is remaining a time machine in your reaches of space. It's data is like gravity, a force to unify and propel. MPE systems contain ample gravity: importance to users, plus the grounding of data. Data becomes information, then stories, and finally wisdom.

And in our magic time, we are blessed with the time machine of the Web, the cloud. Users and owners of HP 3000s will always be able to look up wisdom of this community online, written in stories, illustrated in video, told via audio. Find it here, as well as in the cloud at the following resources:

The HP Computer Museum

3K Associates

The host of the HP Jazz papers, Fresche Legacy

Then there are the fallen, resources no longer at their original addresses.

The MM II Support Group

MPE Open Source.org

Those last two are live links today, however, thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine. The Wayback is such an enterprise now that it's fundraising this week. The arrival of Wikipedia was met with skepticism at first, and it's still sneered at in some places. The popularity of Wikipedia is demonstrated in the way it appears as the first result in many a Web search.

The Wayback will save what we don't remember, even as it moves off of its legacy addresses. These very Web pages you're reading are likely to be Waybacked. We began putting the NewsWire on the Web in 1995. The dream was that our website would be like the 3000 in one way, Always Online. By now, by way of the Wayback, it seems the dream has come true.

08:12 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2019

Wayback: HP FAQ captured its OS visions

Canary close up
It's only available through the Internet Wayback Machine, but a record of HP's intent for its enterprise operating systems still exists. For reference we traveled to LegacyOS, a website devoted to the legacies of Sun and HP's enterprise products. The promised land, as HP imagined it 17 years ago, was getting its operating systems to the Itanium Processor Family.

HP's decision to keep MPE/iX away from IPF servers was the canary in the coal mine for the company's business intentions for HP 3000s. Such a canary roosted in mines while work proceeded. If the quality of the air turned poisonous, the canary died and the miners evacuated.

At the time there were only two models of Itanium processors in working servers from HP, so calling it a family was marketing optimism. Nevertheless, moving to the nascent IPF, as well as a new OS in HP-UX, was HP's vision of end-of-life. The life ending turned out to be at HP's MPE/iX labs eight years later, rather than any useful lifespan for MPE/iX.

There is a current-day lesson in any review of the HP 3000 plans of 2002. HP noted at the time the vendor created a Business Critical Systems group. That group, HP's cheerful-but-inaccurate 3000 plans, and HP itself in its classic makeup don't exist anymore. Users can count on their community, rather than the vendor, to see the conditions for any end of life canary.

Q: What is HP’s strategy moving forward with HP e3000 servers?

A: Our commitment to HP e3000 and MPE/iX operating system is to continue delivering on the roadmap we have already communicated, delivering the planned performance and functionality, with future MPE/iX releases in the 2002-2003 timeframe. Moving forward, we are focused on moving HP e3000 customers to IPF-based HP servers that deliver more benefits to the customer, using aggressive and innovative migration programs.

Q: Does HP plan to port MPE/iX to IPF-based platforms?

A: No. MPE/iX will not be ported to Itanium-based servers. The communicated HP e3000 roadmap includes PA-RISC based servers that deliver the performance and functionality customers need in the 2002-2003 timeframe. After that, HP e3000 customers benefit more by moving to HP Unix Servers using Itanium technologies and best-in-class migration programs, and taking advantage of the industry leading performance, functionality, and lasting value that Itanium and HP-UX will deliver.

Q: Should HP e3000 customers who need to stay longer on the platform than 2004 be concerned?

A: Absolutely not. HP will support the servers at least until the end of 2006. During this time, HP is committed not only to provide full support for the servers, but also to make available the aggressive and innovative migration programs, to help customers successfully move into Itanium-based HP-UX servers on their own pace.

To recap, the end of 2006 became the end of 2010, in part because HP's aggressive and innovative migration programs were undermatched to the needs of the customer. The Itanium technologies became an also-ran, lapped by Intel's modernization of x86 processors. Intel announced its departure from Itanium futures in 2015. Now commodity hardware rules the roost in today's mines.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

08:12 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2019

Set a Watch for Jobs That Hang Others

Guard tower
Jobstreams deliver on the HP 3000's other promise. When the server was introduced in the early 1970s it promised interactive computing, well beyond the powers of batch processing. Excellent, said the market. But we want the batch power, too. Running jobs delivered on the promise that a 3000 could replace lots of mainframes.

Decades later, job management is still crucial to a 3000's success. Some jobs get hung for one reason or another, and the rest of the system processing is halted until someone discovers the problem job and aborts it. When it happens over a weekend, it's worse. You can come in Monday and see the processing waiting in queue for that hung-up job to finish.

Is there a utility that monitors job run time, so that it can auto-abort such jobs after X number of hours? Nobix sells JobRescue, a commercial product for "automatically detecting errors and exception messages; JobRescue eliminates the need for manual review of $STDLISTs, making batch processing operations more productive."

Then there's Design 3000 Plus. The vendor still has a working webpage that touts JMS/3000, a job management system that was at one time deployed at hundreds of sites. Its powers include "automatic job restart and recovery. Whenever a job fails, a recovery job can be initiated immediately."

The home-grown solutions are just waiting out there, though, considering how few 3000 sites have a budget for such superior software. Mark Ranft of Pro3K shared his job to check on jobs. The system does a self-exam and reports a problem.

Ranft said, "Here is an example where I am concerned that the weekly SLTBACK job doesn't complete. I stream a second job for 6 hours out to check and complain if SLTBACK is still running."

!job sltback,manager.sys,job;outclass=lp,1,1
!
!continue
!stream sltchk.job.sys;in=,6
!
!if jobcnt('sltback,manager.sys') > 1 then
!  continue
!  mail.exe "-t [email protected] &
!  -f ![email protected] &
!  -h !my_mailhost &
!  -s '!osnode sltback already running!!' &
!  sltback job already running !hpdatef at !hptimef"
!  eoj
!endif
!
!loadtap7
!pause 60
!
!run autorep.exe;parm=7
!file sysgtape;dev=7
!showdev 7
!
!sysgen
tape verbose store=^sltbk1
exit
!
!tellop ---- job sltback is done
!tell manager.sys ---- job sltback is done
!stream sltback.job;day=SUNDAY;at=02:30
!eoj

SLTBK1 contains....
@[email protected]@      <-- or whatever filesets you desire
;show;onvs=mpexl_system_volume_set,client_vs;
progress;maxtapebuf;compress=high;online=start;
partialdb;directory;statistics



!JOB SLTCHK,manager.sys;OUTCLASS=LP,1
!# *-----------------------------------------------*
!# * THIS JOB WILL VERIFY THAT SLTBACK HAS        *
!# * COMPLETED SUCCESSFULY. THIS JOB SHOULD BE    *
!# * STREAMED TO RUN 6 HOURS AFTER THE SLTBACK    *
!# * JOB HAS STARTED.                              *
!# *-----------------------------------------------*
!
!# *-----------------------------------------------*
!# * Validate SLTBACK.JOB.SYS  has completed      *
!# *-----------------------------------------------*
!
!SETVAR CIERROR  0
!RUN MAIN.PUB.VESOFT;PARM=1;INFO= &
! "SHOWOUT @[email protected](SPOOL.JSNAME MATCHES 'SLTBACK' AND &
!  SPOOL.ISOPENED)"
!
!IF CIERROR = 0
!
!  mail.exe "-t [email protected] &
!  -f ![email protected] &
!  -h !my_mailhost &
!  -s ' ****  !osnode SLTBACK job problem ****' &
!    SLTBACK is still running!"
!
!abortio 7
!pause 2
!abortio 7
!PAUSE 2
!ABORTJOB SLTBACK,manager.sys
!
!endif
!
!eoj

Photo by AK¥N Cakiner on Unsplash

07:32 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2019

Where MANMAN support goes, post-Infor

Abandoned storefront
Sometimes established structures go vacant without even knowing they've been abandoned. That might be the case for the support service for the MANMAN ERP software. There are at least 35 companies making use of the application suite on HP 3000s.
 
Those users have been served by the Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society. It's not only an operating user group, it's got a surplus in its accounts. That's the opposite of Interex, which stopped operations while owing millions.
 
On a recent conference call, one CAMUS board member said CAMUS is the best source to contact other MANMAN customers. Nobody on the group's call reported using Infor support anymore. Many of the users have an arrangement for help from an independent company like The Support Group.
 
Doesn’t that mean the customers have already made arrangements for their MANMAN support outside of Infor?

Infor had said last year that its cutting out app support because system vendors don’t support the hardware and OS for MANMAN. That wasn't true up to July of this year for VMS MANMAN users. But it’s been true for the MPE people since 2011.
 
It looks like Infor was happy to collect support for MPE systems for years after HP left the 3000. Now it looks like the VMS support migration away from HP Enterprise and into VMS Systems Inc. is the trigger for shutting down all of the MANMAN support at Infor.
 
The systems haven't been turned off, but the vendor has departed. That's a familiar situation for MPE/iX customers.
 
Photo credit: Rafał Malinowski on Unsplash

07:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)