December 10, 2018

HP's 3000 boxes step closer to solid storage

Almost two years ago, an expert in HP's 3000 systems was working to use solid state disks (SSD) with the computer. John Zoltak was trying to link the server to microSD cards late in 2016. He checked in with us this week to report success on the project.

SSD on 3000 hardware from HP has been a dream for several decades. Imperial Computer had a solid state unit early in the 1990s that held a promise of faster IO transfer on MPE/iX. The cost was astounding compared to moving media and the capacity was a fraction of spinning disk drives'. Much later, SSD has become something of a desktop standard and is an active choice in enterprise servers, too.

The MPE/iX hardware from HP -- to us, something called an HP 3000 -- wanted to play from SSD, too. In his prior report, Zoltak was trying to copy one 917LX disk to a new disk on the server's SCSI bus. A 4GB drive is standard on a 917, so just about any microSD card would match that storage. Now there's a V6 edition of SCSI2SD, a combination of hardware and software that delivers SD storage to HP's 3000 iron.

The combination now works beautifully, said Zoltak, who's working at Fives North American Combustion in Cleveland, Ohio. "You want the V6 boards," he said. "The V5's are much slower. The V6 takes a full size SSD card and up to 128GB has been tested." Michael McMaster, the inventor based in Australia, has engineered the latest version of his product "as a complete redesign for the V6 boards, which use a completely different microcontroller." The device is for sale online at Intertial Computing. Today's price is $105 including 16GB of microSD.

The product employs a SCSI-2 Narrow 8-bit 50-pin connector. It does SCSI FAST10 synchronous transfers at 10MB/second. Zoltak is reaching way back into the HP 3000 hardware closet to test. He's attached the SCSI2SD to a Series 917.

"I have the board sitting on top of the system with a cable around to the back on the same SCSI as the 917's DAT and DLT drives. I did a reconfigure and a restore to the SSD. Seems to be fairly quick. While restore was running I used HP Glance and saw that the disk was doing about 65-70 IO's per second. This is not as fast as the Nike array it came off of, but then it was on a differential wide SCSI."

The bigger benefit is that the HP MPE/iX iron can rely on SSD instead of moving media. Disks are among the leading culprits in HP's 3000 failures in 2018. Tape is a close second. Storing and moving bits gets complicated while using the hardware that HP certified for storage with 3000s than a decade ago.

Newer storage reduces the risk of homesteading. This is one of the benefits of using a virtualized 3000, too.

Zoltak has been working directly with McMaster. "After many go arounds he sent me a new revision of the board.
It wasn't until now that I finally got around to trying again and it works beautifully. It really is amazing to see a HP 3000 system like this that which used to run on [disks the size of] washing machines now running off of a 1-inch square and cardboard-thick media."

SD-based storage can be a staple of the MPE/iX experience using Charon from Stromasys, too. IOs are faster in a native configuration where SSD on an Intel box links directly to an PCIe bus. Using PC-based disks, of course, is one of the serious advantages to using a Stromasys Charon emulator for 3000 work. The 9x7s are so old they don't have a Charon equivalent, but the strategy is the same. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:44 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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December 07, 2018

Memory and Disk Rules for Performance

NewsWire Classic

By Jeff Kubler

You need to get management support for your efforts to keep your systems performing at their best. Memory and disk are two components of your performance picture under MPE/iX. Main Memory is the scratch pad for all the work that the CPU performs. Every item of data that the CPU needs to perform calculations on or updating to must be brought into Main Memory.

CPU used to manage Main Memory: The CPU must manage memory. It must cycle through the memory pages, marking some as Overlay Candidates (this means that new data from disk may be placed here), noting that some are in continued use, and swapping others out to virtual or what is called transient storage. Swapping to disk occurs when data is in continued use but a higher priority process needs room for its data. To accommodate this higher priority process and its need for memory space, the Memory Manager will swap the memory for the lower priority process out to disk. The more activity the Memory Manager performs, the more CPU it takes to do this. Therefore it is the percentage of CPU used to manage memory that we use as a measurement.

Page Faults per Second: A Page Fault occurs each time a memory object is not found in memory. The threshold for the number of Page Faults per second that can be incurred before a memory problem is indicated varies with the size and the power of the CPU. Larger machines can handle more Page Faults per second while a smaller box will encounter problems with far fewer.

An exceptional number of Page Faults should never be used as the sole indicator of memory problems but when observed should be tested with the memory manager percentage. If both agree, you have a memory shortage. There are some strange things that I have observed with Page Faults, so it does not stand alone as an indicator of memory shortage.

The number of Page Faults per second and the amount of CPU needed to manage Memory are always evaluated in conjunction with each other. That is to say the high Page Fault Rate will not be considered a problem if the Memory Manager Percentage is not above 4 percent.

The Disk Environment is usually referred to as Secondary Storage. This is where all the data needed for system use is stored. Since Main Memory is not large enough to store all of the data that will be needed by all the processes, there must be a location for this larger pool of data. In the MPE/iX environment a great attempt was made to limit the impact of the Disk Environment so that it could not be the bottleneck that it once was in the Classic environment. Even though the Disk Environment does not have the significance it once had, this area can still be a bottleneck. As the CPU speeds increase, bottlenecks will become more significant.

Several different factors can affect the Disk Environment. One of these is data locality. Data locality pertains to two different types. There is data locality within Image datasets and data locality across the disk itself.

Data locality across Disk: This refers to the location of separate pieces of files (called extents). When files are placed on the disk, they can be placed in contiguous sectors or sections of files, or they can be placed in non-contiguous locations or even on many different disks. When files are not in contiguous locations they are said to be fragmented. The advantage of contiguous location is that greater efficiencies are allowed in retrieving data. When files need to be read, the head movement of the disk drive is minimal if files are in contiguous locations. The head moves to the location and the retrieval begins.

As the disk fills up the system cannot find one contiguous location to build any new file. Therefore, the system breaks the file up into extents and places the file wherever it can. A system reload will put files back into contiguous location (usually back on the location of the files file label) or products such as Lund Performance Solutions De-Frag/X can be used to put the files back into contiguous location.

Operating systems allocate disk space in chunks as they create and expand files and transient disk space (swap areas, etc.). When files are purged, these chunks are released for reuse. Over time the disc space may end up fragmented into many small pieces, which can slow the performance and the reliability of the system.

To observe and correct MPE fragmentation on MPE, you can use the De-Frag/X product from Lund Performance Software or the Contigvol command of Volutil. The latter is stable and reliable, but requires multiple passes to get the best results.

Data locality within IMAGE data sets is the other area of major concern. There there are two different types of datasets to be concerned with, detail datasets and automatic or master sets.

The Detail Datasets: this type of set holds the day to day data input. Detail sets begin with nothing in them. When records are added 1 is added to something called the high-water-mark, a number that tells how many records have been in the set, and the record is placed in the set.

The problem is that IMAGE automatically reuses space that is given up when a record is deleted. This space is often called the delete chain. New records are placed in the most recent location available on the "delete chain." This means that new records are not in the same physical locality as the rest of the records and may be far removed from the other records.

The ideal state for a detail database is one where the detail entries are sorted by the key field. This allows the data to be retrieved in the smallest amount of IO's making efficient use of the MPE systems pre-fetching of data. When this is not the case we can measure the dataset lack of efficiency with something called the Elongation factor. This is simply a measure of how many more IOs the user must perform to retrieve desired data.

The Master Datasets have unique identifiers (field names). There are two types of master sets, a manual master and an automatic master set. Manual masters have user-entered master entries while automatic masters have automatic entries placed in them to accommodate access to detail records. The issue of importance to performance here is something called the hashing algorithm. This is the method used by the database to calculate the location of the next record placed in the database. The intent is to cause the master set to be as equally distributed as possible.

The hashing algorithm uses the size of the set in its calculation. A poor size or a size that is not large enough will result in an unequally distributed database. A poor size is most easily described as one that does not consist of a prime number. This means that when the hashing algorithm calculates a location there is a higher potential that a record will already exist in that location. When this happens a secondary position must be calculated. When secondaries are placed in another block within the database, another I/O must occur to retrieve needed data. Since IO to disk is the slowest type of access, we want to avoid this at all costs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2018

One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs

Charon Portfolio
In a webinar this week, Stromasys made its case for how shutting down HP's 3000 hardware can reduce an IT budget. Using data from Gartner analysts and other sources, the company estimates that downtime costs companies $1 million per year on average. Any alternative to 15- to 25-year-old servers is a good shot at making the future more stable.

There still hasn't been a computer system built that will never fail. Hot-swap backups with automatic server failovers were never a big part of the 3000 datacenter experience. If you had to handicap which server was a likely failure candidate, HP's MPE/iX hardware would give you short odds of failure. In this case, short is not a good measure.

One million per year in losses is a big enough number to get the attention of a corporation's C-level. It's the same number, coincidentally, that Stromasys used this week to describe the costs of migrating MPE/iX apps. The text circled in the slide above "implies investments of $1 million+" for migrations.

These millions, lost through downtime or surrendered in datacenter budget, are averages. Smaller 3000 customers may not approach the $1 million in yearly lost revenues. Migration costs track closer to that number, but they're a one-time hit. The alternative is Charon, of course. During the webinar we learned that an additional HP market is coming online to use Charon. HP's Unix PA-RISC servers will be the latest Stromasys virtualization segment, according to Dave Campbell.

There's no specific release date for Charon's HPA-9000 version yet. Such a product has been hinted at for a long time and rumored to be in development more recently. Stromasys needs the cooperation of the system manufacturers — HP and Oracle, to be exact — to bring out a virtualization of the old vendor hardware.

The news of a new virtualization marketplace tells us that replacing aging hardware with virtualized systems running on modern iron is a growing business. It may not even be growing as fast as it could. One customer on the webinar asked about IBM AS400 (Series i) virtualization. Campbell noted that the vendor's participation is essential to making another edition of Charon.

IBM may not be ready to help AS400 users for some time. Their POWER-based iron is still being built and sold. The only hardware still being built to support MPE/iX today is Intel x86-based, the platform for the Linux+Charon solutions. There can be millions of reasons why newer hardware plus the cost of Charon software would leave a customer miles away from failures. Charon isn't inexpensive, but when compared to $1 million for an MPE/iX user, it may feel like a better choice for a legacy budget.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2018

HP show offers something to Discover

HP Discover Madrid
Early this morning the new-ish HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was connecting with its customers in an old-school way. The HPE Discover conference has been unreeling since Monday and today was the final day of three in Madrid. These kinds of events were once so remote it took a week or more to learn what was said. Now there's a live-streamed component the vendor mounts on browsers and over phones anywhere.

Whether there's anything worth a live stream depends on the C-level of the viewer. How to Tame Your Hybrid Cloud and The Future and Ethics of AI might be best absorbed by a CTO or some other CxO. On-the-ground solutions don't show up much in HP's livestreams. The most practical lessons usually came during sessions of the 1980s and '90s held in rooms where indie software vendors delivered chalk talks. Down on the expo floor the instruction was even more focused. A manager could get advisories on their specific situations.

That's part of what Stromasys is doing at Madrid this week. An application demo isn't a novel experience most of the time. Making commonplace hardware behave like proprietary systems can still be a revelation. Over in Hall 9 this morning, managers at Discover will see demos of a Charon solution that's got more than 7,000 installed sites, according to Stomasys.

More of those 7,000 sites are MPE/iX emulations than ever. The demos will operate on both on-premise servers as well as from the cloud. Stromasys likes to remind the world that its Charon emulates VAX, Alpha, and SPARC systems as well as the HP 3000. The vendor does this reminding in person at conferences in places like Madrid, like the Middle East, and it demonstrates its virtualization at VM World in the US, too.

Conferences like HPE Discover were once run by user organizations and funded by booth sales. It was a personal business in those days before the Web gave us everything everywhere. Today the personalization arrives at vendor booths with demonstrations for those who've traveled to ask questions. Having an expert on hand to answer them shows a committment to keeping new solutions on display.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:30 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 26, 2018

A One Year Return on Legacy Investments

It's been many years since an HP 3000 appeared on a datacenter's budget. That's only true of the capital expenses for Hewlett Packard's hardware. It's been so long since the vendor billed for MPE/iX computing that the Hewlett-Packard corporation which sold 3000 iron has a new name. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has been creating capital expenses by selling hardware that will be a legacy. Companies which continue to use HP hardware, even for MPE/iX, have faced expenses to maintain it.

Legacy iron form MPE/iX has become a lesser expense to purchase, but the cost to own is on the rise. Fewer support providers can service the hardware, a factor that can limit choices to assure uptime. Owning a classic computer like any PA-RISC machine can look like a value until something breaks down. The reports from this year's 3000 Reunion showed that the power supply issues are so yesterday. The latest crash point is magnetic storage media. Tape is trouble waiting to happen.

Although emulating HP's 3000 iron has been an option for more than six years now, the solution is still reaching for more traction among installed base customers. Stromasys is devoted to winning over datacenters one manager at a time. The company is putting up a webinar broadcast next week to show how legacy hardware expense can be reduced through virtualization.

The miracle of this virtualization is that HP's PA-RISC designs can be emulated without specialized hardware. In the earliest days of the emulation dream, one company set its sights on emulating 3000s using HP-built processors. Strobe Data had a Kestrel line that used HP chips as plug-in boards inside Intel PCs. A similar 3000 plan didn't get into development. Stromasys pursued the problem from an all-software aspect, since the company already had a Charon emulator working in Digital customers' datacenters.

On December 6 at 1 PM EST (a Thursday, register here)  the company's head of field engineering Dave Clements will present a plan for achieving a one-year return on investment using Charon. That ROI relies on reducing excessive operational expenses. For system owners like those in the Oracle Independent User Group, that translates into hardware upgrades and system vendor support contracts. In the MPE/iX market, those expenses are redundant HP system components and the expertise to install them.

The MPE/iX datacenter in some companies is running out of runway to keep the data departing and arriving as expected. Any additional expense calls out MPE/iX with the kind of attention no platform needs. "What do you mean we need a replacement HP box?" is just one step away from considering how to eliminate the MPE/iX applications that seem to need legacy iron. It doesn't help enough that a replacement N-Class server costs less than $5,000 in today's market.

The HP 3000 was supposed to be a no-cost platform by now, wasn't it? Getting budget for upgrades was a challenge while HP was building the computers. Each step up in power and productivity was matched by extra costs from the software suppliers. HP used to change its own lift on subsystem software like COBOL II when a customer bought bigger iron. Software tiers were a bad idea that HP eliminated. The rest of the 3000 community's software vendors didn't much embrace the dropping of tiers, though. 

Today nobody can tie extra software expenses to improved system efficiency. Charon runs on industry standard servers can can be upgraded without an accompanying software bump. A pair of case studies during the webinar will be highlighting how much the companies saved in maintenance costs and power consumption. Charon customers have "solutions to keep integral applications without the headaches of aging hardware," according to the vendor's webpage. The proposition is that a company that relies on well-crafted MPE/iX applications can take back hardware control with virtualization.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:11 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 21, 2018

Power-on and battery tricks sustain 3000s

Editor's note: We're taking Friday off for some holiday R&R during the Turkey Day weekend.

Homesteading customers who rely on HP's 3000 hardware have complete systems waiting to backstop their production operations. This month some discussion on a 3000 newsgroup reminded us all that batteries, frequent startups, and sometimes constant power is essential to keeping such old HP iron ready for use.

Series 9x7 3000s are nearly the oldest computers that will run MPE/iX. First shipped in the middle '90s, some of these systems are holding the line at a few companies or in support providers who backstop 3000 customers. HP called these Nova systems when they were first released. The computers have a pair of batteries that are likely to have failed by now, more than 20 years after they first were put into service.

Those batteries are dug deep into the 9x7s. A battery on the board is integrated with the system's clock. There also is an internal battery as part of the power supply. In a 3000 this old, that second battery was tasked with keeping the system running for short periods without power.

Replacing batteries like these can require a Dremel tool, applied to an intergrated circuit that's soldered-in, rather than seated in a socket. Without the repair, any 3000 of this vintage waiting to be called into action in a disaster could fail with a message like "PDC TOD read failed."

Surprises like these are not limited to the antique hardware of the 9x7 lineage. The Series 9x8s also have batteries that can expire. These 3000s sit in readiness but need to be powered up every 90 days or so just to be sure their batteries will answer the bell. Others will need to be kept powered up at all times.

After the backup 3000 has been plugged in, a manager can set the date and time at the first menu in the boot process. As long as this server remains plugged in, a dead battery won’t matter. A manager will have to reset the clock every time the unit is sent into storage, though.

The oldest HP 3000s were built with a design that assumed customers didn't have a Uninterruptable Power Supply. Series 9x7s supplied their own batteries to cover power outages — and those batteries, sometimes inside an integrated circuit like the Dallas Semiconductor 1287, will have died by now. Repairing the DS 1287 is a YouTube challenge, as in managers can find a YouTube video to lead them through replacing a battery inside the integrated circuit.

A slightly easier fix would be to replace the DS 1287. Like a lot of hardware replacement for systems of that era, a trip to an eBay page will get a fresh component on its way to the datacenter. Less than $10 of Chinese manufacturing later the battery-dependent 3000 will have a component that's got to be soldered into the server's motherboard.

No one in the Hewlett-Packard design team ever imagined that a mid-90s server would be of any use in 2018. One use for this oldest of 3000 hardware: reminding us that moving to fresher iron like that used by Stromasys Charon is a more sustainable MPE/iX platform choice. At the least, Charon won't rely on eBay availability to keep MPE/iX working hard.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:20 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 19, 2018

Suggested servings of Unix, ignored

Long ago the HP 3000 was faced with a problem at HP. The vendor wanted the system to fit in. Fit with customer expectations of compatibility. Fit into the ecosystem of open systems, those touted like HP-UX as uniform enough to accomodate many applications.

Stromasys applied itself to this issue to make the MPE/iX hardware more open. Charon takes a well-powered Intel server and gives it the ability to host the 3000's OS. Linux, such as Red Hat, is essential.

People outside of HP were thinking about this problem, too. Not long ago after we published a story about overlaying Red Hat onto MPE/iX, we examined possible ways to make a 3000 more Unix-ready. We referenced the HP MOST project, which invited customers to try a system that ran both HP-UX and MPE/iX. It wasn't the only concept HP scrapped without much of a field trial.

That Red Hat overlay onto MPE/iX from our article "is somewhat misleading jargon," according to Stan Sieler of Allegro. "HP could probably have made the Posix stuff cleaner—closer to say HP-UX." The Posix extensions that turned MPE XL into MPE/iX were licensed from MK Systems and were to have made the 3000 more compatible with open systems.

"HP also could have said, 'Let's junk our networking and grab the code from HP-UX with some changes,' " Sieler said. "That's particularly so because they'd been saying for years that the two systems had 'shared drivers.' "

I had proposed to HP managment (and key engineers) a different solution, albeit one that probably required more HP-UX-like networking support: Allow HP-UX binaries to be transparently run on MPE/iX.

Because of a key (but minor) difference in the ABI (Application Binary Interface) for the two platforms, you could fairly easily support running both kinds of binaries at the same time with relatively few changes. If I recall correctly, I received no response.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:08 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2018

Fine-tune: 3000 support rescues, MPE/iX version matrix, network printer software

Steve Douglass of United Technologies Aerospace Systems writes, "We have an A-Class 400-100 machine that would only stay up about an hour before it autobooted. This machine was simply used for archived data lookup from an old ERP system. After trying simple fixes like reseating memory and checking connections we still had the same problem."

"We had no support agreement, and no one wanted to pay for a third-party support company to perform a diagnosis and fix, so we powered the system off. Of late there is interest in resurrecting this machine, and someone may be willing to foot the bill. We've researched and found Pivital Solutions and the Ideal Computer Services Group. Are there other recommendations?

John Clogg reports

We currently use Sherlock Services and are happy with the support they provide. I have also used Ideal Services and can recommend them with confidence.

Jim Maher of Saratoga Computers adds

We still service all of the HP 1000, 3000 and e3000 systems. Call anytime.

We replaced a printer recently and we can't get the new one to play nice with the 3000.  It's a LaserJet M608. When sending output to it, it prints a page or two and hangs. The spool file remains in a "print" state. The only way to reset it is to do a STOPSPOOL followed by a couple of ABORTIOs. The next time I start the spooler, the same thing happens, regardless of what I'm printing. What things should I check?

Tracy Johnson says

Try adding SNMP_SUPPORTED = FALSE (or TRUE)  You have a 50/50 chance either way. Sometimes you just have recalcitrant printers that won't cooperate with the HP3000. Consider getting Espul from Richard Corn or Minisoft's licensed version called Netprint.

Jim English adds

We use Netprint and eFormz from Minisoft. The eFormz is installed on a Windows server. Not all of our printers go through Netprint, just the ones that print forms or barcodes. We recently installed a newer HP printer and had the same issue you did. I set it up in Netprint and eFormz and it works great now.

Netprint by itself may solve your issue. I set up the printer in eFormz to print receipt travelers, which may have barcodes on them.

Is there a support matrix document that shows the HP 3000 boxes and what versions of MPE they can run? I'm trying to find all the 3000 boxes that support MPE/iX 6.0.

Donna Hofmeister reports

All 9x8, 9x7 and 99x boxes support 6.0. No A-Class or N-Class 3000s support 6.0.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:30 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2018

What are we doing talking 3000s in 2018?

This club side of UT's stadium only rose with the 3000

We came together at the UT Club last month. I had lunch at the University of Texas alumni club, deep in the heart of Darryl K. Royal Stadium, to talk with Chad Lester about something older than the football palace's official name: the way that MPE has been sold to the world. 

"Here we are in 2018 sitting at the UT Club, still talking about MPE and how we can go infiltrate those accounts" he said. Some of the reason third parties still find 3000 budget this year is that HP didn't position its business strategy around back-end revenues for the server. HP wanted its money up front. The up-front money meant that by the late 1990s the 3000 division at HP was sending a SWAT team of presales experts to talk at user group meetings or with IT managers who had trouble getting an order approved for a newer 3000.

HP 3000 SWAT team members like Vince Clapps were a proud addition to the sales effort. Now it looks like that push to place new hardware and earn the revenue up front for a system replacement was a fatigued concept. SWAT members locked down new customers doing ecommerce, but many times they'd speak at spots like a RUG conference to save a customer from migration.

Third party application vendors roadblocked the future for market growth, too, because they needed their revenue up front, too. Vendors like Cognos learned to create pricing that prohibited the upgrades of systems. Every boost of power threatened to ripple tens of thousands of dollars of software upgrades because the vendors were allowed to clamp on like pilot fish to the leviathan of buying a bigger 3000.

"They were reversed on how they handled licensing," Lester said over lunch. "In the channel today, these vendors make all of their money off the back-end rebates from Microsoft and the security companies out there. That became the new norm while HP was still on the front side of the sale."

Lester's employer Thomas Tech wants to educate the 3000 community that another generation of storage can be integrated with MPE that runs on HP's systems. HP-built computers are still the predominant hardware platform the MPE computing that will head toward 2028.

This back side of the newer revenue stream is what keeps vendors providing newer components. It's not about the computer gear as it was in those SWAT days. By 2018 the value lies in support and the opportunity to access the datacenter's non-MPE systems. To win the battle to keep 3000 resources on the market, new strategies are in play.

UT called the stadium War Memorial Stadium as it opened in 1924. The UT student body dedicated it in honor of the 198,520 Texans – 5,280 of whom lost their lives – who fought in the Great War which marks the centennial of its armistance this week. DKR, as the Texas football stadium is known informally, has a legacy that goes as far back in football as the HP 3000 goes in minicomputing. The concrete version of the stadium replaced wooden bleachers in 1923. Mainframes were the wooden bleachers of 1972 when the 3000 arrived.

Forty-six years later the 3000's heartbeat MPE/iX is still ticking away. The owners of those 3000s protect their jobs by hiring the right vendors. In 2018 those vendors supply support. Choosing a good support provider is the top asset an owner can call upon. With expertise on the wane for MPE/iX, it's crucial to stay in touch with people who can talk about the 3000 in 2018.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 09, 2018

Fine-Tune: Test for disasters in any season

NewsWire Classic

Editor's Note: In October of 2001 the world worked in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. Our Worst Practices columnist Scott Hirsh wrote this advice about the need to test for disasters. Another crisis was going to rise up for 3000 owners just a few weeks after this article appeared, this one triggered by HP. Regardless of where your datacenter is focused, it's always a good practice to test.

This Is Not a Test

By Scott Hirsh

For those of us in the United States entrusted with a company’s information resources, the events of September 11 changed everything. Before our business continuity or disaster recovery plans were primarily concerned with so-called “acts of God.” But we must now plan for the most improbable human acts imaginable. Who among us, prior to September 11, had a plan that took into account multiple high-rise office buildings being destroyed within minutes of each other? As you read this, the insurance industry is revising its assumptions. Likewise, we must now reconsider our approach to managing and protecting the assets for which we are responsible. Never before has the probability of actually needing to execute our recovery plans been so great.

As of this writing there have already been numerous business continuity and disaster recovery articles in the computer press. By now we understand the distinction between keeping the business going – not just IT, but also the whole business – and recovering after some (hopefully minor) interruption. And we’ve covered the issue of risk, where all the trade-offs and costs are negotiated. This whole topic was explored anew in the last few months, but it is still worthwhile to emphasize some early lessons of the attacks, from which we are still recovering.

It Had Better Work

Worst Practice 1: Trying to Fake It — I was visiting a friend’s datacenter recently, where I was told about a recent audit. This friend’s company spent the whole time trying to fake all the audit criteria: disaster recovery preparedness, security, audit trails, etc. At the risk of sounding like your parents, whom does this behavior really hurt? An audit is an ideal opportunity to validate all the necessary hard work required to run a professional datacenter. And should you ever be subjected to attack, electronic or otherwise, you know that your datacenter will survive.

If you didn’t get it before, you’d better get it now: Faking it is unacceptable. Chances are, at some point you will be required to do a real, honest-to-goodness recovery. And if you think you’re safe just because there may not be very many hijacked planes running into buildings such as yours, think again. The threats to your datacenter are diverse and numerous. And, by the way, violent weather, earthquakes and other natural disasters are still there too.

Worst Practice 2: Not Testing — Once you’re serious about continuity and recovery, not only will you plan, but you’ll test that plan often. There are lots of reasons to test your recovery capability often. Among them are: the ability to react quickly in a crisis; catching changes in your environment since your last test; accommodating changes to staff since your last test. A real recovery is a terrible time to do discovery.

Worst Practice 3: Not Documenting — One of the biggest problems with disasters is no warning. That’s why so many tests are a waste of time. Anyone can recover when you know exactly when and how. The truly prepared can recover when caught by surprise. Since you won’t get any warning – except, perhaps, with some natural disasters – you’ll want to have current, updated procedures. Since you’ll probably be on vacation (or wish you were) when disaster strikes, make sure the recovery procedures are off-site and available. If you’re the only one who knows what to do, even if you never take a day off there still won’t be enough of you to go around at crunch time.

Increasing the Odds of Recovery

Worst Practice 4: Taking Too Long — At this point in technology, there are two main ways to deal with a disaster: fail-over and reconstruction. With fail-over, you are replicating data between your main site and a recovery site. These sites can be relatively near each other – across town or perhaps in an adjoining states – or far away. This kind of remote clustering, if you will, is what the largest and most critical institutions use, and the cost is considerable. However, the cost of not doing it is considerably more.

Reconstruction is more about recovery than continuity. I am guessing that the vast majority of e3000 shops base their recovery plans on recalling tapes from a vault (e.g., Iron Mountain) to a recovery site, then restoring their data either to a bare machine or one on which only MPE has been installed. This was certainly true for my own operation, as my management always deemed this less expensive method “adequate.”

But that was then. Today, the amount of data that must be reloaded is so massive, that the time to recover renders this method all but worthless. True, your plan can call for a critical subset of data to be restored (not the entire data warehouse). But even current data can now stretch into the terabytes, once you include the applications, utilities, etc.

So the point here is to make sure your recovery methodology is practical from a business standpoint, as well as a technical standpoint. You don’t want to be in the position of estimating “just three more days” before you’re up and running.

Worst Practice 5: Not Recovering a Complete Environment — As the state of the art advances, some technology is left behind. We’ll keep it succinct here: If you need to keep an old technology alive, you may need to provide some or all of the solution yourself. Don’t expect the recovery site to stock or maintain every peripheral ever made just because you have one esoteric requirement. And don’t forget to keep backup copies of any obsolete software packages as well.

Another aspect to this issue, recently discovered at a customer site, is the fact that diverse platforms are now highly integrated. It’s not enough just to recover the e3000. The non-e3000 systems that share data feeds must also be recovered. And don’t forget any outside data sources either. Again, if you’re faking it, you can declare victory when you’ve reconstructed an e3000 at the recovery site. In reality, that only counts if the e3000 system can support the business on its own without any external feeds.

Worst Practice 6: Ignoring the Human Factor — Even the best plans don’t execute themselves. Keep in mind who will be doing what and how things will get done if key individuals are unable to perform their tasks. As we know, families come first, which is proper: so we mustn’t lose sight of our humanity in times of crisis. Any recovery is hard work. That counts double when there are casualties.

Reassess Your Assumptions

Worst Practice 7: A Defeatist Attitude — If you’ve been subjected to the “fake it” mentality, you’re probably demoralized. After all, who among us just wants to go through the motions? Well, it’s now a whole new world, and you have a really good shot at doing things right. But you need to forcefully make your case to those who didn’t take contingency planning seriously in the past. By the time you read this there may be stories about companies that unfortunately couldn’t recover from the September 11 attacks. We can emerge from this atrocity stronger if we do some honest introspection. Every rational businessperson should now be willing to do proper planning. If you can get over the bad practices of the past, you can position yourself and your business to be survivors.

Worst Practice 8: Datacenter Placement — As much as I enjoyed the view from my 29th floor datacenter, it’s pretty obvious now that datacenters don’t belong in certain places – high-rise buildings among them. Besides the obvious prohibitive cost of floor space, there are safety and security issues not obvious until recent events.

I have visited many co-location facilities in the past year, and they all had a several things in common:

1. They were in the low-rent district.

2. They were very difficult to find, as they were essentially unmarked.

3. They were very secure (at least relative to downtown datacenters), both physically and electronically.

4. They were redundant up the wazoo.

If this does not describe your datacenter, then perhaps it’s time to consider relocation. Let’s face it, even if there are good reasons why your datacenter needs to be right downtown, I’ll bet your recovery site is in the middle of nowhere. That should tell you something.

Hope for the Best

We’re currently in reactive mode. We’ve now seen one type of unimaginable act, using airliners as missiles. For those unlucky enough to be on the front lines of that atrocity, there was no way to plan for that series of events. And it’s likely that the next event will also be difficult to imagine, and hence plan for. So even the best plans require a great deal of luck, as even the best plan is useless if there is widespread devastation beyond your control. We should be honest about those aspects of business continuity and recovery that are within our control. We must be truly prepared. But we can still hope that we never need to actually use those plans. Not like we did after September 11. At least that’s the hope.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:14 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2018

Wayback: A month to download 3000 Jazz

Ten years ago this month HP was advising its customers to get free software while it was still online. HP said that its Jazz web server was going dark because its 3000 labs would end operations on Dec. 31. Maintained by HP's lab staff, Jazz was being unplugged after 12 years. The software played an essential role in getting the 3000 into the Internet age. Eventually HP learned to market the server as the e3000.

Bootstrapping development fundamentals such as the GNU Tools, the open source gcc compiler, and utilities ported by independent developer Mark Klein had a home on Jazz for a decade. More than 80 other programs were hosted on the server, some with HP support and others ported and created by HP but unsupported by the vendor.

The software is still online 10 years later. Fresche Solutions, which began as Speedware, continues to host Jazz programs and papers at HP was clear in 2008 that customers had better grab what they needed before Jazz went unplugged. HP wasn't going to move the downloadable programs onto the IT Resource Center servers to

"Anything that people will need they should download before Dec. 31, 2008," said business manager Jennie Hou. "That's our recommendation."

The list of programs online is long and worth a visit for a 3000 manager looking for help to keep MPE/iX well connected to their datacenter. HP created more than a dozen open source programs which it even supported as of 2008. The list is significant.

• Apache
• Many command files
• dnscheck
• Porting Scanner
• Porting Wrappers
• Samba
• The System Inventory Utility
• Syslog
• WebWise

Open source software produced or ported as unsupported freeware by HP includes

• JServ
• OpenSSL
• Perl
• Sendmail

Open source software produced/ported by individuals:

• Analog
• autoconf
• bash
• gdbm
• Glimpse
• ht://Dig
• mmencode/sendmime
• MPE::CIvar
• NetPBM
• OpenLDAP
• Ploticus
• Python
• texinfo
• Tidy
• TIFF library
• wget

Binary-only software produced/ported and "supported" by HP:

• Firmware
• Java
• LineJet Utilities
• Patch/iX
• VT3K

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:03 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2018

A Pro's World After 3000 Retirement

Over the past few months we've talked about the 3000 veteran John Clogg. His name is written all over the 3000 online community, as well as in the histories of companies that continue use MPE/iX for manufacturing. He's been helpful to us in telling the story of the end of his career, one that reaches back to 1974.

He was a part of the NewsWire blog from the very first week we pushed it online. In June of 2005, but HP's exit-the-3000 decision less than three years old, Clogg wrote this about the future of access to MPE/iX source code.

HP has had three and a half years since its 3000 EOL announcement — and who knows how long before — to consider the source code issue. It is no longer a credible claim that they have not made a decision. Instead, they are are simply keeping their decision secret for whatever reason.

To me that says one thing: the answer isn't the one we want. Either HP is hoping to kill off interest in non-HP support for MPE by delaying an announcement to the point that no one can afford to wait any longer, or they want to wait to further alienate the HP 3000 installed base until they are no longer serious prospects for other HP servers. In either case, homesteaders had better not base any of their plans on being able to obtain future enhancements to MPE. The handwriting is on the wall -- in flourescent paint! I just wish HP would admit it.

Postscript: HP never did the right thing by releasing the OS source to the community. Seven support companies and developers (including Pivital Solutions) got read-only access. But on a brighter note, like a lot of 3000 pros, Clogg's personal life is about to get richer after all that he's left to his employers and the community. We asked what his retirement by the end of this year is going to bring. 

For the last 44 years I have been on call virtually 24/7/365. I haven't had a New Year's holiday in a few years, and for the first time in 25 years I have a job with only two weeks of vacation. Mostly I just look forward to having time: time to play, time to explore, time to develop new interests that remain unnamed at this point. I have a good job with a good company, but I am simply burned out.

In the longer term, I know I will need something to keep me busy and engaged. I have been asked by my employer whether I would be available for part-time work, so I expect there will be some of that.  I might offer my services to friends and others who need help with PC issues.

My wife and I are going on a cruise shortly after my retirement date as a sort of celebration. As an interesting window into how retirement changes things, when we were looking into airline schedules for getting to and from the embarkation point, we realized we have as much time as we want.  We can drive there and enjoy sights along the way, and on the way back. It was a revelation.

He adds, "Volunteer work of some kind

is something I will investigate, and I may take up a hobby, such as woodworking. The possibilities are many and I have made no decisions about them. In the near term, I am just looking forward to having time with my family and being able to travel."

Clogg, and other experts of 40-plus years, carry stories and legends that can serve communities in the years to come. Practices of today arrived on the backs of experience built by 24/7/365 people in development and production. We've begun to work on a set of oral histories with these 40-plus-years of service folks. Not biographies, but stories about how this 3000 thing got started. Get in touch with me if you want to sit for a portrait.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:17 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 02, 2018

Fine-Tune: Ensure Logical Data Consistency

NewsWire Classic

The MPE/iX Transaction Manager for IMAGE does not guarantee logical consistency of your data. How do you ensure logical consistency? Use DBXBEGIN and DBXEND calls around all the DBPUT, DBUPDATE and DBDELETE calls that you make for your logical transaction. Yes, the definition of a logical transaction is up to the programmer.

There can be a lot of confusion about logical consistency, mostly because IMAGE kept adding logging and recovery features over its years of development. Gavin Scott gives a clear explanation of the state of affairs.

It’s amazing how much superstition exists surrounding this kind of stuff, and how many unnecessary rituals and sacrifices are performed daily to appease the mythical pantheon of data integrity gods. Real broken chains are supposed to be impossible to achieve with IMAGE on MPE/iX, no matter what application programs do, or how they are aborted, or how many times the system crashes!

The Transaction Manager provides absolute protection against internal database inconsistencies, as long as there are no bugs in the system and as long as the hardware is not corrupting data. No action or configuration is required on the part of the user.

Logical inconsistencies (order detail without an associated order header record, for example) can easily be created by aborting an application that’s in the middle of performing a database update that spans multiple records. Of course, IMAGE doesn’t care whether your data is logically correct or not, that’s the job of application programmers.

Using DBBEGIN/DBEND will have no effect whatsoever on logical integrity, unless you actually run DBRECOV to roll forward or roll back the database to a consistent point every time you abort a program or suffer any other failure.

By using DBXBEGIN/DBXEND XM style transactions, you can extend IMAGE’s guarantee of physical integrity to the logical integrity of your database. The system will ensure that no matter what happens, either all changes inside a DBX transaction will be applied, or none of them will be. Of course, it’s still possible to use this feature incorrectly (locking strategies are non-trivial as you need to lock the data that you read as well as that which you intend to write in many cases).

HP introduced a feature, far back in the MPE V days, called Intrinsic-Level Recovery (ILR). ILR can still can be enabled for a database. This was sort of a mini-XM that forced updates to disk each time an Intrinsic call completed in order to ensure structural integrity of the database in the face of system failures.

I believe that on MPE/iX, enabling ILR for a database does something really nasty like forcing an XM post after every update intrinsic call, which is a serious performance problem. ILR is no longer required on MPE/iX as XM will ensure integrity without it. With ILR you might be guaranteed that every committed transaction will survive a system abort, whereas without it XM might end up having to roll back the last fraction of a second’s worth of transactions. For almost any application this difference is negligible. Do not turn ILR on!

There are more complexities if your application performs transactions that affect multiple databases or databases and non-database files. It’s possible to do multi-database IMAGE transactions, but only if the databases reside on the same volume set, I believe.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2018

3000 warehouse opens on distributor's shelf

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. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2018

Command file tests 3000s for holidays

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]
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
    setvar  HOL_CYMD    "!CCYYMMDD"
    if  not numeric (HOL_CYMD)
        echo **date parm, if entered, must be numeric**
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
    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
        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
    if  HOL_ERRORS      >   0
        echo **exiting because the date-parm was not a valid**
        echo **8-digit date in yyyymmdd format **
        return FALSE

#    -------------------------------------------------------
#    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

#    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
    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
        setvar  HOL_ZMONTH  !HOL_MM
        setvar  HOL_ZYEAR   !HOL_YYYY
    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
    setvar  HOL_DAY     HOL_ZDAY
    deletevar   [email protected],  [email protected]

#    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
    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
    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
    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
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "07"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "04"
        echo It's July 4th
        return  TRUE
    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
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "11"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "11"
        echo (it's Veterans Day - but do we get it ?)
#        return  TRUE
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=5  and  !HOL_DD>=22  and  !HOL_DD<=28 )
        echo It's Thanksgiving
        return  TRUE
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=6  and  !HOL_DD>=23  and  !HOL_DD<=29 )
        echo It's the day after Thanksgiving
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "12"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "25"
        echo It's Christmas
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:57 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2018

How Support of XP Can Be a 3000 Mainstay

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.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:57 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2018

Fine-Tune: Get the right time for a 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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 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


Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:39 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2018

Wayback: Charon kicks off with freeware

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:14 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2018

Leaving Something to Retire On

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." 


Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:14 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2018

Why and When to Leave Platform-Land

Goodbye Tin Man
Life in the 3000 community revolved around platforms. We used to think about these as operating systems. Long ago it was time to change that thinking and call the combo of servers and the OS a platform. You could think of that era as the Land of Oz, instead of OS. It might be time for 3000 owners to change their thinking about computers as platforms. It depends on what else is doing service in your datacenter.

For a small percentage of 3000 owners, the servers built by HP are all that runs in what we once called the computer room. They live in what one storage vendor, one who knows the 3000 well, calls platform-land. Everything in platform-land is connected to a 3000, so the homogenous benefits of multi-server storage just aren't needed.

Companies that live fully in platform-land are using HP-branded devices built exclusively for the 3000. That's the way HP used to qualify its peripherals: tested for MPE/iX. For a while during the years after HP's "we're outta here" announcement, the vendor asserted that any other storage device was risky business. We covered those debates. The results showed the risks were not substantial.

HP's outta-here movement caused movement in the 3000 community, of course. Some of the movement was inbound instead of an exodus. Companies have turned to using Linux servers, more Windows Servers (2008 and later) and even some Unix boxes from HP, Sun, or IBM. That's the moment when a company starts to leave platform-land. You should leave it once you've got multiple OS servers and need to leverage networks and peripherals across all servers. That's the When.

The Why is a little more complicated. 3000s and the Stromasys servers that have replaced the MPE/iX hosts are cradles for the applications that companies don't want to drop. The companies shouldn't drop an application just because it's on the wrong platform. Applications need to exit when they don't serve the business logic anymore. Leaving platform-land supports the continued service from MPE/iX apps. Like I said, it's complicated.

What we know about managing IT in the year 2018 is that it's complex in a way we couldn't imagine in the 1980s and 1990s. The diversity of devices is what's changed the community for good. Even HP began to understand that a multiple-platform storage device was a better value to anyone who didn't live in platform-land.

For almost all of the HP 3000 customers left today, their server isn't the only box in the shop. They have added Windows, Linux and Unix, yes. More often, those operating systems aren't part of the decision loop. We always said that it was the applications, stupid, when deciding what computer was going to get the assignment. The 3000 survives because of its apps, but its survival is beset by more than the calendar pages slipping away. The differences in connected devices chip away at the 3000's rightful place. 

Oh. Not only do we have to try to retain MPE/iX expertise, we also have to keep that Jamaica disk set running. A set that does nothing else for everything else in the datacenter. When it fails, we have to find a replacement for that device with moving components. An old replacement, at that. If we'd made the 3000 ready for a platform-agnostic environment, so it could use modern storage like the later-generation XP arrays, we could justify a replacement and get something newer.

Now the 3000 goes onto the bubble again. The most-quoted reason for companies to scrap their MPE environments, their platform, is because of aging hardware and the worry over replacing it. Peripherals like storage and tape now have their own worry points, according to support companies serving 3000s. Tape is a crapshoot. People have been warning about old disks for a long time.

The Why to leave platform-land is all about the future. When a datacenter is no longer thinking about 3000-only hardware -- when that hardware can be commodity high-class Intel servers or an array that's beyond the reach of platform-land -- the apps can stay off the bubble. The need to migrate recedes, so long as there's expertise about MPE/iX somewhere.

MPE know-how isn't automatic anymore, but there are support companies that specialize in it. The future of self-maintaining that know-how isn't bright. Indie companies can help, and at least the devices need to be useful to all hardware. Until that's done, being stuck in platform-land is just one more way to hurry to an exit from everything still working from the 3000 world, built and configured in the era when platforms were like the heroes from Oz. We'll miss you most, Tin Man.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2018

Fine Tune: Storing in Parallel and to Tapes

Does the MPE/iX Store-to-Disc option allow for a ‘parallel store,’ analogous to a parallel store to tape? For example, when a parallel store to tape is performed, the store writes to two or more tape drives at the same time. Is there a parallel store-to-disc option that allows for the store to write to two or more disc files at the same time (as opposed to running multiple store-to-disc jobs)?

Gavin Scott and Joe Taylor reply

Yes, the same syntax for parallel stores works for disk files as well as tape files. I really don’t know if you would get any benefit from this, but if you went to the trouble of building your STD files on specific disks, then it might be worthwhile.

What is the recommended life or max usage of DLT tapes?

Half a million passes is the commonly used number for DLT III. One thing to remember is that when they talk about the number of passes (500,000 passes), it does not mean number of tape mounts.

For SuperDLT tapes, the tape is divided into 448 physical tracks of 8 channels each giving 56 logical tracks. This means that when you write a SuperDLT tape completely you will have just completed 56 passes. If you read the tape completely, you will have done another 56 passes.

The DLTIV tapes (DLT7000/8000) have a smaller number of physical and logical tracks, but the principle is the same. The number of passes for DLTIIIXT and DLT IV tapes is 1,000,000. The shelf life is 30 years for the DLT III XT and DLT IV tapes and 20 for the DLT III.

Our DDS drive gets cleaned regularly. Our tapes in rotation are fairly old, too. However, we are receiving this error even when we use brand new tapes. 


The new tapes are Fuji media, not HP like our old ones.

John Burke replies:

Replace that drive. DDS drives are notorious for failing. Also, the drive cannot tell whether or not you are using branded tapes. I’ve used Fuji DDS tapes and have found them to be just as good as HP-branded tapes (note that HP did not actually manufacture the tapes). I have also gotten into the habit of replacing DDS tapes after about 25 uses. When compared to the value of a backup, this is a small expense to pay.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:52 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2018

Planning to migrate has been the easy mile

Postman3000 owners have made plans for many years to leave the platform. The strategies do take a considerable while to evolve into tactics, though. The planning stage is easy to get stopped at, like an elevator jammed up at a floor. 

For example, take a company like the one in the deep South, using HP 3000s and manufacturing copper wire and cable. The manager would rather not name his employer and so we won't, but we can say the 3000 is dug in and has been difficult to mothball.

In fact, the only immediate replacement at this corporation might be its storage devices. The datacenter employs a VA7410 array.

We do have to replace a drive now and then, but there hasn't been any problem getting used replacements, and we haven't suffered any data loss. I think if we were planning to stay with MPE for the long term, we might look for something newer, but we are planning to migrate. In fact we planned to be on a new platform by now, but you know how that goes.

More companies than you'd imagine know how that goes in 2018. We're nearing the end of the second decade of what we once called the Transition Era. The final mile of that journey can be the slowest, like the path of the postman who must carry the mail on foot through urban neighborthoods.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:25 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 14, 2018

Use Command Interpreter to program fast

NewsWire Classic

By Ken Robertson

An overworked, understaffed data processing department is all too common in today’s ever belt-tightening, down-sizing and de-staffing companies.

Running-shoesAn ad-hoc request may come to the harried data processing manager. She may throw her hands up in despair and say, “It can’t be done. Not within the time frame that you need it in.” Of course, every computer-literate person knows deep down in his heart that every programming request can be fulfilled, if the programmer has enough hours to code, debug, test, document and implement the new program. The informed DP manager knows that programming the Command Interpreter (CI) can sometimes reduce that time, changing the “impossible deadline” into something more achievable.

Getting Data Into and Out of Files

So you want to keep some data around for a while? Use a file! Well, you knew that already, I’ll bet. What you probably didn’t know is that you can get data into and out of files fairly easily, using IO re-direction and the print command. IO re-direction allows input or output to be directed to a file instead of to your terminal. IO re-direction uses the symbols ">", ">>" and "<". Use ">" to re-direct output to a temporary file. (You can make the file permanent if you use a file command.) Use ">>" to append output to the file. Finally, use "<" to re-direct input from a file:

echo Value 96 > myfile
echo This is the second line >> myfile
input my_var < myfile
setvar mynum_var str("!my_var",7,2)
setvar mynum_var_2 !mynum_var - (6 * 9 )
echo The answer to the meaning of life, the universe
echo and everything is !mynum_var_2.

After executing the above command file, the file Myfile will contain two lines, “Value 42” and “This is the second line.” (Without quotes, of course.) The Input command uses IO re-direction to read the first record of the file, and assigns the value to the variable my_var. The first Setvar extracts the number from the middle of the string, and proceeds to use the value in an important calculation in the next line.

How can you assign the data in the second and consequent lines of a file to variables? You use the Print command to select the record that you want from the file, sending the output to a new file:

print myfile;start=2;end=2 > myfile2

You can then use the Input command to extract the string from the second file.

Rolling Your Own System Variables

It’s easy enough to create a static file of Setvar commands that gets invoked at logon time, and it’s not difficult to modify the file programmatically. For example, let’s say that you would like to remember a particular variable from session to session, such as the name of your favorite printer. You can name the file that contains the Setvars, Mygvars. It will contain the line: setvar my_printer “biglaser”

The value of this variable may change during your session, but you may want to keep it for the next time that you log on. To do this, you must replace your normal logoff procedure (the Bye or Exit command) with a command file that saves the variable in a file, and then logs you off.

purge mygvars > $null
file mygvars;save
echo setvar my_printer "!my_printer" > *mygvars

Whenever you type byebye, the setvar command is written to Mygvars and you are then logged off. The default close disposition of an IO re-direction file is TEMP, which is why you have to specify a file equation. Because you are never certain that this file exists beforehand, doing a Purge ensures that it does not.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:14 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2018

Durable 3000s seek, sometimes find, homes

Computer Museum 918Earlier this month a notice on the 3000-L mailing list tried to match an old HP 3000 with a new home. Joshua Johnson said he's got a Series 918 LX (the absolute bottom on the 9x8 lineup) that's got to go. It's a good bet this server hasn't been running any part of a business since HP left the support arena.

I have a 918LX that's been sitting around for a while that I'd like to get rid of. It worked when it was last shutdown. I think I still have a bunch of ram for it in a box somewhere. Anyone interested?

Then there was a question about where his HP hardware was sitting. "I’m in Providence RI. It sat in a shed for 10 years. When it was shut down it worked fine. I think I have several memory sticks for it as well."

This was a give-away 3000, the kind that goes for sale on the used market at about $700 in the best case. The Series 918 LX weighs enough that the shipping is going to be the biggest part of that free transaction. The 918 was at the bottom of HP's relative performance ratings, 10.0 on a scale where a Series 37 was a 1.0.

Last week we talked with a 3000 developer who witnessed the shutdown of seven N-Class systems. "They were going to throw them away," he said, because the health care provider had followed its app and moved to Unix. He got the rights to an N-Class and talked the broker who took the rest of the orphaned N-Class systems to trade one for an A-Class server. "The power situation was just too great for me to use the N-Class," he said— referring to the hardware's electrical needs, not the horsepower.

Old 3000s seeking new homes is still news in your community. Sometimes the adoptions feel like they're foster homes, though.

HP's 3000 iron was built to extraordinary standards, or there wouldn't be a Series 918 available to give away in Rhode Island. That's a server built while Clinton was President. In an odd piece of comparison, the N-Class system is 60 times more powerful than the Series 918, but at the end of the line, it had just as much value.

The N-Class and A-Class boxes are newer, of course, and that decision to send them to the scrap-heap might have been wasteful. The durable value of these computers isn't in the hardware whose components age every day. It's in MPE and the applications. 

Holding on to old hardware could be one way to prove that MPE/iX has an evaporating value. Being able to move the apps and the OS onto a newer box puts the brakes on that decline. To be fair, lots of elderly 3000s are able to reboot after a long winter's nap. Our developer who got that A-Class also has a Series 967 in his garage. It was powered down for more than two years before it switched on. 


Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:04 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 07, 2018

Queue up those 3000 jobs with MPE tools

NewsWire Classic

By Shawn Gordon

A powerful feature of MPE is the concept of user-defined job queues. You can use these JOBQ commands to exert granular job control that is tightly coupled with MPE/iX. HP first introduced the commands in the 6.0 release.

For example, you only want one datacomm job to log on at a time, but there are 100 that need to run. At the same time you need to let users run their reports, and you want to allow only two compile jobs to run at a time. Normally you would set your job limit down to 1, then manually shuffle job priorities around and let jobs go. In the new multiple job queue controlled environment, you can define a DATACOMM job queue whose limit was 1, an ENDUSER job queue whose limit was 6 (for example), and a COMPILE job queue whose limit was 2. You could also set a total job limit of 20 to accommodate your other jobs that may need to run.

Three commands accommodate the job queue feature:

NEWJOBQ qname [;limit=n]

The commands LIMIT, ALTJOB, JOB and STREAM all include the parameter ;JOBQ=.

As an example, I am going to create a new job queue called SHOWTIME that has a job limit of 1. You will notice the job card of the sample job has a JOBQ parameter at the end to specify what queue it is to execute in.

Alternatively I could have said STREAM SHOWTIME.JCL;JOBQ=SHOWTIME to put it into my job queue. Here’s the coding to do this:


!SHOWVAR [email protected]
!SHOWVAR [email protected]
!PAUSE 300

I just streamed five copies of the job, and using the LISTJOBQ command I am able to see the default system defined job queue HPSYSJQ. I haven’t been able to find out why it indicates a limit of 3500, since my current job limit was 30. [Editor’s Note: Gavin Scott reports that “All job queues have a LIMIT that is separate from the one true system LIMIT. This includes the default HPSYSJQ. The 3500 default is a number large enough that you should never run into the case where the existence of this second, un-obvious, limit on normal jobs affects you.”]

You can see my SHOWTIME job queue with a limit of 1, with one executing and five total jobs, so four are currently in a wait state. This is obvious in the SHOWJOB command below.



HPSYSJQ   3500      12    12
SHOWTIME  1         1     5

SHOWJOB [email protected]


#J2     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  NP92JOB,MGR.MINISOFT
#J3     EXEC        10R LP       TUE  7:09A  BACKG,MANAGER.VESOFT
#J4     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  WTRSH,MGR.WTRSH
#J5     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  MSJOB,MGR.MINISOFT
#J6     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  MASTEROP,MANAGER.SYS
#J7     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  VCSSERV,MGR.DIAMOND
#J8     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  VCSCHED,MGR.DIAMOND
#J9     EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  JINETD,MANAGER.SYS
#J10    EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:09A  JWHSERVR,MANAGER.SYS
#J12    EXEC        10S LP       TUE  7:25A  GUI3000J,MANAGER.SYS
#J19    EXEC        10S LP       TUE  8:08A  BROLMSGJ,JOBS.REVIEW
#J130   EXEC        10S LP       TUE  1:06P  SHOWTIME,MANAGER.SYS
#J131   WAIT:1   8  10S LP       TUE  1:06P  SHOWTIME,MANAGER.SYS
#J132   WAIT:2   8  10S LP       TUE  1:06P  SHOWTIME,MANAGER.SYS
#J133   WAIT:3   8  10S LP       TUE  1:06P  SHOWTIME,MANAGER.SYS
#J134   WAIT:4   8  10S LP       TUE  1:06P  SHOWTIME,MANAGER.SYS

   0 INTRO
                4 WAIT; INCL 0 DEFERRED
                12 EXEC; INCL 0 SESSIONS
                0 SUSP

Now if I want to increase the job limit for my SHOWTIME job queue, I can use the following command

limit +1;jobq=showtime
altjob #j131;jobq=hpsysjq

You will probably notice that there are a number of nice enhancements to ALTJOB and LIMIT in support of the job queues, having uses outside of the job queues. For example, LIMIT now allows you to use a plus or minus value to increase or decrease the number, so you don’t have to use an absolute value. It is common to up the limit by one to allow another job to execute, but previously you had to check the current job limit, change it, then change it back. At least now you can just do +1 to let the job launch.

On the ALTJOB command, you can now specify HIPRI to cause a job to start up immediately and not have to play with limits to let it go. You can also alter the output device of the job. I did find during my tests that altering a job to a queue that had open slots didn’t seem to allow the job to release if you sent it to the system default HPSYSJQ. However, if you sent it to a user-defined job queue that had room left in it for another job to execute, then it would launch immediately.

There is another side benefit of job queues, and that is ensuring that never more than one version of a job logs on. For example, if you have some background job running and you cannot have a second copy running, but there is nothing that prevents it, you could create a job queue for it with a limit of 1 that would keep any extra copies from launching.

This is just one example of an extended use of the feature. If you try to purge a job queue that is currently in use, you will receive this message:

Cannot purge job queue as there are jobs
running/waiting in that queue. (CIERR 12251)

If you try to stream a job into a queue that does not exist you will receive the message

JOBQ parameter expected. (CIERR 12255)
Spooler internal error occurred. (CIERR 4522)

The job will be streamed regardless — however, it won’t start executing, because there is no queue for it to execute in. The major problem is that the job will stream into a WAIT state because there is no queue available for it. At this point you can’t abort it, you can’t create the queue it was intended for and have it work, you can’t alter it into the system job queue because of whatever the problem is that we described earlier. Finally you can try to create a new queue and alter it into it. The LISTJOBQ will show it as a job for that queue, but it will never start executing. The only way to get rid of the job is to shut down the system and do a START NORECOVERY.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:49 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 05, 2018

Where's the lure to launch into the cloud?

We’ve talked about it here before. Is there any genuine interest from 3000 owners and managers for  getting their servers migrated into the cloud? In the most common scenario today, an adequately powered Amazon or Rackspace server, or even something like a Google host, or something from Oracle, becomes the IT datacenter floor. Amazon will even sell a cloud server that only spins up when accessed. It's all billed by the hour, the day, or the amount of time connected.

For MPE/iX systems, this is only possible using a Charon install for MPE. Stromasys, which sells Charon and mentioned the possibilities for using the cloud. A notice this week announced the company is exhibiting Charon at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition next month in Dubai. The GITEX news noted that Charon has a cloud option, saying the software is available in the cloud or on premise.

Most important for these virtual 3000s are the servers' horsepower. Doug Smith of Stromasys checked in with some upcoming Charon 3000 news and noted that 4 GHz is the CPU low bar for running Charon as fast as HP's native PA-RISC hardware.

By 2018 there's now very little hardware tuning that cannot be done if the host is up in the cloud. 3000 expertise of today works from a laptop far removed from the manufacturing or distribution floor. So what's the lure to launch an MPE server into the cloud? I think cloud’s big edge has got to be low cap-ex and assured hardware evolution.

For example, if you buy a $19,000 Intel server in a rack, attach it to fast storage, and it runs Charon, well, you’re set. Somewhere in the future, of course, you might need more throughput and CPU. That $19K server has to be farmed out to another task if you can't upgrade it. If the host itself were cloud-based, more horsepower is one reconfiguration order away.

It's in this scenario that a company which uses a virtual partition for a Charon Linux host might have a chance at containing long term hardware costs. Virtualized Linux could induce some drag on performance. That's why Stromasys only sells servers that are configured by Smith. Many 3000 software vendors have customers using the emulator.

So far, nobody's raised their hand to say they're putting a 3000 into the cloud like this.

When you think about it, “Cloud-based 3000” sounds a lot like the timesharing of the 1980s, doesn’t it? The uptime service guarantee is “It’s somebody else’s concern to keep my MPE hardware backed up and running without MPE errors.” 

The first place I ever worked while reporting on HP 3000s was Wilson Publications in Austin. We used a subscriber database hosted on a Series 42 hosted down at a printing company. We dialed up using PC 2622 software from Walker, Richter and Quinn. I guess we were working on 3000s in the cloud in 1984. That might be one lure to launching into the cloud for MPE: It's been done before.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:04 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2018

The Labors of 3000 Love

Union-laborHere in the US we celebrate Labor Day today, a tribute to the wages and benefits that workers first guaranteed during the labor movement of the 20th Century. It's a holiday with most offices closed, but much labor in the shops and boutiques across towns like our Austin and elsewhere.

Homesteading 3000 customers face labors, and they often seem to struggle for respect from the departed members of the 3000 computer community. Homesteading work is no less crucial than the heavy lifting of migration, although there's far less of that latter movement going on by now. Homesteading is just as necessary, too.

If you were lucky enough to have a holiday today, thank your precursors in the labor unions. Those organizations are becoming as derided now as 3000 customers who stick with the platform and polish MPE skills. Unions protected the middle class, though. A lot like a 3000 protected a company from the cheap Windows PCs expensive server churn, or the steep outlay for mainframes. For a good look at what labors a homesteader should work on, see Paul Edwards' homesteading primer.

Homesteading tasks are little changed by now, although the hardware from HP and the media needs a closer watch. That's a DIY task a homesteader might not prepare for. Many customers have moved the labor of their 3000 support to third parties.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:08 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 31, 2018

SFTP and the points where transfers may fail

RFC-transfer-card-coverEarlier in August a 3000 manager who relies on the Stromasys virtualized 3000 was searching for failures. Well, he was asking about the causes for failures. He wanted to know more about failures of SFTP transfers on his MPE/iX system. (We'd call it a 3000 but there's no more HP iron there at Ray Legault's shop). He gave the rundown on the problems with MPE/iX.

We send about 40 files each day most of these in the early morning. Sometimes we would have zero to fives connection failures each morning. I noticed that these failures seem to occur when two SFTP jobs ran at the same minute. I then added a "JOBQ=FINLOG" to the job card of every SFTP job I had and set the job limit to 1. This was two weeks ago and we have not had a failure yet.

Brian Edminster, who still hosts open source software for MPE/iX, checked in to offer an answer to why those SFTP jobs were failing.

I'd be willing to bet that Ray's issue at Boeing with SFTP connect failures is due to the Entropy Generator running dry. Connections take lots of entropy data — and the one that comes 'out of the box' with the SFTP client doesn't generate very much without some modifications.

If you need to make more than one connection a minute (job limit 1), this modification will likely become necessary. Let me know if you'd like some pointers on how to do this. It will require some revisions to the SFTP software. The Entropy Gathering Daemon which Mark Klein's SFTP port uses is written in Perl. It is not terribly difficult to modify to include new data sources to "stir into the pool" that is drawn from by the SFTP client.

Edminster's website has an SFTP quickstart bundle of all packages required to install OpenSSH on MPE/iX including SFTP, scp, and keygen.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:28 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2018

Hear tips for MPE iron to protect and serve

Podcast: Ending the Reruns

Podcasts have become more popular than ever. We started recording and sharing stories about 3000s back in 2005 when blogs were just taking off along with the audio content that people think of as free. It's free to listeners, and the good companies sponsoring the NewsWire take care of the expenses. Thanks to the backing of firms like Pivital Solutions (support service) and Stromasys (emulation) and Hillary Software (file sharing software that's 3000-savvy) we can bring audio about MPE to you.

DDStapeI call it MPE Audio because it's told by voices, my own and those from experts in the field. Some of them gathered at this summer's 3000 Reunion. A chalk talk out there in the Bay Area, across the street from the former HP campus, examined what homesteaders need to succeed. In this case success is overcoming the age of HP's 3000 iron. And storage. And so on.

There's a new wrinkle in the watch-out category. Not that the old disks have started running more reliably. It's just that other media is a failure point too. DDS has gotten older, along with managers who know MPE. Companies are treasuring the latter. The former is turning into trash.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 PM in Homesteading, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 24, 2018

Kept Promises for Open Source on MPE/iX

OpensourceOpen source software developed a reputation for keeping HP 3000s online and productive, even in the face of industry requirement changes and new government regulations. Applied Technologies founder Brian Edminster has shared reports of a 3000 installation processing Point of Sale transactions, a customer which faced new PCI compliance demands. He was tasked with finding a solution to the new credit card compliance rules late in one December — with a January deadline.

“What we were struggling with was not that uncommon,” he explained. “The solution of choice was a version of the package OpenSSH, an open source implementation of a secure shell.”

OpenSSH offers publicly exchanged authentication, encrypted communication for secure file transfers, a secure shell command line, port forwarding. “It’s amazing how much you get," Edminster said, "and it’s available for many operating systems.” He's got a website devoted to the open source tools for the 3000.

At first, none of those operating system implementations included MPE/iX. OpenSSH requires a shell for the MPE/iX version; it doesn’t run at the MPE command line. But it’s been ported using OpenSSL for the HP 3000 and Perl/iX, both available from Edminster's MPE open source website.  Perl, another open source tool, “was designed for portability across platforms, and it works nicely,” he said.

OpenSSH protects from “man in the middle” security attacks by using DNS resolution, another open source utility wired into MPE/iX. Edminster recommended “the definitive guide to OpenSSH, commonly known as ‘the snail book’ from O’Reilly Press, Second Edition.”

That 3000 site where Edminster was working on POS security requirements had enabled DNS resolution across its enterprise — so Edminster was able to use a handy MPE/iX script called DNSCHECK. It’s a beautiful piece of scripting that checks, step by step, all the things necessary for name resolution to work on an HP 3000.

OpenSSH uses cryptological software to pad out blocks of data which are being transferred. The HP 3000’s random number generation routines are “not so good” for this, Edminster explained. Random number routines must have a much longer cycle length of repeats than MPE/iX provides. MPE has no random number generation built into its kernel, unlike other operating environments.

The solution is “the Entropy Gathering Daemon, which is already packaged up by Ken Hirsh with his port of OpenSSH,” Edminster reported.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:14 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2018

Wayback: 3000s boot mainframes out of HP

Heart Story 1996
In the summer months of 1996, HP was plugging 3000s in where mainframes were serving. Jim Murphy, program manager for the mainframe replacement project, told the 3000 community that IBM mainframes from 30 years earlier were getting the boot because HP was building servers better than the Big Blue iron.

The company was finally using 3000s to do the work they were built to do. An order fulfillment system called Heart was driving every sales fulfillment. Payroll for HP in North America was also performed using MPE/iX.

1996 was a hard year for the 3000 in some places. The spots where HP's reps felt that only a Unix solution — mistakenly called an open system — would win a sale were no-3000 zones. As a separate division, GSY's 9000 group never wanted to give any ground to HP's commercial computer line. At times, 3000 sites would be encouraged to get a open computer from HP. Plenty of the mainframe replacement in HP involved HP-UX systems.

By the time the August 1996 conference gathered in Anaheim, California, Murphy had a paper in the Interex '96 proceedings. HP IT Program to Eliminate Mainframes explained to a conference full of 3000 owners and managers that it was all HP systems inside the corporate data center by May 17, 1996. The 3000 was a key element in HP's modernization.

The role of the HP 3000 in HP's mainframe elimination process is important from two perspectives. First, as the number of data centers within HP rose, the reliance on IBM-style mainframes did not: the HP 3000s carried a fair amount of the increasing processing loads. Second, as IT began rewriting IBM-based COBOL applications for the 3000 platform, many of the re-writes included moving to client/server architectures. This meant HP IT was becoming familiar with client/server as early as the late 1980s.

The paper is archived at the OpenMPE website.

The Anaheim conference was notable for another big announcement. The World's Largest Poster was unfurled in the winds of a nearby high school's football field. "MPE Kicks Butt" was the slogan on those acres of paper. Inside the HP IT datacenter, the 3000 had kicked sand into the face of some of the company's most critical mainframe systems.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2018

Following Job Lines in Emulated 3000 Life

The Stromasys Charon software is a fact of life in the homesteading community by this year, after almost six years of field service. Lately the emulator users have been offering insights on how they're using their servers.

It's a lot like any HP 3000 has been used for the last 44 years, in some ways. Transferring files. Queueing up jobs. A few of the emulators shared their advisories not long ago.

Ray Legault at Boeing talked about his experiences with file transfers, especially an SFTP client and the SFTP "Connection refused" errors. As the Charon developers like to say, if the MPE/iX software behaves the same on the emulator as it does on 3000 hardware, even if MPE registers an error, then Charon is doing its faithful emulation job.

"We are running on a Stromasys Charon A500-200 and a A500-100 virtual machine which executes on a HP ProLiant DL 380 Gen8 3.59 GHZ CPU, with 6 cores and 64 gig of memory," Legault said.

We send about 40 files each day most of these in the early morning. Sometimes we would have zero to fives connection failures each morning. I noticed that these failures seem to occur when two SFTP jobs ran at the same minute. I then added a "JOBQ=FINLOG" to the job card of every SFTP job I had and set the job limit to 1. This was two weeks ago and we have not had a failure yet.

Another emulator user, Tony Summers of Smith & Williamson in the UK, shared queueing advice and a massive job checker (HOWMANY) that's working well for him.

"Even though we've migrated to an MPE emulator," Summers said, "we use job queues all the time so that jobs that need to run 24/7 don't bed-block the system job queue."
The alternative we've also used to create a UDC or command file that limits the number of instances of any job - example below (which partly uses a link to Posix /Unix using the SH command)

If you are looking at the sFTP failures, have you checked that the FTP server is configured to allow multiple connections?

parm OK_NUMBER_of_JOBS=""

# HOWMANY is a command file to determine how many Jobs or Sessions are
# running with the same logon attributes as the calling Job or Session.
# An optional parameter can be passed to set the allowed number of running
# Jobs or Sessions with the same logon attributes.
# Example 1: Passing the number of 'allowed' Jobs / Sessions.
#    :HOWMANY 1
# If a job logs on and issues the HOWMANY command above, HOWMANY will check
# how many Jobs are running with the same logon attributes. The '1' tells
# HOWMANY that only '1' job should be running. Therefore, if HOWMANY
# determines that more than '1' is running, it will cause the calling Job
# to log off.
# Example 2:
# On it's own, HOWMANY will return a variable to the calling Job or Session
# called HOWMANY_THIS_USER that will be set to the number of EXECuting
# Jobs or Sessions with the same logon attributes.
# Example 3:
# If you want to see how many Jobs or Sessions are running for another
# User Id (not the calling Job or Session), then you can pass this as a
# parameter...
#    :HOWMANY T990
# Or
#    :HOWMANY "T990,ALL.SWIMS"    <--Quotes required
# You cannot log another Job or Session off with this command



if HOWMANY_INPUT <> "" then
  if HOWMANY_INPUT > "A" then
     setvar HOWMANY_USER ups("!HOWMANY_INPUT")
     if pos(",","!HOWMANY_USER") = 0 then
        setvar HOWMANY_USER2 "!HOWMANY_USER,@[email protected]"
        setvar HOWMANY_USER2 "!HOWMANY_USER"
     setvar HOWMANY_ALLOWED 9999
  # Set to unlimited
  setvar HOWMANY_ALLOWED 9999

purge [email protected],temp;noconfirm >$null
build HWMNFILE;REC=-1,,B,ASCII;temp
file  HWMNFILE,oldtemp;dev=disc

#  next line links to the unix / posix shell

setvar HOWMANY_THIS_USER ![finfo("HWMNFLE2","EOF")]

if HPJOBTYPE = "S" then
  if HOWMANY_THIS_USER = 1 then
     setvar HM_IS_ARE "is"
     setvar HM_TYPE "SESSION"
     setvar HM_IS_ARE "are"
     setvar HM_TYPE "SESSIONS"
  if HOWMANY_THIS_USER = 1 then
     setvar HM_IS_ARE "is"
     setvar HM_TYPE "JOB"
     setvar HM_IS_ARE "are"
     setvar HM_TYPE "JOBS"

echo There !HM_IS_ARE !HOWMANY_THIS_USER !HM_TYPE running for UserId: !HOWMANY_U

if OK_NUMBER_of_JOBS <> "" then
     echo *****************************************************************
     echo Too many !HM_TYPE with this User Id running. Will now log you off
     echo *****************************************************************
     tellop HOWMANY is logging !HOWMANY_THIS_USER off
     if HPJOBTYPE = "S" then
        echo Will now log your Session off
        echo This Job will now log off

purge [email protected],temp;noconfirm > $null

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:17 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 17, 2018

Nike Arrays 101

Hard-DriveJust a few weeks ago, a 3000 manager using an A-Class server checked in on how he might connect the SC-10 arrays from Hewlett-Packard to his A500. As a West Coast service provider carried the manager toward that hardware (it can be done) it seems like a good time to review the use of storage arrays with MPE/iX systems.

Our founding net.digest editor John Burke covered this ground in the years after HP announced it was cutting off its 3000 operations. While the HP label is still anathema to some, the hardware prices are sometimes too compelling. Here's Nike Arrays 101, advice still worthy on the day you're moving around arrays connected to a 3000.

By John Burke
Newswire Classic

Many 3000 homesteaders are picking up used HP Nike Model 20 disk arrays. The interest comes from the fact that there is a glut of these devices on the market — meaning they are inexpensive — and they work with older models of HP 3000s. However, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about how and when to use them. For example, one company posted the following to 3000-L:

We’re upgrading from a Model 10 to a Model 20 Nike array. I’m in the middle of deciding whether to keep it in hardware RAID configuration or to switch to MPE/iX mirroring, since I can now do it on the system volume set. It wasn’t in place when the system was first bought, so we stayed with the Nike hardware RAID. We’re considering the performance issue of keeping it Nike hardware RAID versus the safety of MPE Mirroring. You can use the 2nd Fast-Wide card on the array when using MPE mirroring, but you can’t when using Model 20 hardware RAID.

So, with hardware RAID, you have to consider the single point of failure of the controller card. If we ‘split the bus’ on the array mechanism into two separate groups of drives, and then connect a separate controller to the other half of the bus, you can’t have the hardware mirrored drive on the other controller. It must be on the same path as the ‘master’ drive because MPE sees them as a single device.

Using software mirroring you can do this because both drives are independently configured in MPE. Software mirroring adds overhead to the CPU, but it’s a tradeoff you have to decide to make. We are evaluating the options, looking for the best (in our situation) combination of efficiency, performance, fault tolerance and cost.

First of all, as a number of people pointed out, Mirrored Disk/iX does not support mirroring of the System Volume Set – never did and never will. Secondly, you most certainly can use a second FWSCSI card with a Model 20 attached to an HP 3000

Bob J. elaborated on the second controller. 

All of the drives are accessible from either controller but of course via different addresses. Your installer should set the DEFAULT ownership of drives to each controller. To improve throughput, each controller should share the load. Only one controller is necessary to address all of the drives, but where MPE falls short is not having a mechanism for auto failover of a failing controller.

In other words, sysgen reconfiguration would be necessary to run on a single controller after SP failure in a dual SP configuration. You could have alternate configurations stored on your system to cover both cases of a single failing controller but the best solution is to get it fixed when it breaks. The best news is that SP failures are not very common.

There is a mechanism in MPE for ‘failover’ called HAFO - High Availability FailOver. Unfortunately for the original poster it is only supported with XP and VA arrays and not on Nike’s or AutoRAIDs (because it does not work with those).

Andrew Popay provided some personal experience.

We have seven Nike SP20 arrays, totaling 140 discs spread across all the arrays, using a combination of RAID 1 (for performance) and RAID 5 (for capacity). We use both SP’s on all arrays, with six arrays used over three systems (two per system). One of our systems has two arrays daisy-chained. The only failures we have suffered on any of the arrays have been due to a disc mechanism failing.

We never find any issues with the hardware raiding; in fact, as a lot of people have mentioned, hardware raiding is much more preferred to software raiding. Software raiding has several issues, system volume, performance, ease of use, etc. Hardware raiding is far more resilient.

As for anyone concerned about single points of failure, I would not worry too much about the Nike arrays, I would say they are almost bullet proof. For those who require a 24x7 system and can’t afford any downtime what so ever, maybe they should consider upgrading to an N-Class, with a VA or XP. Bottom line is SP20’s are sound arrays on the HP 3000s, easy to configure, setup and maintain.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:39 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2018

3000 users linking up, 10 years later

Harland Clarke DMS network
Ten years ago this month the LinkedIn group for HP 3000 users opened for communications. In a posting from August of 2008 we took note of 30 members in a new group devoted to a server that hadn't shipped a new unit in five years.

There's no more new servers today. But by now those 30 members have turned into 669 and growing. It's been a pleasure to curate the group (admit new members) over this decade and spark some conversations, too. A few weeks ago I asked what people were still doing with their HP 3000s. Some of the newer members are old hands at the server. Edwin Clements, who just became a group member this week, worked at Harland Clarke back in 2012 as a COBOL specialist.There's new resources in the group, too. Matt Barker, the CMO of Stromasys, is a group member. 

HP 3000s remain on duty in surprising places. That's the Harland Clarke disaster recovery design up there at the top of this post. A pair of HP 3000s were working in the direct marketing end of one of the world's largest check manufacturers.

The membership of the group is something special, since it's hand-tooled. Anyone can request a spot, but only the clear 3000 users and experienced vendors have a place there. A LinkedIn group is often overrun with careerists whose skills don't match the discussions. Almost 80 pending members are on the outside looking in. If your resume doesn't include MPE, you're probably not a member.

Lately the LinkedIn group has been identifying itself with stories of durability. Some members are continuing to work with the server. Others have experience waiting if the opportunity surfaces to use it. It's a good place to look for someone you might've lost touch with.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:58 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2018

Licensed MPE source solves OS mysteries

Rathbone-holmesIn early 2028 I’ll be 70, and some MPE/iX apps could be 40 years old. I can hope retirement is in my rangefinder by then, but at the moment it looks like I’ll be writing until I can’t make sentences anymore. (Gotta remember, first noun, then verb.)

Well before that year, though, the roadblock of 3000-MPE date handling will be cleared. The companies most likely to have a comprehensive workaround are the ones which have licensed MPE/iX source. Or, the companies which are allied with the source licensees. Fixing the use of the CALENDAR intrinsic doesn't need to be a source-level repair. Having source access, though, only makes the fix more robust.

The 3000 owners and managers are all about robust. That's why they're still making use of a computer the vendor hasn't sold since 2003. Many of the companies who don't self-maintain are relying on support services now working more than seven years since HP left that support business, too.

The established independent support companies will be glad to collect money for building a 2028 solution, customer-by-customer. They should be paid. There are some IT managers out there in the 3000 world who see leaving their existing systems in a future-proof state, software-wise, as part of their job whenever they get to retire. Those are the real Boy Scouts, I’d say. On the other hand, you will hear arguments they’re not doing their jobs by leaving their companies running MPE/iX, even today.

The heart wants what it wants, though. If a company hasn't got heart for a migration right now, then the adminstrative work to be done is preparing for a forever journey for MPE/iX. Or at least until I'm 80, when the Unix 2038 roadblock appears.

Nobody should be building a 2028 fix unless they’re going to be paid. This issue is important to the Stromasys customer base. Not all: some Charon 3000 emulator installations are holding a place for a migration that's underway.

The community's elders care about the future. So long as the old managers can get a new expenditure approved, the game's afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2018

HPCALENDAR joins 3000 intrinsics hits

Newswire Classic

Greatest-HitsTwenty years ago HP took steps forward, into the realm beyond 2028, when it released a set of COBOL-related MPE/iX intrinsics. The community is now looking into the next decade and seeing a possibility of hurdling the Dec. 31, 2027 date handling roadblock. In this Inside COBOL column from the late 1990s, Shawn Gordon took readers on a quick tour of the new intrinsics — new to 1998, at least — that would make the 3000 easier to program for the future. He even wrote a sample program employing the improved data handling.

In 2018 the information might seem more history lesson than operational instruction guide. But when a long-running mission critical app needs repairs, knowing the full set of date capabilities might help. Gordon even mentions that using the official intrinsics will help maintain programs written 20 years earlier. Enough time has passed by now that any new programs at the time of the article would be 20 years old.

3000 managers have always had a sharp focus on coding for long life of applications. 

By Shawn Gordon

Since Year 2000 is rapidly approaching, I'll review the date intrinsics that HP gave us in MPE/iX 5.5 starting with PowerPatch 4.

As I've done a lot of Y2K consulting it seems everyone has written their own date routines. Most I have seen will break by Y2K. My goal in my consulting was to implement an HP-supplied solution, making it easier to support YYMMDD as well as YYYYMMDD date functions during the conversion process.

My only negative comment about these intrinsics is that I wish they had been created with the introduction of the Spectrum series of HP 3000s (PA-RISC systems). I could have used them then, too.

Six new intrinsics are available. All of the parameters for all new intrinsics are now 32-bit. This means they will work for as long as anyone reading this will ever care. I feel it’s important to standardize on these new HP-supplied intrinsics. They will make it a lot safer than trying to maintain some piece of code that was probably written 20 years ago. With code that old, it’s likely that nobody remembers how it works.

Here’s the lineup of intrinsics:

1. HPDATECONVERT: converts dates from one supported format to another 
2. HPDATEFORMAT: converts a date into a display type (I usually use this instead of HPDATECONVERT)
3. HPDATEDIFF: returns the number of days between to given dates 
4. HPDATEOFFSET: returns a date that is plus or minus the number of days from the source date
5. HPDATEVALIDATE: verifies that the date conforms to a supported date format

There are a couple of things you should be sure to do correctly when using these intrinsics. HP’s documentation shows that some parameters on some intrinsics need to be passed by value (see my examples in Figure 1 with DATE-CODE, DAYS-DIFF and DATE-CUTOFF). You do this by putting the \ backward slashes around the variable name.

The other thing that can be confusing is the DATE-CUTOFF. This defines a “split” year. If anything is below this value, it will be translated to the next century. In other words, if the value of DATE-CUTOFF is 50, and you are using a 2 digit year of 00..49, then it will be resolved as 2000..2049, and those in the range of 50..99 will be 1950..1999.

If you use a value of -1, then the intrinsic will pick up the value of the predefined system variable HPSPLITYEAR. This method lets you control the value outside of your program, so I use a DATE-CUTOFF of -1 to stay modular.

The other thing to note is DATE-CODE, which indicates the style of the date that you are working with. I am using 15 because it works with both YYMMDD and YYYYMMDD format.

I’m including some code examples below for the variable declarations, as well as results of running the program MYDATE which uses the functions. 

01 DATE-CODE            PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE 15.
01 DATE-RESULT          PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE 0.
  03 S-INFO            PIC S9(4)  COMP VALUE 0.
  03 S-SUBSYS          PIC S9(4)  COMP VALUE 0.
01 DATE-CUTOFF          PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE -1.
01 FORMAT-LEN           PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE 20.
01 FROM-DATE            PIC 9(8)   COMP.
01 THRU-DATE            PIC 9(8)   COMP.
01 DAYS-DIFF            PIC S9(9)  COMP.
01 FORMAT-TYPE          PIC X(20).

      IF S-INFO <> 0
         DISPLAY "Error in HPDATEFORMAT".

      IF S-INFO <> 0
        DISPLAY "Error in HPDATEDIFF".

      IF S-INFO <> 0
        DISPLAY "Error in HPDATEOFFSET".

                                       GIVING DATE-RESULT.
      IF S-INFO <> 0


Enter date in YYMMDD or YYYYMMDD format: 19980317
Enter date format string: MM/DD/YY
Formatted date is 03/17/98
Julian date is 01998076

Enter From date: 19980101
Enter Thru date: 19980501
Number of days = +000000120

Enter start date: 19980801
Enter day offset: -31
New date is 19980701

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:35 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2018

Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world

Penguin-shorelineThe Newswire's articles can sometimes be evergreen, even in the hottest months of the year. This week we got an email about a 2001 article that introduced Linux to our readers. A companion to the article from 17 years ago, A Beginners Guide to Linux, includes one outdated link, along with timeless advice.

Linux was already a juggernaut on corporate IT whiteboards and it had a strong following in the field, too. Shawn Gordon wrote a pair of columns about Linux as a 101 course for 3000 experts. The first article was published in the first weeks after HP's exit announcement about the 3000 business. Gordon, who founded a software company built around Linux applications, connected the dots.

To be honest, you can go another seven years quite easily with your existing 3000 system, which is a long time for a system these days. But if you were looking for a change anyway, now is the time. So what does this all have to do with Linux?

Linux seems to be the great equalizer. It runs on watches, set-top boxes, PDAs, Intel chips, PowerPC chips in Macs and IBM systems, Itanium chips, IBM mainframes — the list goes on and on. IBM and HP both are moving their customers towards it, and IBM has done some fantastic work helping Linux on scalability.

In our HP 3000 space we mostly know the players and we are comfortable where we are. Jumping over to Linux required that I learn a lot about things I never cared about before — like the GPL, GNU, Linux, RMS, ESR, and other things that I will explain in a bit. One of the bits that has been floating around a lot on the various 3000 discussion lists is Linux.

The update for the two-part article comes from a company that has a free Linux education website. Alex Nordeen, Editor of, hopes to get your web visits.

The tutorial is for an "absolute beginner's guide to Linux. You don't even have to buy a new PC to learn Linux. You can run Linux, right within your existing Windows or Mac OS systems! (Detailed steps are given in tutorials)."

Nordeen says of the second part of the article series, "In one article, you mentioned and linked to However, that site has been pulled out. And it's unclear that the page is going to be available again."

We recently created tutorials on Linux that took 190+ hours to create with beautifully annotated screenshots and videos. They are very comprehensive.

The tutorials are created by a Google veteran and I have personally edited them. The course covers

• Linux Basics like Introduction, Linux Distributions and Installation, Commands, and File Permissions.
• Redirection, Regular Expressions, Commands, and Communication in Linux.
• We also touch on advanced topics like Environment Variables, Managing Processes, VI Editor, Shell Scripting, Virtual Terminal, and Linux Administration.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2018

E-commerce keeps making sales on 3000s

E-commerceDespite having both hardware and application vendor deserting them, companies who chose the Ecometry e-commerce software to run on HP 3000s keep making sales. Fluent Edge Technologies has served Ecometry sites for more than 20 years. Cliff Looyenga checked in on the LinkedIn HP 3000 group to mention that five or six companies in his client list continue to use MPE/iX for Ecometry.

"Ecometry is currently owned by JDA," Looyenga said. "They no longer provide any support for the HP 3000 version. They don't even advertise the current Windows version. In my opinion, Ecometry is dying a slow death."

"On the positive side," he added, "they are still enhancing and collecting support revenues for the Windows version. For users of the HP 3000 version, support comes from ourselves, Snapshot Design, Hire Experience, and Odin Technologies."

Here's the best part of the report. "We have continued to see support demand decrease," he said, "as more clients are moving off Ecometry altogether and going with other vendor solutions."

The fate of the 3000-using companies has had many seasons since 2001. Losing the vendor's support for hardware, for MPE/iX, for applications: these are events that trigger opportunities for replacement expertise. There are four suppliers of Ecometry support today, more than 16 years after HP declared the 3000's ecosystem doomed.

"I still have clients running on the HP 3000," Looyenga said. "One of them is running the Charon emulation software. None are planning to get off anytime soon."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:10 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 03, 2018

2028 calendar changes to hit MPE, not 3000

The coming change for HP 3000 date-keeping is a product of the computer's operating system. The hardware will run as it always has, no matter how far ahead calendars and dates reach into the future. Even into the year 2028 and beyond. For some users, they're heard about this as the "2027 problem."

The CALENDAR problem is in the OS, not the hardware. The old intrinsic was only built to record accurate dates until the end of 2027. Any resolution will involve work within applications' use of intrinsics, among other software revisions. Replacing CALENDAR with HPCALENDAR is part of the solution. Charon sites will have to prepare for it too, because they are running faithful virtualizations of the PA-RISC hardware — and use MPE/iX

Hardware vs. software in 2028 is a common misunderstanding in the 3000 community. Everyone figures the Hewlett-Packard 3000 hardware, pushing 20-25 years in service in most places even today, won't be able to keep up. It's not the PA-RISC chips that will make a mistake identifying the correct year, though. It's MPE/iX.

There's a way around this aging software intrinsic: replacement. HP built a perfectly serviceable improvement of calendar intrinsics, HPCALENDAR, when it became obvious the 3000 community was going to go well past the Year 2000. HPCALENDAR isn't wired into the OS's roots, though. SHOWTIME, for example, is always going to report an incorrect year starting the first day of 2028.

Applications that can be revised to use HPCALENDAR will stream jobs on correct dates. Native job-streaming service in MPE/iX will work if a command uses a request such as "three days from now." In general, the more closely a piece of MPE/iX software relies on CALENDAR, the less likely it will be to deliver accurate dates starting in 2028.

Source code revision will be the most direct solution in some cases. Support companies are assembling certification services for Year 2028 operations. It's a place the 3000 community has worked through before now. We all remember how Y2K didn't halt 3000s. Developers, vendors, and support experts all say that 2028 is nothing as serious as Y2K was — so long as customers are aware of it and prepare.

We put together an FAQ about 2028 last year after vendors and users starting talking about the CALENDAR impact. It's worth a look and perhaps a forward to your support team if their answers are "that's a 3000 thing with HP's hardware" or they don't know how the year 2027 will end for MPE/iX. In December of that year, dates that are supposed to be reported at 2028 will say 1900. There's a strategy to repair that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 01, 2018

Charon carries Boeing in new 3000 orbit

Pluto and its moons
Illustration by Melanie Demmer

A few years ago the world's astronomers kicked Pluto out of the list of planets. 3000 owners and managers might know how that feels. Pluto was a perfectly acceptable planet for 80 years, like the 3000 was a small yet notable server in HP's enterprise solar system.

Like the 3000, Pluto didn't change to trigger its exile from the list of nine planets. Astronomers started to revise their specs for being a planet. Pluto wasn't big enough and was too far away from the sun to get the dispensation Mercury gets. But this celestial object is still in orbit around that sun. It's a little like the MPE/iX apps that are running at Boeing. 

Pluto and CharonCharon is the largest moon of Pluto's, so big it shares a gravitational field with the planet. (No, wait, it's a dwarf planet, Pluto is.) Charon is so big, compared to Pluto's size, that the two objects face one another with the same aspect constantly. Charon is in tidal lock, as one scientist explains it. That moon reminds me of the Charon software that powers those apps at Boeing today. Its emulation of the 3000 keeps it in lock with the PA-RISC chips that continued the orbit of MPE/iX at the world's largest aircraft maker.

The fate of Pluto and its moons graces the pages of a new children's book, A Place for Pluto. The book is illustrated by Melanie Demmer and written by Stef Wade, both making their debut in kids lit. Pluto does find a place by the end of the book, but I won't give it away. I have a grandson and a granddaughter who will enjoy the book soon.

Those kids are close enough that I don't need any time spent sitting in a Boeing product to see them. While I pawed through recent messages from 3000 users and fans, though, I thought of being exiled and how there's a place for everybody if they keep working and looking.

"Boeing is going as virtual as possible," system administrator Ray Legault of Boeing wrote, "using X86 hosts with .net and Java coded applications where possible. The applications' owners are responsible for funding the re-writing or retiring or migrating of applications, not IT. They are looking into Pivotal Cloud foundry, which requires .net or java coded applications.

Legault said the virtual HP 3000, powered by Charon "will be gone within two years when the Finance organization migrates all Finance applications to 1SAP." That's the moment when the MPE/iX moon will fade from the horizon at Boeing. By that time, it will have been carried through the skies by Charon for more than five years. That's a longer MPE orbit than HP imagined. By 2020 and that last Finance transaction at Boeing, it will be 19 years since HP announced the end of its 3000 business.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:36 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2018

Ways to make SFTP serve to a 3000 system

Waiter-serviceEarlier this month a seasoned veteran of 3000 development asked how he could get SFTP service supported for his system. He's been managing a 3000 that's been ordered to employ file transfers that are more secure than FTP.

Secure FTP works well enough outbound, thanks to the OpenSSL software ported to the 3000 in WebWise. But incoming SFTP is tougher. Some say it's not possible, but that answer doesn't include any potential for a proxy server. Or a virtualized 3000.

Versions of OpenSSL that were ported to run on native MPE probably won’t satisfy an audit, nor do they have some of the current crypto capabilities that would satisfy things like PCI requirements. There are no developers signed up to continue the OpenSSL port project.

That leaves the proxy solution.

In this solution, a manager would set up a Linux SFTP server with two NICs. NIC 1 goes to the outside world. NIC 2 is a crossover to the HP 3000. From the HP 3000, SFTP to the Linux server via NIC 2.
In another scenario, you can FTP between the HP 3000 and a Linux virtual machine. One developer said that on the Linux VM "we have a small application that talks to the HP 3000 via FTP and forwards to and from other machines via SFTP or SSH." He added that the app on the Linux system is written in Java.
Migration often includes this kind of expertise. Charles Finley, a veteran of HP 3000 matters since the 1980s, recently raised his hand to offer notes on using an SSH tunnel. "It does not involve coding, the use of libraries and—although you can do it with Linux—does not necessarily involve Linux." He drew a link to an example employing a Windows host, adding that "we use Linux or Windows for this type of thing. Here's a description of how connect to an FTP/SFTP server which can be accessed via another server only, using PuTTY, "something we make use of a lot," Finley said.
There's also a simple way to use SFTP by employing Stromasys Charon. Other servers can SFTP to a Linux partition. Charon is hosted under Linux as it emulates the 3000 hardware. This hosted MPE server can then pick the files up internally.
Mark Klein, who bootstrapped the original GNU library for the 3000 that made all of its open source tools possible, says a requirement for the security of encryption could be satisfied with a secure link, rather than secure protocol.
See if you can negotiate with the auditors for an encrypted link instead of an encrypted protocol (tell them that the protocols on the 3000 itself can’t do what they are asking and suggest the alternative). Tell them that the SSL on the 3000 is older than 1.0.x and still won’t pass audit, even if you could make SFTP work.
These days, everything less than TLS1.1 is unacceptable.  The OpenSSL on the 3K can’t support that. I’m afraid you might get the SFTP requirement resolved only to then fail on the lack of TLS or the newer ciphers.  

It would be easier to leave the existing processes in place (they work) rather than exchange them for something that is unknown and then wrap that with accepted encryption. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:28 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2018

P9500 storage comes to N-Class 3000s

XP P9500 InteriorHP's storage for the 3000 was always a step later to arrive than on the Unix side of the business line. Sometimes a storage protocol like an SCSI bus was rated at half the speed of the HP-UX version, even though the technology was identical on the storage device. MPE/iX needed more stringent testing, the customers figured, to assure the world that the legendary 3000 reliability was intact.

Sometimes the delays in tech covered years, until at one point HP stopped all of its MPE/iX testing. That didn't mean the community quit innovating and integrating storage. Now the XP P9500 storage arrays have been proven to support N-Class servers, according to the reseller ThomasTech.

"It was a success," said global services director Chad Lester. "Our engineers have the HP3000 N-Class booting from the P9500."

The P9500 has a standards-based architecture, using X64 processor-based controllers, and a user-centric design plus application-level quality of service controls. HP claims the P9500 doubles power efficiency and holds the same amount of data as the XP24000 in half the floor space.

It's a new storage technology to the 3000 world, even if the basic design was first rolled out almost eight years ago. The tests at ThomasTech show that MPE/iX can be installed on the first LUN, according to engineer Larry Kaufman. The next steps are to be able to boot a system from that P9500.

Storage solutions have held the greatest promise for extending the life of HP-branded MPE/iX hardware. The XP24000 arrays, for example, have been a source of massive storage capacity that can be shared across a wide range of server environments. The XP support has marched onward for years. The P9500 can scale from five disk drives in a single cabinet to 2,048 drives in six industry standard, 19-inch racks. The P9500 tops out at less than half of the XP24000's theoretical limit of 2.26 petabytes, though. SSD and moving media are both supported.

And there's that word, petabytes, being associated with a server HP stopped building 15 years ago. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:59 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2018

Users' HELLOs echo back on 3000-L

Hello Screen

Just a bit more than a week ago the airwaves were quiet around the 3000-L mailing list. It had been more than a month without a message. 3000-L used to have thousands of messages a month. Those were the days when the 3000 Renaissance was mounting and a mailing list was a very special vehicle.

The numbers have fallen since the late 1990s, but this week it's not "too quiet, Sarge" in the cybersphere. (Is it a sign of age that I still use a word like cybersphere?) Right away after our "Hello out there" message, more than a few readers and resources from the L checked in, saying their HELLO back. Some shared news.

To be sure, one of the messages was about an impending retirement. Jim Gerber is leaving the 3000 behind on Tuesday of next week. "It's been a great ride from the Model III to the N-series," wrote the software engineer at Quest Diagnostics. There's a billing system at Quest, a corporation traded on the NYSE that had $7.7 billion in revenues last year. Rising sales, too.

TE Connectivity's Terry Simpkins checked in to say the 3000s were still running at the operation with manufacturing sites all over China. The future of MANMAN there is far from certain. Simpkins said he felt like "the countdown is running" since the acquisition of Measurement Specialties by TE awhile ago.

There was also a message from Ray Legault at Boeing. The world's biggest aircraft manufacturer still has MPE/iX software at work, since Legault's signature is still "EWH ESX Middleware Hosting HP3000 & AIX backup Support." Legault said he's doing well.

Then there were the messages from the people we're all certain are never leaving the 3000. Alfredo Rego raised his hand to be counted.

"The members of the Adager Support Team actively monitor HP3000-L," Rego said. "We directly support many Adager customers worldwide and, in addition, we are always pleased to hear from HP 3000 users, whether Adager customers or not."

That was the moment for the only wisecrack, when Denys Beauchemin asked how anybody could actively support something that is dormant. Maybe not so dormant, Denys, in the places where there's aircraft being built, medical tests administered around the world, or sensors manufactured in facilities around the world.

Does the 3000-L get quiet because nobody's around, or because everybody is in listening mode, waiting to help? Back in those thousands of messages months, the L was full of noise about elections, guns, and other germs of life. It's got none of that noise now. We're still reading it, just like we've done since the 1990s. The NewsWire owes a lot to the wisdom shared by 3000-L users.



Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:55 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2018

July's IA-64 news, delivered by the Sandman

IA-64 Sequel t-shirt copy
Twenty years ago this month the 3000 community got its biggest assurance of a long future. The system's lab manager said that the IA-64 architecture would be fully supported in future 3000 models. New compilers would be built for a new MPE/iX. Channel partners and resellers got the news from the labs two months earlier at a swell retreat.

The man delivering the news for that July article is a familiar name with 3000 customers. He was Winston Prather, head of R&D at the time—and three years later, the person who decided the 3000 community didn't need the computer. A weak ecosystem was supposedly the reason Prather could be the Sandman and help put HP's MPE/iX business to sleep.

Three summers earlier, all the news we could report in the NewsWire was good. 

"The 3000 customers who experienced the move from Classic to MPE/XL know exactly what they’ll be looking at as they move forward,” Prather said. “One thing that makes me feel good about it is that it’s something we’ve done before. I think we pulled it off pretty successfully, and we learned quite a bit. We’ll use some of the same learning and techniques as we move to the new architecture."

Prather said that by early in the 2000s, 3000 customers would be able to buy and use an operating system to run with both PA-RISC and IA-64 processors,  "Customers who need the additional performance of IA-64 will then be able to buy IA-64 processor boards to plug into HP 3000 processor slots on the new systems." It was an audacious design. HP bragged of the bold move.

“Prior to the IA-64 boards or chips," Prather said, "there will be complete new boxes available at the high end and the midrange, and then potentially at the low end.” The new 3000s would use new IO systems, giving customers a way to step into new hardware technology incrementally. The IO arrived, late out of those labs, in the form of new PCI bus architecture. IA-64 on MPE was put to sleep.

Watching the whiplash as HP first promised a future, pre-Y2K, then took away the hope of 3000 site, in 2001, baffled a lot of us. The system deserved a big tech investment. Then it didn't.

The 1998 IA-64 report sounded very real, much more so than the announcement from Prather's 3000 leadership in late 2001. HP's MPE futures were going dark. In 1998 there was even an admission that some "forking" of the operating system — a la MPE V and MPE XL — would have to take place.

Although CSY is working to delay it, a time will come in the next decade when there will be two versions of MPE/iX, one for the PA-RISC systems and one for the IA-64 boxes. Customers work in such an environment today if they support Classic (CISC) HP 3000s running MPE V alongside MPE/iX.

HP has already been working on bringing 64-bit features such as large memory space and large files to MPE/iX long before IA-64 is ready for the 3000. The technical discussions taking place over the last year inside CSY include methods to keep from dividing MPE/iX into two camps.

“We don’t want to fork the operating system,” Prather said. “We have had internal debates about how we could provide all of this new functionality, the 64-bitness, and in the future avoid forking the operating system. We have a strong desire to avoid that. I’m not sure we’ll be able to avoid it forever.”

The departure of HP from MPE/iX futures is a fact that changed thousands of careers. Now the future demanded costly migrations for many firms. Everyone could be forgiven for being flummoxed by the leadership flame out, considering how certain the 3000 lab leader sounded in 1998 about building for the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:22 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2018

3000 mailing list now quiet for a month

1725A Oscilloscope
The last recorded message on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup was posted on June 12. The five weeks of radio silence is the longest this information asset has weathered. The quiet isn't due to technical difficulties. A test message passed through the receiver and was broadcast to members earlier today.

The L, as it's been called informally by the community for more than two decades, has become a lean vehicle for technical expertise. It was once so full of chaff the community insisted on Off Topic handles, but an [OT] message has been virtually eliminated. The archives of tech wisdom — a big reason I believed the NewsWire had a chance at first — are still online, for now.

Some of the latest questions have been sharply on point for the HP 3000. Charles Johnson of Surety Systems asked last month how to program "a handheld PSC 6000 Plus bar code scanner installed as a wedge between a HP 700/92 terminal and a keyboard, all hosted on a Series 969SX."

In less than 10 minutes, Stan Sieler pointed Johnson at a programming manual for the device. Within the hour, another 3000 guru, Michael Anderson of J3K Solutions replied back. That's Johnson to Sieler to Anderson, if you're scoring at home, all within 45 minutes of posting the question. 

There's no problem with the concept of posting a question to a mailing list and waiting for a reply when the list is as well vetted as 3000-L. In the case of the scanner issue, of course, all three posters are already working as third party experts in MPE/iX systems: Surety to Allegro to J3K. There have been tech exchanges this spring where information flowed from one IT manager to another. That kind of list discourse is becoming more rare.

Sieler, who's done some pinch hitting for listserver administration in the years since list founder Jeff Kell died, has been in contact with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The UTC campus hosts the server that holds this longest and deepest chunk of HP 3000 history, and Sieler has the contents archived.

Without Kell at the helm of the listservs at UTC, 3000-L is on autopilot. There's no one there to take non-automated requests. The community is at least aware that its greatest historical resource has an undetermined future. "It may only be a matter of time," said Tracy Johnson a few weeks ago, "before some before someone in IT management at UTC does an upgrade, migrates, or pulls the plug, and we're left in the dark."  

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:31 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2018

Fine-Tune: Resetting your LDEV 21 Console

I have a 959 system at my site and there are times when I can't get the remote console port on LDEV 21 to work. How do I troubleshoot this problem and reset the console port? 

1. Is the port configured and available?

a) Check to be sure the system recognizes the port

:showdev 21

     21     AVAIL

b) Is the SYSGEN configuration okay? 

:sysgen  sysgen>io
io> ld 21

RSIZE:        40   DEVTYPE: TERM
**PATH: 56/56.1   MPETYPE: 16   MPESUBTYPE:  0

c) Is the User Port configured in NMMGR?

then ...


Logical Device [21  ]  (1 - 1800)
Line Speed [2400  ]  (300, 1200, 9600, or 19200 bps)
Modem Type [1] (0-NONE, 1-US, 2-European, 3 - V22.bis)
Parity [NONE] (None, Even, Odd, 0's, or 1's)

2. Is the access port enabled, configured correctly and unlocked? On the local console type in CTRL-B to get the CM> prompt. The REMOTE settings are displayed at the bottom of the console screen.

a) Check/Change the configuration

cm> CA
Bit rate:               2400 bits/sec
Protocol:               Bell
System identification:

b) Enable Remote

cm> ER

c) Unlock Remote and raise the DTR signal on the modem

cm> U

d) Go back to command mode (:).

cm> CO

3. If you still cannot dial into the remote console, there are two utilities in sysdiag you can try.  Modmutil will do a self test on the modem, and consolan will reset the port.

a) To test the modem:

dui> modmutil
mu> diag
diag> autotest
diag> exit
mu> exit

b) To reset the modem

dui> CONSOLAN pdev=nn/nn section=2(23)

Continue? YES
Reset local/remote?  REMOTE

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:08 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2018

Holding on to 3000 data: this might work

As much as companies want to step away from legacy data systems, some are forced to make historical vaults of financials, customer profiles, inventory and much more. The HP 3000's current populace is full of this kind of work — knowing the answers to "what happened back then?" or maybe "how much credit did we extend to that company?"

Those questions sometimes mean that a computer that hasn't seen a new model since 2001, and an operating system that got its last update a decade ago, remains in charge of crucial data. Companies trying to hold onto the data face a few problems. They fall into two categories, hardware and software. (I know, that's almost everything, unless you consider networks to be another aspect.)

On the hardware side, getting elderly magnetic media to respond reliably will be a bigger problem with every passing day that a tape needs to slide across a drive head. It's not so much the tape itself, said Stan Sieler. It's the drives. Fewer and fewer people know how to repair the ones out there, too.

Tape was used as a backup for so long it's not natural to imagine disc playing a better role. But it does today. Your HP 3000 might need a System Load Tape one day for recovery purposes. When the SLT you've carefully preserved cannot be read by any tape drive, that mean be a hard stop for your historic HP 3000. Sieler suggested that an image of a 3000's startup volume, captured and stored on another disk, could do the same thing as an SLT reload. The 3000 would have to be fully quiesced to get the best image. But if it was not, the disc image could still work; it would just require an immediate reboot of the 3000. 

Those are circumstances that a historic records 3000 could withstand. A transaction processing system is harder to quiesce. The world still has 3000s processing transactions today, and for a long time to come.

Query Google about how to capture a disk image of a 3000's startup volume. Better yet, reach out to the 3000 support company for your datacenter. If you don't have one, here's an opportunity to correct that oversight. Reach out and get the assurance you need that your 3000's ability to report history will remain strong and clear. Do it before you're forced to find out the old tape drives won't read what you need to keep that server on duty.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2018

Local advice guided bets for 3000 users

Interex Playing CardAt this summer's 3000 Reunion, close to two dozen friends and colleagues broke bread, watched video, asked questions and listened to advice. There was a local flavor to the visitor's register. There was also experience shared about what bets to avoid if you're homesteading.

Steve Cooper and Stan Sieler of Allegro were on hand, sharing advice and 1987 Interex playing cards (that was Stan, still a magician after many years, passing out a pack as he ducked into the meeting). Vicky Shoemaker of Taurus Software came in from Palo Alto, and Orly Larson drove five minutes from his Sunnyvale home. Tom McNeal was also local to the event, and Linda Roatch (managing newspaper servers at the San Jose Mercury News) was part of the contingent on the Orly Larson pre-conference night.

Everyone else at the meeting and the tour of the Apple Park HQ next door was an out of towner. Some were way out of town, from England or Toronto. Traveling used to be a part of the 3000 community experience, in the era before FaceTime, Skype, and texting. We once needed to be near one another to learn something or to share a joke.

Local storage, though, was discouraged in advice during that afternoon. In this case nothing could be more local than internal devices. Under the topic of Eliminating Single Points of Failure, users were advised to get rid of the single points of failure of internal peripherals for their HP 3000s. Be redundant. DDS tape drives and disk drives are better off outside of the 3000's cabinets. To be honest, tape media of any kind "is the bane of my existence," said Ralph Bagen of the MPE Support Group.

If you're using storage that was built in the last century, the advice went, you need to move to devices at least built in 2001 or later. You'll still need a tape to create an SLT, but just about anything on magnetic media is a problem waiting to happen. All hail cloud backup, or better yet, backups to Intel-based servers. Those might be servers hosting a virtual HP 3000 by employing Stromasys Charon. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:16 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 02, 2018

Measuring the Miles to Homesteading's End

In Cupertino at this summer's 3000 Reunion, the attendees who flocked to the flocked-wallpaper pub room on a Saturday read a roadmap to continued use of MPE/iX. The advice was wrapped around hardware because Ralph Bagen delivered the goods. He runs the MPE Support Group and talked about backups and redundancy and more.

The issues in that talk covered about 12 slides and twice as many minutes. Toward the end, the talk turned to comments about the hardware alternative to HP Virtual Arrays, PA-RISC hardware and the like. Charon came up. Hands went up in the room from the vendors and experts who had the Stromasys product among their customer bases. Vicky Shoemaker at Taurus Software, Steve Cooper at Allegro, plus Bagen and a few more. Not bad for a meeting of less than two dozen 3000 fans.

HP-labeled hardware is always going to have its terminus, because they're not building 3000s anymore. The peripherals will see their finale, too. It could well turn out that the Charon solution will be the only route that runs into the end of the 2020s, and maybe beyond. They keep making faster Intel hardware.

We learned that the remaining MPE/iX customers show up in places where change has been slow to invisible. At least it's invisible to the customers of ecommerce and mail order providers running the Ecometry software. The 3000's OS is durable, more so than its hardware. Those who remain have sometimes surprising budgets to maintain a proven system.

Issues are on the horizon for server performance. That's to say that an MPE/iX platform which needs to keep up with growth is going to need better horsepower to drive a virtualized 3000. HP keeps introducing ProLiant systems each faster and a better value than the last. Throw enough hardware at performance and, as always, the time to process the data goes down. 

Charon works, and it's a good product, Bagen said. So long as a customer can push enough hardware at a virtualized solution (see above) the range of suitability is broad. That makes the number of miles of homesteading different for the sites not locked into HP's hardware. The PA-RISC servers will never get faster, especially if a site is already at the top of the N-Class line.

The mileage will get better, even for companies with a lot of data to move down the road, in many virtualized worlds.

We're taking July 4 off here to celebrate our nation's independence. In a smaller way we're celebrating our own, and for those who use MPE/iX, their independence deserves a shout, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:21 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)