April 22, 2019

A Handful of Users, and Steady Supply

Plumbing
A company in the Midwest is using an HP 3000 this month. They don't have plans to replace it. Chuck Nickerson of Hillary Software described a customer who will remind you of the grand days of MPE, the era when PCs might have been on desktops but the 3000 served businesses.

It's a small company. Four people in total work at the plumbing and electrical supply firm. Their 3000 arrived with its application, and the staff uses it every working day. This is the kind of place where the part comes off a shelf in back and the contractor gets exactly what they need. In that manner, they are a lot like the 3000 users, getting what they need. The 3000 is the conduit between municipal utility and trade pros.

A 3000 without a utility like Hillary's byRequest is a lot less useful. The Hillary software takes the 3000's data and does things like replace impact printers. Forms become something that a modern front end utility like Excel or Word, or even a basic PDF can deliver. "It the intimate connection with the host that we sell," Nickerson said.

Excel is a closed format, he reminded me, so the magic of connecting an OS with its roots in the Reagan Era with laptops that cost less than one small antique 3000 memory board—well, that's priceless.

Some 3000 users do move off their machines while they're Hillary customers. The intimate connection with other servers moves along with the data from places like plumbing supply firms. Cable and connections, pipe and fittings, make up the everyday infrastructure of our worlds. Good data from days past is important to seeing trends. Keeping up the intimacy is worth a lot.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:53 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

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April 15, 2019

Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

10 000th
In 1982, 10,000 servers shipped was a milestone at HP

This month our friends at Stromasys are building a roadmap of the best prospects for their emulator. HP customers have been showing up for years. The software there will soon include a Unix PA-RISC edition of the Charon emulator, too. It's designed to bring the same kind of longer future to companies running Unix on the classic RISC systems that HP released alongside HP's 3000 iron.

Just as a note: The HP 3000 customer who's not on the final generation of Hewlett-Packard hardware can use Charon to replace Series 900 servers. We're always suprised and a little pleased when we see a Series 928 holding its own in a world where more and more servers aren't even on-premise. Cloud-based emulation is an option for replacing old 3000s, too.

Analysts might be surprised at the use of hardware a decade and more in age. The 3000 was never the biggest share of HP's computing, in terms of numbers of systems. Where the 3000 has always had the edge has been in hardware durability. That longevity has been underscored by sound design of the OS. The HP iron is expiring, leaving the operating environment as the durable asset for businesses still using it.

Again: Do not think only small companies are using MPE/iX in 2019. Stromays knows about the size of prospective emulator customers. The nature of the product's pricing suggests that significant companies have emulated the HP 3000 iron. Now an HP-UX market could mean hundreds of thousands of more systems they might emulate. Unlike a 3000, a single 9000 installation could run to dozens of servers.

Why care, as a 3000 customer? Well, the fact is that any extra connection to HP business servers, no matter what the OS, will be good for the future of Charon — and by extension, the lifespan of MPE/iX. That's PA-RISC being emulated there, regardless of the 3000 or 9000 designation.

How many PA-RISC boxes are out there to emulate? It's all educated guesses. Once upon a time, HP cared about the number enough to assemble employees outside the Roseville manufacturing facility to celebrate the first 10,000 in the photo above.

Nobody knows those numbers for certain, in truth. The size of the 3000 world has been an exercise in estimation as long as there's been MPE servers for sale. There are Gartner estimates to estimate the total HP systems sold — and of course there’s no Gartner numbers for the 3000 in those reports.

It’s been encouraging to see the effort to quantify a market like ours. The MPE market has been losing customers for two-thirds of the time we’ve been writing about it. We’re all guessing about legacy lifespans. But they can surprise us.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:17 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 10, 2019

Wayback Wed: Sizable drives for 3000s

Supersize
Ten years ago this month, we celebrated the fact that Hewlett-Packard created a forward-looking feature for the HP 3000 before its lab retired. One of the biggest enhancements gave MPE/iX the ability to use drives sized up to 512GB. Getting this size of drive to work involves going outside of the 3000's foundation, both literally as well as strategically.

External disc drives supply any storage beyond the 73GB devices which were fitted inside the HP 3000 chassis. This Hewlett-Packard part, numbered A6727A, was an off-the-cuff answer from Client Systems to the "how big" question. Client Systems built HP 3000s with this part installed while the company was North America's only 3000 distributor. But nothing bigger ever came off a factory line before HP stopped building 3000s in 2003.

Outside of HP's official channel, however, a drive twice as large has been installed on a N-Class with a pair of 146GB drives inside. The Seagate ST3146855LC spins at 15,000 RPM, too, a faster rate than anything HP ever put in a 3000. These Seagates are still available; just $95 today at Amazon.

Older 3000s, however, need single-ended drives for internal use. Allegro's Donna Hofmeister says the 3000's drive size limit is controlled by two factors: internal versus external, and HP "blessed," or off-the-shelf specified.

Hofmeister came to her work at Allegro from Longs Drug, and said the Longs systems accessed disk clusters, called LUNs, of many hundreds of GB.

When I was at Longs, I was able to effortlessly mount a very large LUN on one of my systems. I wish I could remember how big it actually was, but I reckon it must have been several hundred GBs. The LUN would have been comprised of many physical mechanisms -- but the system never saw that level of detail.

The "blessed" question was debated from the late '90s onward between HP engineers and 3000 consultants and veterans. HP would only support disc devices that passed its extraordinary reliability tests. Nobody was surprised that only HP-branded discs ever got this blessing for the 3000. Once disk storage got inexpensive, drives from the same manufacturers who sourced to HP gained a following with the veterans.

"There’s the whole supported/blessed/holy aspect to the question," Hofmeister said. "[The Client Systems] answer is technically correct. On the other hand, my current favorite MPE system to torture has a 400-plus GB drive attached to it, and it works great. I certainly wouldn’t classify this disc as falling into the supported/blessed/holy category."

HP released patches to MPE/iX 7.5 to make this possible. The project the vendor called "Large Disk" gives 3000 users "the ability to initialize an MPE/iX disk volume of up to 512 GB on SCSI-2 compliant disks. SCSI-2 Disks that are larger than 512GB will be truncated at the 512GB limit and the space beyond 512GB will not be usable by the MPE/iX Operating System or any user applications running under MPE."

HP started the engineering to release the patches for the 6.5 and 7.0 versions of MPE/iX, but never finished testing for those versions of MPE/iX. The 7.5 patches are

MPEMXT1        FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP
MPEMXT2        [ALT|LIST|NEW][ACCT|GROUP]
MPEMXT3        SCSI Disk Driver Update
MPEMXT4        SSM Optimization (>87GB)
MPEMXT7        DISCFREE.PUB.SYS
MPEMXU3        REPORT
MPEMXU6        CATALOG.PUB.SYS
MPEMXU7        CIERR.PUB.SYS, CICATERR.PUB.SYS

HP sold a disk of 300GB that might qualify for "blessing" if the labs had ever put the device through the 3000 tests. But the vendor has always erred on the side of caution about larger drives, even in an era when disk had become cheaper than $2 a GB. HP's Jim Hawkins offered a white paper on Large Disk that advised caution for using 3000 disks larger than 36GB.

MPE/iX transaction throughput increases when MPE is allowed to spread IO across disks. Even though newer disks are faster than older disks, there are limits to disk speed and bus speed which must be taken into account. Moving from, say, nine 2GB disks to one 18GB disk will often create a Disk IO bottleneck. For best performance we recommend that the number of MPE LDEVs never be reduced -- if one has nine 2GB disks then they should be replaced with nine 18GB disks to ensure no loss of throughput.

HP never did support the full drive bus speed for the larger disks. 3000s get only Ultra-160 throughput, while HP-UX supported Ultra-320 on the very same devices.

The larger disks offer a significant value over the blessed drives. It's important to order a parallel SCSI version (LC) when purchasing a drive. SAS drives replaced the LC drives and cost much less.

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

April 08, 2019

Where to go for better 3000 census numbers

10 000Cover
Thirty-seven years, ago, HP celebrated 10,000 servers sold. PA-RISC was still five years away on the day everybody stood outside the 3000 HQ at HP.

Outsider estimates on the size of the 3000 market are going to be flawed. By outsider, I mean the ones that come from analyst companies, such as the ones that IDC prepared in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nobody can really be sure where that data came from. You can only hope they've talked to firms who were actively selling HP 3000s.

Those companies didn't have an HP address. Most of the 3000s were sold through resellers and distributors. This was a small business solution, in so many cases. Not that there aren't servers running in places the size of Boeing. But for every Bullard — makers of the iconic hardhats with three ridges — there were three or more companies like Peerless Pumps, or even a good-sized but not giant company like Disston Tools.

For the 3000, though, it was never about the numbers of servers. The tally of companies was more impressive. A Unix shop could have a few dozen HP systems, because the nature of the Unix world was to dedicate a server to each application. A single 3000 could host many apps.

In searching for better data on how big the 3000 market might be, I reached out to Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions. A 3000-focused company, Pivital sold 3000s and is among one of the freshest resellers of servers. Suraci said HP had a number which they used while describing the size of the market.

"I recall HP telling us there were 20,000 to 25,000 units in service at the end of [HP's] 3000 life," Suraci said. "That was the last time I recall hearing anything close to official."
 
Considering how hard HP sold its Unix servers against the 3000 base, it's remarkable that anything that big could show up on HP's hardware tally. HP's "end of life" could be calculated from the end of manufacturing, or even the end of support for MPE/iX. No matter where the line is drawn, that's a lot of worldwide systems to be shut down over the last nine years. Even an 80 percent shutdown rate would leave the census at 5,000 servers.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 25, 2019

Making Directories Do Up To Date Duty

Last week we covered the details of making a good meal out of LDAP on an MPE system. Along the way we referred to an OpenLDAP port that made that directory service software useful to 3000 sites. The port was developed by Lars Appel, the engineer based in Germany whose work lifted many a 3000 system to new levels.

Appel is still working in 3000s, from time to time. We checked in with him to learn about the good health of LDAP under MPE/iX.

Is this port still out in the world for 3000 fans and developers to use?

Well, I don't recall if anyone ever used it (and I must admit that I don't recall of the top of my head, what drove me to build it for MPE/iX at that time... maybe just curiosity). However, the old 1.1 and 2.0.7 versions at still available at the website maintained by Michael Gueterman, who is still hosting my old pages there.

The versions are — of course — outdated compared to the current 2.4.x versions at openldap.org. But anyone with too much spare time on their hands could probably update the port.

But it's still useful?

Funny coincidence, though. Just yesterday, I had to use a few ldapsearch, ldapadd, and ldapmodify commands against our Linux mail server. If I had seen your mail two days ago, I could probably have looked up examples in my own help web pages, instead of digging up syntax in some old notes and man pages.

And you're still working in MPE?

I am still involved with Marxmeier and Eloquence, so it is more with former HP 3000 users that with current ones.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:12 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2019

Making LDAP Do Directory Duty

DAP
Explore a 3000 feature to see how a little LDAP’ll do ya

NewsWire Classic

By Curtis Larsen

When you think of LDAP, what do you think of? You’ve probably heard about it — something to do with directories, right? — but you’re not quite sure. You’ve heard some industry buzz about it here and there, read a paper or two, but perhaps you still don’t quite know what it can do for you, or how it could work with an HP 3000. Hopefully this article will de-mystify it a bit for you, and spark some ways you could use it in your own organization.

MPE currently has limited support for LDAP, but the support is growing. Aside from the OpenLDAP source ported by Lars Appel, HP offers an LDAP “C” Software Development Kit for writing MPE/iX code to access directories, er, directly.

LDAP stands for “Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.” In a nutshell, it allows you to create directories of information similar to what you would see in a telephone book. Any information you want to store for later quick retrieval: names, telephone numbers, conference room capacities, addresses, directions — even picture or sound files. Using directories such as these is an incredible time-saver (can’t you think of company applications for one already?), but LDAP can do so much more. The directories you create are wholly up to you, so the sky’s the limit.

At this point you might be saying “Great, but why not use a database for this stuff?” That’s an excellent question, and in truth, there is some overlap in what you might want stored in a database versus being stored in a directory. The first and foremost difference between them is that a directory is designed for high-speed reading (and searching) — not writing.

The idea is that, generally speaking, a directory doesn’t change much, but quickly reading its information is a must. Understand that this doesn’t mean that directory writes are at all bad — they’re just not structurally designed to be as fast as reads are.

Databases also require more in the way of overhead: high-powered servers and disks, (usually) high-priced Database Management Systems — which one will be best for you? — and highly-skilled, highly-paid DBAs to keep it all happy. (Our DBA said I had to mention that part.)

LDAP directories are generally simpler and faster to set up and manage. LDAP is (also) a common client-server access standard across many different systems. You don’t have to deal with the outrageous slings of one DBMS, or the delightful syntax variations in SQL or ODBC implementations. LDAP directories can even be replicated. Copies of directories, or just sections of larger directories, can be stored on different servers and updated (or cross-updated) periodically. This can be done for security (“mirrored directories” — one here, one elsewhere), performance (all queries against local entries on a local server), or both.

Let’s dig more into what LDAP directories can do. I won’t get into any real technical details about syntax, history, specifications, etc. Better explanations of these things have already been written by folks far more knowledgeable than I am. You’ll find some links at the end of this article that you can use to understand more.

Practical LDAP ideas

For most, adding all the different network and systems logons can be a tedious task. Add to that the different options on each system (like VESoft security on e3000s) and you have a necessary, but time-consuming chore. With an LDAP directory maintained by your Human Resources folks, regular batch jobs can query that directory and perform the add/change/delete maintenance automatically. The jobs can even update the directory with the new logon information.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have different batch jobs send various e-mail (or faxes, or pages, or…) to different folks about something? Using that same HR LDAP directory, any job can look up someone’s current contact info and send them that message, page, fax, etc. Your Admins, Ops, and Help Desk folks are now on to bigger things, and no more need for maintaining separate KSAM or Image tables on the HP system.

Here’s a bit of a mind-bender: How about “personalized printing”? Same as the last example, but what if an LDAP directory stored the list of printers your new hire will (generally) use as well? Now all your systems — 3000 included -— can direct printed output based upon a person — not a destination. If they change locations, just change the directory entry. We can get even more esoteric and say “logical entity” instead of “person.”

Suddenly, you have the ability to address output to groups of people (“Accounting’s printer,” fax or e-mail addresses), other computer systems, etc. Get a little wilder and you can even have the LDAP directory describe the format for the addresses used. (Batch job to LDAP server: “I have this color print file on legal paper for ‘Bob’ — where should I send it?”) Really, it’s just a small step past device classes.

Interesting stuff, eh? All of these things are possible this very instant. Yes, they do require some preparation and support work (but then every new technology does). Let’s try another idea:

You say you want system-wide variables? How about enterprise-wide variables? Using LDAP, practically any type of system can share information with any other system. You would want those variables to be fairly static (that “reads are better” thing), but certainly a central repository for something like cross-system daily scheduling information (dates don’t change much) or summary totals could be a handy thing. “Variable” states can be retained as long as needed, too.

Okay, let’s explain a little more about that last one. LDAP directories are made up of basically three things: containers, variables and values. Containers can hold either variables or other containers, and variables have values. (There’s a little more to it than this, but it will hold us for now.) Using those elements, the LDAP directory you create looks very much like the classic tree structure used in most file systems (like Unix) or even DNS.

An example of this might be a “root” container for your company, holding a container object named “USA,, holding one named “New York.” In “New York” is a “dept.” container named “Accounting,” and in that is one named “P. Strings.” That object type might be “person,” and it, in turn holds all sorts of contact information. You could just as easily have a container named “Jobs,” holding one named “Schedule X,” wherein we could find lots of information on Schedule X, like its completion time and status.

For the object-oriented among you, you can also think of a container as an object, and variables as properties of that object. This makes LDAP very workable with OOP. Perl likes it, Python likes it — shucks, even C++ thinks it has class.

This idea is a bit stretched, but: persistent, cross-platform objects/object classes. You can use an LDAP directory as a base class template library and retrieve certain directory sections into a program for later use. Use them as a library of other things as well.

LDAP directories fit DOM fairly well, so you can use LDAP to store DTDs and other work with XML. (“Does anyone know where the DTD for getting EDI XML data from ‘Foobar, Inc.’ is?” “Yeah, It’s the LDAP directory under “DTDs, EDI, Foobar, or just do a search for ‘Foobar, Inc.’”.

I hope this article gives you some ideas about what you might want to do with an LDAP server or two accessed by your HP 3000. LDAP, like Samba and Apache before it, is yet another example of innovative technology working upon the rock-solid stability of the HP 3000 system. File and print server, web server, and now LDAP — who says the 3000 can’t share?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:27 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2019

Celebrating a Software Salvation

Winston Kriger
The 3000 community in Austin laid an icon to rest last weekend, and Winston Kriger was well-remembered. The chapel at Cook-Walden on Lamar Boulevard, deep in the center of a busy city, was full of friends from as far back as his childhood, his family including his wife Ruth of 52 years, and more than a few colleagues from a 3000 company once called Tymlabs.

Beyond the 35 minutes of tender memories from Winston's best boyhood friend — they flew wire-controlled model airplanes together, experimented with making nitro, and worked as teenagers at the TV and radio stations of Baton Rouge — someone spoke about salvation. Morgan Jones wasn't talking about the grace that Winston had earned after a full life full of curiousity. Jones talked about the time that Winston saved Tymlabs.

It was a splashy company in the 1980s of Austin. I came to know it as a lynchpin of a software vendor down on Seventh Street, full of incredibly bright people and building stout and innovative products. Tymlabs was the first and only place I ever saw an Apple Lisa, the Mac's predecessor. Tymlabs employed Marion Winik, who was wearing purple hair when I first saw her, developing marketing copy before she became a celebrated memoirist with eight books. Tymlabs employed Denise Girard, a woman of endless cheer who had a Patsy Cline impression she sang at user group meetings. The punch line on Denise's performance once included pulling a golf putter out of her dress at the end of a song.

Gifted, unique people worked there. Winston Kriger kept those doors open, said Jones, by saving the future for the software that butressed the company. Backpack was invented by Jeorg Groessler at Tymlabs, and the backup software saved untold companies' data. Then Groessler left Tymlabs and there was no one to keep Backpack in good health. When things got dire at Tymlabs in 1985, only "one really smart guy at Houston Instruments" could save the company. "He was supremely confident he could find and fix the problems" with Backpack, Jones said. 

Jones and Tymlabs needed Winston. It took some coaxing to get someone that brilliant to come to a software company with less than five years of existence on the books. Tymlabs started out like a lot of MPE software companies, built around the work to create custom software, then developing products for sale in the 3000 market. The products made the company a keystone advertiser for the HP Chronicle where I was editor in the 1980s. They built a 3000 emulator that ran on the Macintosh just a few years after Apple launched the Mac. 

Jones said he began to hire Winston's colleagues to work at Tymlabs, hoping it would convince him the vendor was real. Winston was 45 when he joined the company, a man already ensconced in a successful career for Houston Instruments. "He basically saved our company," Jones said at the ceremony last weekend. "He was a force of nature, and I don't mean like a tsunami or fusion. He was like gravity. When we'd be running around frantic, he kept us all grounded."

People in the room at Cook-Walden were nodding. This was the Winston they all knew, steady and with a dry wit. Jones said that Winston was "an intellectual giant and a gentleman who was always at his best — and who had a slight, wry smile at parties." Jones' co-founder Teresa Norman sent regards that said she gave thanks "for having the confidence to join us. We've always respected the courage that took."

In these waning years of the Teens, it can be hard to imagine a time when MPE and the 3000 were a calculated business risk. Backup software made the servers a bona fide choice for what the industry called data processing in the 80s. When it came to saving an innovative company making bedrock software, a fellow who was "genetically inclined to always tell the truth and do the right thing" was the right person for the job.

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

March 18, 2019

Curating a Collective of MPE Advice

70and930
LinkedIn is the Facebook of business professionals. The service operates as a de facto resume repository; business people who search for jobs are often invited to use their LinkedIn profiles to provide a CV.

The service is also a collection of groups. Several are online as HP 3000 meeting spots. One is a private group that has served 3000 needs from inside HP. Nineteen members make up a group devoted to the Empire role playing game that runs on MPE and MPE/iX systems. A Connect HPE User Group Community is at LinkedIn; lots of members in there have HP experience that includes no MPE expertise.

Then there's the 677 members of the HP 3000 Community. I started it 11 years ago when LinkedIn was popular but not so essential that it was serving up resumes. We had 80 members in a few months and several hundred a few years later. The group is still growing. It's not growing as fast as some applicants to it would like, however.

LinkedIn still gives group moderators the choice to curate members of a group. The HP 3000 Community has always been a curated group. I remember a complaint a few years ago from an applicant. "He only approves people with have HP 3000 experience in their work histories." Indeed. There are a smattering of recruiters among those members, but nearly everyone on the group has worked on or with MPE.

LinkedIn gives groups a platform for publishing content, as well as forums for open discussions. There's a nice link at the top of the current feed about a Stromasys white paper, one that explains hidden costs of operating HP's MPE hardware. These are not the main feature for the HP 3000 Community, though. The 3000-L mailing list and this blog serve those needs better, but we're always glad for new content anywhere in the community. LinkedIn's group is the biggest collection of curated MPE professionals by now. If you're looking for someone who knows your environment, it's a good place to begin

And if you're not yet a member, stop by and apply. The door is always open to pros who can count upon MPE knowledge as a way in.

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

March 13, 2019

Finding the Drumbeat to Differ, Decades Ago

Drummer
LinkedIn likes to remind you about work anniversaries of the people in your network of contacts. Sometimes the reminders can be unfortunate, celebrating entry dates for jobs people no longer hold. That's not the case for my own anniversary this month. Twenty-four years ago in March, the first seeds of the NewsWire were being planted in the heart and soul of my family.

HP has been at hand for most of my fatherhood. I grew up as a dad editing the HP Chronicle for PCI, an Austin company specializing in trade monthlies. One tradition at PCI was a video produced by the staff of editors and ad reps. The movie always appeared at the Christmas party. One year my son Nicky, who was all of four years old, sat in my London Fog trenchcoat and wore my reporter's hat in a bit where my chair spun around and there he was, in place of me. I'm short enough that the joke was on me.

Years later I'd gone out on my own to freelance, still keeping a hand in writing HP news for one publisher or another. Nobody was covering the HP 3000 much, though. The action was all with Unix, either HP's or the systems from Sun, or in the swelling majority of Windows. Digital and IBM had big swaths they were carving, too.

My wife and I had plenty of publication experience from our days in Texas publishing companies. I looked at the growing lines of posts on the 3000-L mailing list, right alongside the precarious nature of marketing and freelance writing. Dreams of a publication about the 3000 were soon on our lips at my house. Nicky was 12, and the NewsWire was on its way to delivery.

We had our realism bridles on for awhile. There was a reason the 3000 news appeared infrequently in the likes of Computerworld. The pages of Open Systems Today where I was freelancing made a little room for MPE, but nobody really wanted to acknowledge future growth for HP's original business server. Not anymore, not with the drumbeat of Unix so loud and HP's ardor for the 3000 so withered.

Then Abby said what many others who wanted to fly in the face of business trends say: "Hey, people made money in the Depression." I had maiden aunts who did just that, mostly on the strength of shrewd stock trades and a little high society retail commerce. I only worried how we'd find out enough to fill a newsletter month after month. Even if we filled it, more than a few key advisors thought the NewsWire would be worth less than a dollar a month. This month a few kind LinkedIn followers called me a legend, or maybe they meant the NewsWire, when that 24th anniversary notice popped up. I know there would be no legend without Abby.

We flew in the face of a trend. We saw plenty of companies doing just that in stories nobody was telling. Change must overcome inertia. Those of you who own 3000s know about staying stalwart about unneeded changes. We could only celebrate this anniversary because of you—plus the companies that made your 3000s reliable. Those advisors of ours were wrong about the one dollar a month. But Abby and I were wrong about what would drive the NewsWire. Sponsors came through when the top end of the subscription pricing was just $99 a year.

Abby and I built extensive spreadsheets in March of 1995, projections that showed where the advertising in the newsletter would no longer be required. She was a wizard of circulation from those Texas publisher days. Give us enough $249 subsciptions and we could rule the world.

She also sold advertising for those publishers. We were overlooking the real current in the market: innovators and caretakers who built and sold what HP's 3000 was missing. Better support. Software that HP couldn't risk building. Pricing that let the smaller companies who'd built the 3000 as a superior business tool make the best use of MPE.

Nobody knew exactly how many 3000s were out there. Those sponsors believed in the promise of a focused newsletter about MPE systems. We chose to call them sponsors because "advertiser" didn't describe a company that drummed to a beat that differed from trends — and was ready to invest in that beat with a message for the market. We even tried calling those ads messages, but like the subscription-only prospect, we had to bow to what people knew.

Those sponsors, who buoyed up the Newswire beyond its readers' support, made the difference to lead us into our Year 25. They did business in the 3000 marketplace while explaining to themselves and the markets why they weren't into Unix more, or how those choices to back HP's proprietary hardware made more sense than servicing millions of PCs.

Sponsors would only arrive if readers were engaged and discovering news. I'm thankful for those 24 years of connection and support. LinkedIn knows where to find you, too. Joining the HP 3000 Group at LinkedIn is a simple and rewarding way to connect. You will be able to reach out when an anniversary rolls by. Perhaps it will lead to experience you can put on your LinkedIn resume.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:19 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 08, 2019

It may be later than you think, by Monday

Clock-face
Daylight Saving Time kicks off early on Sunday. By the time you're at work on Monday it might seem late for the amount of light coming in your window. If you're working at home and next to the window, it will amount to the same thing. We lose an hour this weekend.

This reset of our circadian rhythms isn't as automatic as in later-model devices. Like my new Chevy, which is so connected it changes its own clocks, based on its contact with the outer world. HP 3000s and MPE systems like those from Stromasys don't reach out like that on their own. The twice-a-year event demands that HP 3000 owners adjust their system clocks.

Programs can slowly change the 3000's clocks in March and November. You can get a good start with this article by John Burke from our net.digest archives.

The longer that MPE servers stay in on the job, the more their important date manipulations will be to its users. The server already hosts a lot of the longest-lived data in the industry. Not every platform in the business world is so well-tooled to accept changes in time. The AS/400s running older versions of OS400 struggled with this task.

You also need to be sure your 3000's timezone is set correctly. Shawn Gordon explained how his scheduled job takes care of that:

"You only have to change TIMEZONE. For SUNDAY in my job scheduler I have the following set up to automatically handle it:

IF HPMONTH = 3 AND HPDATE > [this year's DST] THEN
   ECHO We are going back to Standard Time
   SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W8:00
ENDIF
IF HPMONTH = 11 AND HPDATE < [this year's ST] THEN
   ECHO Setting clock for Daylight Savings Time
   SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W7:00
ENDIF

3000 customers say that HP's help text for SETCLOCK can be confusing:

SETCLOCK  {DATE= date spec; TIME= time spec [;GRADUAL | ;NOW]}
   {CORRECTION= correction spec [;GRADUAL | ;NOW]}
   {TIMEZONE= time zone spec}
   {;CANCEL}

Orbit Software's pocket guide for MPE/iX explains shows the correct syntax. In this case, ;GRADUAL and ;NOW may only be applied as modifiers to the DATE=; TIME= keywords, not to ;CORRECTION=.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2019

Playing ball for keeps with MPE

Pete-Rose-ball
In a regular conversation with MPE software vendors, surprising news surfaces. As I was calling into Hillary Software to catch up, I said hello to Carrie in support and sales. We hadn't met but she felt like an old comrade. Some of that has to do with tending to the needs and desires of people who won't let go of their legacy. In this case, the historic need was a sports company.

If you've ever purchased — or been gifted — a major league baseball, there's a good chance the case was made with the help of a 3000. Carrie said the country's largest manufacturer of sports memorabilia cases uses the Hillary Software, byRequest, to move its information into reports. The reports operate in a more modern era than MPE, of course. Excel is just 11 years younger than the HP 3000 and MPE.

At the manufacturer, the focus is on a much older pastime. There's something poetic about the HP 3000, a legacy giant, serving the needs of a company that preserves historic items. The value of a baseball lies in the heart of its collector. Sometimes the value of a legacy system lies in the heart of its manager. Preserving what's meaningful and productive isn't the same thing as protecting a signed baseball.

But they are the same in one special way. Decades from now, these balls will retain their memories of happiness. To be fair, it's MPE that will retain that happiness. Microsoft Excel began its life as Multiplan, a spreadsheet created in the days of CP/M. DOS overtook CP/M, just like Windows overtook DOS. The essence of what's great about Excel remains from those early days.

It's a joyful moment to see something of a legacy era doing everyday work. I found particular pleasure in seeing a software product, built to connect newer tools to an older OS and apps, help to create a preservation tool. Simple boxes. A simple solution.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:47 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 01, 2019

There's more of this all the time, so dust

Vacuum-cleaner
Newswire Classic

By John Burke

As equipment gets older and as we neglect the maintenance habits we learned, we will see more messages like this.

Upon arrival this morning the console had locked up. I re-started the unit, but the SCSI drives do not seem to be powering up. The green lights flash on for a second after the power is applied, but that is it. The cooling fan does not turn either. I am able to boot, but get the following messages: LDEVS 5, 8, 4, 3, 2 are not available and FILE SYSTEM ERROR READING $STDIN (CIERR 1807).

When I try to log on as manager.sys, I must do so HIPRI, and get the following: Couldn’t open UDC directory file, COMMAND.PUB.SYS. (CIERR 1910) If I had to guess, I would say the SCSI drives are not working. Is there a quick fix, or are all the files lost? I should add that I just inherited this system. It has been neglected, but running, for close to two years. Is it time to pull the plug?

Tom Emerson responded

This sounds very familiar. I’d say the power supply on the drive cabinet is either going or gone [does the fan ‘not spin’ due to being gunked up with dust and grease, or just ‘no power’?] I’m thinking that the power supply is detecting a problem and shutting down moments after powering up [hence why you see a ‘momentary flicker’].

Tim Atwood added

"I concur. The power supply on the drive cabinet has probably gone bad. If this is an HP6000 series SCSI disc enclosure for two and four GB SCSI drives, move very quickly. Third-party hardware suppliers are having trouble getting these power supplies. I know the 4GB drives are near impossible to find. So, if it is an HP6000 series you may want to stock up on power supplies if you find them. Or take this opportunity to convert to another drive type that is supported.”

The person posting the original question replied, “Your post gave me the courage to open the box and the design is pretty straight forward. It appears to be the power supply. As I recall now, the cooling fan that is built into the supply was making noise last week. I will shop around for a replacement. I can’t believe the amount of dust inside!”

Which prompted Denys Beauchemin to respond

The dust inside the power supply probably contributed to its early demise. It is a good idea to get a couple of cans of compressed air and clean out the fans and power supplies every once in a while. That goes for PCs, desktops, servers, and other electronic equipment. The electrical current is a magnet for dust bunnies and other such putrid creatures.

Wayne Boyer of Cal-Logic had this to say; useful because supplies may be hard to locate

Fixing these power supplies should run around $75 to $100. Any modular power supply like these is relatively easy to service. I never understand reports of common and fairly recent equipment being in short supply. It is good advice to stock up on spares for older equipment. Just because it’s available somewhere and not too expensive doesn’t mean that you can afford to be down while fussing around with getting a spare shipped in.

The compressed air cans work, but to really do a good job on blowing out computer equipment, you need to use an air compressor and strip the covers off of the equipment. We run our air compressor at 100 PSI. Note that you want to do this blasting outside! Otherwise you will get the dust all over whereever you are working. This is especially important with printers, as you get paper dust, excess toner, etc. building up inside the equipment. I try and give our office equipment a blow out once a year or so. Good to do that if a system is powered down for some other reason.

Bob J. of Ideal Computer Services added

The truth sucks. There are support companies that don’t stock spare parts. The convenient excuse when a part is needed is to claim that ‘parts are tough to get.’ Next they start looking for a source for that part. One of my former employers always pulled that crap.

Unfortunately, quality companies get grouped with the bad apples. I always suggest system managers ask to visit the support supplier's local parts warehouse. The parts in their warehouse should resemble the units on support. No reason to assume the OEM has the most complete local stock either. Remember HP's snow job suggesting that 9x7 parts would become scarce and expensive? Different motive, but still nonsense.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2019

Cautions of a SM broadsword for every user

Broadsword
NewsWire Classic

By Bob Green

Vladimir Volkh was doing MPE system and security consulting at a site. One of his regular steps is to run VESOFT’s Veaudit tool on the system. From this he learned that every user in the production account had System Manager (SM) capability.

Giving a regular user SM capability is a really bad thing. It means that the users can purge the entire system, look at any data on the system, insert nasty code into the system, etc. And this site had just passed their Sarbanes-Oxley audit.

Vladimir removed SM capability from the users and sat back to see what would happen. The first problem to occur was a job stream failure. The reason it failed was because the user did not have Read access to the STUSE group, which contained the Suprtool "Use" scripts. So, Suprtool aborted. 

Background Info

For those whose MPE security knowledge is a little rusty, or non-existent, we offer a a helpful excerpt from Vladimir’s son Eugene, from his article Burn Before Reading - HP3000 Security And You – available at www.adager.com/VeSoft/SecurityAndYou.html

<beginarticlequote>

When a user tries to open a file, MPE checks the account security matrix, the group security matrix, and the file security matrix to see if the user is allowed to access the file. If he is allowed by all three, the file is opened; if at least one security matrix forbids access by this user, the open fails.

For instance, if we try to open TESTFILE.JOHN.DEV when logged on to an account other than DEV and the security matrix of the group JOHN.DEV forbids access by users of other accounts, the open will fail (even though both TESTFILE’s and DEV’s security matrices permit access by users of other accounts).

Each security matrix describes which of the following classes can READ, WRITE, EXECUTE, APPEND to, and LOCK the file:

• CR - File’s creator

• GU - Any user logged on to the same group as the file is in

• GL - User logged on to the same group as the file is in and having Group Librarian (GL) capability

• AC - Any user logged on to the same account as the file is in

• AL - User logged on to the same account as the file is in and having Account Librarian (AL) capability

• ANY - any user

• Any combination of the above (including none of the above)

...

Whenever any group is created, access to all its files is restricted to GU (group users only).

<endarticlequote>

As Eugene points out above, account users do not have Read access by default to a new group in their account. This was the source of the problem at the site Vladimir was visiting. When the jobs could not read the files in the new STUSE group, the system manager then wielded the MPE equivalent of the medieval broadsword: give all the users SM capability.

ALTUSER PRODCLRK; CAP=SM,IA,BA,SF,...

This did solve the problem, since it certainly allowed them to read the STUSE files, but it also allowed them to read or purge any file on the system, in any account.

What he should have done was an Altgroup command immediately after the Newgroup command:

ALTGROUP stuse; access=(R:any;a,w,x,l: gu)

or specified the correct access when the group was built:

NEWGROUP stuse;access=(r:any;a,w,x,l:gu)

Since the HP 3000 runs in a corner virtually unattended (except for feeding the occasional backup tape), we often forget many of the options on the commands that are used sparingly. Neil Armstrong, my cohort in our Labs, often does a Help commandname to remind himself of some of the pitfalls and options on the lesser-used commands, NEWGROUP being one of them.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:36 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2019

Security advice for MPE appears flameproof

Burn-before-reading

Long ago, about 30 years or so, I got a contract to create an HP 3000 software manual. There was a big component of the job that involved making something called a desktop publishing file (quite novel in 1987). There was also the task of explaining the EnGarde/3000 security software to potential users. Yow, a technical writer without MPE hands-on experience, documenting MPE V software. 

Yes, it was so long ago that MPE/XL wasn't even in widespread use. Never mind MPE/iX, the 3.0 release of MPE/XL. All that didn't matter, because HP preserved the goodness of 3000 security from MPE V through XL and iX. My work was to make sense of this security as it related to privileges.

I'll admit it took yeoman help from Vicky Shoemaker at Taurus Software to get that manual correct. Afterward I found myself with an inherent understanding, however superficial, about security privileges on the HP 3000. I was far from the first to acquire this knowledge. Given another 17 years, security privileges popped up again in a NewsWire article. The article by Bob Green of Robelle chronicled the use of SM capability, pointed out by Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft.

Security is one of those things that MPE managers didn't take for granted at first, then became a little smug about once the Internet cracked open lots of business servers. Volokh's son Eugene wrote a blisteringly brilliant paper called Burn Before Reading that outlines the many ways a 3000 can be secured. For the company which is managing MPE/iX applications — even on a virtualized Charon server — this stuff is still important.

I give a hat-tip to our friends at Adager for hosting this wisdom on their website. Here's a recap of a portion of that paper's good security practices for MPE/iX look like.

Volokh’s technical advisory begins with a warning. “The user is the weakest link in the logon security system -- discourage a user from revealing passwords. Use techniques such as personal profile security or even reprimanding people who reveal passwords. Such mistakes seem innocent, but they can lose you millions."

His bullet points from the heyday of MPE still make good sense to follow, if you're managing a system in our homesteading and archiving era.
  • Passwords embedded in job streams are easy to see and virtually impossible to change -- avoid them.

  • Some forms of access are inherently suspect (and thus require extra passwords) or are inherently security violations. Thus, access to certain user IDs at certain times of day, on certain days of the week, should be specially restricted.

  • Many security violations can be averted by monitoring the warnings of unsuccessful violation attempts that often precede a successful attempt. If possible, change the usual MPE console messages so they will be more visible.

  • Leaving a terminal logged on and unattended is just as much a security violation as revealing the logon password. Use some kind of timeout facility to ensure that terminals don't remain inactive for long; set up all your dial-in terminals with subtype 1.

  • A useful approach to securing your system is to set up a logon menu which allows the user to choose one of several options rather than to let the user access MPE and all its power directly.

  • Blocking out MPE commands via UDCs with the same name will usually fail unless the command is SETCATALOG or SHOWCATALOG, or if you also forbid access to many HP subsystems and HP-supplied programs. This severely limits the usefulness of this method.

  • Remember that RELEASE-ing a file leaves it wide open for any kind of access; RELEASE files cautiously, and re-secure them as soon as possible.

  • Try to make it as easy as possible for people to allow their files to be accessed by others without having to RELEASE them. Thus, build all accounts with (r,w,x,a,l:any) so that allowing access to a group will be easier.

  • If a group is composed mostly of files that should be accessible by all users in the system or by all account users, build it that way. This will also reduce RELEASEs.

  • The ALTSEC command is useful for restricting access to files in a group to which access is normally less restricted.
  • Lockwords aren't all they're cracked up to be. Other approaches should be preferred.

  • You should only give OP capability to users who you trust as much as you would a system manager; to users who have no access to magnetic tapes or serial disks; or to users who have a logon UDC that drops them into a menu which forbids them from doing STOREs or RESTOREs.

  • You should give PM capability only to users who you trust as much as you would a system manager.

  • If any user has SAVE access to a group with PM capability, or write and execute access to any program file that resides in a group with PM capability, he can write and run privileged code.

  • Never RELEASE a program file that resides in a group which has PM capability.

  • Privileged programs must never call DEBUG unless their user is privileged, and must never dynamically load and call procedures from a user's group or account SL unless the user is privileged.

  • IMAGE/SQL security is not particularly useful except for protecting databases against unauthorized QUERY access. In fact, some degree of protection against unauthorized QUERY access can be given by using the DBUTIL "set subsystem" command to disallow any QUERY access or QUERY modification of a database.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:23 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2019

Driving a Discontinued Model with Joy

Volt
When a chariot has stopped rolling off the line, it might well be the time to buy one. That's what happened to me, unexpectedly, this weekend. I felt a kinship with HP 3000 owners of the previous decade as I weighed my purchase of a new car.

Like the HP 3000, my 2019 Chevy Volt was the ultimate model of a superior design and build. The Volt was Chevy's foundational electric vehicle when the vehicle made its debut in 2011. Back in that year it was costly (true of the 3000, even through most of the 1990s) unproven (MPE/XL 1.0 was called a career move, and not a safe one) and unfamiliar — plugging in a car inside your garage might have been as unique as shopping for applications knowing every one would work with your built-in IMAGE database.

The Volt grew up, improved (like the final generation of 3000 hardware, A-Class and N) and gained a following I've only seen in the best of designs. People love this car. There's a Facebook group for Volt owners, many of whom crow and swagger as they point out things like the intelligence of the car's computer systems or the way that an owner can train a Volt to extend its electric-only range. The latter is a matter of how often the car is charged plus a combination of a paddle on the steering wheel, a gear range, and the right driving mode. H is better sometimes.

Yes, it's as complex as any intrinsic set tuned for a bundled database. The Volt's efficiency rivals the best aspects of a 3000 at the start of the millennium. GM, much like HP, decided the future of the car would not include manufacturing it. Just as I was poised to purchase, after healthy research, I learned its sales had been ended. 

The Facebook group mourned, and one owner said the car would be a collector's item someday. That's when I thought of my 3000 bretheren and signed up for six years of Volt car payments. I had the full faith of two governments behind me, however. Both the US and Texas wanted to reward me for buying something so efficient. That's how this story diverges from the HP decision about the 3000. It was the resellers, as a private group, that made those last 3000s such a great deal.

I remember when the HP cancelation was announced, Pivital Solutions was still in its first 24 months of reselling the 3000. The company remained in the business of shipping new hardware as long as HP would build new systems. Ever since that day in 2003, Pivital has supported the hardware and backstopped the software. Pivital is one of the Source Code Seven, those companies which have licenses to carry MPE/iX into the future.

Pivital and a few others in the community sealed the deal on 3000 ownership in the post-manufacturing era of the computer. No matter how long you decided to own a 3000, you could get a support contract on hardware and software. GM is promising the same to me, for the next 10 years. After that, I'm in the wilds of great fandom and aftermarket service. Your community showed great confidence in that kind of era from 2004 onward.

Companies did not dump their 3000s. HP miscalculated how long that migration would take to begin, let alone finish. Once HP stopped selling the servers, the ultimate models were prized and resold for more than a decade. The value of the investment of the sound hardware build — that remained constant. You got your money's worth buying HP's iron, for a good long while.

Then the moving parts began to wear out in a few places and people worried. That was the situation that sparked my first new car purchase in 11 years. The Dodge minivan wouldn't start one day. Later that afternoon, while getting recall service done, I learned that the components in the IC unit were no longer being manufactured. One dealer wouldn't even diagnose the trouble. AAA got me rolling and I took the car, post-recall work, to the Chevy dealer for a trade-in.

Knowing everything, the dealer still could find several thousand dollars of value in that minivan. The deal there mirrored 3000 purchases, too. A few thousand will get you an A-Class, with an N-Class selling for a few thousand more. Why would people buy something no longer being built? Some are not quite ready yet to go virtual with their MPE/iX hardware. Charon and Stromasys are waiting for that day. There will continue to be 3000 sales until then, even though the hardware will be more than 15 years old at best.

When a thing is confirmed as a superior choice, it gains a status a lot like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit. That children’s book is old and has lessons for the very young. And not so young, because one essential part of the story comes from the Skin Horse. As one of the oldest toys in the nursery he’s a pillar of wisdom for new toys like the Rabbit. Becoming real is the dream of the Rabbit. In the early part of the story, the Rabbit asks the Skin Horse, “Then I suppose you are real?” Immediately he thinks it’s a awkward question. The Skin Horse is unperturbed and explains how it happened to him. “Real doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Once you are real you can’t be become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The HP 3000 might well last for always, given the virtualization it will enjoy from Charon. Until the day the last model of computer built in the HP Way era is sold, the hardware will make us feel clever and thrifty and efficient. The way it drives is what matters to its fans.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2019

Scripting a Better UPS link to MPE/iX

In another article we talked about how HP dropped the ball on getting better communication between UPS units and the HP 3000. It was a promise that arrived at about the same time as HP's step-away from the 3000. The software upgrade to MPE/iX didn't make it out of the labs.
 
That didn’t stop Donna Hofmeister. About that time she was en route to a director's spot on OpenMPE. Later on she joined Allegro. We checked in to see if better links between Uninterrupted Power Supplies via MPE/iX was possible. Oh yes, provided you were adept at scripting and job stream creation. She was.
 
"I wrote a series of jobs and scripts that interrogate an APC UPS that is fully-connected to the network — meaning it has an IP address and can respond to  SNMP," she said. "These are the more expensive devices, for what it's worth."
 
"It worked beautifully when a hurricane hit Hawaii and my 3000 nicely shut itself down when power got low on the UPS. Sadly, the HP-UX systems went belly-up and were rather a pain to get running again."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2019

Why a UPS FAIL let down a 3000's shield

Fail
Previously, when a pair of HP 3000s were felled in the aftermath of a windstorm which clipped out the power at Alan Yeo's shop, his Uninterrupted Power Supply in the mix failed as well. After a couple of glasses of merlot, our intrepid developer and founder of ScreenJet continued to reach for answers to his HP 3000 datacenter dilemma. Why did that UPS that was supposed to be protecting his 3000s and Windows servers FAIL once the power died? 

By Alan Yeo
Second in a series

Feeling mellower and with nothing I really wanted to watch on the TV, I decided to take a prod at the servers and see what the problems are. I decided I'd need input to diagnose the Windows Server problem, so that could wait until the morning. Power-cycled the 917 to watched the self-test cycle and got the error, did it again. (Well sometimes these things fix themselves, don't they?) Nope, it was dead! 

Google turned up nothing on the error. Nothing on the 3000-L newsgroup archives, either. I'd tell you the 3000 error code, but I've thrown away the piece of paper I had with all the scribbles from that weekend.

Where's a guru
when you want one?

I really wanted to get my 917 back up and running over the weekend, as it had all our Transact test software on it. Dave Dummer (the original author of Transact) was doing some enhancements to TransAction (our any-platform replacement for Transact) and we had planned to get some testing done for early the following week, to help a major customer.  

So it's 11:30 PM UK time, but it's only 3:30 PM PDT. I wonder who's still around at Allegro? A quick Skype gets hold of Steve Cooper, who with the other Allegroids diagnose within five minutes that the 3000 has got a memory error. The last digit of the error indicates which memory bank slot has the problem.

Okay, I'm not going to start climbing around the back of the rack at this time of night. I leave it until the morning, but at least I know what the problem is.

False Dawn

Pulling the 3000's memory card is no problem. Working out which of the five banks is bad takes a bit more work, but a bit of plug engineering and a couple of reboots shows that we have 64MB (2x32) of bad memory. No problem, plenty left, so remove it and reboot. Great, get to the ISL prompt, do a START NORECOVERY and go get a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and I’ll soon have this system back up.

SYSTEM ABORT from SUBSYS 143

SYSHALT 7,$0267

FLT DEAD

Oh, hell.  

Long Story Short (or another one bites the dust)

Okay, it's about time we cut this story short — although I am certain you want to read about someone else's trials and tribulations, even as I suspect you’re only reading to find out why your UPS is useless. Suffice it to say that the 3000's LDEV 2 had also been fried, which we replaced, then the DAT drive was dead, which was replaced, but was still dead.

So in the end, we decided our fastest recovery solution was to scrap the 917 and merge its data with a 918 that had a clone in the shop. It’s a choice which makes DR recovery a lot simpler, also one less piece of kit burning electricity, that should help save the ice caps!

So what got Fried? HP 3000, Dell Intel Server, one modem, one DTC 16 -- and of course the two APC UPS's that were supposed to be protecting everything.

Why? Given that the APC “Smart” UPS's had done such a wonderful job of protecting everything, the conundrum was why they hadn't protected everything. It was time to do some research on UPS's.  

It turns out there is a little bit of a clue in the three letter acronymn. The “U” stands for “Uninterruptible” not “Clean.”  I discover that there are two main types of UPS: the normal Line-Interactive. Everyone makes them, everyone's got one UPS like the APC Smart UPS. Then there’s the “On-line” ones. The major difference is that standard “Smart” UPS's (most of the time) feed a mains supply out to everything plugged into it. In contrast, the  on-line versions feed everything from an inverter 100 percent of the time.

But I hear you say (and as I thought) “My APC UPC filters the power, chopping down over voltage, boosting under voltage, and supplying power if the mains fails.”  Well the answer in classic 3000-L mode is, “Yes, but it depends.”  Now I'm no electrical expert, but I’ve worked up a layman's interpretation.

There’s something in the mix called Dirty Transfers.

Line Interactive UPS's do AVR, Automatic Voltage Regulation. Instead of going to battery during low or high input voltages, this sort of unit will use an Autotransformer to increase or reduce the voltage to a safe operating range without running on the battery. Within their stated tolerances, they can run almost indefinitely doing a number of things.

  • AVR Boost, where the UPS is compensating for a low utility voltage;
  • AVR Trim, when it is compensating for a high utility voltage.
  • If the voltage fluctuates outside a set range, or on some of them if the rate of change of the voltage exceeds a given threshold, then they will Transfer, using the battery power via an inverter. The UPS then monitors the AC supply and when it deems it is back within tolerance it transfers back to the mains supply.  

It is this Transfer Time (TT) that can cause some problems. Such as those at our shop.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:29 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 11, 2019

Making a UPS Light Up a 3000

Lightning_bolt_power_stripEditor's note: A recent message thread on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup reported on attaching an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to a 3000. The question came up when an MPE/iX manager asked about hooking up a UPS to an emulated 3000. While that is proof enough that the Charon emulator is working in the field, the question still covered HP's MPE hardware. More than five years ago Alan Yeo covered this ground for us in a lively and informative two-part feature.

Intrepid veteran developer Yeo of ScreenJet in the UK had a pair of HP 3000s felled, despite his sound strategy of using an Uninterrupted Power Supply in his IT mix (or "kit," as it's called in England). Here is Yeo's first installment of the rescue of the 3000s which logic said were UPS-protected. As Yeo said in offering the article, "We're pretty experienced here, and even we learned things through this about UPS." We hope you will as well.

New UPS, sir! or "Would you like fries with that?"

By Alan Yeo
First of a two parts

"Smart UPS" now has a new meaning to me. "You're going to smart, if you're dumb enough to buy one" I guess this is one of those stories where if you don't laugh you'd cry, so on with the laughs.

By the end of this tale, you should know why your UPS may be a pile of junk that should be thrown in the trash. And what you should replace it with.

A Friday in early June and it was incredibly windy. Apparently we were getting the fag end of a large storm that had traversed the Atlantic after hitting the US the week before. Sort of reverse of the saying "America sneezes, and Europe catches a cold." This time we were getting the last snorts of the storm.

Anyway, with our offices being rurally located, strong winds normally mean that we are going to get a few power problems. The odd power blip and the very occasional outage as trees gently tap the overhead power lines. Always worst in the summer, as the trees are heavily laden with leaf and drooping closer to the lines than they are in the winter, when they come round and check them.

So this situation is not normally something we worry about. We are fairly well-protected (or so we thought) with a number of APC UPS units to keep our servers and comms kit safe from the blips and surges. The UPS units are big enough so that if the power does go out, we can keep running long enough for either the power to come back -- or if we find out from the power company that its likely to be a while, for us to shut down the servers.

We keep all the comms kit, routers, switches, firewalls and so forth on a separate UPS. This UPS will keep them running nearly all day, so that way we still have Internet access, Web, email and more, so can keep functioning, as long as the laptop batteries hold out.

The wind picked up during the morning and we had the expected a flick of the lights, and the odd bong, ping, and beep from the computer room as the UPS's responded to the odd voltage fluctuations and the momentary outages. Around 12:30 we had a quick sequence of power blips, followed by a couple of minutes of power gone, at which point the UPS's started bleeping loudly as they took the load. This is normally the trigger for me to wander in there and just do a visual glance at battery levels. I was stood in there as the power came back and was watching as the server's UPS came back normally. Then the comm's UPS flashed all its lights, beeped and went dead!

It's not dead, its just
sleeping after a long squawk!

Humm… First I thought it must be the overload switch, so disconnected all the load, grovelled around behind it and pressed the reset switch. Nothing. So I disconnect from the mains, reset, power it back on, nothing. Check the fuse in the plug, all okay, its still dead. Dig out the APC manual, whose symptoms say "don't use, return to your supplier for service." 

At this point the power goes completely for 10 minutes, and as I can see that the server UPS batteries are already half empty (or half-full if you're an optimist). "They must have been taking more of a load during the morning than I thought," I say to myself. I decided it was time for a controlled shutdown of the servers, which I did. Now I was going to have to rejig the power cables, so that we could feed power to the comm's kit (which was now on a dead UPS) from the server's UPS. A couple of minutes of work commenced, to move their supplies to spare outlets on the APC Switched Rack PDU that is fed by the UPS. The PDU is a network-addressable Power Distribution Unit, one that can power up/down individual power outlets, and thus we can remotely shutdown or reset the servers if needs be. 

So at this point the power comes back, and I power up the comm's kit, leaving the servers off. Decide I'll go for lunch, let the batteries recharge a bit, and make sure that the power is staying on before I restart the Servers.

Lunch passes, with a glass of Merlot. 

Now the power seems to be stable, so it's back to the computer room to bring up just the essential servers. Our main HP 3000 test server. A Windows mailserver, and a Windows file server that also handles our VPN connections (because everyone works remotely now). 

I'm in the middle of this when the power goes out again. I look at the PDU which tells me that we are drawing 3 amps (240v * 3 = 720 watts) = about 10 minutes worth on a half-charged 2200VA UPS.  Not worth it, so I shut the servers down (but I don't throw their power switches).

Fireworks!

At this point the power comes back and stays on for about five minutes. There's me standing there trying to decide what to do, when the power goes off again, and then comes back. At which point the sole remaining UPS goes BANG! It flashes its lights a bit whilst beeping manically, and then goes dead. The room fills with the smell of over-heated insulation, so I pull the UPS power plug.

Okay, "Sod this for a bunch of Soldiers," thinks I. Was going to finish early that day to help some friends set up for a weekend Charity Clay Shoot. "I'll go now and come back later -- when hopefully the wind has died down and the power is back to normal -- and then pick up the pieces."

Back in the datacentre at 8 p.m. and the wind is gone, with power back to normal. Okay, should just have time to get everything working before dinner. Play with the UPS for 10 minutes, but it's dead. So we are going to have to "walk the tight rope without safety harness or net" and run everything direct from the mains. 

Not exactly completely unprotected computing, because when we had had the new office wired 18 months ago, we installed surge protection on the mains supply. Its like a couple of cartridges that sit next to the distribution panel that absorb a surge, decaying in the process, until the point they need replacing. They have a status indicator on them telling you if they need changing, but they were showing green, so I thought I'd risk it for a few days, until we could source a new UPS. 

Why do these things always hit at a weekend?

Comms come back okay, although I noticed that an old dial up modem was dead that was still hooked up for dire emergency remote access if Internet access failed. Okay, now for the servers: power up the Series 917 and let it start its self test check (which takes ages, and lots of memory); power up the Series 918 (it does its memory tests much quicker); power up the Windows 2008 file server and a Windows mail database server. Plus, an older Windows 2003 server that still ran the SMTP software, which should have been moved to the 2008 server, but hadn't because we had never got around to it.

The HP 3000 918 comes up clean, the Windows 2008 server comes up, the Windows mail database server comes up. But HP 3000 917 is downed with an FLT error, the Windows 2003 Server is looping around boot start-up into Windows launch, then straight back to boot start-up. Wonderful! Sod it, go and have dinner and decide if I'm coming back later.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:33 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 06, 2019

Wayback: MPE's Computer Scientist Expires

Kick Butt Poster

Wirt Atmar conceived and lead The World's Largest Poster Project (shown above) with the help of hundreds of volunteers on a Southern California football field.

Ten years ago this week the 3000 community was reminded of its mortality. Wirt Atmar, founder of AICS Research and the greatest scientist to practice MPE development, died in his New Mexico home. Wirt was only 63 and demonstrated enough experience in the 3000's life to seem like he'd been alive much longer.

Atmar died of a heart attack in his hometown in Las Cruces, NM. It was a place where he invited everyone to enjoy a free enchilada dinner when they visited him there. He once quipped that it was interesting to live in a state where the omnipresent question was about sauce: "Green or red?" He gravitated to new ideas and concepts and products quickly. Less than a month after Apple introduced the iPhone, he bought and tested one, praising its promise even as he exposed its failures from the unripened state of its software to the cell signal unavailability.

If I go outside and stand under one specific tree, I can talk to anyone I want. In only one week, I have felt on multiple occasions like just heaving the phone as far as I could throw it -- if it weren’t so damnably expensive. The iPhone currently resembles the most beautiful cruise liner you’ve ever seen. It’s only that they haven’t yet installed the bed or the toilet in your stateroom, and you have to go outside to use the “facilities” — and that’s irritating even if the rest of the ship is beautiful. But you can certainly see the promise of what it could become.

He was not alone in predicting how the iPhone would change things, but being a scientist, he was also waiting on proof. The postings on the 3000-L mailing list were funny and insightful, cut sharp with honesty, and complete in needed details. A cruise through his postings on the 3000 newsgroup stands as an extraordinary epitaph of his passions, from space exploration to environmental science to politics to evolution and so much more. He was a mensch and a brilliant polymath, an extraordinary combination in any human.

Less than 24 hours before he died, Wirt posted an lively report on migration performance gains he recorded after moving an MPE/iX program to faster hardware running Linux. It was an factual observation only he could have presented so well, an example of the scientific practice the community loses with his passing.

One of the 3000 founders who was best known by his first name, Wirt was respected in the community for his honest and pragmatic vision of the 3000's history and potential, expressed in his countless e-mails and postings to the 3000 newsgroup. But alongside that calculating drive he carried an ardor for the platform.

Wirt was essential in sparking HP's inclusion of SQL in IMAGE, a feature so integrated that HP renamed the database IMAGE/SQL. In 1996 he led an inspired publicity effort that brimmed with a passion for possibility, conceiving and leading The World's Largest Poster Project (shown above) with the help of hundreds of volunteers on a Southern California football field. He quipped that after printing the hundreds of four-foot rolls of paper needed for the poster, loading them into a van for the trip to California represented "the summer corporate fitness program for AICS Research."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:25 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2019

Long-time MPE licensees leave dates in dust

Date book
I went to a birthday celebration for Terry Floyd yesterday as part of a Super Bowl party. You may begrudge them the kudos, but congrats to the Pats, who once again executed like the MPE applications still running this week in businesses around the world. Not flashy, like MPE, but every day brings no surprises. That's a very good thing for enterprise computing, and always has been.

Floyd's turned 70 -- he’s the guy who started The Support Group here in Austin to serve MANMAN 3000 customers. One of those customers was in town to celebrate. Ed Stein spent years managing MANMAN at MagicAire, a Carrier subsidiary.

That corporation is still using MPE, even after Ed has gone. He’s moved into the interesting fields of independent support and consulting on MPE. He mentioned he's available to the community's 3000 owners looking for MPE talent. Along the way he's developed his experience on the prospects for keeping dates nine years from now in MPE.

It was Stein's intentions for prepare for the 2027 date keeping changes that led several companies to spin up services and strategies for date-keeping in 2028 and beyond. What was mumbled about in private became more public offerings and strategies. During a conference call among MANMAN managers late in 2017, Floyd and others talked about how much work it will be to keep dates straight in an era HP never planned for.

Stein says that in his travels though the community he’s still running into many a 3000 user who’s got no idea their OS will stop making accurate dates in less than nine years. He also made reference to Beechglen and its 2028 patch service. Like everyone else who's using HP's MPE source code licenses, Beechglen cannot sell a product to patch MPE/iX. HP was never going to sell permission to create patched versions of MPE/iX.

Seven companies paid HP $10,000 each to become the source code licensees about nine years ago. At the time, the 3000's operating environment felt like a long shot to feel its age and forget its date-keeping skills. The server was 18 years away from a date that no working MPE server would ever see, right?

Don't look now, but 2027 is gaining on the community. Floyd was one of several developers who identified the scope of the work to make an app like MAMAN ready for the year 2028.

Some customers will get readiness for 2028 by becoming 3000 support customers. Any support company using the MPE source must package the repairs and improvements they develop as support offerings. There are a half-dozen more companies with source capabilities for MPE/iX. Getting a relationship in place with them will be on some to-do lists for 2019. Even the companies without a clue about date keeping will eventually catch on to where the correct tomorrows are going to come from: solutions off the support bench.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:45 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2019

MPE vendors walk wooded path into futures

Forest-931706_1280
The HP 3000 world has been active long enough to see death visit the floors of its forests. Death is the great leveler in a crowded forest. Trees that go down provide rich soil for their survivors to flourish in. Software, the trees in the ecosystem of MPE/iX, has been growing and declining for decades now.

The community still ripples with products for development, for management of data, and even some off the shelf applications. There's less rippling today, of course. It's the result of the operating environment's abandonment by its creators. When you tell the world as HP did more than 17 years ago, "We're leaving this market," then products begin to retreat. So does newer and younger talent.

Such a retreat was also a natural event while HP still plied its 3000 trade. A company would shift focus away from the 3000 market, like Aldon Computing did when it embraced the AS/400. In some cases, a vendor would be acquired and the products stripped out of the new owner's list. Infor has retired many a software suite for ERP, although MANMAN has survived that fate that other Infor products have endured. In one case from the earliest days of the NewsWire's sponsors, the owner died and his widow had no succession plan in place. Cosmosoft was a casualty.

A more current event will be the retirements of small and focused companies, operated by a bare handful of experts. It's good work to be serving customers of many years. At some point, though, some of the majordomo managers of software vendors will earn their retirements. A report in Bloomberg News today says that 24 percent of all people 65 and older in the US will continue to work in 2019. Some of them will be software vendors and programmers. A lot fewer, though, than the food service or retail workers in that age group. Check the age of the experts at Home Depot if you disagree.

When a software vendor retires, without much prospect for selling its products to another software company, something's got to be done for the customers using the products. In the past this has been managed with a donation of some kind to a vendor who's friendly enough to keep answering the phones or emails on support issues. Sometimes a product can move into a free status — it's happened in the job scheduling segment, for example.

Expect to see more of this as the market matures. Make a plan, if you're one of the Double Digit MPE managers headed beyond 2027, to see what your software providers have in place. Lots of the software vendors who know MPE/iX are using a workforce in their 60s. A retirement of a key technical resource can trigger new plans for the product's future. Stay in front of this development. These engineers of enterprise are aging. Some can afford to park their products.

This aging of the 3000 marketplace has been the genuine current carrying companies toward migrations. Nothing was permanently wrong with MPE tech when HP pulled out of its futures. The years that have elapsed since then have done nothing to turn back the hands of time. Everything ages. The wetware of the wizards is not replicated easily.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:31 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2019

The State of the 3000's Union, 2019

Us-capitol-477987_1280
The world is still open for business, even if parts of the US Government are not this week. Shutdown has become an ugly word by now. And to think, it was a different kind of ugly word in the world of 1999. 3000 managers would say to support, "What do mean I have to do a SHUTDOWN?" The 3000 was always online, in the minds of many of its customers. When we started the Newswire in 1995, I dubbed our website Always Online.

Those were tender young days for the Internet, but that year was a part of the mature adult life of MPE/iX. In this first month of 2019, it's worthwhile to be plainspoken about what an operating system that's more than 31 years old can still do. I'm counting from the summer of 1987, when the PA-RISC-ready MPE XL emerged. Of course, MPE goes back an extra 13 years before that. Who's counting?

You can be counting forward in 2019. There's technology and support consulting to take the 3000 into the year 2028. For a long time the computer was not supposed to keep dates accurately in that year or beyond. I recall Vladimir Volokh telling me that that the end of 2027 barrier was just something else that would be overcome. He also liked to say that the horizon is an elusive thing, because it's always in front of you. The horizon for MPE/iX is ever-forward.

In a couple of examples, Donna Hofmeister — who was once a director of an advocacy group called OpenMPE — sent me her thoughts about how ready MPE/iX still is in 2019. The state of the operating system's union is sound enough to let it be used by a surprising number of companies.

I pointed out to her that the hardware which drives MPE/iX is not in the greatest state.

There’s more obvious stuff, like the failure of tape media and tape devices, or the age of power supplies and HP gear. Seems that Charon takes care of those things. How about the security, file transfer, and compilers?
"Charon nicely deals with the hardware issues, of course," she said.
Disk drives are 'sorta' a problem. There's issues with dependable, small (4Gb) drives -- but that's rather a 'duh'. There are clear issues, imo, regarding tape drives and media. I've been encouraging our customers to seriously consider doing backups to disc. Even better, take that backup and move it to 'the cloud'. Here's what we're doing:
Image
 
This picture shows how Allegro is using 'BackBlaze' to hold all of our systems' backups. And yes, I tested this! And no, it's not a replacement for making and testing CSLTs.
Hofmeister added, "I'll suggest that some of MPE's problems are not with the machines, rather with the people running them."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2019

Virtualization: only as good as its legacy lore

MPE:iX Search Priority
(Hat-tip to 3kRanger's website)

Getting rid of HP's hardware will be a more popular choice during this year. For some companies that might mean shedding MPE/iX. The Hewlett-Packard iron worries some 3000 sites. But not enough to drop MPE/iX, for other customers.

So they adopt a virtualization plan and put their 3000 onto Intel hardware. Charon is the way forward for their MPE/iX applications. There's a lot to be said for the magic of an emulator when it made its debut. The greater miracle is running a legacy OS in a world of modern options. Linux as the bedrock, SSD as storage, cloud servers waiting for any MPE/iX customer brave enough to need them. (Using a cloud with Charon? We'd like to hear from you.)

There's always a legacy chord running through the virtualized sonata. It's been important, since 2012, to have someone in the mix who's got a foot planted in both worlds: virtualized datacenter guru as well as the world of running STORE and RESTORE on MPE/iX. A person who's got background in how IMAGE/SQL datasets are accessed by applications, as well as the MPE/iX practices for jobstreams to keep workflows running smoothly.

Doug Smith has been that person with a foot in both worlds for Stromasys. He arrived with MANMAN experience, using ERP know-how to smooth Charon into companies. Before him it was Paul Taffel, taking his experience from Orbit Software and using it to plant the emulator into fresh fields.

By today the exposure to the virtualized 3000 has become more commonplace. Support experts with decades of MPE/iX background are getting used to working on PA-RISC 3000s that no longer use HP's hardware. A virtualized system is no better than the expertise about its legacy, though. It's the lore like the illustration above that companies must preserve to keep using MPE/iX here in its fourth decade.

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

January 02, 2019

New year gives MPE a ride on a Raspberry

Raspberry Pi
Robert Mills has a plan to put an HP 3000 in his pocket. The UK programmer reported this week that he's got the MPE V version of an HP 3000, the Series III Simulator, running on a Dell Inspiron desktop. The Simulator gives Intel-based servers the ability to mimic HP's Classic 3000 hardware -- in the same style as the Stromasys Charon virtualizing software lets HP's PA-RISC processing be hosted on Intel systems.

Mills says he's working his way backwards in time for 3000 computing. Once his simulated HP disk drives can be replicated, he'll have a 3000 circa 1983 running on his Dell system.

The simulator on my main computer (Dell Inspiron 3668 running Linux Mint 18.3 with Cinnamon Desktop) has two HP7925 (120Mb) disc drives, two HP7970E tape drives, and 1024K words of memory. The simulator reports that it is executing machine instructions approx 95 times faster than a real Series III. With a little bit of work I could increase the number of HP7925s to eight. This would give me a system that equals, except for the processing speed, a system I worked on during 1981-83.

It's fun to note that the simulated Classic 3000 runs 95 times faster than the original HP hardware. This echoes the upgrade potential of a system virtualizer like Charon. Host the emulated 3000 on faster Intel hardware and see performance increase. The size of the 3000 itself is decreasing for Mills in his plans.

"The next thing I plan to do is try and install the simulator on my Raspberry PI 2B, which has a 2Tb Seagate Expansion Drive," Mills said. "If it works, I'll have an HP 3000 that I can carry in my pocket." The Raspberry is the hardware that helped drive the Rover on the surface of Mars. It's a wonderful story of how a community has lifted a processor into such demanding jobs.

The Raspberry Pi was introduced in 2012 as a teaching tool in the UK. It became far more popular than anticipated, selling outside its target market for uses such as robotics. NASA launched the JPL Open Source Rover Project, which is a scaled down Curiosity rover and uses a Raspberry Pi as the control module, to encourage students and hobbyists to get involved in mechanical, software, electronics, and robotics engineering.

The Raspberry Pi is a device about 3 inches by 4 inches including connectors, so it fits easily in a shirt pocket. The pocket reference invokes memories of the HP engineering mantra from the era when the 3000 was born. Engineers practiced "next bench" designs: products were created for the engineer at the next bench in HP's labs. The lore from those HP Way days says that the first HP calculators were built to the size they employed because they fit into a shirt pocket.

The Raspberry Pi has a long list of operating systems it can run, including nine that are not based on Linux. MPE V appears ready to join the list, since the Simulation Project includes the OS.

It runs the MPE V/R version E.01.00 operating system," Mills said of the Simulator. "The languages pre-installed are: BASIC (interpreter and compiler), COBOL 68, COBOL 74/85, FORTRAN 66, Pascal, RPG  (including the RISE Editor), and SPL."

If a computer that was driven by SPL can be simulated onto hardware that fits in a shirt pocket, anything is technically possibile.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 31, 2018

Date upgrade deadline: now in single digits

Countdown-9
When MPE/iX systems, both virtual and physical, see their clocks tick over tonight at midnight, it will be a significant date. The end of Dec. 31 puts MPE/iX, as crafted by its creators — into single digits for years remaining. Nine is tomorrow's number.

Whether that's nine years until end of life depends on your IT plans. If like more than a few managers you're retiring clean -- with configurations in place to survive into 2028 — the nine years will show you're prepared. You've made your changes to work around the loss of accurate MPE/iX date keeping. At least one vendor is taking orders for this service.

Others, meanwhile, are doing the work and leaving the credit to others. Stromasys has a lot at stake in the 3000 market to make 2028 a year of smooth pavement. We've gotten word they're ready with a software solution to carry MPE/iX beyond HP's wildest visions.

For the IT manager who's retiring without a 2028 plan — and leaving Dec. 31, 2027 as a shutdown date — tomorrow is the start of the final nine years for that HP 3000. It goes without saying these managers have no current interest in the Charon virtualizer for HP's MPE/iX iron.

Everything ends sometime. 2018 wraps up this evening. Lau Tao wrote in another century, "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." May your year to come be a new beginning without such pain. We'll see you in a future where options are still emerging for a suprising decade-plus to come. Some 3000 managers will be joining the march toward a Double-Digit Future for MPE/iX.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:09 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 28, 2018

Fine Tune: Optimized Disaster Recovery

Disasters
By Gilles Schipper

While working with a customer on the design and implementation of disaster recovery (DR) plan for a large HP 3000 system, it became apparent the implementation had room for improvement.

In this specific example, the customer had a production N-Class HP 3000 and a backup HP 3000 Series 969 system in a location several hundred miles from the primary.

The process of implementing the DR was completed entirely from a remote location — thanks to VPNs and an HP Secure Web Console on the 969. One of the most labor-intensive aspects of the DR exercise was to rebuild the IO configuration of the DR machine (the 969) from the full backup tape of the production N-Class machine, which included an integrated system load tape (SLT) as part of the backup.

The ability to integrate the SLT on the same tape as the full backup is very convenient. It results in a simplified recovery procedure as well as the assurance that the SLT to be used will be as current as possible.

When rebuilding a system from scratch from a SLT/Backup tape, if the target system differs in architecture from the source system, it is usually necessary to modify all the device paths and device configuration specifications with SYSGEN and then rebooting the system in order to even be able to utilize the tape drive of the target system to restore any files at all.

(This would be apart from the files restored during the INSTALL process — which does not require proper configuration of any IO component at all).

Some would argue that this system re-configuration needs to be completed only once, since any future system rebuilds would require only a “data refresh” rather than a complete system re-INSTALL.

I say that this would be true only in very stable system environments where IO configurations — including network printer configurations — are static and where TurboIMAGE transaction logging is not utilized. Otherwise there could be unpleasant results and complications from using stale configurations in a real disaster recovery situation. In any case, there really is no reason to take any chances,

The labor-intensive step of creating a proper DR target system configuration environment is achievable minus the labor-intensive part – or at least without repetition of the manual chore of re-configuring the target system each time the DR is exercised.

Unless both the production system and the DR system are architecturally similar (i.e. they belong to same HP 3000 family) the configuration of the target system (the DR machine) cloned from the source system (the production machine) will be non-trivial.

At a minimum, before data restore can begin on the DR machine, the path hierarchy of the tape drive associated with the backup tape must be re-created. Further, if the subsequent restore requires more than just the system disk, all the path components for all the disk drives must also be created.

In a real DR situation, this task can be daunting at best – particularly since it may be difficult to access the appropriate documentation that describes the pertinent SYSGEN configuration. How much preferable would it be to be able to complete this configuration well in advance of the hope-to-never-happen event.

In fact, it is entirely possible to create an appropriate DR configuration environment that is (almost) completely integrated into one’s production environment.

SYSGEN IO requirements

In order to provision a potential DR HP 3000 system’s IO configuration requirements into an existing production HP 3000 SLT, it is only necessary to configure all of the DR path components into the existing production system’s IO configuration.

The fact that these paths do not exist on the production (source) system is immaterial — as long as you can withstand the menacing, although perfectly innocuous console error messages that accompany a reboot of a system so configured.

There is also the matter of actual device numbers — and that is why I included the “almost” when mentioning “completely integrated” earlier.

Clearly, it is not possible to have duplicate device numbers when configuring both production and DR devices into the production SYSGEN IO configuration. So, in order to distinguish between the two systems (one the real production, the other virtual DR), I simply add 100 (you can choose any number) to the device numbers associated with the virtual machine. Then when actually testing or invoking the DR process, it is a simple matter to change the device numbers in a batch job designed for that purpose.

Another batch job could be pre-built that would add the appropriate disk drives and volume sets to the system’s disk pool, using VOLUTIL. These batch jobs would be included in the full backup tape and could be restored almost immediately following the INSTALL by referencing :file tape;dev=107 (to use my example of adding 100 to the corresponding virtual device).

The command :restore *tape;{fileset}; directory;olddate; keep;create;show (where {fileset} corresponds to the fileset that would include the appropriate device number change and volutil batch jobs. One could take this technique one step further in the case where the DR target machine is unknown.

In such a situation, you could create a SYSGEN IO configuration that includes path constructs for any possible virtual machine that you could think of and include them in the host configuration – adding 100 for devices associated with virtual machine 1, 200 for virtual machine 2, and so on.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:03 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 26, 2018

3000 security status: obscure and secure

Bank vault
Earlier this year Jeff Kubler of Kubler Consulting was trying to label the status of MPE/iX security. The distinction between hardware and software is noteworthy. Whatever security the 3000s had confers onto the virtualized 3000s running under the Charon emulator from Stromasys.

Kubler built a list of the known conditions and advantages

  • Unknown operating system
  • Password protected
  • Must know how to address it with HELLO
  • Must know or guess the user
  • Could have additional security like VEsoft strenghtening the additional login string
  • Security on the account, user and group level could keep those who even know a login from getting anything important 
  • No visiting websites while using an HP 3000 application

When Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the 3000 security is weak ("if you have locked the doors, then it will stop someone who just tries the door handle"), Pro 3K's Mark Ranft wanted to disagree.

The correct description is Security through Obscurity. If your HP 3000 has VESOFT's Security 3000 installed, and it is properly configured with two factor authentication, I don't know if anyone, without physical access to the machine, or access to unencrypted backups media, that could break in.

Where the HP 3000 falls short is in encryption of data that is in transit between the user and the system.  For this, I recommend you turn to MiniSoft Secure 92 for terminal access.

And unfortunately, if you host a website on the HP 3000, I have to admit the HP WebWise MPE/iX Secure Web Server is not TLS 1.2 capable. This would be a showstopper for PCI certification. But this is only a big deal if you accept credit card or other protected information via the website.

Finally, depending on your location or customer base, you may also need to worry about GDPR.

That two-factor feature might not be fully available under MPE/iX, depending on your definition of 2FA.

John Clogg said that asking for two passwords or a secret question is not two factors.

One weakness of MPE is that unless you have a password insertion utility, such as STREAMX, passwords for jobs must either be typed in when streaming, which precludes many job scheduling methods, or they must be hard-coded in the jobs. If you can prevent command-line access, some of these weaknesses can be overcome. I would say that the 3000's security is pretty weak without Security/3000 or a similar product.

With MPE or any other OS, security is effective only if those administering the machine take it seriously and don't make dumb mistakes. Years ago an employee of a company I worked for was being visited by her sister who was an HP SE in another city.  I caught the sister trying to log on to our system using the default passwords for TELESUP and other standard accounts. Fortunately, I had changed them all, but I'm sure this approach works in many cases.

I often see systems where jobs with hard-coded passwords have read access granted to "ANY", lots of users with excessive privileges, and so forth. Unfortunately, these problems persist because most IT auditors don't know an HP 3000 from a hole in the ground.

Ranft got in the last word on the matter, which seems to suggest the Vesoft Security 3000 is essential.

If you set up Security 3000 to ask you for a series of questions, like your dog's birthday, instead of just a second password. I am pretty certain that qualifies as two factor authentication. Wikipedia defines it as: Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) is a type (subset) of multi-factor authentication. It is a method of confirming a user's claimed identity by utilizing a combination of two different factors: 1) something they know, 2) something they have, or 3) something they are.

And you are correct. Most un-enhanced HP 3000 systems had poor security. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft made a living visiting companies and selling them Security/3000 and the rest of the VEsoft suite by breaking in while they sat beside him at the console. I would always enjoy my visits with Vlad. After a few visits, I learned enough that he was no longer able to break into my systems. But in those days there were some backdoor ways to get PM capability.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:40 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 24, 2018

Gifts given, 11 years after a Christmas

Gifts-under-tree
Eleven years ago we wished for nine things that would help 3000 users in the years to come. At the close of 2007 there was no virtual HP 3000 product like Charon. We didn't even allow ourselves to wish for such a thing.

But here on the last office day before Christmas, it's fun to review our holiday wish list. Let's see what we got and what HP withheld until it was too late for the vendor to supply what the community requested.

We've heard these desires from HP 3000 customers, consultants and vendors. Some of the wishes might be like the Red Ryder BB-Gun that's at the center of the holiday epic A Christmas Story. As in, "You don't want that, you'll put your eye out." If you're unfamiliar with the movie, the line means "I don't want you to have that, because I worry what you will hurt once you get it."

1. Unleashing the full horsepower of A-Class and N-Class 3000 hardware
2. Just unleashing the power of the A-Class 3000s (since every one of the models operates at a quarter of its possible speed)
3. Well, then at least unleash the N-Class systems' full clock speeds
4. HP's requirements to license a company for MPE/iX source code use
5. A way to use more than 16GB of memory on a 3000
6. A 3000 network link just one-tenth as fast as the new 10Gbit Ethernet
7. A water-cooled HP 3000 cluster, just like IBM used to make
8. A guaranteed ending date of HP's 3000 support for MPE/iX
9. Freedom to re-license your own copy of MPE/iX during a sale of an 3000

HP finally supplied Numbers 4 and 8. The first created the Source Code Seven, vendors who hold licenses that let them create workarounds and custom patches for MPE/iX issues. Number 8 arrived during the following year. It can be argued HP didn't end all of its MPE/iX support for several years beyond that official Dec. 31, 2010 date.

Some of the more inventive indie support companies have devised ways to use 32 GB of memory for 3000s, too. Ask yours about Number 5.

The last two items seem like real BB-Guns. But they have a chance of helping the community see the 3000 future more clearly, instead of putting its eye out.

A guaranteed ending date for HP's 3000 support is something both homesteaders and migration experts desire. By moving the finish line twice already, HP has kept customers from finishing migrations, or even starting them, according to migration partners.

What's more, the "we're not sure when support is really done" message keeps the 3000's service and support aftermarket in limbo. Customers tell us that they will be using their HP 3000 systems until their business demands they migrate away. HP plans to change its business practices someday for the HP 3000. But nobody knows for certain what day that will be.

That brings us to No. 9, the freedom to re-license your own MPE/iX. HP development on this software ends in one year. That's the end of changes to the operating environment, a genuine Freeze Line for MPE/iX. HP should be able to compete on a level field with the rest of the community. HP Services seems to need those special 3000 licenses.

Number 10? A wish for a long life and continued interest in MPE/iX from the HP 3000 gurus of the community. Someone can bring some these gifts after there's no one inside HP to cares about the 3000 community.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:40 AM in History, Homesteading, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2018

Even DTCs can spark memories for 3000s

DTC to 3000 N-Class config
The Distributed Terminal Controller was a networking device with intelligence that stood between an HP 3000 and a peripheral. We use the past tense to describe the DTC usage for many of the homesteading 3000 sites. In some places, DTCs continue to let 3000s shake hands with other devices.

At TE Connectivity in Hampton Roads, Va. the box works between an N-Class 3000 (the ultimate generation) and an impact printer (of considerably older peerage). Al Nizzardini makes the pair work for the company that employs 3000s across the globe, from North America to China.

"Our DTC 48 with 3-pin ports died on us," Nizzardini said. "We have an impact printer connected to the 48, the only thing that is hanging off that DTC." At first the solution to the blocked connection was to use an even older controller, the DTC16 with modem ports. That would've involved shorting out pins on the DTC 16.

Nizzardini asked and a few veterans answered. Francois Desrochers said Nizzardini would need pins 2, 3 and 7 (send, receive, ground). "You may have to short out 5 and 20," he added. Another combination from Gary Robillard suggested connecting 4 and 5 together and 6, 8, and 20 together. "We always had 2 and 3 crossed—2 to 3 and 3 to 2," he said.

It's been 20 years since HP last released a DTC, something that's still useful for older peripherals. The intel to keep one connected to the latest 3000s is still available in the 3000 community. Old doesn't mean dead when someone remembers the essentials. Nizzardini solved his problem without shorting out pins, just by locating another working DTC 48. MANMAN drives the workflow at TE Connectivity, but the real driver is pros like Nizzardini, helping one another remember.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:35 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2018

What to say back to "Your system sucks."

Rolling-stones
There are still moments out there waiting for the homesteading 3000 manager. The ones where someone in IT who's pretty sure they know better about systems says something like "MPE sucks." Or anything equally glib, dressed up little to hide the ignorance.
 
"MPE sucks" is something like "the Stones were hacks." It’s a matter of taste and what you know. There’s too much legacy software out there doing production work to dismiss anything out of hand. I find that the more technical the IT administrator, the more they seem to like the clean choices, those with shorter pedigrees and clearer parentage. MPE/iX, being in its late 40's of existence, feels like it's just too out of date.
 
If that were true, then a company like Stromasys would have failed at selling an emulator into the MPE/iX marketplace. Charon is working and moving data where it needs to go.
 
I’ve talked for thousands of hours to people who cut code and build application suites. The dance between developer, administrator-CIO, and end user is interesting and frustrating. Using something older is not an ignorant move. What sucks, if anything, is a tunnel vision about the best tool to preserve a company's investment.
 
I've read the following in the last 24 hours, shared by a vendor who really needs you to see that cloud IT is your next best future.
The person in charge of the software isn’t generally involved in the day to day. The only thing they know is that the job is getting done, and “If it ain’t broke, don’t ax it.” They’re too removed to realize that it is broken, and there’s no one questioning them about whether something could be done 20 percent faster or 10 times easier.

Neither of these stakeholders is in a position where they can see the problems. What
they need is a different perspective.

When a different perspective can respect the investment in MPE/iX, and acknowlege how much less faster or easier an alternative is once you factor in the cost of change — then it might be time to talk futures and alternatives
 
People like the tools that they like. I don’t try to win the PC vs Mac debates anymore. It does annoy me to see a tech expert dismiss something. I have a friend who loves Android and slams iOS, who uses Linux and hoots at Windows. For him, the ability to flip a million software switches and manage his own filesystem is the smartest way to go. The 3000 marketplace started to see this when SAP crept in to try to replace MPE/iX. That's why Kenandy has been able to stand in at a few 3000 sites. Its switches are already set in positions that let work get done.
 
Advocates of the more complex choices usually don’t understand how smart they are in relation to everybody else. I encountered this in our editorial business just a few days ago.
A colleague who's a website developer belted out that "Wordpress sucks" stink bomb. To veer into the weeds on editorial and author websites, I'm one of the many who use Wordpress to manage content — blog entries, pages for books or services, and more. Wordpress is classic and yet evolving, and it's everywhere. Some might think of it like a legacy choice. The alternatives for content management are harder to customize. Joomla is that's colleague's favorite. For me, it was the bad, beautiful girlfriend who never felt safe.
 
I tried to make Joomla work for more than three years, but it was impenetrable. Some of that was probably my build-out of its theme, some my unfamiliarity with Joomla (I know WordPress dashboards and plug-ins much better.) I didn’t cut code. I made content and thought up business practices.
 
Keeping a website in clean enough shape to remain useful is not automatic, not in 2018. 
 
It didn’t get better once the Joomla site for the Writer's Workshop got injected with malware scripts. Twice. I changed hosting and got an intermediate firewall company (SiteLock, $60 monthly) to make the security problems go away. 
 
Like an MPE/iX customer who's finding problems with hardware, I had to get my resource chain in order. My new host auto-updates my WordPress (and believe me, I know people are trying to hack into WordPress. It’s everywhere, like Windows) and my new webmaster wants to secure my site as much as I do.
 
Insisting on control and customization — like the MPE/iX customers must, because they're supporting decades of data — makes things stickier. My challenge with website user experience is I learned publishing in the paper era. We controlled every user experience because the medium was the same everywhere. Losing control, and giving myself over the the dynamic nature of web, still annoys me. Three different sizes of smartphones, and two mobile operating systems, plus the vagueries of browsers, alters everyone's the experience.
 
Don't let anybody tell you your legacy choices suck. IT can sing from more than one set of chords.
 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2018

HP's 3000 boxes step closer to solid storage

SCSI2SD-V6-RevF-2T
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)

December 07, 2018

Memory and Disk Rules for Performance

Concentration
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

ROI-calcuation
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

Dremel-tool-DS1287
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

Waiter-plates
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

Rescued-boat-people
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?

UT-Club
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

Test-siren
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

Jazz-announcement
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 hpmigrations.com/HPe3000_resources. 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 doc.hp.com.

"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
• BIND
• 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
• NTP
• OpenSSL
• Perl
• Sendmail

Open source software produced/ported by individuals:

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

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

• CRYPT
• DBUTIL
• Firmware
• Java
• LDAP
• LineJet Utilities
• Patch/iX
• VERSION
• 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

Cruise-ship-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

Database_design_concepts
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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:xeq datetest
:if WhichVariableName = DontRememberWhatValue then

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 08, 2018

Leaving Something to Retire On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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