December 05, 2019

Set a Watch for Jobs That Hang Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Photo by AK¥N Cakiner on Unsplash

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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December 03, 2019

Where MANMAN support goes, post-Infor

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

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2019

HP still keeps MPE data behind a paywall

Payphone
Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash

It can be surprising to see how much value remains in an operating system that's not been altered in almost a decade. Hewlett Packard Enterprise has 3000 documentation on its website that is still behind a paywall of sorts. Users access this info by validating their HP Passport credentials — the ones that indentify the user as being current on a support contract.

The HPE website has plenty of advice and instruction available without a validation. If you ask, for example, "Can the HP 3000 and GSP LAN configuration be on different subnets?" HPE reports

There are two server platforms (A-CLASS [A400/A500] and N-CLASS [N4000]) that can run MPE, which uses the GSP (Guardian Service Processor) console for offline hardware operations like startup and shutdown of the system, access hardware console or system logs, etc.

It is possible for management purposes to place the GSP operation on a different subnet from the MPE server LAN, thus isolating or protecting either environment from one another. One reason for that can be to prevent normal users from telneting or in other ways accessing the GSP console or the other way around.

Or, another morsel that's useful in the era of declining hardware know-how: A-Class IO path memory configuration guidelines. Useful for the manager who's trying to set up memory cards in one of those $5,000 replacement 3000s.

However, if you'd like to read the most current documents, a support contract stands in the way. An updated NMMAINT listing is behind the paywall. HPE created the document in August of 2019. There's no available support to be purchased from HP for MPE/iX.

The documents that survive can be extensively redacted. A HP3000 License Transfer Process document references a web address no longer in service. The address licensing.hp.com no longer answers to requests.

Some information on MPE/iX at HPE's website is among the 4,386 documents at the site. Having the confidence that it will remain in that place is the next step in learning to rely on HPE resources. Independent MPE/iX resources have been more reliable, although the web pages for MM Support went dark this year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:05 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 21, 2019

Values hidden by time get revealed by vets

Brass treasure key
Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Twenty-four years ago we started unlocking Hidden Value for HP 3000s: Commands that only the veterans know, plus the processes that have been plumbed to bypass MPE's blind alleys.

Some of the value is specific to a 3000 process like using EDIT/3000. It's antique, that editor, but it's on every HP 3000.

I use cut and paste with EDIT/3000 to enter data to batch files.  It works well except that I am limited by the size of the scratch file. Can I change the size of this file so I can paste more at a time?

Immediately after entering Editor, enter "set size=######" to give yourself more space.

For other tasks, like finding forgotten passwords, and keeping them fresh and the 3000's data secret, more elaborate answers have surfaced.

A system manager pitched his plight.

"My operator, in his infinite wisdom, decided to change passwords on manager.sys.  Of course he forgot, or fingerchecked... I don’t know.  At any rate I need some help. Any suggestions, other than a blindfold and cigarette?"

Several versions of help involved the use of utilities from security experts VEsoft. "Do you have the GOD program on your system? If so, it has PM capability, and so it can give the user who runs it SM capability. So it will allow you to do a LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS;PASS=

(That's why GOD should be secured, by the way. A randomized lockword will do the job, visible only to users who have SM capability. When VEsoft installs MPEX, for example, it installs a randomized password to MGR.VESOFT, and to GOD.PUB.VESOFT.)

Paul Edwards, ever a source for HP 3000 training, ran through the backstop methods every system manager should practice to avoid such a dilemma.

1. You run BULDACCT prior to each full backup so you can look in BULDJOB1 for the passwords 
2. You have another user on the system with SM capability and a different password as a backup in case this happens  
3. Your operator used LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS;PASS just after changing the password to verify the accuracy as spelled out in the Operations Procedures section in your Systems Manager Notebook   
4. You have a Systems Manager Notebook

  Then Duane Percox of K-12 app vendor QSS opened up a clever back door:

If your operator can log onto operator.sys:
file xt=mytape;dev=disc
file syslist=$stdlist
store command.pub;*xt;directory;show

Using your favorite editor or other utility search for the string: "ALTUSER MANAGER  SYS" You will notice: PAS=

, <passwd> which is your clue

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 19, 2019

Keep Passwords Fresh on 3000s: Methods

Fresh bread
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

It's usually a good practice to keep passwords fresh. A 3000 development manager once posed a question about how to do this while staying inside the bounds of MPE/iX. He had the usual limited budget associated with HP 3000 ownership.

"Management wants users to be forced to change their passwords on a regular basis. Also, certain rules must be applied to the new password. I don't have budget for the good tools for this, like Security/3000, so I need to write something myself, or see if there's any contributed code to do the job."

Homegrown and bundled solutions followed. When Jeff Vance worked in the 3000 lab at HP, he offered the pseudo random password generator as a solution. It's in the HP Migrations webpage hosted on the website of the company formerly known as Speedware. These HP Jazz solutions that used to be on the HP website are still available at Fresche Solutions.  

There are UDCs on Jazz which force a password to be supplied when using NEWUSER, NEWACCT and NEWGROUP CI commands. These required passwords can be random (uses the script above) or user entered with a minimal length enforced.

Then Vance added as an afterthought, a strategy to program your own password system:

I haven’t thought about it much, but it seems you could have a password file (maybe a CIRcular file?) for each user on the system. This file would have their last N passwords, and the modified date of the file would be the date their password was most recently changed.

A logon UDC could detect if the password file for that user exists. If not create it and require a new password right then.  If the password file exists then get it’s modified date and compare that to today’s date. If greater than X days then in a loop prompt for a new password. Validate the entered password against previous N passwords and your other rules. Maybe run a dictionary checking program to make sure the password is not common, etc.

Update the user-specific password file with their new password, and then logon the user.

From the user community, Donna Hofmeister weighed in with this advice:

If you have no choice other than to develop your own software, then I’d certainly model it after what VEsoft has already done. That is:

Based on a system-wide UDC, examine all sessions (it is just sessions, yes?  By the way, a DSLOGON from inside a job is still a session....) against a ‘database’ (By the way, just how secure is this database?  A real database needs passwords... Who’s going to maintain that? A flat file could be lockworded... but that’s not a slamdunk answer.) which is looking for the ‘age’ of the password (By the way, are you going to provide an advance warning period?). 

If it is time to change the password, get the ‘new’ password from the user... but writing the rules is a pain, and keeping track of reused passwords is just annoying. Auditors in the states love when you can say the password is one-way encrypted.  Dunno what your management is saying for encrypting an MPE password.

Dave Powell coded up a solution in a contribution.

It ought to be possible to do everything for free, using just MPE.  Editing the new password is the ugly part, but if you randomly assign it that issue goes away. The next issue is that the :password command seems to like to be purely interactive, as in:

echo oldpass >> tempf
echo newpass >> tempf
echo newpass >> tempf
:password < tempf
password
Command not allowed in noninteractive environment. (CIERR 2500)
PASSWORD WAS NOT CHANGED.

That leaves the altuser cmd, which needs AM cap.  If you don't want a background job (like Paul's suggestion), you can have the command file (called by  your logon UDC) use the echo command to build job with AM cap, which it then streams, kind of like (untested, but I have working examples of cmd-files building other jobs):

ECHO !!JOB ACCTMGR/PASS.SOMEACCT; HIPRI  >> TF
ECHO !!ALTUSER !HPUSER;PASS=!NEW_PASS >> TF
ECHO !!SETVAR STREAMED_BY   WORD(HPSTREAMEDBY,"()",2) >> TF
ECHO !!TELL !!STREAMED_BY Your new password is !NEW_PASS >> TF
ECHO !!EOJ >> TF
STREAM TF
ECHO Please note your new password when it appears
PAUSE 99; JOB = !HPLASTJOB
PURGE TF, TEMP

If I haven't screwed up the fine print too badly, this code in the middle of the password cmd-file runs the job that changes your password, then waits for the job to tell you what the new password is.  The single exclamations before HPUSER & NEW_PASS mean that values that are variables to the session and command-file become hard-wired values for the job.

Before all this your cmd-file checks the date, gets a random password, etc., as posted by others.  After it the cmd-file writes (or just builds) a file that serves as a timestamp.  But I am not too comfy with putting the passwords into a plain-text file, so I might skip that part (remember, the user needs both read and write access to it).  Put the command file in a group that users have xeq access to, but not read/write access.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:27 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2019

Welcome to Year 19 of the Afterlife

Cheated Death on printer
You remember where you were, perhaps, on the day you learned Hewlett-Packard was done with MPE/iX. You might have been in a meeting, or checked your email before heading home. You might have been installing something a 3000 needed to keep serving your company, or even ready to order a new server to replace the old 9x8 box. Some unlucky vendors were holding orders for new systems.

People did all of that and more on the day HP revealed its 3000 era was on its way to a finish. By 2003 the community was calling the new era The Afterlife. The lifespan of building new HP 3000 hardware was ended when a box rolled off the line at the Roseville plant in early November that year.

Afterlife shirt

And so, on November 14 of 2001, the afterlife of Hewlett-Packard's lifetime started with dismay, anger, and then resignation. The five stages of death proceeded through discussions in a lively 3000 newsgroup. Taking a cue from the horrors of 9/11 in that season, programmers and vendors howled about the relatively unimportant death in their lives.

Doug Greenup was leading Minisoft in that November week. The CEO of a software company whose products were on thousands of systems, he became aware of the HP pullout with just one day's notice.

Alvina Nishimoto from HP called me. She was in charge of third parties with HP at the time. She asked me to sign a non-disclosure which she'd just faxed me. She said she had important news. I signed it and faxed it right back. She called to tell me HP was announcing they were discontinuing the HP e3000, and that HP-UX was their future direction.

HP might have been worried the story was going to get into the world without its influence. The news had been roiling through the 3000 community for more than a week before I learned about it. Wirt Atmar, the founder of AICS and a 3000 stalwart, threw off the lid about the pullout by posting on a developers' mailing list.

I spoke to two of our oldest, most trusted customers yesterday, one a ten-year customer and the other 15 years, about this upcoming announcement. Their first reactions were that it simply sucked their breath away. When I told them about HP's proposed plans of migrating their applications to HP-UX — which as an option has all of the practicality to them of trying to establish a penguin colony in Death Valley — their second reaction was "the hell with HP. If we move, it will be to anything but HP." I think that that's going to be the general reaction.

HP learned a great deal about ending a product line with the lessons that began 18 years ago. Earlier this year the company made a graceful transfer of responsibility for OpenVMS, sending the software as well as support opportunities to an independent firm, VMS Software Inc. HP won't sell any more OpenVMS licenses, although it continues to build Itanium servers that will run the apps created for that OS.

This was a vision that the HP 3000 community took to heart during the first of the 18 years that followed. A similar group of OS experts, organized and led by Adager, wanted HP to transfer the future of MPE/iX to new, independent stewards. HP didn't know how to do this in 2001 or in 2002. The offer took another form in the OpenMPE advocate organization, but eight more years had to slip past before HP's source code made its way into independent software labs.

A new history began 18 years ago, a record of a group of computer customers who kept their own counsel about walking away from a corporate computing asset. The next two years or so will show HP Enterprise customers what might have been possible had MPE/iX found a third party home. VSI is predicting that it will have production-grade OpenVMS ready for a late 2021 release on Intel hardware.

This is more than a shift away from the HP Enterprise resources. VSI is carrying OpenVMS to a new chipset, a commodity home. In 2001, Atmar told HP's business manager for 3000 operations, Winston Prather, such a move was what the 3000 customers deserved.

Opening MPE up and migrating it to an Intel platform offers at least some real hope for a continued and bright future for MPE. More than that, it keeps a promise that most customers believe HP has made to them, and that is very much the nub of the moral and ethical question
that faces you now, Winston.

Migrating MPE to Intel hardware would have permitted MPE to run on inexpensive but high-quality servers. Earlier this month, VSI announced a timeline for such a thing to happen with OpenVMS. A different HP paved the way, perhaps chastened by the past, than the corporation that launched the afterlife. In the beginning, the launch of the server took place in this month. The slogan in 1972 was "November is a Happening." Nothing can change what happened nearly 30 years later, but the decisions over what to do with a loyal enterprise customer base have changed in the years since 2001's happenings.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:03 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2019

Customized code care can add time to apps

Sewing spool and scissors
Image by TooMuchCoffeeMan from Pixabay

Almost all MANMAN sites have the original ASK FORTRAN source code, but a few have lost track of some of their mods. It seems hard to believe for some analysts, but source code for applications can go missing, too.

It's easier to believe while considering the age of this software. A 3000 which first booted up a manufacturing site for TE Connectivity in 1978 recently got powered down for the last time. The software had outlasted a half-dozen servers, until finally the need lapsed for a host of an application launched 40 years ago.

TE has its source code for every 3000 instance it continues to run to manage manufacturing across North America and Asia. You can imagine, though, how much care it takes to keep that corporate asset in good working order from the era before PCs until today.

Managing the modifications is the other essential piece of the lifetime-extending effort for MPE/iX ERP solutions. No app suite is as often customized as ERP; the term itself is an extension of the Manufacturing Resource Planning of the 1980s. What was once MRP is now ERP. The planning always needs custom code, tailored to the business processes.

Terry Floyd, the founder of MANMAN support resource The Support Group, said most MANMAN sites — and there are under 100 by now — own and manage their own source code for the main application set. His company deals with modifications for its clients, too. Without the mods, using such apps is a matter of being frozen in time for features. It's like trying to take out a pair of pants without enough material.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:54 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2019

What MANMAN sites didn't know until now

 
Just this week I sat in on a call among MANMAN users. There were not a lot of them, but 20 people dialed in or opened a GoToMeeting for a conference call. Regional Users Group meets have disappeared except for the Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society. Unlike some 3000 owners and managers, CAMUS still has something to talk about.
 
The discussion topic is change. Here in 2019, CAMUS users manage HP 3000s that continue to manage manufacturing. That situation will change sooner or later. Manufacturing software is wired in deeper to a company's nervous system. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can apply to many MPE/iX shops. ERP has the longest lifespan of any application package.
 
Not long ago, an ERP system was shut down at TE Connectivity. TE is probably the biggest customer by number of ERP 3000s. The system that was powered off for good hosted software that had been running since 1978. Other ERP instances there, not as old, continue to run.
 
Forty years. One operating environment. A legacy within a legacy community. In essence, though, just the longest lived veteran in a room of greybeard application suites. The shutdown didn't even come up during the RUG call.
 
The meeting was organized by the CAMUS president Terri Lanza, who led the discussion. One of the more interesting parts was the group’s take on Infor support. The vendor's dropping support altogether for MANMAN customers next year. Some customers on the call were just learning that Infor's support verdict has been out since 2018. 
 
Support disappearances are not exactly news in the 3000 world. This strategy by Infor, though is notable. It's perhaps the last departure from an application vendor.
 
That might be due to the number of MANMAN sites still paying Infor support fees. Nine, in all, and that was as of last year. Revenue from support is the canary in the mine shaft for vendor decisions like this.
 
Infor is closing down an operation for MPE/iX that had been available in name only, if the RUG's intel is accurate. In less than a year, even the backup to the best engineers will be working on something else. By May, the app will stop being sold or supported. Go-time for software that's free, right? Not so fast there. The 3000 community has been through this before.

Hewlett-Packard [now called HPE, for the Enterprise half of HP] had 3000 owners hopes in the balance when it first announced it was ending its MPE and 3000 business. A seasoned and well known database tool vendor marshaled financing, enough for a reasonable offer to take over the OS and the hardware.

HP said no, despite being so tied to that vendor that the third party product was on HP's own corporate price list. When it's over at a vendor, it's over. The MPE community proved over the next 15 years that they'll decide for themselves, one site at a time, when things are over. 
 
People on the call had a lot of assumptions and some misinformation about how their application code licensing was going to change — because Infor is stopping all sales. "Here comes open source," or "we can do whatever we want with it" were heard. Neither is true unless Infor does what HP could not do in 2002. MANMAN is still not released into the wild, as far as legal is concerned.
 
There was also some comparison to the license holders of the MPE source code. It is misunderstood, sometimes, that license arrangement. Every line of nearly all MPE/iX routines sits wide open on servers at seven license holders. The database tool vendor Adager, support companies like Beechglen and Pivital Solutions, plus four others can see every line.
 
They can't rebuild the OS, though, or add features within it. The superpower of source is important, a distinguishing feature for these Super Seven. They can solve support problems like nobody else can. Beechglen thinks enough of its source license that Doug Werth said on that call it's a significant part of their software that can carry a 3000's date operations up to 2038.
 
Who in the world would be using MANMAN in 2020? Companies that have their software set up for the very long run. Customers who need the app vendor so little that when Infor reported their clock would run out next year, nothing would change. Some MANMAN sites still standing have their source code just as much as the Super Seven have MPE.
 
Other sites do not, and the news about 2020 arrived just this week for them.
 
The situation looks good for the sites that have MANMAN source. For awhile, MANMAN's creators ASK sold the app with source. It was a different era in the 1970s.
 
Terry Floyd of the Support Group, who has serviced MANMAN sites as a first-line resource for 25 years, said everything but two routines is available for the ERP suite owners to modify as they wish. And if they own their source code, it's 100 percent. That's a better arrangement than MPE's existence inside those support and database companies.
 
ERP does that: it just runs for decades, given community help. A RUG group meeting in November of 2019 fits with that situation like an elderly strongman's grip inside weightlifting gloves.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:34 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 31, 2019

Wayback Wed: Leaving a Wake on an exit

Chris Gauthier  Jackie at Wake
Simpkins  Nizzardini  Johnson Wake redux
Above, a 2019 commemorative lunch today at Tide Mill Café in Hampton, VA with Terry Simpkins, Al Nizzardini and Tracy Johnson, all 3000 experts and veterans of MPE. 3000s are in use at their company, TE Connectivity. At top, a 2003 World Wide Wake picture with Chris Gauthier and his co-worker Jackie Mitchell, both supporting 3000 customers as contractors to Terix.

Today we're marking the 16th anniversary of the World Wide Wake. The event was a marker of the end of HP’s 3000 manufacturing on Oct. 31, 2003. Alan Yeo, who passed away recently, organized the Wake and posted photos contributed from attendees onto what we were still calling the World Wide Web. A Web gallery for 3000 people was groundbreaking at the time.

Yeo said back in 2004, a few months after the event that drew more than 400 devotees to meetings in 15 countries, “We have created a simple single Web page that by country just lists the venues and who attended, and also has a link to any pictures for that venue," Yeo said. “The information will be condensed into a single Web page, linked to a directory of about 75 images. We have had several offers to host the information, so rather than try and pick a single host, we thought that allowing any interested attendee to host it would be best.”

Thanks to good Web hunting from Keven Miller, the Wayback Machine link to the original Web page tells the tale of who attended, and where, along with some of the photos.

Our own archive of the photos, sans captions, is here on the blog.

The photos from that day look like party pictures, even though nobody in them was celebrating anything except Halloween. The memories were on the minds of everyone in the frame, though. The future without any more new 3000s didn't seem to scare anyone on that day, at least not for the cameras. It was a coincidence that the building of new computers, as well as the licenses for the MPE/iX that made the boxes genuine 3000s, stopped on the spooky holiday. HP's fiscal year ends every year on October 31.

The Wake gatherings were all across the globe. New Zealand was the furthest away from the Epicenter of Grief, as the 3000 faithful had dubbed Lori's Little Shack in Roseville, the town where HP's 3000 factory was ending its birth of the servers. 

Loree's Epicenter Grief

Hundreds of HP 3000 users, managers, vendors and devotees gathered in pubs, cafes, back yards and offices to celebrate the end of something: HP's finale to creating new HP 3000 servers.

On our separate photo gallery page, we've collected some images of that day. The people in those pictures were holding a wake for Hewlett-Packard's 3000s (and a few who believed it was the beginning of the end for MPE/iX). Even today, it's hard to make a case that the server actually died on Halloween of 2003. What ended was the belief that HP would build any more 3000s.

TSG wake
The gatherings ranged from "The Ship" in Wokingham in the UK, to Vernazza, Italy, to Texada Island off British Columbia, to Melbourne, to the Carribbean's Anguilla, and to a backyard BBQ in Austin -- where a decommissioned 3000 system printer and put-aside tape drives sat beside our grill. At a typically warm end of October, the offices of The Support Group gave us a way to gather and mourn a death -- the official passing of any hope of ever seeing a new HP 3000 for sale from Hewlett-Packard.

Company employees chatted with several MANMAN customers under those Austin oaks, along with a few visitors from the local 3000 community. Winston Krieger, who passed away this year and whose experience with the 3000 goes back to the system’s roots and even further, into its HP 2100 predecessor, brought several thick notebook binders with vintage brochures, documentation, technical papers and news clippings.

RadE4A95HP, as well as the full complement of those October customers, continued to use the server during November. And while the creator of the Wake concept Yeo said, "the date does sort of mark a point of no return, and it will be sad," Birket Foster had his own view of what just happened.

“The patient’s not dead yet," he said at the time, "but we did pass a milestone.”

One software vendor even announced new products at the gathering. Steve Quinn of eXegySys said that "We will not be mourning the death of the HP 3000 as much as celebrating the birth of two new products." Both ran on Windows but had deep roots in MPE. Almost 40 people signed in at the company's HQ in Salt Lake City.

The Wake drew the interest of mainstream media in the US and the UK, including some of the first notice from the business press in several years. But no outlets devoted mainline coverage to the impressive array of parties and commemorations; instead, Web-based reports of the Wake appeared from print publishers and ABC News. The Wall Street Journal, Computerworld and the website The Register also reported on HP’s end of sales. 

On the website where Yeo first hosted the photos, Gary Stead of the UK reported in a note he was "looking for a job 1st Nov!" 

But Duane Percox, Doug Perry, Steve Cooper, Rick Ehrhart, Ric Goldman, Mark Slater, John Korondy, Tom McNeal, and Stan Sieler joined HP’s Cathlene Mcrae, Mike Paivinen, Peggy Ruse, Jeff Vance and Dave Wilde to raise glasses in salute at the pub The Duke of Edinburgh, just down the street from HP’s MPE labs. Everybody went back to work on 3000s the next day.

Quinn of eXegySys said his company's new products, while running on non-3000 servers, "both extend far beyond the capabilities of their forefathers." The same can be said of everyone who attended a wake for an HP Way business and an ideal.

Moving onward is natural in a lifecycle. The Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." There was pain in the end of the manufacture of 3000s, the beginning of HP's MPE end. Beginnings happened nine years later, when Stromasys introduced the PA-RISC HP 3000 emulator Charon.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:56 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2019

Crave sounds of connection? Call in Nov. 7

HP 3000 owners and managers, as well as developers working in manufacturing, can hear each other's voices next week. Those who crave the connection of conversation can call in on Nov. 7 at 10:30 CST (8:30 Pacific, 15:30 UK) for this year's CAMUS user group meeting. Email organizer Terri Lanza to register (it's free) and get the dial-in number.

For many years, the members of the Computer Aided Manufacturing Users Society gathered in person. The meetings were small in number compared to the attendance and exhibits at Interex events. But here in 2019, some 14-plus years after Interex died, CAMUS still hosts gatherings including this call. Sometimes the group, led by the cheerful and redoubtable Lanza, has met in person. This summer she set aside a meeting room at the local Dave & Busters in the Chicago suburbs for a Sunday afternoon gathering.

Everyone at this year's meeting was 20 years older than in this 1999 photo at the same Dave & Busters.

CAMUS RUG 1999 Larry_Vicky_Steven_Holly

At that same 1999 meeting, robotics toys were a part of the agenda. Because even in that year, it was easy to see that robotics was going to be a big part of manufacturing IT in the years to come.

VickyFalk 1999 CAMUS MWmeet

A conference call still has the word "conference" within, so the November 7 call is a gathering without the toys and games. There are important things on the agenda. In the wake of Infor announcing they're ending MANMAN support in 2020, the meeting will give attendees time to share strategies on hardware, software, hosting, application modifications, education options "and just plain answering questions forever," Lanza says, "or as long as you need it."

That's a better offer now than the one Interex was able to maintain. There's an advantage to running lean to stay in the game of gathering. Register with Lanza at [email protected]

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:43 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2019

HP's kids: Children who can't say yes, or no

Merry-go-round amusement parkPhoto by Marjorie Bertrand on Unsplash

Editor's note: Developer, vendor, and advocate Alan Yeo has passed away at age 65 after a lifetime of work for the 3000 community. His essay below was written in 2005 amid the early years of the computer's Transition Era. He wrote about the damage done after migrations were first triggered by HP's 2001 pullout, then postponed on a fuzzy timeline from the entity the community was calling the virtual HP division for the server, vCSY.

Vendors like Yeo who weathered HP's stormy strategy took on a lot of water because of HP's revision of its end of service deadline. Yeo's use of metaphor and allegory here are a fine tribute to his wit and intelligence that the world has lost. ScreenJet, his company, followed his insight to survive the turmoil.

By Alan Yeo

That's it, children, just give the merry-go-round another shove, just when passengers thought it was stopping and they could get off it and get on with planning the rest of their lives. Oh yes, some of the children will be happy; the period before they have to decide which ride to take next has been extended. But for the adults either already behind schedule, or struggling to get attention-deficit children to concentrate on important decisions, it's just another frustrating delay.

Now it wouldn't be too bad if the very Careless Stupid Youngsters ("vCSY") nudging the merry-go-round on weren't the same vCSY who had planned its retirement, and had then encouraged its customers and partners to seek out new more exciting future-proof rides. But no, to compound the disappointment they caused their passengers when they announced the ride was ending, they now have to say, “We lied, we didn't mean it, the ride's not ending yet!”

Is this because they think their passengers are still having the best ride in the fair? Perhaps they think they can just keep it spinning under their control for a while longer, that there are another 3000 pieces of silver to be extracted for their parents, the only Happy Party ("HP") in this.

And what of vCSY partners, and the encouragement they received to help transport the passengers to other rides when the Merry-go-round stopped. Or even those they encouraged to build an organisation to help those passengers that wanted to stay on the Merry-go-round and even maintain it after the ride had stopped.

For yes, there was an organisation of such Open Minded Passengers Established ("OpenMPE") that hoped to provide counseling and support for those who chose to stay, and even to build a work shop to repair the Merry-go-round Physical Environment ("MPE") for them. What of OpenMPE's chances now? Why would anyone invest in them when they need it, if the HP and vCSY are going to keep the ride spinning and the MPE supported?

And what of those who vCSY encouraged to build the transport for the passengers to other rides — their parents (the HP) had no transport of their own. Those vendors built the busses the planes and the trains, and even migrated some of the passengers to new rides. What are they to do now, just sit there with the engines running for a couple more years whilst the merry-go-round spins on?

And what of those partners vCSY encouraged to build infrastructures to keep old merry-go-round's functioning and provide support for the MPE? For them, the ride has been delayed for two more years, and it has reduced the number of potential passengers to the point where it may not be economic to hang around and wait.

And what of those passengers who vCSY forced to flee early to other rides, with threats of a failing ecosystem and that the ride would become unsafe unless they left before the cock crowed at the dawn of 2007? Was their journey unnecessary, in pointless haste, and to an earlier or higher cost than needed? If some of them felt pricked when vCSY announced the ride was to stop, some of them will surely feel stabbed in the back by the HP who lied.

So what can one say about these children, those who can't say Yes, can't say No, and for whom Maybe is a mantra. Would you trust the support of your merry-go-round to them now? Would you trust them to help enable an ecosystem to maintain the MPE after they finally tire of it? Would you believe them if they told you Y2K came after 1999?

As for me, I would no longer give them the time of day, far less ask it of them, for fear they would get it wrong. What's so unfortunate is that it would be much easier if one could believe that there was some great conspiracy within HP and with vCSY to completely jerk both their customers and partners around. But as someone else has said today, “plain stupid" beats “malevolent" most of the time.

And what do vCSY think they have done for the passengers on the Merry-go-round by keeping it spinning for another two years? If they actually had the ability to support the MPE it would be fine, but the average third party ISV now retains more expertise than the whole of vCSY. A third party will also know what a merry-go-round is if you call them, and will probably charge far less than the HP if you need spares or repairs for your merry-go-round.

This statement is subject to limitations and exclusions based on exact merry-go-round configurations, geographic location, ride transition timelines, and other considerations. All characters are fictional and not intended to portray any person or organisation living, dying or dead.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:29 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2019

Alan Yeo, 1954-2019

Yeo at Reunion

Alan Yeo, a software vendor and developer whose business ultimately led to success as a nexus for the 3000 community in its Transition Era, has died at age 65 after a battle with a small cell cancer. He is survived by his wife Helen, a lifetime of creations he designed with partners, and a gripping voice that gathered and rallied MPE customers after HP quit on their marketplace.

Yeo’s company Affirm, Ltd. rose up in the 1980s as a resource for manufacturers who used the HP 3000 to manage their enterprises. He served a group of customers across the UK and began to move in wider circles with the advent of ScreenJet, his software to modernize the 3000’s bedrock VPlus application interfaces.

ScreenJet arose in the years just before Hewlett-Packard scrapped its business developing 3000s and MPE. While the HP decision left Yeo undaunted in his business aspirations, it also led him to a new role as a leader for a 3000 community that was dissolving after the implosion of the Interex user group in 2005.

His first effort surrounded the final date of HP’s manufacture of the system. On Oct. 31, 2003, he organized and led the HP 3000 World Wide Wake, a collective of gatherings to celebrate the server and the people who’d made it their life’s work. Across North America and Europe, customers and managers held parties and met at pubs, bars, and restaurants. Photos from the events poured into a web server that Yeo hosted. Earlier in the year, Yeo asked out loud where else the HP 3000 community might gather in a user conference — a question he posed in a meeting at the Atlanta HP World, where few 3000 customers had appeared.

In the year that followed, he shared his strategy of being a master of one. It was built around the nugat of collaboration that led to his ability to connect.

"We’re starting to see more collaboration between migration tools providers and migration service partners," he said in a NewsWire Q&A. "To get some of this stuff right, you really, really need to know it. I think it’s too big for any one person to do anything right. If you want good fish you go to a fishmonger. If you want good meat, go to a butcher. If you just want food, go to Wal-Mart, and if you just want to eat, you go to McDonalds."

Community meets and reunions

Many of the stranded customers using the HP 3000 got an introduction to Yeo’s voice in those first years of the 3000’s Transition Era. He commissioned an editorial cartoon during 2002 that became a mainstay in his company’s ads, one built around the HP move to end its MPE plans and sever relations with the thousands of companies that grew up using the 3000’s extraordinary solution. The CEO of the company at the time, as well as the 3000 division’s GM Winston Prather, caught the brunt of the brilliance in a cartoon that compared killing off HP's 3000 futures to the evil in a Disney movie.

WinstonDalmations
A few years later, after the user group Interex folded its operations overnight and stranded users’ plans to meet at the now-canceled annual conference, the first of a series of Community Meets sprang up for 3000 owners. After an impromptu gathering in the Bay Area for community members already stuck with nonrefundable hotel reservations and air tickets, a single-afternoon lunch gathered several dozen managers, developers, and owners.

The first Bay Area meet was replicated and expanded twice more with single-day meetings in 2007 and 2009, organized and underwritten by Yeo and his business partner Michael Marxmeier of the database and language vendor Marxmeier Software. Other companies contributed to cover expenses, but the largest share of the organizing always went to Yeo.

In 2011, he and Marxmeier teamed up with some help from the NewsWire to mount the HP3000 Reunion, a multiple-day event with a meeting at the Computer History Museum. In addition to seminars and a group tour of the exhibits, a catered dinner, a briefing on the upcoming 3000 emulator, and a meeting of enterprise resource planning software users made for a busy weekend with dozens of community members.

Alan_Yeo_at_Reunion
Yeo was pragmatic while keeping his lights on for every software customer who’d invested in his products. Marxmeier Software has taken over support and services for ScreenJet Ltd. in the wake of Yeo’s death. ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software have had close ties for a long time. Yeo was a valued board member for Marxmeier Software and Michael Marxmeier is a director at ScreenJet.

To ensure the continuation of ScreenJet products and services, as of June 2019 support, license renewals and upgrades have been administered by Marxmeier Software. "This will not affect any ScreenJet customer product licenses or agreements which will remain with ScreenJet Ltd," said Marxmeier. "The teams at ScreenJet and Marxmeier will combine their long time experience and resources to guarantee efficient and reliable ongoing support and services."

Alan Yeo with dogsWith his beloved dogs at his Gloucester home

Ever-prepared, Yeo worked out the details of a smooth transfer over the months when his cancer recovery had failed. He'd rallied after treatments and recovered enough to race vintage cars on rural road rallies in 2018. In his last months the disease progressed to cut off motor functions of one arm. He resolutely typed long messages one-handed.

Failures were always a topic he could approach with candor as well as compassion. “Most software on the HP 3000 was too expensive, compared with other platforms,” he said in a 2004 interview examining the collapse of HP’s ecosystem. “However, because people could reliably write applications for the system, many of these were developed far too cheaply. Many customers got far too much for the money they actually spent.”

A reach for personal connections

The ScreenJet product was a recovery from a valiant effort to make the 3000 a vital part of the dot-com PC world. Millware was to deliver software that gave 3000 customers a way to make their VPlus interfaces behave like modern graphical interfaces. The software was to be free in exchange for giving over some of the screen real estate to messages from vendors. Before that user base could be established, dot-com computing staggered, a blow to the vendor element of the formula.

Yeo also picked up the pieces from the effort to market ScreenJet, developed as a connectivity product and sold by Millware.com until that marketing company went bust during the dot-com implosion. ScreenJet earned an award for migration solutions from Acucorp. But for all of his effort toward helping migration customers, Yeo was clear-eyed about 3000 transitions. ScreenJet achieved its best technical release just one month before HP announced its withdrawal from the 3000 market — and the product’s development up to that point was not driven by any need to move companies away from the platform.

Yeo also took a role as producer in a new feature for 3000 customers long abandoned by HP: Transact users. The advanced development language was kicked to HP’s curb in the middle 1990s, but sites continued to run extensive Transact applications, long after the “strategic” badge fell off the language. The TransAction software from his team give Transact sites service and tools to move programs to COBOL, a way to prepare for the journey away from the HP 3000.

Marxmeier, who reached out to break the news about Yeo's death, said he would miss his ally's organizational gifts, but even more so, Yeo's ability to write and speak with, well, eloquence. After drafting a heartfelt letter to inform the ScreenJet customers about the founders' demise, Marxmeier said he already felt a gap in the story. "It's something I would have liked Alan to read, before I released it," he said.

Yeo said he wanted no florid speeches of eulogy at his passing. Months before he died, he said if there was any afterlife at all, "I could be a little sprite, one who could occassionally make it rain on somebody who was being pompous, that would do me quite nicely." It's fair to say his narrative for the 3000's transition era was rich with the words that rained on misfortune and miscalculation.

Carly_cartoon_dalmations

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:15 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2019

How to make databases live past shutdown

Index card file drawer
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

In 2011, a systems manager for the power utility at the City of Anchorage was looking toward a shutdown of the municipal HP 3000. It's a situation that surfaces from time to time even now. Back in 2011, the manager could see another 10 years of useful service for the 3000. His management had other ideas. This might sound familiar.

Wayne Johnson said, "We have an HP 3000 that we are going to decommission, sadly. I have powers that be who want it turned off sometime next year, although I think it will be longer than that. Is there a service that will read DLT IV tapes or convert them to some other usable format on a Windows platform or some Unix server?"

He went on to say that most of his data files were TurboImage database files. They were for archival purposes only. "Of course, the simple solution is to run the HP 3000 N-Class, probably for the next 10 years. It never goes down. But that call is not mine to make. They want to unplug it."

Alan Yeo of ScreenJet supplied a database tape migration solution that still works today.

"One very simple but elegant solution is to get a copy of Marxmeier's Eloquence database which is very inexpensive for your choice of Windows, Linux, or HP-UX and just load the databases in. Then either with the Query3K tool or with ODBC, you can just access the data as and when required.

"You could copy the volume sets to Network Attached Storage. I'll make a bet that the smallest NAS device you can buy for less than $400 will comfortably store more data than you managed to create on the HP 3000 in its lifetime.

"Allegro has a product, Rosetta Store, that will directly load Eloquence from databases in STORE format on tape, if you want to skip the step of restoring from the 3000 tapes and then unloading for import into Eloquence. I think the Allegro product will also do flat file conversion."

Beyond the Marxmeier and Allegro software, there was another suggestion offered in 2011 about a product that has come to change the way MPE databases live on beyond hardware shutdown. HP's iron, after all, isn't the final resting place for 3000 applications and data.

"Before you scrap the N-Class," said Tracy Johnson, "you may want to take note about its details. It may qualify for a license transfer to the up and coming 3000 hardware emulator by Stromasys." 

"Thus in theory, you could keep your IMAGE data running on some Intel platform, as is."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:41 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2019

Who's to blame when the lights go out?

Power-lines-towers
Photo by Peddi Sai hrithik on Unsplash

Yesterday the lights didn't come on in Northern California. Everywhere, it seems, because the Pacific Gas & Electric corporation didn't want to be sued for windstorm damages to its power lines. They cut the juice to prevent lawsuits. Tesla owners got a dashboard warning.

The surprise about the outage was as complete as the shock over Interex dowsing its lights overnight in 2005. Except the cynics could see the PG&E blackout coming.

Solar panel-owning residents of California and electric car owners were most surprised. I went to a 3000 tech mailing list to look for people worried about topping up their Teslas, because some people who picked 3000s are pioneers, so Teslas are well represented among MPE veterans. Like the usual chaff on a mailing list, there were turds of political opinion floating there about who's to blame for California's darkness.

So I wasn't surprised to see more attacks on the state of California. "A third world country" is the shorthand smear, although you can say lots of the US isn't a first world country any longer. In the exchange on the mailing list, it was apparently too much trouble to keep a state’s government separate from talk about Pacific Gas & Electric’s corporate moves. Once PG&E goes bankrupt, then the private corporation’s demise will be blamed on California voters, using that logic. It’s easier than keeping commerce and government separate, I suppose. 

Blaming the tough regulations about state rate hikes for the disaster that is PG&E business is having it both ways: Government is crucial, and government is ridiculous. On and on it goes, until we are supposed to trust a government that lets PG&E do whatever it wants, so long as profits stay high. 
 
Because every corporation with ample profits has always taken care of its customers in every need. 
 
Some people on that mailing list sure have a short memory about such nonsense. We are all survivors of a meltdown of a business model where corporate profits were ensured — because revenue growth was the only thing that mattered — while legacy technology got scrapped. Millions of dollars of investments, the fate of hundreds of vendors, and thousands of careers were lost.
 
The mailing list name still has the numerals 3000 in it. You’d think people would remember what brought us into each others' lives, along with the lesson we learned the hard way together. Oversight is important. The problem which hit the Hewlett-Packard 3000 customers was a lack of oversight from top-level management and the board of directors. It's sometimes hard to know what to do while things are changing (the computer business) and ambitions are high (make HP bigger than anybody, so it will win every deal).
 
A good rule to follow, though, is like a physician. First, do no harm. The 3000 community got treated by HP like a limb that had gone gangrenous. Old history that'll never be changed, yes. Also, a lesson for managers on how to treat older bodies like an operating system and software that's not new but is still performing well.  
 
Complaining about oversight, when you'd rather have none at all, is what got HP into the state it's in today. Two corporations, neither growing, both unable to honor the promises of forever-computing that drove companies to buy its products. HP's cut itself loose from the future of OpenVMS, and the thousands of companies that rely on that legacy OS need to trust VMS Software Inc., new owners of the OS's future.
 
It's a better deal than the one HP gave its 3000 customers. Private money would've taken over MPE futures in 2002. HP wouldn't sell or license it, but again, that's just history. Now that the lights aren't going on for the 3000 at HP anymore — so many of HP's 3000 web pages are dead or buried alive — it evokes the powerless situation in California.
The political noisemakers just would rather let PG&E do what it wants with rates, and then blame it on California when the light switches on the solar-paneled houses do nothing.
 
It turns out we need the grid even when we’re off the grid. 3000 folks needed a vendor who knew how to give a forever-computing solution an endless tomorrow by licensing an OS future.
 
The noisemakers like to ridicule the powerless Californians by saying that the state's not a first world entity anymore. It's not crazy to call California a country; its economy is bigger than all but nine of the countries in the world.
 
In one rude wisecrack, a child asks their father about how to see now that the California lights have gone out. Maybe the answer goes like this, not lit by the candles from the noisemaker's punch line.
 
"Daddy, what did the founding fathers use to write the Consitution?"
 
"Oil lamps, sweetie. Bring that one there closer to the table, while I finish writing this letter on the laptop.”
 
“Daddy, why are you writing the California attorney general?”
 
“Because we still have a state government. The founders always wanted the states to be different.”
 
“You mean we can’t be Texas?”
 
“There’s enough Texas already, sweetie."
 
I'm writing with my windows open this morning, because it’s the first day in Texas with both rain and weather below 70 since April. It's getting hotter in Texas, so we all have to make plans to get our houses cool enough to live in for half the year. I'm not about to blame Texas government for that. It won't help me with with the solution, though. They're leaving that to the corporations. 3000 people learned a hard lesson about that life without oversight.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:23 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2019

Debugging the diagnostics

Fire-ant
Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

The Command Support Tools Manager (CSTM) replaced SYSDIAG as of MPE/iX 6.5. Managers who are keeping MPE/iX working here in 2019 rely on CSTM, just as they did SYSDIAG before it.

There's evidence out there that CSTM has problems while running on 6.5 MPE/iX systems. One well-schooled developer recently noted while trying to run CSTM on his MPE/iX system that the diagnostic told him on startup, "an error dialog could not be built to display an error."

The developer community suggested a few fixes for this problem with the diagnostic software. CSTM was ported onto the HP 3000 from HP-UX, so the repairs that CSTM itself suggested regarding memory (increasing it, removing processes, reconfiguring kernel memory limits) probably don't fit.  CSTM has a special page in the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise website devoted to the problem.

The developer at least had another 3000 running the same version of MPE/iX, a system where CSTM was starting up without a problem. One bit of advice suggests that while using console debug, "check out what a your working system looks like at the CSTM prompt when idle. Use psuedomap “XL” to get symbols from the libraries and program. Attempt to set some breakpoints near initial program launch."

Using DEBUG, the open heart surgery of HP 3000 management, is sometimes a required diagnosis. When your diagnostics software requires diagnosis, nothing but DEBUG will get the job done.

Much more detail followed on using DEBUG to discover what's failing in CSTM.

Stan Sieler had explicit instructions on how to run DEBUG to find a CSTM bug.

Run both programs side-by-side, using Debug, to find where they deviate. I'd avoid doing something easy like:  s 10000;tr   over and over, because that can land you in the middle of sensitive kernel stuff. Instead, I'd do smaller leaps (perhaps "s 100; tr") and when a new routine is entered, set a temp breakpoint at the exit and "c" to run for awhile. It's a tad more tedious, but safer.

You could also put a breakpoint at traphandler in each, and (with luck) only the failing one might hit it (e.g., if a file system problem occurred).  Sadly, the file system was not well designed with respect to error handling, and they use non-local escapes in many places, which are expensive and potentially risky.

Sometimes you can get the best/quickest idea by using Debug to put a breakpoint at 'printf' or 'fprintf' (since it's in C), or possible FWRITE ... trying to catch the program where it displays the error message.  

Sometimes, you'll find that a 'tr' will show you the calling function and it's clear that's the one that failed (if the output was generated inside the failing function).

E.g.:    function this_is_the_one_with_problems (...)
                ...  stuff...
                if an error was found then
                     printf ("oops")
                ...
 
Other times, you'll have to look at the caller (or back a few frames) and backtrack
in the code from that point.
 
E.g.:      rslt = this_is_the_one_with_problems (...);
              ... (possibly no extra code, possibly something like "if rslt < 0 goto got_error")
             if rslt < 0 then
                printf ("oops");

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:50 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2019

Shrink ray 3000 services: what you'd pay

Lens-shrink effect

Photo by Stephen Kraakmo on Unsplash

The number of MPE and HP 3000 experts is declining. It could hardly go in any other direction but downward, given the age of the expertise. There's still a number of companies — no one is sure how many — using the servers and wondering how they'll get along when something goes wrong.

One solution that's been successful up to now is shrinking the footprint of resources needed for using MPE/iX. Rather than each customer using up environmental conditioning and physical space for a server, owners of 3000s can have their systems hosted in a centralized location. It's co-location, but offered by companies which have MPE/iX and 3000 experience. The latter is most important because the components in an HP server are specialized. 

Good answers for hardware issues are the prize in a shrink ray hosted offering. Browsing the postings on the 3000-L newsgroup this month, I'm struck by the number of questions that are not only specific to MPE, but focused on component problems. Sending a 3000 off to a co-located datacenter has been offered for many years by now. The Support Group, an Austin-area firm for helping MANMAN owners, built a disaster-proof datacenter on its site that houses 3000s from customers.

There are others in this market who do the same service for 3000 owners. Beechglen Development has services that will harbor a 3000 and take the computer out of the everyday management stream for participating companies. Solutions for reducing the 3000's footprint to zero, while keeping MPE apps at work, use the shrink ray effect.

Less easier to measure: what such shrink ray services should cost, or what the remaining 3000 owners would be willing to pay. It's far better to imagine the cost of that fading HP iron becoming unresponsive, as they like to say when you're holding the line on life at an advancing age. Good resuscitation can be priceless; that's why people move into continuum of care facilities in their most golden of years.

A good friend has moved into one of the best independent living facilities in Chicago. When she had a heart scare this summer, though, she was able to get to a hospital through the help of her friend. Returning to her apartment the next day, she checked in with the facility director to see if the building's staff might look in on her that night. That's assisted-living, she was told, not independent living.

Some of the 3000 hardware still in production is too old for independent living. Shrinking it before sending it to assisted living is a good first step. Reducing a footprint, by shipping it away to a support company with a disaster-proof datacenter, is the shrink ray magic that can keep MPE alive for years to come.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:36 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2019

Making a place for retired 3000s

Owners of HP 3000s are facing the end for their HP hardware. The MPE/iX software has a longer lifespan than the components that have carried it. Even in places where the apps will live on, the hardware is deteriorating. What to do with the aging iron is a question coming up more often.

The HP hardware isn't disposed of easily. It's got the same kind of environmental hazards as every other computer: rare minerals are the prize in there, but there's lots of the weight of a 3000 system that's just going to be classified as scrap.

In any conversation with an owner of a 3000, the solutions to this issue revolve around a reseller-broker. These third party companies have made a business of moving 3000s in and out of datacenters. Lately the movement has been almost exclusively outward.

In the reports from the field we've heard, used hardware often has little value unless it's from the latest generation of 3000s. There are individual items that still will return some dollars to the sellers. K-Class MFIO boards have become rare, and since those components prop up the older 9x9 servers, the boards can carry value that might be equal to a complete system of the A and N-Class generation. 

Used hardware has always been a marketplace with great malleability in its value. It's been a lot like being a coin collector for 3000 owners. The valuations might say your 969 should be worth $500, but you'll only get that from a buyer who can sell your coin for more — or one who needs the hardware enough to deliver that price.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:22 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2019

Relative performance online as 3000 history

Snapshot of partial HP relative performance
As the HP hardware to run MPE/iX ages, it's on the recycling and scrapping block for companies that still have an HP 3000 box on-premise. Now hardware is so cheap you can throw 3000 gear away.

The slow, old, and heavy boxes go first, of course. I remember taking a trip with Stan Sieler in the Bay Area where he took me to a scrap facility. There, shrink wrapped on the outside of a pallette, were HP 2645 terminals, right alongside Compaq boxes.

Relative performance charts can be our friend as we triage our older HP gear. There's an adequate one available online at bitsavers.org as part of a breezy page covering the history of the 3000. 

We've got The One Chart to Rule Them All you can download to use while you have HP's gear on the chopping block. There's a section for A-Class comparisons, and another compares HP's boxes in the N-Class line to older system performance.

Such numbers are relative in more ways than just the comparison between servers. HP actually massaged the numbers themselves back in the late 1990s. Our story in 1998 reported that 

HP is “restating” the performance rankings for much of its hardware, starting with this month’s rollout of the Series 989 systems. The new rating is an HP 3000 Performance Unit, not based on Series 918 performance. And the new numbers are between 29 and 52 percent higher for all systems except HP’s largest ones, the Series 996 and 997 units.

As I observed, while looking askance at the new figures, "HP wants you to think of HP 3000s as faster than ever, but its new rating measurements don’t really make existing systems any faster. They just sport higher numbers than they did last month."

There was some technical logic to the HP adjustment. The 3000 hardware from HP had just acquired some newer and faster cousins.

Dave Snow, product manager for the 3000, said "the measuring techniques for our midrange and high-end platforms were producing results that were not consistent with each other. You had a 918 performance for the midrange and a different relative performance for the high end, but the two relative performance numbers weren’t the same.”

The discrepancy was a big deal, he added, “but it was a big deal we could sort of live with, so long as the 9x9 and 99x performances were dramatically different from each other,” Snow said. “As we added performance to the 9x9 platform, it is approaching the 99x. That’s caused us to have this quandary. In some sense we’ve had two different sets of 918 numbers. We had to bite the bullet and reconcile the numbers."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:47 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 05, 2019

TBT: The Flying HP 3000

3000 Crash Test
Twenty-two years ago this month, HP thought enough of the 3000 to send it flying off a three-story rooftop. It was called the HP 3000 Crash Test. The demonstration was more like the tests conducted with safety dummies than anything from a software lab.

HP spent some of that year celebrating the 25th Birthday of the 3000 with fun stunts like this. The rooftop trip was called a skydiving event. Alas, no parachute.

A dazzling disco evening played out in Stuttgart during the same month as the Crash Test. The Europarty was held not far from the Hewlett-Packard manufacturing facility in Boeblingen. That soiree featured a saxophone player riding on a zip-line. Different times then — but maybe the 3000 was ahead of its time with a zip-line at a party.

The Crash Test was similar in its mission to make us smile. It also proved a point about the hardware that people can't seem to get rid of by now -- the boxes were built to withstand remarkable abuse. For example, Joe Dolliver told us about another Lazurus-like performance of HP's gear.

Back at Amisys in a previous life, Bud Williams sent an HP3000/957 to the Amisys Dubuque programmer office back in September of 1999. The system was there for Y2K issues testing for the staff in Dubuque. It was sent via North American Van Lines.

As the story goes, the system got crushed by another heavy skid of material and the 3000 looked like Gumby with broken sides and smashed connectors. Another 3000 expert, John Schick, got the box in place and the system ran fine. Yet another story of the HP 3000 taking a licking and still ticking.

The last line is a reference to a TV ad for Timex watches, a reference too obscure for anyone who's in charge of a datacenter today. The Crash Test lives on as a movie on the Newswire's YouTube page. When we started all of this, just about 24 years ago, YouTube was just a magic act in the mind of some wizard working for what would become Google. Instead, HP distributed the movie via VHS cassettes: perhaps another reference too old for the junior programmers on staff now, working on their virtual servers in the Amazon AWS cloud.

George Stachnik of HP narrates this video, produced in the era when HP was still marketing the server as a more reliable and mature choice than HP's Windows and Unix servers. Well, the vendor never really did make that much of a direct comparison, even though its sales force and customers were doing just such a compare.

If you've never seen this, we won't spoil the ending. But HP 3000 customers know that the hardware which makes up their system was built far beyond the survival specs of, say, a Windows 2003 server. How many servers you feel like tossing off the roof of a building is an exercise we'll leave to our readers. It's impossible toss an AWS cloud server off the roof. Those boxes, cranking away in a server farm somewhere, are in a one-story building.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:00 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 03, 2019

ERP Tips: Using work orders to backflush

Pipe-and-plumbingPhoto by Samuel Sianipar on Unsplash

MANMAN still runs operations at companies around the world. Not a lot of companies, of course. It's 2019 and everything is smaller in size, not just your hearing aids. The MANMAN managers are still looking for tips. Here's one generated from a question out of the Altra Industrial Motion Corp. from senior systems analyst James English.

We are on MANMAN version 9.1 on an HP 3000. We have all MANMAN modules, including MANMAN/Repetitive. Is it possible to backflush work orders without using Repetitive? Our one manufacturing location is looking at simplifying work order transactions. They are manually transacting each operation on their work orders, even though they don’t collect actual hours.

Short question: How can they use work orders instead of using Repetitive?

When a work order has been received into stock, it comes to the scheduler-planner to push the times through each sequence, since the operation no longer does time cards. Once that time-pushing is done, the work orders are closed for material and labor. Once a work order is received into FG, instead of pushing the time through each operation, could we just back flush?

Alice West of Aware Consulting says

You can set all the components on your bill as “consumable” and then when you complete the WO the system will consume all the materials.  We always called this feature “poor man’s Repetitive.” 

However, it sounds like you are trying to simplify the labor portion of the transaction.  For that, you can look at your COMIN variable settings. Here is a chart I put together to show how 3 different variables work together.

MANMAN backflush

So to combine the operation movements with the movement to stores, you probably want to set your COMIN variables as follows:

93 to 0

121 to 1

177 to 1

You can also put all the hours on the routing onto the last operation and then only transact that one sequence.  In order to earn the correct labor cost you only need to transact the sequences that have standard labor hours.  One reason users transact every step is to get an operation status, but since you’re transacting the movements after the fact you clearly don’t need that.

Terry Floyd of The Support Group also says

I wrote a mod years ago that is/was installed at several MANMAN/MPE sites.  I called it TR 3-eightly-thru (because it was originally from TR302 and does a “move-thru”).  It’s a bunch of code down inside subroutines under GENTRS; when it prompts Next Sequence and you enter the last Operation Sequence (or any Operation Sequence out of order) it prompts “Move Thru?” and if you answer YES, it performs all of the moves through the subsequent sequences as if you had done them one at a time.

So, instead of changing all of your routings (that might be a lot of work), you could use this version of TR302, do a lot less data entry, and still earn standard labor dollars.  I still have this code for Releases 9 and 11, Jim, but it’s not a Standalone and requires re-linking all of SYSMAN.  I could probably turn it into a Standalone and make it a lot easier to install.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:52 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2019

Super summary: How 2028 challenges MPE

Joshua-earle-tUb9a0RB04k-unsplashPhoto by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Editor's note: More than five years ago, Denys Beauchemin outlined his view of the future at that time for the upcoming 2028 date changes in MPE/iX. The years since then have given 3000 users several solutions for 2028. There are ways to keep using the 3000 into the year 2038, the year when Unix systems will face this kind of challenge. The technical challenges the 3000 solutions overcome are very real. Denys wrote this back in 2014.

It's December 31, 2027. The MPE/iX CALENDAR intrinsic uses the leftmost 7 bits to store the year, offset from 1900. But just like Y2K, the effect will start to be felt earlier than that as dealing with future dates will yield interesting results.

For example, using the standard CALENDAR, your new driver's license will expire in -46000 days when you renew it in 2026. Back in 1986, I was writing an article about calendars and Y2K for Supergroup Magazine. I changed the date on an nearby 3000 one night and let it cycle to January 1, 2000, just to see what would happen. The date displayed was funky and I noted a few other things, but I had to reset the clock back quickly for obvious reasons.

I wrote up those findings in the article and closed with something about HP having 14 years to fix it. The 2027 thing is much more difficult to fix than Y2K and given the state of HP support from MPE this millennium, it may not get fixed in time.

The issue is very simple. The calendar intrinsic returns the date in a 16 bit word. That format is basic to the HP 3000 and has been around forever. You could conceivably change the algorithm to make it offset from 2000, or 1950 or whatever, but all the stored value would instantly be incorrect. 

You could decide to rely on something like the Y2K trick of anything less than 50 is offset to 2000 and anything greater than 50 is offset to 1900. I still think 2028 is the final death date of the HP 3000. But I could be wrong, and do not want to stand in the way of someone trying to fix it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:31 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2019

More 2028 date help on its way for MPE/iX

January calendarPhoto by Kara Eads on Unsplash

3000 managers are still asking if the year 2028 will be the first one where MPE/iX can't run. The date handling roadblock has been cleared already, both by internal app software adjustments (MANMAN sites, worry not) and also through a third party solution from Beechglen. 

If you've had the Beechglen experience, we'd like to hear from you. The software has been in the 3000 world for almost a year and a half by now.

Beechglen holds one of the Select Seven licenses for MPE/iX source, as do Pivital, Adager, and several other active 3000 vendors. Not much has been discussed about how 2028 has been handled by these solutions, but 3000 owners are such a careful bunch that you can be sure there's been testing.

One source of date-testing software is among the Select Seven. Allegro created Hourglass for the Y2K date hurdle. It rolls date controls forward and back across any user-designated threshold for testing. Hourglass might already be in a lot of the remaining homesteaders' 3000 shops. The ones who still rely on MPE/iX make up a crafty, adept group.

Reggie Monroe manages the HP 3000 at the Mercury Insurance Group in Brea, Calif. He asked on the 3000-L mailing list if his MPE/iX was going to stop running at midnight of Dec. 31, 2027. Several other managers and vendors assured him that MPE/iX has a lifespan beyond that date.

"It doesn't stop running," said Neil Armstrong at Robelle, "but the dates will be incorrect — however, a solution is already available and a number of us vendors have resolved this issue in our software to continue to 2037." Armstrong pointed to an article at Beechglen for some details on one 2028 software workaround.

The latest solution is coming from Stromasys. The company has been referring its emulation customers to third party support for the 2028 fix. This week we heard there's a Stromasys-based workaround on its way, too.

Tracy Johnson suggests a fine idea for anyone who chooses to ignore the year that MPE/iX will report automatically starting on January 1, 2028. The 3000 will roll back to the year 1900 on that day. If you reset the 3000's date to the year 1972, or 2000, then the days of the week will align on the same ones in 2028. The year 2028 is a Leap Year, just like the ones in '72 or 2000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:49 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2019

How HP-UX has now helped MPE/iX users

Sam-warren-engine-block
Photo by Sam Warren on Unsplash

HP always had multiple operating environments wired into the design for PA-RISC systems. Now there's evidence that the vendor's deep engineering is paying off. Some of that benefit is even flowing down to HP's MPE/iX users.

This week we've heard that Stromasys is praising the improved performance of the company’s HP 3000 emulator Charon. Turns out the engineering the company had to do recently to make Charon ready for HP-UX PA-RISC servers has been a blessing for the MPE system emulation.

Every time software is revised, there's a chance for a little learning, or a lot. Creating an HP-UX edition of Charon was funded by the potential for new Stromasys sales.

HP-UX systems — the ones that run PA-RISC — could be a big new field for Stromasys to explore. Extra Stromasys attention to HP users, though, is a plus for HP 3000 sites. Stromasys is in several markets: Digital and Sun servers are both markets bigger than the HP 3000. A second set of HP customers will mean that good decisions will be easier to make when HP-related software engineering is required.

Maybe it's like being a Chevy Volt owner, as I am. Chevy stopped building and selling the Volt in March. But the Voltec engine, a marvel of blended electric and gas, is part of the new line of Chevy Electric Vehicles. Good news for us Volt owners whose cars are powered by the Voltec. That PA-RISC engine in your datacenter is getting more attention this year, lavished by the company which is emulating that HP design.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:34 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 08, 2019

Dog days were always part of 3000 summers

Stealing_Home_Front_Cover_July 12_kirkus
A summertime gift, ready to play on your ebook reader

It's August and it's quiet in Texas. Step outside any building at 3 in the afternoon and you're struck by the silences. The birds know better than to chirp, the only sounds on the street are the wind ruffling along the curbs, and the hum of AC units and pool pumps boils down from the yards with stunted grass.

It's 104 out there, a summer that tamps down just about everything until after the sun sets. Things don't move much, a situation that was usually at hand during the last three decades and more of 3000 history.

We'd all wait for the middle or the end of the month of August, or sometimes until September, to hear the beat of each others' feet down hallways. There was the national conference to attend by then, the one called Interex for many years, then HP World once Hewlett-Packard sold the idea to the user group of branding the show around the vendor, instead of the user group.

That conference, whose heartbeat pulsed on the exhibits floor, was such a landmark we'd plan vacations around it. Rare were the years when the community gathered before the second full August week. People got their kids back into school right around conference time. Then we'd appear in person to learn our trade and our tech world's future better.

There's an annual conference in my life again, now that a user event is a rare MPE experience. The Writer's League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference brings authors together with book agents. Along the way, they stop by a trade show booth where I chatter about stories like I did in spots like San Francisco (three times) Detroit (only once) and Orlando (in a Florida August we endured like a database reload, waiting for the end of the heat).

I'm an editor anew at that conference, and this year I have a book of my own to debut. It took its opening cut at the plate during that authors' show. Stealing Home: A Father, a Son, and the Road to the Perfect Game was six years in the making. It's the story of an 11-day, 9-game road trip with my Little Leaguer in the final summer before the NewsWire came into the world. It was 1994 and the annual conference was almost as late as it's ever appeared: Sept. 25 in Denver. It snowed on the last day of the show.

Earlier in that year I was a divorced dad taking my best shot at being a full-time parent. In search of the perfect vacation and overcompensating like any divorced dad, I looked at my own history of being a son of a man who was epic himself. Then he took his own life and I drove away from the memory of that loss. The summertime trip in a rented convertible with my son was my best effort at remembering my dad, answering questions about why, and finding the path to make my road ahead a more peaceful place.

We can't change the past, but we can better understand it with earnest study. Every time August arrives I think about the summers where all of us came together to try to understand MPE, or HP, or just whatever new morsel was rolling off of data sheets and publication pages.

We call these dog days out of habit, a phrase that most of us don't know refers to the first rising of the Dog Star. I have a star to lift up with my memoir. I hope my readers here will download it, enjoy it, and leave some kindnesses in the review margins. I'm still pleased to find the constellations that continue to rise in our 3000 world. Like we always did in August, I hope to bring along a few new readers and tell a new story with words and pictures. Thanks for reading, clicking, and downloading my stories.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:14 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2019

CAMUS gives the 3000 an Illinois play date

MANMAN 9 plate
The manufacturing society CAMUS is holding a Reunion Day for HP 3000 managers and owners. Since it's CAMUS, this is also a meeting for the Digital ERP users. The Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society, after all, is wrapped around MANMAN, for most of the attendees.

This is only the second meeting in as many years for MPE/iX users in North America. Last summer, the faithful and well-studied 3000 folk in Silicon Valley spent an afternoon at a famous pub across from the old HP campus on Homestead Road. There were songs and classic videos, plus a lot of talk to catch people up on their lives. A slide show caught people up with hardware maintenance.

Duke Reunion 2018

This year's event is Sunday, August 25 in 3 PM in Addison, Illinois, a town among the western Chicago suburbs. At the Dave & Buster's at 1155 N. Swift Road, Terri Lanza and Keith Krans will hold down a party room at the popular game palace and sports bar and restaurant. There's a buffet included with the $20 ticket, plus access to a cash bar. Lanza needs a count of attendees by August 19, so she can fully prepare for the buffet.

Lanza has a history of gathering 3000 folk. She started up the party in 2011 when CAMUS gathered as part of the HP3000 Reunion at the Computer History Museum. CAMUS had its event at a nearby hotel. That remains the best-attended event so far in the post-Interex era. A meeting in 2007 gathered a healthy array of anxious and resigned attendees. Vendors and support consultants are always in big number at these gatherings. Both of those post-Interex events were propelled by the enthusiasm engines of Alan Yeo and Mike Marxmeier, of ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software AG, respectively.

This year's reunion runs until 9 PM. Registration is by email or phone to Lanza ([email protected], 630.212.4314) or Krans ([email protected]). They also have advice and tips on where to stay for attendees arriving from out of town.

Meeting in person can connect you with a resource to help maintain a 3000 and forestall the ultimate migration 3000 sites face. Being in a room with others who know the 3000, the old HP which loved the server, and the legend of MPE — that's special. The 3000 was always a marketplace with a vibrant, personal community. This was a big part of our decision to deliver NewsWire to the market during a summer 24 years ago.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:28 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 29, 2019

Making the numbers work for emulation

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 1.05.57 PM
Over at Stromays, the creators of the only PA-RISC virtualizing software for MPE/iX machines don't call what they do emulation. It's referred to as conversion. Using Charon converts hardware requirements from HP's 10-year-old PA-RISC boxes. The needs for MPE/iX become powerful Intel servers.

It might seem simple to see that and figure it will cost less to maintain MPE applications using Charon. A new calculator on the Stromasys site makes those numbers add up.

Even a simple calculation that has you paying no more than $650 a year for support can be a candidate for significant savings. A four-processor N-4000 probably won't have support that costs that little. But even if it did, the calculator says that a 3000 owner can save more than $52,000 by getting away from that old hardware. 

We're looking closer into the methodology that drives the calculator. At the moment it seems that the more you pay for maintenance, the lower the savings will be, so we'd like to know more about that.

An N-Class server can be bought for far less than the $52,000. So a 3000 manager might be tempted to reach for replacement N-Class HP hardware instead of virtualization. That's a solution which will work exactly once, though. When that hot-swap replacement HP gear fails, you're back to square one. You won't save on power or footprint, either, in that swapped in HP gear scenario. And there's the matter of finding another N-Class box.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2019

Make that 3000 release a printer grip

Fist-artwork
A printer connected to our HP 3000 received a "non-character" input and stopped printing. The spooler was told to stop in order for the queue to be closed and restarted. When we do a show command on that spooler, it reports " *STOP .......CLOSING CONN " How do I force a close on the connection? The HP 3000 is used so much it can't really be shut down any time soon.

Tracy Johnson says

If it is a network printer, just "create" another LDEV with the same IP. The 3000 doesn't care if you have more than one LDEV to the same IP (or DNS). Raise the outfence on the original LDEV. Once created, do a SPOOLF of any old spool files on that LDEV to the new LDEV. You can do it in a job that reschedules itself if it persists. The first spool file still in a print state will probably be stuck, but this technique should fix subsequent spool files. The situation probably won't go away until the next reboot.

We've had our full backup on Friday nights abort several times and are not really able to discern why; sometimes it works while other times it doesn't. As a test/fix, we're swapping out the “not very old DLT tape” for a brand new DLT tape to see if that makes a difference. Our daily, partial backups work just fine—each day has its own tape.

Mark Ranft says

Let's talk tapes. How old are these unused new tapes? From my experience, new tapes and old tapes both have issues. I would not call a tape that was manufactured years ago, but hasn't been used, "New." It is still an old tape. But an unused tape will have microscopic debris from the manufacturing process. It may work just fine, but be prepared for more frequent cleaning if you are using unused tapes.

Old tapes are tried and true. That is, until they start stretching and wearing from overuse. If it was my STORE that failed, I would start by cleaning the drive. And cleaning cartridges can only be used a specific number of times. That is why they come with the check off label. After the allowed number of cleanings, you can put them in the drive but they don't do anything.

I was told by a trusted CE friend that cleaning a drive three times is sometimes necessary to get it working again. I don't know the science behind it, but that process did seem to save my behind more than once. After cleaning, do a small test backup and a VSTORE. Try to read (VSTORE) an old tape.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2019

Compromises throw doubts about clouds

Thunder-cloud-3554670_1920

Cloud services show some promise for companies which are dropping their on-premise IT hardware to get costs down and put maintenance in the hands of service companies.

As the HP hardware ages, its reliability becomes a weak point. There’s a risk to using clouds, though, one that the 3000 community knows well and holds dear.

Outside services can be vulnerable to security attack. When the attack takes place outside a datacenter, the responsibility falls to the manager who selects the service.

A hacking campaign known as Cloud Hopper has been the subject of a US indictment, one that accused Chinese nationals of identity theft and fraud. Prosecutors described an operation that victimized multiple Western companies. A Reuters report at the time identified two: IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Cloud Hopper ensnared at least six more major technology firms, touching five of the world’s 10 biggest tech service providers. Reuters also found compromises through Fujitsu, Tata Consultancy Services, NTT Data, Dimension Data, and Computer Sciences Corporation.

Another compromise pathway was DXC Technology. HPE spun-off its services arm in a merger with Computer Sciences Corporation in 2017 to create DXC. HP's Enterprise group represents one-fourth of all the known compromised Cloud Hopper attack points.

Assurances that a cloud is secure come with references, but the degree of safety remains largely in the eyes of the beholder. There’s not much in the way of audits and certifications from independent reviewers. MPE cloud computing is still on the horizon. Reports about unsafe clouds are helping to keep it that way.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:33 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 13, 2019

Was a 3000 ever a personal computer?

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 7.14.50 PM
The information trotlines stay in the water here. I watch for mentions of HP 3000s in the wide world of the Web, using Google to automate the surveillance. Sometimes there's a bite on the trotline that nets a real report. Other times the phrase turns up stories about horsepower in autos and other motors. Searching on "HP" will do that.

For the first time, though, the Google net trawl picked up a story about a 3000 from another dimension. This would be the realm where everything a manager wished for in a business server was delivered — and long ago. I came into this market when MS-DOS hadn't yet reigned supreme, destroying all others but Apple. HP sold a PC in 1984 with a touchscreen, something a few steps away from being a tablet.

The report from a website was wired into that deep desire that MPE could be personal. 247 WallSt included an article identifying a 3000 as a personal computer.

Once wildly expensive and inaccessible but to the very rich, computers today are one of the most ubiquitous technologies worldwide. The most basic model of an HP 3000 sold for $95,000 in 1972, the equivalent of slightly over half a million in today’s dollars, but not all personal computers released in the early 1970s cost as much.

The sentence starts off well enough, with a 3000 selling in 1972. A handful did. By the time the price is reported you can be sure the story has run off the rails, since nothing connected to computing with MPE was sold for under six figures at first. HP found a way to drive down a 3000's sticker price to about $12,000, 25 years later. That device, a Series 918 DX, was closer to a personal computer in power.

What's an HP 3000? The question is still posed, once in a while, when a redoubtable and virtually invisible server is discovered under a staircase, chugging along. It certainly is not a PC, and it has had more of a string of successes than attributed in 247 WallSt.

The original 3000 was generally considered a failure, but the company would go on to make 20 different versions of the 3000 through 1993.

In some places the server still working at Fortune 500 corporations is considered a failure by now, because its vendor gave up on it. That understanding is as off base as thinking that computer in the picture above could be a PC. It was Hewlett-Packard's "first foray into smaller business computers," except for the smaller part. Making a mainframe's computing available in a minicomputer size might have been smaller than IBM's 360s. The 3000 is the first step HP took into business computing, full stop.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:16 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 10, 2019

Being there now, right where we expect him

Birket-Chamber
Where Are They Now
?

Fifteen years ago, Birket Foster had an opening line for a history of the 3000 world. "It was a marketplace of names." Birket's is one of a group of well-known first-only names, along with Alfredo and Vladimir and Eugene. Earlier this spring he commemorated 42 years in the market. Every one has included a week of business serving HP's business server community.

In a few days he'll be doing what he's done, and in the same places, as he's done for years. There's a webinar that covers the promises and practices of application modernization and synchronization. Systems that look and behave like they're old are made new again. You can register for the June 12 event, to be held at 2 PM Eastern.

Right at the heart of the MB Foster business, though, pulses UDACentral. "We have completed its shakedown cruise at the Government of Canada in a BCIP program, and of course are moving another group of databases for customers that contract MBFoster to do the work using UDACentral."

Moving and managing data has always been at the center of MB Foster's competency. "We have been adding databases to the mix: Aurora (for AWS) and MongoDB are now part of what we are serving. We even did a paid Proof of Concept for UDASynch taking MongoDB back to Oracle."

The company's core team has been steady, but what's ahead is pushing UDACentral's wide array of improvements "to change them from a project to a product. That process will need additional sales talent and trainers, as well as more support and programming talent, so my hobby is expanding again." That's a hobby of assembling resources for new ideas.

In the meantime there is family life for Birket, the pleasures of two daughters and a son already old enough to be expanding and embracing lives in medicine and business, as well as building families of their own. Fishing the Ottawa River's massive muskies remains a passion, one he's pursuing this summer with HP 3000 tech guru Mark Ranft. Birket often has a hook in the water.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2019

Third parties take over HP's OS support

Aircraft-instrument panel
The above headline doesn't describe a new situation for MPE/iX. HP gave up on its 3000 support, including MPE/iX, at the end of 2010. Even allowing for a few shadow years of 3000 contract completion — the time when some support contracts were running out their course, and HP ran out the clock — it's been a long time since the 3000's creator supported a 3000 system.

That's a situation that's about to kick in for the hundreds of thousands of VMS systems out there. HP's official OpenVMS support ends in December of 2020. A third party company, VMS Systems Inc., has earned a license to support VMS using its internals knowledge and experts. The company, VSI, will also become, by July, the only outlet for an OpenVMS customer to buy OpenVMS.

The 3000 customers already know how well third party support can succeed. VMS customers in the US government are going to learn how well it works for them. The Federal business in VMS was big.

This third party stewardship and development was the spot the 3000 community could never reach. The OpenMPE movement began as a way to get a third party group the access required to advance MPE/iX with features and new patches. That ground along for more than three years until HP announced it was extending its 3000 "End of Life" in 2005. The air quotes are needed before the only life that was ending was HP's life serving 3000 owners.

So any takeover of MPE/iX internals for extension and future customers' needs was out. So it then fell to the community to ask for enough access to do deep repairs and issue patches. Ultimately that license was created, sort of. Not the kind of access that VSI got for VMS. Just enough, for the seven special companies with an MPE/iX source license, to repair things for existing support clients.

It amounted to a CD with the millions of lines of internal MPE/iX code. The documentation was limited to what was inside the source file, according to some who saw the CD. One report said it was a $10,000 license.

That MPE/iX source goes above workarounds. Lots of the potential from extra source access has not been tapped after all of these years. But good customer-specific fixes have been built.

This is so much less than what the VMS community — which was in the final analysis what helped end HP's 3000 life — is getting now and in the years to come. Lots of years, because like the 3000, the VMS systems have Stromasys virtualization.

Because the VMS community was so much larger than the MPE community during 2001, and VMS had extensive government installations including Department of Defense sites, VMS won out. VMS got the engineering to support Integrity-Itanium servers. In the long run, we can all see how that mattered. Intel announced the final Itanium build this year. Some wags call the architecture the Itanic.

Many, many VMS sites remain. Everyone estimates, but it's easily a group bigger than the 3000 community ever was. Third party support is all that the OS will have in about a year and a half. That support resource, from independents like Pivital Solutions, been good enough for the 3000 for more than eight years since HP's support reached its end of life.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:08 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 24, 2019

Get a job, won't you?

Resume Monster
Listening to the radio silence of a job hunt can be chilling. Experts whose lives have focused on the HP 3000 have faced declining options for the past 15 years, of course. The companies' need to upgrade and develop disappears. Then the installed 3000 systems, still serving their owners, don't seem to need professional service. At least not in the opinion of IT management, or in some cases, top management.

So DIY maintenance rules the day, and so the administrative tasks might fall to staff better-trained about websites than IMAGE database schemas, or the means to recover STDLISTs from jobs sent to printers.

The installed applications care about those things, unless they're simply installed for archival purposes. An MPE server should never be on autopilot and mission critical duty at the same time. If the archive breaks down, you can hire somebody to get it running.

That task might be an opportunity for MPE experts. Will Maintain Archival 3000s. Not exactly a new offer. The remaining support suppliers are doing just that, and sometimes more. Archive Support could turn out to be a thing.

Tim O'Neill, whose pondering and good questions have sparked several articles, asked a good question this month. "Can you speak to where the jobs might be and who the talent searchers are?"

The jobs are at the companies still managing 3000 activity on the behalf of 3000 owners. Few of the owners seem to be hiring now. Freshe Legacy was running a big bench for 3000 talent, but it is a back bench. An expert like O'Neill can contact the support companies. Few jobs, though, with actual employment. Lots of contracts, and maybe that's what Tim meant.

Who are the talent searchers? At first, the machines search. The workflow above shows how Monster processes its applicants. Acquaintances and contacts, friends, partners, people who you're hired and now have moved up. Stay in touch at the HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn. People who need 3000 help are up there. There's more than 700 in that group. There's a good jobs service there, too. Well worth the $29 a month for the Premium subscription.

The truth is that there's a genuine limit on how much work remains to cover the care of HP's MPE hardware. People will pay for it. The question becomes — is the pay enough to avoid needing to build other IT skills up?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:17 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 20, 2019

Charon's orbit around our blog's pages

Pluto and its moons
Illustration by Melanie Demmer

With more than 3,200 stories across 14 years of writing, the Newswire blog brims with useful reports. It's big enough that important things can get overlooked. Charon, the Stromasys virtualization software, is just about the most important software product to emerge since HP announced its end-date for its MPE and PA-RISC operations. Here's a recap of the just the essentials we've reported over the last five years.

Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

The Stromasys software 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. Any additional 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 3000 or 9000 designations.

Charon carries Boeing in new 3000 orbit

Charon is a moon of Pluto, so big that Charon is in tidal lock, as one scientist explains it. That moon reminds me of the Charon software that powers those apps at Boeing. Its emulation of the 3000 keeps it in lock with the PA-RISC chips that continued the orbit of MPE/iX at the world's largest aircraft maker.

Northeastern cooperative plugs in Charon

A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity. A $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance, and risk management — has become an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software while boosting reliability.

One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs

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 can cost companies $1 million per year on average.

Newest Charon version brings fresh features

The market is hungry for a forthcoming performance lift from the virtualizer. At Veritiv Corporation, Randy Stanfield will need the fastest version of Charon that Stromasys can provide.

Archival presents prospects for Charon

We're hearing from 3000 sites which are in archival mode with their 3000s, and several such customers have been installing and evaluating the Stomasys emulator

3000 Cloud Doings: Are, Might, and Never

The company selling the Charon virtualizer (many think of it as an emulator) announced a new bundled offer as well as announcing that any public cloud can run Charon. Sites that employ the Oracle Cloud to host their virtualization systems get un-metered cloud services as part of that deal with Stromasys.

Overview compares emulation strategies

There are many ways customers can re-host HP 3000 applications. Virtualization, using the Charon HPA solution from Stromasys, is the ultimate solution discussed in 45 minutes of presentation from MB Foster as it toured rehosting choices.

Making Plans for a 3000's Futures

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.

New DL325 serves fresh emulation muscle

When the Proliant DL325 shipped in July, it was  a newer and more powerful model of the DL380 server — one suitable for powering a virtualized HP 3000 driven by the Stromasys Charon HPA system.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:16 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2019

Linux distro not an issue for Charon installs

Linux KVMHP 3000 manager James Byrne has wondered about the kind of Linux used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. His heart's desire has been preserving the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps. For 3000 managers who haven't much budget left for their legacy server, though, here's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary part of a virtualization solution, no matter how stable it is.

That's not an issue that will hold up Charon from doing its work to preserve applications, according to our Stromasys contact there.

There's an alliance between Linux and MPE as a result of Charon. It also says something about MPE/iX and its continuing value. Stromasys believes as much, investing in R&D that not even HP could get budgeted so it might give MPE/iX a way to boot on Intel's hardware. Extend the value of your apps with fresh hardware, the vendor says about Charon. To this day, even HP-UX won't jumpstart on Intel systems—unless they're Itanium servers. X86-Xeon won't work with HP's Unix. Now there's word of an impending PA-RISC emulation coming for HP-UX for Charon.

There's another issue worth considering in Byrne's organization, Hart & Lyne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Already having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward at Hart & Lyne must meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter. Nobody wants to be caught in a vendor-controlled blind alley again.

Byrne has resisted using something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system, and as such it is therefore open source software.

Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."

KVM users have strong feelings about following hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install, by the way—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License utilized by many open source solutions. Managers like Byrne only feel safe inside the bounds of GPL. This hasn't troubled untold thousands of VMware customers.

Byrne says that "Charon-HPA runs on ESXi vmkernel, which VMware claims is not derived from Linux." Then he explains why that's a problem for his company's adoption of Charon.

VMware has been sued by Linux developers for violations of the GPLv2 with respect to the Linux kernel. It was alleged that VMware is in fact using GPL code but are not providing the source for their derived vmkernel, as is required by the terms of the GPLv2.

VMware is thus attempting to benefit from Open Source projects through misappropriation of public goods for private profit, and attempting to assert proprietary rights over the work of others. In short, they are not a company we wish to deal with, either directly or by proxy.

(Below, VMware's overview of the architecture of VMware's ESXi architecture.)

VMware ESXi architectureRegardless of what happens between VMware and those Linux developers, VMware doesn't have to be deployed as part of Charon HPA. VMware is a commonly used component, but it's not mandatory.

This alliance of Linux and MPE was well beyond a dream back in the days when the HP lab for MPE was closing. A fully open sourced OS acting as a cradle for a legacy OS that was first created in the proprietary era? Cats and dogs living together. It says something nice about the flexibility of Linux, a trait that's a byproduct of its open source development community.

The enduring value of MPE and the 3000's architecture is something Byrne sees clearly after decades of managing 3000s. "The real problem with the HP 3000 is that it just works," he said, "and so every other issue gets precedence above migration." Hardware keeps aging, though, an issue that can spark a change in how MPE gets hosted.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:39 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2019

Making Old Skills Do New Work

New-tricks
Michael Anderson was connecting with an old resource when he called today. It was the NewsWire and me that he phoned up on a Sunday afternoon, running down his leads to keep working among the new IT generation. Anderson started up his support consultancy J3K Solutions in 2007, shortly after the Spring Independent School District started pulling back on its 3000 plans.

His experience in IT goes back into the 1980s, hands-on work at Compaq and then designs more complex for an oil and energy corporation in his native Houston region. He's pulled disk drive units from AutoRAID 12H assemblies and written display code in COBOL. Of late, it feels to him like much of the IT world has moved in other directions.

He's moved there too. Almost ten years ago, while J3K was helping with migrations and homesteading, he told our readers in an article that looking into newer technology was the only way to preserve any career that spans the era from COBOL display code to mobile UX work. While it seemed easy to say "get better trained on Microsoft solutions," it was obvious even then that Microsoft was only part of a smarter future.

"I honestly would not count on Microsoft owning the majority of the market twenty years from now," said Anderson. "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Learn how virtualization improves the efficiency and availability of IT resources and applications. Run multiple operating systems and learn new concepts, look into cloud computing and open source."

He's also making the transition into new technology with old skills: the ability to service businesses with professional systems analysis, applying lessons learned in the 1990s to engagements of today. It can be a challenge, prowling the likes of Upwork.com to find customer engagements. It takes a pro, though, to reach out and make a call to connect. Social media is so certified as a means to link up that it makes even LinkedIn look long in the tooth.

In a world where everything seems to have changed, having the pluck to connect is an old skill that can be employed to learn new tricks.

Before cloud servers were everywhere, Anderson advised us all to look into platform-independent technologies. He has also preserved his MPE maintenance skills for a single HP 3000 client, nearly a decade after that advice. A Series 969 supports a logistics firm in the Houston area and the server's health still puts Anderson on the front line.

The migration business has run its course for 3000 users, he says, and we'd agree. The logistics company that continues to rely on its 3000 might not be migrating code when it changes its IT strategy. Data is the migration passenger now, something that needs less specialized tools than a million-line code transfer.

In the same way that I get asked how many 3000s are in service today, we get calls about where job opportunities might exist for MPE specialists. Sometimes the calls begin the way they did today: Are you still open for business? Until there's no more electricity to power the web servers and no time to keep up contacts, we'll be hosting what we know here. My old skills of editing and writing now do new work on novels, memoirs, and author coaching. I still know how to answer a phone on a Sunday and try to connect a former RUG vice chair like Anderson with someone who needs his expertise -- and his moxie.

 

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

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)